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Narrowing down life insurance companies is easier if you start online

Like every other facet of life, the Internet has changed the way people buy life insurance. Instant quote sites claim to give you free, instant life insurance quotes from a number of companies with just the bare minimum of information. In reality, some sites do this better, and more straightforwardly, than others. We decided to see how they worked in real life, by testing the sites that seem to get the most mentions by consumers and experts to see how well they worked.

LifeQuotes.com stood out for truly being an "instant" quote generator. After we put in our information, we got 16 quotes, most from large, well-known insurance companies, along with any disclaimers, such as exams required and approximate length of time it takes for approval. Click on the company name and it brings up their agency ratings and the date they were incorporated. To get more specific premium information, you have to give them your contact information, but you can at least get an initial, immediate idea from a lot of companies as to what your approximate monthly premium might be and narrow it down from there.

By contrast, Insure.com asks for all your contact information up front -- including phone number, email address and physical address -- and it's all required information. But you still don't get a quote. We were then directed to a second site, where we had to put in our zip code and date of birth, which sent us to another form where they asked for all of our information yet again. We did not re-submit it, but when we went to our email, the inbox was full of requests from agents asking us to contact them

AccuQuote.com, another name that comes up frequently when searching for life insurance quote sites, is more similar to Insure.com in that they want contact information up front. As LifeQuotes does, they give you instant quotes to at least give you an idea of how much you may be paying. However, we got quotes from far fewer companies (only three compared to the 16 from LifeQuotes.com). From there, you can request more specific information. Also, like LifeQuotes, they give you some information about the life insurance company providing the quote.

One thing that made us particularly uncomfortable with Insure.com: We don't like having to give a phone number and not getting the option to opt out, or to at least be able to check a box for "Don't contact by phone."

In addition to truly instant quotes, there is a ton of information about life insurance available on LifeQuotes.com. This includes articles; special quote sections for situations that may raise your rates, such as obesity, heart problems or smoking; and calculators to help you decide how much insurance you need. It's easy to navigate. If you have a question, their home page probably has an answer. There is also a number you can call if you prefer to speak to a human.

Insure.com also has helpful information on their home page, but not to the extent that LifeQuotes.com does, and you have to search for it a little bit harder. Still, Insure.com's resources are also extensive and their articles informative and thorough -- and they also have a number you can call. To be fair, Insure.com has more ground to cover because in addition to life insurance, they offer quotes and information for auto, health and home insurance. AccuQuote.com only quotes life insurance and has no other information or tools available.

If life insurance is the only insurance you're interested in, LifeQuotes.com is a great place to start -- and probably finish, as well.

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