Update: It’s official, “Google Compare for U.S. car insurance” has been launched in California, with more states expected to follow.
A project that has reportedly been in the works for at least a couple years now might soon see the light of day.
I’m referring to Google Compare Auto Insurance Services Inc., which may launch shortly to offer consumers another avenue to purchase car insurance.
The search engine company already offers a comparison service for credit cards, but insurance is a slightly more difficult nut to crack. And by slightly, we mean a lot more difficult.
The reason it has taken so long is that Google apparently wants to sell auto insurance policies directly, as opposed to simply gathering information and selling that to insurance companies.
In that sense, Google would act as an insurance agent and receive commissions when consumers purchased insurance via the comparison service.
Because insurance regulations vary by state, the process can’t happen overnight, even if you’ve got the clout Google has.
A new report from the Wall Street Journal revealed that Google Compare Auto Insurance Services is already licensed in 26 states to sell auto policies.
And they’re authorized to do business with at least six carriers, including Dairyland, MetLife, Mercury Insurance, Permanent General Assurance, Viking Insurance, and Workman’s Auto Insurance Company.
In Idaho, you can see that they’re licensed to sell insurance on behalf of Dairyland, Metropolitan Group Property and Casualty (part of MetLife), and Viking Insurance.
Perhaps more interesting is the fact that one of Google’s employees, Meredith Stechbart, is licensed to work with CoverHound, which provides “instant, accurate car insurance rates” online. They’re also based in San Francisco.
Google Might Be Partnering with CoverHound
That immediately led to speculation that Google was partnering with CoverHound, or potentially acquiring the company.
But CoverHound president Greg Isaacs merely confirmed to the WSJ that Stechbart is endorsed on the company’s insurance license, and emphasized that they hadn’t been acquired.
He also noted that Google wants to offer live insurance quotes, as opposed to leads, which explains all the licensing and the delays in rolling out the widely anticipated service.
It’s also a tricky situation because Google has to navigate between the insurance companies and the advertisers that pay for leads.
If it undercuts either one, it could lose advertising dollars or have difficulty striking partnerships to offer insurance from certain carriers. Maybe that’s where CoverHound comes in…who knows?
However, the WSJ article noted that Google needs to ramp up its vertical search business because smartphone users are beginning to head straight to apps instead of using the old fashioned web when shopping.
It’ll certainly be interesting to see how it all plays out, and if it has a major effect on the way carriers offer car insurance.
The antiquated insurance buying process could certainly do with some updating right about now.