As agents we are often asked a number of difficult questions relating to auto insurance coverage and how the coverage will respond in various situations.  One of the most frequent questions we receive is in regards to purchasing the collision damage waiver when renting a car.
You know the routine. You just got off of the plane for your vacation.  You’re ready to go hit the beach, but first you have to go through the dreaded conversation at the rental car desk.
“Would you like to upgrade to a bigger car?”
“Don’t need it.”
“Would you like to rent a GPS system?”
“Brought my own, thanks.”
Now, the biggie:  “Would you like to pay for the collision damage waiver?”
Before you quickly reject this one as well, we want to give you 5 reasons below on why you should strongly consider purchasing the collision damage waiver the next time you rent a car.
1.    Loss Valuation and Settlement. Did you know most rental agreements allow the rental car company to determine the value of the vehicle solely at its discretion if you are involved in a claim?
So if you are in an accident that totals a vehicle that is a few years old, the rental car company can still charge for a brand new vehicle.   A standard auto insurance policy only pays “Actual Cash Value” of the vehicle, which means you will be stuck with the difference in value.
2.    Indirect Losses.  If there is an accident you will most likely also be responsible for the loss of rental income incurred by the company while the damaged vehicle cannot be used.   And, while many auto policies will provide some coverage for this, there have been many cases where individuals are still charged thousands of dollars above what their insurance company would pay for.
3.    Administrative Fees.  If you damage a vehicle, there is a good possibility the rental car company will add additional charges for expenses such as towing, storage, and claims adjustment calling them “administrative fees”.   Your insurance policy will not provide coverage for these expenses, either.
4.    Diminution of Value.  This is another fee the rental car company can add on if the damage to the vehicle is over a certain amount.   For example, if a rented vehicle sustains more than $1,000 damage, many companies will charge an additional percentage fee (typically 25%) because they figure the sustained damage has now decreased the value of the car and their ability to sell it.   Your auto policy isn’t picking up this fee.
5.    Loss Payment.   If you happen to damage a vehicle, it is common for the rental car company to immediately charge your credit card for the damage to the vehicle.  This can create a huge mess as could potentially max out your credit card. This can create some real headaches with your insurance company.
One of the provisions within your policy is that the insurance company needs to be able to inspect the vehicle so they can accurately calculate a damage amount.  However, the rental car company may not wait for an adjuster, and it is common for them to charge your credit card and begin repairs immediately.
The problem is that the provision within your insurance policy mentioned above may actually give your auto insurance company the right to deny the claim as they were not allowed to properly inspect the vehicle.
Between just the fees associated with damaging a vehicle, the valuation process, and payment mess, you can see how you could easily be out thousands of dollars.   By not signing the waiver, you may potentially be setting yourself up for some huge personal expenses.
Recommendation:  We know you don’t want to pay more money for the waiver, but believe us, if you happen to damage a rented vehicle, you’re life will be a thousand times easier than if you hadn’t signed and paid for it.
Also, please double check to see how your own insurance policy will react to some of the claims scenarios above.
Disclaimer: The above information is to be used as guidance only, and it is not to be considered as definite in any particular case.   Every policy is different and you need to read through your policy and consult with your agent to best determine how your coverage will respond.  The information provided is based on the ISO standard Personal Auto Policy in force in most states. Policy provisions and laws vary from state to state and they can change at any time.  Due to the brevity of this article, we cannot analyze every possible loss exposure and exception to the general guidelines above.

There’s a difference between an insurance company canceling a policy and choosing not to renew it.
Auto insurance cancellation
Insurance companies cannot cancel a policy that has been in force for more than 60 days except when:

  • You fail to pay the premium
  • You have committed fraud or made serious misrepresentations on your application
  • Your drivers license has been revoked or suspended.

Auto insurance non-renewal
Either you or your insurance company can decide not to renew the policy when it expires. Your insurance company must give you a certain number of days notice and explain the reason for not renewing before it drops your policy (the exact timeframes and rules will depend on the state in which you live).
There are a number of reasons an insurance company may choose not to renew a policy, and it may have nothing to do with you personally. For example, your insurer may have decided to drop that particular type of insurance or to write fewer policies where you live.
However, a nonrenewal can also be due to your record or your actions. Doing something to considerably raise the insurance company’s risk—like driving drunk—would be cause for non-renewal.

Nearly half (46%) of all weather-related car accidents — more than 700,000 a year — are due to rain.1 As we experience more soggy weather, it’s imperative that all drivers are schooled on how they can safely maneuver their vehicle and avoid weather-related auto accidents, which often cause car insurance rates to rise.
Here are some tips for driving in the rain:
  1. Exercise caution when rain follows hot, dry spells. Engine oil and grease build-up on roads and highways over time, and when combined with precipitation, you’ve got the equivalent of an automotive Slip ‘N Slide. Road conditions may improve after the season’s first rain washes away most of the grime, but you’ll need to still exercise caution when driving in the rain.
  2. Slow down. Wet pavement causes tires to lose traction and vehicles become more difficult to handle.
  3. Avoid standing water on roadways. Not only can you hydroplane and lose control, but you can impair your vision and other drivers’ visibility by splashing through puddles. Moreover, standing water often shields potholes and debris from view and it can reduce the effectiveness of your vehicle’s brakes.
  4. Drive in the tracks of the car in front of you. This allows the vehicle ahead to displace any standing water that’s on the road.
  5. Increase your following distance. Slick roads, wet brakes and reduced visibility can lead to collisions. