When looking for ways to save on home insurance, many homeowners think of smoke detectors or a home alarm system.  Insurance companies, though, offer a variety of additional premium discounts that can help you save up to 25 percent on your insurance premiums.

For individuals who are willing to be more cautious and actively avoid potential claims to their home, they have a much better chance of saving significant money on their premiums.

Over the next two weeks, we are going to share a list of 10 “hidden” insurance discounts that can be applied to your premiums to help reduce them.

If you have a question or would like to find out more about saving on your own premiums, please give us a call.

Renovated Home

Homeowners insurance differs from auto insurance in that the cheapest rates typically go to the newest model.  Why?   A newer home doesn’t have maintenance issues like cracking pipes, malfunctioning furnaces, aging electrical panels and wiring, and leaking roofs, which can lead to very costly claims for insurance companies.

In addition to that, newer homes have usually been recently inspected by a professional and any detected problems were required to be fixed.   This can also apply to home renovations as well.  If you are considering a renovation on your home, speak to your agent as he or she may have suggestions on construction tweaks to help maximize your insurance savings.

New home or renovation credit: up to 25 percent.

Gated Community

Living in a gated community not brings a level of comfort and security to you the homeowner, but some insurance companies are willing to offer credits for the decreased risk as well.

It should make sense that your homeowners insurance premiums are always dependent upon the location of your home.  There are some parts of every town that pose more risk than others of vandalism and theft.

However, that doesn’t mean that living rurally brings lower insurance costs.  Your proximity to a paid fire department in a safe neighborhood will typically bring the lowest premiums.

Gated Community Credit: 5 to 20 percent.

Impact-Resistant Roofing

Roof claims are one of the biggest concerns for any insurance company.  Because of the beating it takes from wind, rain, hail, snow, and even the sun, once it is comprised, the resulting damage to the rest of the home raises dramatically.

A number of companies have released impact-resistant roofing materials in the past few years, and insurance companies have been willing to offer discounts based upon the materials’ sturdiness and ability to resist the elements.

Impact-resistant roofing credit: 5 percent to 10 percent.

New Wiring

Did you know that old, outdated wiring causes twice as many house fires as electrical appliances?  In fact, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, faulty wiring causes almost 70,000 home fires, 500 deaths, and almost $1 billion in damages every year.

New wiring, installed correctly, is much safer and less likely to cause any type of outage, shortage, or fire.

New wiring credit: 10 percent

Non-Smoker Credit

Even though the number of smokers nationwide is in decline, did you know that smoking remains the No. 1 cause of home fire fatalities in the United States?  According to the U.S. Fire Administration, every year smoking causes approximately 20,000 residential fires and over $325 million in residential property loss.

While not allowed in every state, there is a discount available for expressing to your agent and underwriter during the application process that your home is smokeless.

Nonsmoker credit: 5 percent to 15 percent.

With most college students living in a dorm or off-campus housing, it’s imperative they review their family’s insurance policies to ensure they have insurance coverage for their possessions.

With expensive electronics, sports equipment, and furniture inside of many student apartments, it’s important to make sure you have coverage for those items.

Unfortunately, for many of these students, they will not have any insurance coverage under their parents’ homeowners or renters policies.

The Insurance Information Institute recommends doing the following before your child goes to college:

    1. Create an inventory to document what’s leaving home: The I.I.I. suggests making a list of all the items your student will be taking with him and listing their estimated value.   To make the process easier, you can use a free web-based software called know KnowYourStuff.org. Be sure to note specific high-value items such as a computer, camera or musical instrument and scan receipts into the system to document their retail value. Having an up-to-date inventory can help determine how much insurance to purchase and get insurance claims settled faster in the event of theft, fire or other types of disasters.
    2. Check your homeowners or renters policies for off-site coverage: Many homeowners and renters policies will provide some financial protection your college student’s personal possessions while they are away from home and residing on a college campus. Other policies will limit the amount of coverage to 10 percent of the total amount of a policy’s overall coverage for personal possessions.  In both cases, the student’s possessions would be covered for the same disasters that are in a standard homeowners or renters insurance policy. These include fire, theft, vandalism and natural disasters, such as a hurricane. The student would not be covered for typical college type mishaps, such as accidently spilling coffee on an expensive electronic device.  Keep in mind, though, that some policies will not provide coverage for personal possessions located away from the residence.  It’s important you work with your agent to see exactly what kind of coverage your policy provides.
    3. Review auto insurance policies: If a student has been driving the family car and will now be away at college, at least 100 miles from home, you should let your agent know as you may be eligible for a discount. If a student has his or her own car, the insurance company should be informed if it will be used at school or left at home. If the car is being taken to school, the price of the policy will now be re-evaluated based on where the school is located. If a student leaves a car at home, it is important to let the auto insurer know if anyone else will now be driving the car or if it will remain un-used except for when the student is home for vacation. If that is the case, the policyholder may be eligible for a discount. Many auto insurance companies will also give a discount to students who get good grades at school.

