Over the past few weeks we have been providing tips and tricks for saving on auto insurance.   So this week we thought we would provide the top ways you can save money on your home insurance.

1. Ask for discounts

The quickest way to save money on your home insurance is to take advantage of the discounts available to you.   For example you may be able to add the following discounts to your policy:

  • Multi-policy discounts
  • Senior citizen discounts
  • Nonsmoker discounts
  • Claim-free discounts
  • Marital status discounts

Every insurance company offers different discounts, so we recommend working with an independent insurance agent to find out the what discounts are available to you.

2. Install security features

In 2009, burglary victims (in all structures, including homes) lost an estimated $4.6 billion to property damage and theft, according to the FBI.
Your insurance provider may offer discounts if you install safety features. For example, security features like deadbolts, fire extinguishers, and security alarms can add discounts anywhere from 5 percent to 20 percent.
3. Raise your deductible

Raising your deductible is one surefire way to lower your monthly homeowners insurance premium.  If you can afford to go slightly more out of pocket in the event of a claim, then you could potentially save another 10 to 15 percent.

4. Disaster-proof your property

Adding stronger weather-resistant features to your home like storm shutters or better roofing material can lead to dramatic savings on your insurance premiums, especially in areas that are prone to disasters like high winds or flooding.

5. Review your insurance policy

We recommend reviewing your insurance policy every year to ensure that you not only have the right insurance coverage, but that you also aren’t purchasing unnecessary coverage as well.

6. Double check your property limits

This may sound obvious, but if you paid $200,000 for your house, you don’t need to have $200,000 worth of coverage, because part of the purchase price included the lot your house sits on. You should carry insurance coverage equal to the cost of rebuilding the structure.

7. Inventory your possessions 

Understanding the right limit to use for your stuff can save you money on premiums and help you tremendously in the event of a claim.

Final Note
While it’s always nice to save money on your insurance, we don’t ever recommend purchasing liability and property limits  at lower amounts than what will sufficiently protect you and your family.   It’s never a good idea to put your personal assets in jeopardy to save $50 on your premiums.

If you would like to see where you can save more on your insurance premiums, or if you would like some insurance quotes on your home, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.

Customers often ask us exactly what each coverage on their auto insurance policy does.  As policy language can be complicated and confusing, it can be difficult to understand how your policy is supposed to react in the event of a claim.

The Insurance Information Institute put together a nice infographic that outlines what each coverage is on an auto insurance policy and how it is designed to react in the event of a claim.  As always, if you have any coverage questions at all, please feel free to give our office a call.

We know that homeowners insurance is designed to cover your home and it contents.  Additionally, it provides liability protection for bodily injury and property damage for claims against you or members of your family.   It may also provide coverage for the loss of use of your home in the event of a claim.

However, there are some unusual items that you may not realize might also be covered by your homeowners policy.   The following seven claims are the most interesting claims we have seen successfully reimbursed by insurance companies.

It’s important to note, though, that every policy is different in coverage and the claims below may or may not be covered by your specific policy.  If you have a question or concern in regards to your coverages, limits, etc., please feel free to give our office a call.

1. Eaten Jewelry
Although animals are typically excluded from coverage, there was a case where a dog allegedly ate a piece of jewelry and the insurance company offered to buy the dog at an unbelievably high price in an effort to salvage the jewelry.

After the owner refused, the insurance company finally relented and paid for the lost jewelry, which may or may not have been sitting in the dog’s stomach.

2. Bug-Repellent Basement
A homeowner had pesticide stored in the basement of his home. After a fire at the home, the homeowner noticed that swarms of flies would come in to the basement die almost immediately. After experts from Cornell University were brought in to assess the damage, it was determined that the chemical, when heated by fire, actually dissolved into the concrete and became even more potent. As the pesticide was also toxic to humans, the house had to be demolished and rebuilt from the basement up.

3. A Dump Truck
A homeowner owned a full-size dump truck that he used for nothing else but to move firewood to and from his wood-burning stove. As the vehicle was not registered for the road and used for property maintenance, the vehicle was covered by the homeowners policy as personal property after it was destroyed.

4. A Wedding Relocation
A homeowner was supposed to have a wedding in his backyard for his daughter. However, a fire forced them to relocate the wedding to a hotel. The homeowner was able to claim the increased cost of the wedding under the ‘loss of use’ coverage on his policy.

5. Bad Wine
After a backup of a sewage pipe caused flooding to home, the repair crew used heat to speed up the drying process. The homeowners’ wine cellar was heated to approximately 85 degrees for almost 10 days while the repairs were done.

The effect of the heat destroyed all of the wine and the insurance company reimbursed the homeowner.

6. Expensive Ingredients
Expensive cooking ingredients such as imported olive oil are covered at full value, as long as the homeowner is not running a business out of the home.

