D Power and Associates, a business unit of The McGraw-Hill, has found that the price is a key motivator in the insurance shopping process and final purchase decision, gaining in impact on new-buyer satisfaction, compared with one year ago, according to its Insurance Shopping Study.

The Insurance Shopping Study finds that the price is the leading reason-cited by 41% of shoppers-that insurance shoppers consider an insurer but do not obtain a quote from that insurer. In addition, 76% of shoppers who obtained a quote from an insurer but did not purchase a policy from that insurer cite price as a reason. However, price accounts for only 28% of overall customer satisfaction with the purchase experience—less important than both policy offerings (29%) and distribution channel (43%).

It has added that 10% percent of auto insurance shoppers did not select the lowest price quote they received, with some shoppers foregoing considerable savings—12% of shoppers who didn’t choose the lowest price insurer could have saved more than $250 had they chosen the lowest quote.

JD Power and Associates found that Erie Insurance, with a score of 886 on a 1,000-point scale, ranks highest among auto insurance companies in satisfying new buyers with the purchase experience for a third consecutive year. Erie Insurance performs well across all three factors driving satisfaction: distribution channel; price; and policy offerings. The Hartford ranks second overall with a score of 868, followed closely by Auto-Owners Insurance (867).

The study also finds the key trends among Generation Y auto insurance shoppers (those born between 1977 and 1992):

The study found that Generation Y shoppers tend to be less sensitive to price, as only 68% cite price as a reason for shopping for a new auto policy, compared with 83% of Baby Boomer shoppers (those born between 1946 to 1964).

More than one-half (58%) of Generation Y shoppers have used insurers’ websites to gather information when shopping for auto insurance, compared with 46% of Baby Boomer shoppers.

Generation Y shoppers are substantially more likely to gather quotes directly from an insurer’s website—48%—compared with 28%of Baby Boomers.

A slight majority (51%) of Generation Y new buyers purchased their auto insurance direct from the insurer, rather than through a local agent, compared with only 36% of Baby Boomers.

While the 2009 study found that the onset of the recession had stifled consumer shopping in the personal auto insurance market, consumer shopping rates in the 2010 study mirror the GDP, returning to pre-recession rates prevalent in the third quarter of 2009. 10% of all consumers shopped for competitive quotes during the fourth quarter of 2009.

Jeremy Bowler, senior director of the insurance practice at JD Power and Associates, said: Generation Y is the next big wave of new homeowners and parents with more complicated insurance needs. As a result, it’s important for insurers to understand the differences between Generation Y and Baby Boomer insurance shoppers and respond to these differences accordingly. At more than 70 million strong, this group will have a dramatic impact on the insurance distribution landscape in the years ahead.

The 2010 US Insurance Shopping Study examines consumer shopping and purchasing behaviors and overall satisfaction of buyers who recently purchased from an auto insurance provider. The study is based on responses from more than 14,500 shoppers who requested an auto insurance price quote from at least one competitive insurer in the past 12 months and includes 68,051 unique insurer evaluations. The study was fielded from February to March 2010.