As you can see there are many insurance considerations with any kid that will be attending college.  If you have any questions in regards to ensuring you and your college student are protected, please don’t hesitate to give our office a call.

There is no worse feeling than walking out, keys in hand, only to find your vehicle is missing.  Did you know that according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a vehicle is stolen every 44 seconds?

While auto theft is an extremely frustrating experience, we have some tips to help you deal with the situation:

Assess the Situation
The first thing is to make sure the vehicle was actually stolen and not towed or repossessed.   Basically, you just want to make sure you have no other explanation for the absence of your car.

Call the Police
If you know there is no other explanation, immediately contact the police to file a report.  You’ll want to make sure you can provide a detailed description of the car, your license plate number, and VIN.

Leverage Technology
Many vehicles now include GPS locator systems like General Motors’ OnStar, Toyota’s Safety Connect, and Hyundai’s Blue Link, that can help authorities locate the vehicle.  If you auto is equipped with such technology, be sure to let the police know.

Contact your Insurance Agent
After you have contacted police, contact your insurance agent.  Provide any additional information that will help expedite the claims process like photos of the vehicle and a description of its contents at the time of the theft.  As long as your vehicle as comprehensive coverage, you will receive reimbursement for the vehicle.  How that reimbursement will be determined depends upon your specific policy and coverage.

Stopping Theft Before it Happens
About half of all auto thefts are a result of oversight from the vehicle’s owner.  Make sure to always lock your vehicle and take your keys with you.  Also, avoid leaving your car running, even if it’s just to warm up the vehicle in the winter.   It also helps to park in well-lit areas with valuables kept out of sight.

We are often asked about what coverage is specifically provided by the liability portion of a homeowners insurance policy.   We want to spend this post explaining what the coverage is and how it helps protect you.  (Please keep in mind that every policy is different and that you should always refer to your specific policy to find out what coverage is provided.)

Medical Bills

In the even that a visitor is injured within your home or on your property, your homeowners insurance policy will typically pay for the reasonable medical bills to the injured part.   Even if the person has health benefits, you could sill be held responsible if the injury is deemed as being caused by your negligence.

Pain and Suffering

After the medical bills are taken care, some people experience lasting pain and suffering as a result of the injury.  Your homeowners insurance policy will typically cover all or a portion of this as well.

Loss of Wages

If an injured part cannot return to work for an extended period of time, you could be held liable for the person’s lost wages.

Death Benefits

Nobody wants to think about the possibility of someone dying in his or her home, but it’s something that you can’t exclude. The average home liability policy also can cover death benefits to the family of someone who meets an untimely end as the result of an accident in your house or on your property.

Legal Costs

One of the biggest benefits to the liability portion of your homeowners insurance policy is the coverage for attorney’s costs.  One of the biggest expenses associated with an claim is the cost of hiring an attorney to defend you.  When you buy home liability insurance, your insurance company often will cover the cost of hiring an attorney and any other associated legal fees.

Coverage Away From Home

Believe it or not, your personal liability coverage will also protect for bodily injury and property damage you cause away from your residence.  (With some exclusions like auto or business.)
One of the most frequent questions we receive to our agency is regards to how much insurance coverage an individual should purchase.   While there are a large number factors that help determine the proper auto insurance coverage limit, we want to hopefully help provide some insight here that will you in deciding the right limit for you and your family.
First of all, almost every state requires you to buy a minimum amount of liability coverage (usually $10,000 or $15,000 per accident).   In almost every case, the auto insurance coverage limits required by the state are way too low.   If you’re found legally responsible for bills that are more than your insurance covers, you will have to pay the difference out of your own pocket.   We recommend purchasing a minimum liability of at least $100,000 per accident, but in some cases even that limit is not sufficient protection.
In those cases you may also consider purchasing an umbrella or excess liability policy. These policies pay when your underlying coverages are exhausted.   An umbrella policy typically costs between $200 and $300 per year for a million dollars in coverage.  If you have your homeowners and auto insurance with the same company, check out the cost of coverage with this company first. If you have coverage with different companies, it may be easier to buy it from your auto insurance company.
In addition to liability coverage, consider buying collision and comprehensive coverage, uninsured and underinsured motorists coverage, towing, and rental care endorsements.
If you would like to see various price options for the auto insurance coverages outlined above, please feel free to reach out to our office.

