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Walmart Gets Into Car Insurance

Douglas A. McIntyre

As Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) works to keep its huge lead as the biggest retailer in the United States, it occasionally launches products and services that take it far away from its primary business. Its foray into the pharmacy sector and creation of a quasi-bank within its stores are examples. Now, Walmart has found another new service -- helping its customers buy car insurance.

The project has modest beginnings, primarily because it will not be available nationally, at least for the time being.

According to a press release:

Attention drivers! Online comparison shopping for auto insurance just got much easier. To help answer the question, "How do I know I'm getting a great deal on auto insurance?" Walmart is working with AutoInsurance.com to bring customers a first-of-its-kind auto insurance comparison service that helps drivers quickly buy and save significantly on policies.

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AutoInsurance.com provides customers with multiple quotes from many of the leading national insurance carriers, including Progressive, Esurance, Safeco, The General and others within minutes. The service is available immediately in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, with plans to be offered nationwide in the coming months.

It is another admission by Walmart that the world is revolving away from the brick-and-mortar retail model to one in which nearly everything can be purchased online.

By most estimates, Walmart's online sales are only about 5% of its total. However, that total exceeds $475 billion per year. And based on comScore data, Walmart has the second largest presence online of any retailer in the United States, trailing only Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN). Among websites viewed on desktops during March, Amazon had 103.1 million unique visitors. Walmart properties weighed in at 34.2 million.

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The news gives AutoInsurance.com an unbelievable boost. It description of itself:

AutoInsurance.com is operated by TZ Insurance Solutions LLC through a Service Agreement with Tranzutary Insurance Solutions LLC. TZ Insurance Solutions is the agency licensed to sell auto insurance from the carriers on our platform on behalf of Tranzutary Insurance Solutions. The company and its leadership have the assets, skills and experience in building successful and highly innovative consumer services like AutoInsurance.com.

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It is a very small presence in the online car insurance industry, at best.

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The partner does not matter much, as long as it is competent. Walmart is in the car insurance business, its latest hope to expand its stagnant U.S. business.

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