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Progressive Price Comparisons: For Real?

Written by Todd Clay. Posted in Research Last Updated: 04/10/2009

How my experience doubled my suspicions about Progressive’s Competitor Comparison feature.

Flo May Have Had Too Much Caffeine

I don’t know about you, but whenever a company gives me competitor prices, I’m guarded. Think about it. If you go to a Target to buy some Frosted Flakes, they’re priced at $2.99 a box. Right underneath the tag, you also see Walmart’s price at $3.50 – doesn’t it make you wonder? Maybe the comparison shopper snuck into Wally World a few months back, or maybe they never went at all. Regardless, I usually don’t trust companies’ comparison prices.

That’s why I’ve been cynical about Progressive’s claims. If I get a Progressive auto insurance quote for $600, then I get a GEICO price from Progressive for $500, why would I buy from Progressive? What motivation does Progressive have for showing a lower price? In addition, as a former Agent, I know Progressive is not privy to GEICOs or anybody else’s proprietary underwriting guidelines. They could backward-engineer it to an extent, but it won’t be completely accurate.

Still, it doesn’t stop Progressive from advertising about it.

Progressive Price Comparison Commercial

My Experience With Progressive’s Competitive Comparison

In my investigative journalism-mode, I hopped over to Progressive’s site (writing April 2009). Once again, I was impressed with their interface. Of all the online auto quote systems I’ve used, Progressive’s website has been the most impressive. It’s quick and easy to navigate. I got another auto insurance quote within minutes of filling out the form.

But I didn’t care about a quote this time. I wanted to know about competitor quotes. After all, I had just finished shopping my rates a few months back. I knew the ballpark estimates from other companies. Would Progressive’s supposed comparison price even be close to State Farm’s, Allstate’s, or GEICO’s? I was still doubtful.

After getting my quote, I noticed a small box off to the right side of the page: “Compare Auto Rates”. I clicked on it, and followed the directions for competitor rate quotes. Lo and behold, this is what Progressive wrote…

Progressive’s Apology

We apologize, but we cannot provide comparison rates for your situation.

Our goal is to provide accurate comparison rates, which are based on rates other companies publicly file in your state. We are unsure what certain companies may charge you for the following situation(s):

* One of your vehicles is not listed in a company’s rate filing.

* We cannot provide a rate for your most recent insurance company since your renewal rate is often different than the rate offered to new customers.

* Comparison rates for which you may qualify are currently being updated in our system.

Please contact other companies directly to find the rates that apply to you.

This single negative experience did nothing to bolster my confidence in Progressive’s competitor comparison feature. Maybe it works 99% of the time. However, it happened to be broken the one time a consumer car insurance website came calling. Sure, one negative experience shouldn’t taint an entire company, but it usually does. Maybe I should follow Progressive’s advice and contact another company for a quote.

If you have any experience with Progressive’s quote comparisons, feel free to leave a comment.

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Todd Clay

Todd Clay is a former insurance agent with the largest insurance company in the United States. He earned his Bachelor’s from the University of Texas. He’s worked in several fields but has specialized in insurance, financial-related information, and technology. He blogs at Car Insurance Guidebook.

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Reviews (6)

  • Garrett

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    Though this article was posted a while ago, I still think it’s worth mentioning why Progressive offers the price comparison tool as this article doesn’t quite cover it.

    Progressive competes on data analytics and out-segmenting their competition. This coupled with the ability to drive traffic to their website before any other competitor allows for big data to be collected and analyzed for all consumers, Progressive customers as well as those that are simply looking for the lower price points. This means that Progressive can filter their potential customers and get rid of the bad apples before they can negatively impact their business. On the surface, it doesn’t make sense why a company would compare prices, especially when roughly more than 50% of the time Progressive shows a competitor offering a better rate, but it is a tool that filters, collects data, and helps Progressive better understand the insurance market.

    Although it appears to have the opposite effect with your experience, it’s also used as a tool to create trust between the consumer and the company.

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  • Natalia

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    Hey! This post couldn’t be written any better!

    Reading this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept
    chatting about this. I will forward this article to him.
    Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

  • Jason

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    Hi Todd, I came across your article (from a while back) and thought that I’d chime in. Progressive’s comparison rates are gathered by using publicly available data filed on the state-level as per regulatory requirements.

    You are correct that Progressive then tries to reverse engineer these quotes to come to a ‘best estimate’ — if you see the disclaimers on their website, they state that the comparisons are just estimates.

    For me, I was able to get a comparison quote from Progressive, but it said that State Farm would charge me between $800 and $4,800 per year, which wasn’t all that useful.

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    • Todd Clay

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      Thanks for your comments, Jason. You can’t fault Progressive for trying to gain more customers. Anything (like Price Comparisons) to help distinguish their company can help when they court new customers – even if it’s not very accurate.

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  • Daniel

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    The one time I tried Progressive’s comparison feature, I got a similar “sorry we can’t compare prices right now” explanation. Makes me wonder if it ever works…

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  • Matt

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    Progressive got me about $280 (appr) for 6 months, basic insurance. I let it lapse for a couple of months after that because I was unemployed. Got it again from them, it was around $360 for 6 months. I wrote them to say that was too high, that I knew I could get it a lot cheaper around $280 (although I hadn’t researched) and why were they charging me so much now. There was one initial discount for about $50 when I first signed up. Okay, good. So they write me a lenghthy letter with a lot of excuses and nonsense about my state having had changes and that caused the rates to go up etc etc and that they could not offer me any discount now on the $360, but they pointed out that I am getting their minor “online mileage discount” for recording my mileage…whoopee.

    I checked with Geico on their site…same coverage, same everything. $192 for 6 months! Unbelievable! Progressive has lost a customer because they made excuses, wrote me a 2 page mostly-canned letter, because they did not even BEGIN to treat a repeat customer as they should, and because $170 difference for 6 months of basic car insurance is a MAJOR difference. I now think Progressive with their pretty advertisements are simply shysters.

    Reply

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