Will my insurance cover renting a car after an accident?

Most drivers don’t ever really think about their auto insurance policy until they are involved in an accident and to begin filing a claim with their insurance company to help pay for the vehicle’s repairs, and even a rental car.
Unfortunately, many drivers are surprised to find out that their auto insurance policy doesn’t cover the cost of a rental car while their vehicle is being repaired.   And since cars are in the repair shop an average of two weeks after an accident, it can cost as much as $500 to rent a vehicle during that timeframe.  However, for drivers with rental reimbursement insurance coverage, the cost of renting the vehicle is little or nothing.
Rental reimbursement coverage is one of the cheapest coverage options you can select for your insurance policy.  At a cost of only $15 to $30 per year, we recommend that all of our clients add this coverage to their auto insurance policy.
This becomes especially handy in situations where you were not at fault in an accident, but the other party’s auto insurance company is still working out the claim details.   Rather than wait for the rental car approval, you can rent a vehicle on your policy and have the other party’s insurance

Did you know that, according to the Small Business Administration, more than half of all businesses in the United States are based out of the owners’ home?

Many of these entrepreneurs assume their homeowners insurance will step in if they ever experience a property loss to their business equipment or a liability claim.

Unfortunately, that simply is not the case.

For example, did you know that if a delivery person was injured at your residence while dropping off a business package, that he or she would most likely be excluded from coverage on your homeowners policy? Or that if customer information was stolen or destroyed from your home computer that you would not receive assistance from your homeowners insurance company to recover the data?

Below is some insight in determining if your home-based business needs insurance coverage and where to properly obtain it.

If you have any questions at all on coverages, options or pricing, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our office.

Do I Need Coverage?

Determining whether or not you need coverage is the first step in properly protecting your business. The following questions will provide some insight into whether or not you need additional insurance coverage:

  • Does your homeowners policy limit coverage of any business equipment? Most homeowners policies will either provide a small sub-limit for business equipment or exclude coverage completely.
  • Do you have an office, but work from home regularly? If you regularly work from your home, you may need additional coverage for protection against work-related incidents that could occur in your home.
  • Do clients, vendors, or employees visit your home, or do you visit other people’s homes as part of your operations? Injuries to a third-party at your residence for business purposes are surprisingly not covered by most homeowners insurance policies.
  • Do you store vital data or customer information electronically at your home? Most homeowners insurance policies do not cover lost business data, so if you have a disaster at your residence, you may be forced to recover that information on your own.

How Do I Obtain Coverage?
Home-based business owners typically have three types of business insurance options to consider. The policy you choose will depend on your business’ size and type, how often you have business visitors to your home and your exposure to liability, among other factors. The three types are:

Rider or endorsement to your homeowners insurance policy. Some insurance companies will allow you to add coverage for a minimal cost to your homeowners policy. However, it should be noted that the coverage provided is extremely limited for property coverage and liability protection. While it may be appropriate for a small one-person operations with limited risks, keep in mind that you could still be on the hook for a large liability loss.

In-home business policy. This type of policy typically combines the homeowners and business coverages into a single policy. While the policy does provide some additional protection for lost income, they are still usually pretty limited with liability protection and exclude any errors and omissions coverage.

Business owner’s policy. This type of policy is by far the most comprehensive for business owners. In addition to higher liability limits (usually $1,000,000 per occurrence), they provide much better coverage for claims like loss of business equipment, loss of records and data, lost income due to a claim, and even some secondary auto coverage (non-owned and hired vehicles). Depending upon your type of business, the coverage can be fairly inexpensive as well. Most policies start at $500 in annual premium.