So if you’re doing a lot of shopping at Whole Foods, we recommend you keep your receipts.

7. Animal Stampede
A homeowner lived next door to an individual that owned cows, horses, and goats. One day something spooked the animals so bad that they ran through the neighbors fence and actually destroyed part of the insured’s home.

As the animals were not the homeowners, his insurance policy paid for the damage caused by the animals.

 

Life Insurance can be overwhelming.  Choosing the right type of policy, selecting limits, obtaining quotes and reviewing coverages can be a daunting task.

However, life insurance is one of the best ways to protect your family if you were to unexpectedly pass away.  It will give your family the financial security needed to pay the mortgage, college tuition, loans, and other family expenses.

What about when you already have a policy?  We have found there are certain life events that should trigger a review of an existing policy to ensure you still have the right policy and coverage for you needs.

If you have any questions or concerns about life insurance, please feel free to reach out to our office.


Top 5 Life Triggers
1. Births, deaths, divorces and marriages: Whenever there is a significant life event in your family it makes sense to review your life insurance coverage.
For example, when your children become independent, your financial burdens are reduced and you might not need as much life insurance. Likewise, if your spouse lands a great job, that might also reduce your need for life insurance.

2. Change in financial situation:  Changes in your financial situation could signify a need to adjust coverage limits or policy type. For example, the loss of a job may signify the need to change from a whole life policy to a term policy.  Whereas, if you were to sell a property or business, you may be liquid enough to reduce the current amount of coverage you currently have.

3. Retirement:  The goal at retirement is to have enough passive income generated by investments and pensions. Depending on your situation, that might mean you don’t need life insurance anymore. On the other hand, if your spouse wouldn’t have enough to income if you were to pass away after you retire, you might actually need more life insurance.

4. Tax-law changes: Right now, very few people need to worry about estate taxes, but that could change anytime. If you end up having a taxable estate, life insurance is a great way to solve that problem.

5. Every two years:  Unfortunately, many of the situations that predicate a need to change life insurance are impossible to predict.  And even if you know something is going to happen, you can’t guarantee that you’ll be insurable when they do.

That’s why the most important trigger is time. Insurance is meant to protect your family against possible future risks.  This is why we recommend regular to reviews to ensure you have the right coverage and policy all the time.

Do I Really Need an Umbrella Insurance Policy? Here Are Some Things to Consider
Standard auto, homeowner’s and boat insurance policies cover liability a person may have for bodily injuries or property damage for which you are negligent.  while limits of $100,000 to $250,000 may cover you for most accidents, there are cases where those limits simply aren’t enough.   And if you have personal assets above those limits you may be jeopardizing those assets.

To cover financially devastating events like these, insurance companies offer personal umbrella policies. These policies provide additional protection when an accident uses up the amounts of insurance provided by the other policies. They may also cover some types of losses these other policies do not cover.

In order to determine whether or not an umbrella policy is right for you, you should answer the following questions:

First, do you have items that put you at a higher risk for a catastrophic loss? For example, do you have multiple cars or inexperience drivers in your household?  Household attractions like swimming pools, trampolines, and swing-sets present an exposure to severe losses. Boats, like cars, can cause serious injuries and damage if the operators are inattentive, intoxicated, or inexperienced.

Next, do you have any exposures that do not involve potential physical injury or illness or property damage or that might require different coverage? For example, do you or any members of your family participate in social media websites or online discussion forums? Does anyone coach a youth sports team, belong to the governing board of a non-profit organization, write computer code as a hobby, or give music lessons? These activities present different exposures to legal liability.

Third, do your underlying policies have high enough limits? How high are the liability limits on your homeowners and auto insurance policies?  Does your homeowners insurance cover any business activities? Does it cover family members accused of slander, libel, or defamation of character in online postings?

Lastly, an umbrella may cover things like volunteer activities, statements made online, and certain business activities that a homeowner’s or auto policy might not cover.

Normally, the insurance company will require you to pay a deductible amount (such as $250 or $500) before it will pay for a loss that one of these other policies does not cover.

If you have any other additional questions on whether or not an umbrella insurance policy is right for you, please contact our office.

One of the most frustrating things can be when your insurance company cancels or nonrenews your policy for what feels like no reason at all.   While there are a number of regulations in place with states to avoid random cancellations, there are still a variety of reasons for why your insurance company may nonrenew your policy.

What is the difference between a cancellation and nonrenewal?

Nonrenewal: A standard auto insurance policy last from 6 to 12 months, and at the end of that period, your insurance company can decide to your renew your policy and coverage or not.  If they choose not to renew your policy, they will provide you with a notification of nonrenewal.

