Get Insurance in an Instant

SAN FRANCISCO (05/12/2000) - Shopping for insurance on the Internet probably isn't the most entertaining way to use the Web. But think of the benefits: At least you don't have to worry about the shipping charges.

Ebix.com Inc. has been selling insurance online--or, more accurately, helping insurance carriers do their own selling--since last September. Starting this month, the company is offering real-time, binding quotes on its Web site.

How well does this work? It's too early to tell. For the moment, real-time quotes are available only for three insurance categories, and by only two carriers.

You'll have to register before you can get any quotes, whether they're real-time or not. The registration form is short and simple. (Perhaps too simple--later on, when you've entered your weight and birth date into the umpteenth quote request form, you'll wish the site had asked you more in the beginning.)It generally takes the carriers one to four days to send you quotes. These quotes are binding, meaning the companies must stick to the rates they offer.

Once you get a few quotes, you can pick the best policy.

Quick But Limited

If you're looking for life, dental, or vision insurance, you might get some quotes right away. But you might not. The problem is that only two carriers, Midland Life and Old Republic, currently support live quotes. Every carrier has its own reasons for rejecting potential customers, and both of these carriers just might reject you. (They rejected me. I had to lie about my age, weight, and health to see what a real-time quote looks like.)All this should change. Within two months, Ebix.com hopes to have real-time quotes available in all seven insurance categories it covers and from more than 20 carriers.

Even if you do get real-time quotes, you'll want to hold off making your decision. More quotes will probably appear over the next several days, and some of these could be the better offers.

But even without real-time quotes, Ebix.com offers a great way to buy insurance. You can study plans, compare prices, and pick a policy with the knowledge that the price isn't going to go up when you contact the company to say yes.

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