Boat Insurance

During the summer boats are an extremely popular activity for families.  However, do you know if your boat has the proper insurance coverage?
Did you know that your homeowners or renters policy typically provides some small boat coverage?  The coverage is very limited – it covers property damage only, can only be used on boats with less than 25 mile per hour horse power, and coverage is usually limited to $1,000 total for you boat, motor, and trailer.   Liability coverage is not included, but it may be added with an endorsement.
Larger and faster boats such as personal watercraft such as jet skis and wave runners require a their own separate boat insurance policy. The size, type and value of the craft and the water in which you use it factor into how much you will pay for insurance coverage.
For physical loss or damage, coverage includes the hull, machinery, fittings, furnishings and permanently attached equipment as part of either an actual cash value policy or on an agreed amount value basis.
Actual Cash Value policies pay for replacement costs less depreciation at the time of the loss. In the event of a total loss, used boat pricing guides and other resources are used to determine the vessel’s approximate market value. Partial losses are settled by taking the total cost of the repair less a percentage for depreciation.
Agreed Amount Value basis policies mean that you and your insurer have agreed on the value of your vessel and in the event of a total loss you will be paid that amount. Agreed Amount Value policies also replace old items for new in the event of a partial loss, without any deduction for depreciation.

Physical damage exclusions might include normal wear and tear, damage from insects, mold, animals (such as sharks), zebra mussels, defective machinery or machinery damage.

Boat insurance also covers:

  • Bodily injury—for injuries caused to another person
  • Property damage—for damage caused to someone else’s property
  • Guest passenger liability—for any legal expenses incurred by someone using the boat with the owner’s permission
  • Medical payments—for injuries to the boat owner and other passengers
  • Theft

Most companies offer liability limits that start at $15,000 and can be increased to $300,000. Typical policies include deductibles of $250 for property damage, $500 for theft and $1000 for medical payments. Higher limits may be available. Additional coverage can be purchased for trailers and other accessories. Boat owners may also consider purchasing an umbrella liability policy which will provide additional protection for their boat, home and car.

Boaters should also inquire about special equipment kept on the boat, such as fishing gear, to make sure it is covered and verify that towing coverage is included in the policy.
Boat owners should also inquire about discounts for the following:

  • Diesel powered craft, which are less hazardous than gasoline powered boats as they are less likely to explode
  • Coast Guard approved fire extinguishers
  • Ship-to-shore radios
  • Two years of claims-free experience
  • Multi-policies with the same insurer, such as a car, home or umbrella policy
  • Safety education courses, such as those offered by the Coast Guard AuxiliaryU.S. Power Squadrons, or the American Red Cross.

If you would like to receive an insurance quote on your boat, please fee free to contact our office.

With summer quickly coming upon us, this means it’s time to lay out next to a pool, take in some sun, and just relax.

Not to put a damper on that, but did you know that according to The Pool Safety Resource drowning is still the second-leading cause of death for children under age 14?

So while we certainly hope you’re able to spend some time swimming and barbecuing with the family, we want to make sure you’re aware of the safety precautions you should take in and around swimming pools.

We have compiled a list of the top safety measures you can take from Pool SafelyAmerican Academy of Pediatrics, and The Pool Safety Resource.  Below you will find both an infographic and list of pool safety tips to help keep you safe.

Hope you have a fantastic summer!

Pool Safety Infogrpahic

Pool Safety Tips

  1. It’s the most obvious, but by far the most important: NEVER LET YOUR CHILDREN SWIM ALONE.
  2. Install a fence around the pool. The fence should be at least 4 feet high with a self-closing latch. If you are not using the pool, the gate should remain locked. (Remember that as a pool owner you’re responsible for anyone who comes onto your property and into your pool.)
  3. Keep safety equipment like life rings, shepherd’s hooks, and a first-aid kit in plain-view from the pool.
  4. Keep a phone with you by the pool at all times.
  5. Take CPR and basic first-aid classes so you know how to respond in an emergency.
  6. Remove all toys from the pool when you’re not using it so that kids aren’t tempted to reach for them.
  7. Teach your children basic water safety tips including how to find the nearest wall and how to pull themselves out of a pool.
  8. Secure the pool with a cover so that kids cannot access the pool when you’re done swimming. (Remember a pool cover should not be a substitute for a fence.)
  9. Install a surface wave or underwater alarm.
  10. If a child is missing, check the pool or spa first. Go to the edge of the pool and scan the entire pool-bottom and surface-as well as the surrounding area.
  11. Maintain the pool properly. Make sure all drains are functioning the way they should. Also, check the pool edges for loose tile or concrete.