- Walmart has begun offering an auto insurance comparison service in eight states and plans to roll it out nationwide over the next several months.
- Walmart says a survey of customers of its partner, AutoInsurance.com, showed that they averaged a savings of $1,168.
- A professional insurance trade organization has expressed skepticism about the reported savings and advises consumers to shop through a local agent.
BENTONVILLE, Arkansas — Walmart has begun offering an auto insurance comparison service in eight states and plans to roll it out nationwide over the next several months.
The retail giant has partnered with web-based provider AutoInsurance.com to allow customers access to the new service, which it says will help answer the question, "How do I know I'm getting a great deal on auto insurance?"
Visitors to the Walmart Web site or stores will be directed to AutoInsurance.com, where they can compare rates from a variety of carriers, including Esurance, General, Progressive, Safeco and Travelers. They can then either purchase insurance online or speak with an agent by phone.
The service is currently available only in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, but Walmart says it will be rolled out nationally in the coming months.
"Our business is driven by a commitment to taking products and services that are complex and pricey and making them easy and affordable," said Daniel Eckert, senior vice president of services for Walmart U.S., in a statement. "Our customers too often have to settle for auto insurance policies that aren't the best fit and cost more than they want to spend. With AutoInsurance.com, we're helping our customers save money on one of their largest household expenses in a new, quick and easy way."
Before launching the service, Walmart conducted a study of AutoInsurance.com customers in Pennsylvania. A survey of more than 5,000 people who purchased insurance through the site last year showed that they averaged a savings of $1,168 compared to their previous policies.
Not surprisingly, there has already been some backlash from the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA), who believe the best way to compare auto insurance rates is by consulting with a local independent agent.
The professional trade organization also expressed doubt about the $1,168 savings reported by the Walmart study.
"As an average saving, that figure sounds unrealistic," said PIA National Executive Vice President and CEO Mike Becker, in a statement. "Walmart says that the system it is using compares rates on an existing policy with rates on policies with the same coverage. If that is the case, we are skeptical that the average price difference for the same level of coverage can be that large."
In any event, the PIA notes that price is just one factor to take into consideration when shopping for auto insurance, advising that consumers "select an insurance company that has a good reputation for settling claims promptly, has good customer service and is financially stable."
Edmunds says: Walmart's plan, at the very least, gives consumers one more tool in making auto insurance rate comparisons.