Kids these days may never know the pain of spending hours pouring through web pages to generate various auto insurance quotes or (gasp!) having to actually call and talk to insurance agents about what kinds of premiums they could offer. That’s because of the advent of car insurance comparison sites like The Zebra. Our Zebra insurance review shows the site is a good place to start your search but it may not have all the answers you need.
How The Zebra Got Its Stripes
The Zebra was started nearly a decade ago, back in 2012, building off the astronomical success of Google and mirroring the structure of travel sites such as Priceline, Hotwire and Kayak. The difference? The Zebra allows users to compare rates for insurance. The company is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and as part of its “All Stripes Are Welcome” mantra, is very focused on diversity and inclusion.
Initially, The Zebra specialized exclusively in auto insurance (and this Zebra insurance review is primarily concerned with The Zebra’s performance in the realm of car insurance providers), but in recent years, the insurance comparison company has branched out to renters insurance, homeowners insurance and life insurance. And on the horizon: RV insurance, boat insurance and more.
Since its inception, The Zebra website has produced more than 6.5 million insurance quotes. Currently, The Zebra’s provider partnerships total more than 200 car insurance companies, including big names like USAA, Progressive, State Farm, Liberty Mutual, All State, Erie, Esurance, Nationwide and Metlife. The Zebra promises that it has no allegiances to any auto insurance providers, though my experience (detailed in the next section) suggests otherwise.
Fun Fact: Last year, The Zebra became the first U.S. employer to cover employees’ pet adoption fees. (No zebra adoptions permitted — yet.)
How The Zebra Works: A Review
Getting a car insurance quote from The Zebra takes fewer than five minutes. In fact, I was able to generate three sample auto insurance quotes in under 10.
Ready to see your personalized auto insurance rates? Here’s what you’ll need to input on the site:
- Your ZIP code. To begin the process, The Zebra needs to know where you live. Car insurance laws and policies vary from state to state, so it’s important to choose the state in which you are actually licensed. (So if you’re going to school in Kentucky but still have Mom’s address in Ohio, you’ll technically need to use your mother’s ZIP code back home.)
- The basics. After inputting your ZIP code, The Zebra will want some basic details. You’ll need to specify whether you have auto insurance, whether you own or rent (and type of home) and why you are shopping for car insurance.
- Your vehicle details. Not only will you need to input your year, make and model, but you will also need the trim details. Depending on the manufacturer, you may also need to know which engine or drivetrain you have, as some automakers include those in trim distinctions. If you need to insure more than one vehicle on the policy, you have the option to add up to four more. Next, you need to input information about that vehicle: whether you own or lease the vehicle, how you use it and the number of miles you drive each year.
- The drivers. To start, fill in the information about yourself: first and last name, birthdate and address. Then, you’ll need to specify gender (Note: Despite being a company that prides itself on diversity, The Zebra currently only has options for “male” and “female”), marital status, credit score range*, level of education, how long you have been continuously insured, current insurance provider, bodily injury limits of your current coverage and details about any accidents or tickets you’ve received in the last three years. If you indicate that you are married, you must include information about your spouse. You also have the option to add others to your auto insurance policy, such as domestic partners or children.
*Credit score options include Excellent (720+), Good (680 to 719), Average (580 to 679) and Poor (below 580). The Zebra prompts you to select “Good” if you don’t know your credit score, but you better believe that they will be pulling your credit score before actually letting you sign on the (digital) dotted line.
After inputting your information, The Zebra will take a few moments to calculate auto insurance quotes for you. Each time I generated a quote, I was shown results in ascending order of price, with the cheapest on top. (Each time, Progressive also had an unpriced quote at the very top of every fake quote I generated, which seemed to be a sketchy paid placement. So much for that no allegiance thing.)
Once you have your auto insurance quotes, you can use the “Explore quotes at $XX/$XX bodily injury limits” link at the top to customize whether you view their Minimum, Basic, Better or Best coverage options. That’s helpful for those who like to be hands off, but if you want to customize your coverage beyond that (perhaps you want everything provided in Basic coverage but want to add roadside assistance, which doesn’t kick in unless you upgrade to Better), you’ll have to work with each insurance company directly.
For each quote you are provided, you can see the name of the insurance company and the price in a big blue bubble. If you want more information, you can click the small “What’s covered” language, which I missed when creating my first two insurance quotes. The bright blue is definitely meant to draw your eyes so you immediately click into the quote without reading the fine print: a solid user experience decision or shady business practice? The jury’s out.
When you expand “What’s covered,” The Zebra does an excellent job of providing an overview on — what else? — the Overview tab. On the left is a paragraph about the auto insurance company for those who prefer their information that way while the right is for visual learners, with brief phrases about the benefits of the insurance policy and helpful iconography.
The “What’s covered” pop-out also has tabs on coverage and pricing. The coverage tab shows you whether this quote includes auto insurance options such as bodily injury liability, property damage liability, uninsured motorist bodily, uninsured motorist property, personal injury protection (PIP), collision (and its deductible), comprehensive (and its deductible), roadside assistance and rental reimbursement.