Cancellation:  An insurance policy cancellation will usually happen during the initial part of the policy (first 30 to 60 days), but may still happen during the middle of the policy even though it is very rare.  In fact, most insurance policies that are cancelled in the initial phase are usually cancelled because the insurance company finds out that your application was incorrect or misrepresented.

Even if you have a bad accident or multiple tickets, your insurance company cannot cancel your auto policy until it comes up for renewal.

Ways to get your car insurance cancelled

  1. Nonpayment of premium. The most common way to have your policy is cancelled is for nonpayment of premium.   Even then, your insurance company must provide you with adequate notice to bring your payments up to date before they can actually cancel the policy.
  2. Misrepresenting your application.  An insurance company can cancel your policy if they find out the information provided on the application was incorrect or untrue.   For example, if they find out you have a teen driver in the home that was not stated on your application, they could cancel your policy.
  3. Fraudulent activity.  If the insurance company finds out that you are behaving in fraudulent activity (arranging for your car to be stolen or totaled), then they will cancel your policy and have no obligation to make any claims payments.

Post-cancellation options

Nonpayment of premium.  If your policy was cancelled for nonpayment of premium, then most insurance companies will reinstate your policy if you bring the premiums up-to-date.

Note: Most insurance companies will reinstate you back to the date of cancellation; however, some insurance companies will only reinstate your policy on the date payment was made, leaving you with a lapse in insurance coverage.   This lapse of coverage can lead to fines and other issues with the DMV.  Additionally, they will not pay for any claim that happens during that lapse in coverage.

Having your insurance policy cancelled may make obtaining a new insurance policy much harder to do.   In fact, you may have to purchase your insurance from an “assigned-risk” pool where you are assigned an insurance company at much higher premiums.

If you have any questions or concerns about your insurance policy being cancelled or nonrenewed, please feel free to give our office a call.

Did you know that vehicle ownership is actually declining, especially for people who live in urban areas?  Many people now prefer to use a car-sharing service or just rent or borrow a car.

The problem that arises is what to do for insurance in these instances where you don’t own a car, but use one a regular basis.

Some insurance companies offer an insurance policy now called a “nonowner” policy.  This auto insurance policy will provide liability coverage to protect you and your assets in the event of a claim.

The vehicle doesn’t provide comprehensive or collision coverage because you don’t actually own the vehicle – that coverage would be provided by the owner of the car.   One of the great features of this type of policy is that it will cover you for any type of vehicle that drive during the policy period.

Additionally, if you regularly rent a vehicle, this policy will be much cheaper than any policy you purchase directly from rental car company.

When should you consider a nonowner car insurance policy?

You rent cars often. If you rent cars for more than 40 to 50 days a year, then a nonowner policy will be much cheaper for you in the long run.  Keep mind this only provides liability coverage, though.

You belong to a car-sharing service. Car-sharing services are becoming much more popular, especially in urban areas.    And while the service will usually provide some insurance, you should still consider carrying your own policy in the event you are named individually in the lawsuit for an at-fault accident.

You borrow other people’s cars often.  When you borrow a vehicle, the owner’s auto insurance policy does cover you; however, there are instances where the person may have let their insurance lapse or they don’t carry vehicles limits high enough to adequately protect you in the event of a claim.  A nonowner insurance policy would eliminate all of those concerns.

You have a problematic driving record.  Some states require individuals carry an auto insurance policy even if they don’t own a car, but have had major driving violations like a DUI or DWI..

Usual cost of nonowner car insurance

The cost of nonowner car insurance is much cheaper than a standard auto insurance policy.   A nonowner policy assumes that you will be driving much less than someone who owns a vehicle; and, because you don’t have to carry comprehensive and collision coverage, there is a decrease in the premiums there as well.

Most nonowner insurance policies will start at $200 to $250 for a six month period.

If you live in the Denver metro area and are interested in a nonowner insurance quotes, please give our office a call at your earliest convenience.

Did you know that for Arvada and Denver metro residents adding a teenage driver to your auto insurance policy can cause your premiums to jump anywhere from 50 to 100 percent?

Teenage drivers have a disproportionately high amount of traffic accidents and tickets.  In fact, auto accidents are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 15 to 19.

Thankfully, there are teenage driver discounts available to help you save on your premiums.  This post is dedicated to top 5 premium discounts available to the parents of teenage drivers.

Discount #1: Good Student Discount
Most insurance companies will provide discounts for your student good grades.  The requirements vary, but basically if your child is able to achieve inclusion on the dean’s list or honor roll you may qualify for premium discounts anywhere from 15 to 35 percent.

Discount #2: Defensive Driving Course
Knowing that teenage drivers are at a much higher risk to be involved in an accident, many insurance companies are now either offering their own defensive driving classes or coupons that give you admission into a local class.   These classes have proven to improve teens’ driving, and they will also qualify you for an additional 5 to 15 percent discount on your premiums.

