On the surface, it might seem peculiar that your choice of Internet browser could affect the price you pay for car insurance. After all, browsers are merely tools for accessing the Web, and -- officially, at least -- they should all be accessing the same information. So the cost of the insurance policy that you find through Safari should be the same as the policy that you'd be offered on Google Chrome.
But here's the thing: a recent study by CoverHound, a company that helps users comparison shop for insurance, revealed that, among shoppers who bought auto insurance online, users of certain browsers paid as much as 23 percent more. According to CoverHound's analysis, the average user of Microsoft's (MSFT) Internet Explorer or Apple's (AAPL) Safari user pays $750 for car insurance every six months. By comparison, Chrome users pay $731 and Firefox users pay the least -- $608.
It would be great if using Firefox automatically resulted in lower insurance rates, but the truth is that there are other factors involved. To begin with, Firefox users skew older -- on average, three years older than Google (GOOG) Chrome or Safari users. And, since older drivers tend to get lower rates, it seems natural that Firefox users would pay less. They are also more likely to have graduate degrees, own their own homes, and be married.
But even if we control for the factors that naturally earn Firefox users lower rates, there are still anomalies that CoverHound's study reveals. For example, the average Internet Explorer user is older than the average Firefox user, which, based on industry standards, would suggest that IE users should pay less. Instead, they pay the most.
Users of Google Chrome are an even bigger anomaly. Chrome users are, on average, the youngest. They are far less likely to own their own homes and are the second-least likely to be married. By all rights, they should probably be paying the most for car insurance -- but they aren't.
According to CoverHound CEO Basil Enan, one reason for this anomaly may lie in the users themselves. "People who take the time to seek out a better browser might also be inclined to seek out a better insurance policy," he explains. "Internet Explorer and Safari often come pre-loaded on PCs and Macs. For the most part, Firefox and Chrome users have to go out of their way to get it. This suggests that they might be more tech savvy."
Another element may be Google itself. "Google is a great search engine," Enan notes. "Perhaps it's better at leading users to more attractive insurance rates. It's difficult to speculate, and would be difficult to prove, but it might be a factor."
In other words, the quality of your search might have an impact on the your insurance rate -- and the best search comes from a browser that you choose for yourself.
Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings editor. You can reach him by e-mail at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.