Here is where The Zebra could really be improved; I’d love to be able to see that the policy I’m looking at has, for example, a $1,000 deductible for collision and comprehensive and no coverage for rental reimbursement and then be able to edit to my liking. Then, the associated rate would dynamically update to reflect that change. Alas, that is not offered.
Finally, the pricing tab shows policy length, the first month price, how much you’ll pay in future months and the pay-in-full price.
Sample Quotes from The Zebra
To understand what the insurance comparison experience and pricing were like with The Zebra site, I created three auto insurance quotes: one for single 30-year-old Joe Schmoe, one for elderly married couple Johnny Tsunami and Daisy Duke and one for young college student Minerva McGonagall (because why not).
The first quote, for Joe Schmoe, was built off my own data:
- Own a house
- 30 years old
- Owns a 2017 Subaru Crosstrek that is fully paid off
- Excellent credit score
- 5,000 miles a year (I’ve been working from home for three years, and my odometer is happy with that decision)
- Bachelor’s degree
- Discounts: Employed full-time, paperless billing and auto-pay
Here were the top auto insurance quotes this profile generated:
These insurance rates are in line with what I currently pay, so The Zebra seems right on the money here. But as far as its claim that it can save me money on my current auto insurance rate? Not so much.
For the second quote, I used happily married Johnny Tsunami and Daisy Duke:
- Own a condo
- Early 60s
- Making payments on a 2020 BMW 7 Series (they have expensive tastes)
- Excellent credit score
- Male and female
- 12,000 miles a year
- Master’s degree
- Discounts: Employed full-time, paperless, auto-pay and pay in full upfront
This couple received the following auto insurance quotes:
Finally, Minerve McGonagall, who is putting herself through school, input the following details for her auto insurance quote:
- Rents an apartment
- 22 years old
- Makes payments on a 2009 Chevy Cobalt
- Average credit score
- 15,000 miles a year
- One accident and two tickets on her record
- Some college but no degree yet
- Discounts: Employed full-time and paperless billing (is not comfortable with auto-pay)
The Zebra generated these quotes for this driver:
The Zebra claims it can save drivers up to $670 a year on auto insurance. That, I cannot verify. I can only share that what The Zebra quoted me is in line with my current insurance rate, so I wouldn’t get any savings.
What We Like About The Zebra
The Zebra’s insurance comparison is certainly an excellent tool to get a sense for what you will need to pay for insurance and compare quotes. At the least, you can use the information from The Zebra to make an informed decision when shopping for insurance directly with providers.
Here’s what I liked about The Zebra
- It was fast and easy to get my quotes.
- It detailed the discounts I was eligible for. Discounts include the following: paperless delivery, multi-vehicle, auto-pay, safe driver, pay in full, currently insured, currently employed, low mileage, excellent/good credit, and homeownership.
- It provides a good foundation for your research.
What We Don’t Like About The Zebra
That said, there was a fair amount I didn’t like about The Zebra:
- The Zebra works with over 200 auto insurance companies, but I probably couldn’t name more than 10 car insurance companies myself. Some of the companies suggested to me were brands I’d never heard of, and when it comes to something as important as car insurance, brand recognition is important to me as a shopper.
- I couldn’t customize my coverage. If you are the type of savvy shopper who knows how much insurance you need and the exact deductibles and add-ons you’d like, this tool isn’t for you.
- The Zebra patently lies about spam, and I have the receipts to prove it.
My Experience with The Zebra and Spam
I don’t like to give my email address out to just anybody (call me old-fashioned), so I was apprehensive when completing my fake quotes. But I’m a millennial consumer who knows the deal so I entered my email address.
Besides, The Zebra assured me they wouldn’t spam me. No, really:
But as soon as The Zebra had generated my quotes, my phone lit up with the sound of unwanted communication. It took just seconds for two emails to enter my inbox:
I did read online in a Better Business Bureau thread that, at one time, The Zebra used to require phone numbers for a quote and would immediately place spam phone calls (sometimes before users could read the quotes they were just provided), but The Zebra acknowledged that this was less than ideal and has since removed the phone number requirement in its auto insurance quote process.
What Customers Are Saying About The Zebra
So The Zebra’s insurance comparison site didn’t seem right for me, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not a great resource for others. At the least, I do maintain it’s a good tool for preliminary research. Perhaps I’m just old-school, but I want to do more digging and customization on my own to make sure I’m getting the best deal.
But all in all, The Zebra has wonderful customer reviews. It’s got a great score on BBB (an A, currently) and a 4.8 out of 5 overall satisfaction rating on Shopper Approved (with 1,683 5-star reviews out of 1,989 ratings total, at time of writing). Across the board, customer reviews on Shopper Approved highlight users’ satisfaction with The Zebra’s products, price and customer service.
With that said, it’s worth giving The Zebra a shot, if only to see what kinds of quotes you might get and then supplement with additional research. And if you’re worried about the spam, here’s a tip from a friend: You can still see the quotes even if you provide a fake email.
Timothy Moore is a market research editing and graphic design manager and a freelance writer and editor covering topics on personal finance, travel, careers, education, pet care and automotive. He has worked in the field since 2012 with publications like The WealthyUpdates, Debt.com, Ladders, WDW Magazine, Glassdoor and The News Wheel.