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If you are shopping for car insurance (or hunting for a better deal) it’s easy to get sucked into adds for various types of auto insurance “brokers.” But at best, you’ll probably pay more for your insurance. And at most, you may have your data stolen and suffer endless robocalls. There is one thing that these brokers are good for.

First of all, can these brokers save you the money they promise to? When Consumer Reports compared insurance quotes from The Zebra auto insurance comparison site with just calling the insurance company itself, they found they almost always would have paid more through the broker site. In fact, only one insure gave them a preliminary quote higher than The Zebra’s, and that was Liberty Mutual. No telling how that number would have changed if they went through the entire buying process.

The biggest price difference was between The Zebra’s $828/annual quote for Clearcover. The insurer itself came in at $450. Second place was Elephant: broker said $792 and insurer said $564.

Woman holds up her phone while looking at an auto accident.
Calling auto insurance | monkeybusinessimages via iStockPhotos

These price differences make some sense: The Zebra needs to make enough money that it can keep its website running. And in the long run you might prefer a broker who charges more for their services than a “cheap” one. Why? Because many of these insurance comparison sites will sell your data to other companies.

Consumer Reports found that QuoteWizard, EverQuote, Insurance.com, Insure.com, and CarInsurance.com are all owned by the same company: QuinStreet. QuinStreet collects your data to get you insurance quotes, including your income, address, and driving history. Then it sells this data to everything from banks offering mortgages to companies that will try and sell you solar panels for your home.

The FCC is trying to put an end to this practice because, according to one expert, “One consumer may literally receive thousands of phone calls for months, if not years, based on one webform submission.” But that doesn’t mean every website comparing car insurance is bad.

As far as Consumer Reports could tell, Experian, PolicyGenius, the app run by Way.com, and the app run by the “Jerry” company don’t sell your data. And while all of these services may charge you a bit extra for insurance, they can also give you a good idea what options you have. But to find the best deal, you’ll probably have to take that information and call around. Do note that some companies, such as Allstate and Farmers Insurance only work with local brokers, so they won’t even appear on these searches.

Watch a news channel’s auto insurance buying tips in the video below: