Google's trademark name lights up the lobby to the company's offices in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

A new Google product, Google Compare, will be changing the way consumers purchase insurance in California. The comparison shopping site (think Kayak for car insurance) allows customers to input their zip code and other details and provides them with insurance rates for multiple insurers who are participating in the program.

Consumers can then take the rate information and purchase the policy directly from the insurer. Google also provides a reference number and phone number for buyers who want to complete their purchases over the phone. Participating insurers then provide a referral fee to Google for the sale.

Google is promoting the service as a “seamless, intuitive experience for connecting with your customers online.” The company says it provides an “apples-to-apples” comparison of insurers into a customer’s phone or computer in only a few minutes. As more and more customers value the ability to use technology to file and monitor their claims, Google Compare is just another way to use technology at the beginning of the insurance process.

While the option to comparison shop may be good for consumers, this could have a devastating impact on insurance brokers, who count on commissions for the policies they sell. The effect could be similar to the impact online buying had on travel agents when airlines and hotels went direct to consumers.

Participating insurers include Mercury Insurance, 21st Century Insurance, Kemper Specialty, Infinity Auto, Titan Insurance, Stillwater Insurance Group, MetLife and several others. Although Google is launching in California, it anticipates expanding the program to other states. The company also expects to add ratings and reviews for insurers, as well as local agent support.