Discount #3: Distant Student Discount
If you have a child who has moved away from home to go to school, then you may be eligible for another discount on your premiums.   Some insurance companies will decrease your auto insurance premiums if your child has moved a certain distance away from home (usually 100 miles) and is attending school without his or her own vehicle.

While the discount is nice, we recommending working with your agent to review the details of this discount.   Some insurance companies will actually remove and exclude your child from the policy, which can create a serious risk if they temporarily come home and use one of the vehicles in the house.

Discount #4: Driving an Older Vehicle
Buying your child a used vehicle will typically result in lower premiums than new vehicle.   In evaluating a vehicle for your child, it’s also important to pay attention to the safety features provided by the vehicle.   While the older vehicle have cost less to insure, a slightly newer vehicle may come with safety features that will do a better job of protecting your child in the event of an accident.

Discount #5: Take Advantage of Technology
One of the ways that insurance companies are helping keep teen drivers safe is by providing electronic devices that actually monitor their driving habits.   For some companies it is a device that is installed on the dashboard while for others it is simply installed into the power outlet in the vehicle.

The device then monitors the drivers habits and creates a report that families can monitor.  The report will typically show how many miles the car is driven, how fast it’s driven, and how often the brakes are applied hard.

For drivers that drive safely with the monitoring device, they can qualify up to an additional 30 percent discount in their premiums.

If you would like to find out more about how these discounts can help save money on your teen drivers please feel free to give our office a call.

One of the questions we often receive is in regards to how auto insurance policies respond to personal items that are stolen from your car.  We want to spend this post providing some insight into this question.

Please keep in mind that every insurance policy is different and the information below may or may not address how your policy would specifically respond. 

What If My Laptop or Other Personal Items are Stolen from My Car?

Auto insurance does a good job of protecting, repairing, or replacing your vehicle if there is a claim.   It does a very poor job, though, of providing any type of coverage for personal items inside the vehicle.   In fact, most auto policies actually exclude coverage for personal items.

So then where do you get coverage? Your homeowners or renters policy will typically pick up the claim for stolen or damaged personal items located in your vehicle.  Keep in mind, though, the claim will be subject to the policy deductible, which will typically be either $500 or $1,000.

Our best recommendation is to avoid leaving items in your vehicle as best you can.   If you do have to leave items in your car, be sure to keep them out of plain view. Thieves will typically target those items that are easiest for them to get to.

Are My CDs Covered by Insurance if They’re Stolen from My Vehicle?

While CDs are quickly going the way of cassette tapes and being replaced by iPods or other portable electronic devices, this is still a common question we receive.

Unfortunately, the answer is your auto insurance most likely does NOT provide any coverage for CDs if they are stolen from the vehicle.   Some companies, though, will now allow you to purchase an endorsement on your policy that will provide limited coverage for the CDs.

Your best chance of finding coverage for this type of claim is to submit a claim through your homeowners or renters policy.   Many policies will provide $1,000 in coverage for “electronic apparatus, while in or upon a motor vehicle.”  However, before you rest easy thinking you are protected in the event of a claim, many insurance companies have interpreted “electronic apparatus” to not include CDs and will deny the claim.

Due to the ambiguity in regards to coverage for your CDs, we have a couple of suggestions:

  1. Check with your agent to see how your auto and homeowners policies will respond if your CDs are stolen.  It is so much better to know ahead of time how the policy will likely respond rather than waiting for the actual claim.
  2. Ask about the possibility of purchasing a coverage extension through your auto insurance company.
  3. Keep a digital copy stored on your home computer or an external storage device as a backup.
Last week we provided some discounts for auto owners with eco-friendly cars.  This week, we are going to provide the insurance discounts available to homeowners who have taken green initiatives within their home.

Homes

Insurers are helping to promote sustainable building practices by offering green homeowners and commercial property policies, including:
  • LEED Certification. For homeowners who have met the stringent efficiency and sustainability standards like the LEED Certification program will qualify for premium discounts of up to 10 percent on their homeowners insurance premiums.
  • Eco-Friendly Materials. Some homeowners insurance polices are offering endorsement to rebuild your home after a loss with more eco-friendly materials including replacing items like appliances with Energy-Star devices.
  • Solar Power.  For homeowners who generate their own geothermal, solar or wind power and sell any surplus energy back to the local power grid, there are now policies that cover both the income lost when there is a power outage caused by a covered peril and the extra expense to the homeowner of temporarily buying electricity from another source. Policies generally cover the cost of getting back online, such as utility charges for inspection and reconnection.

If you would like to find out more about the other homeowners insurance discounts available, please feel free to contact our office.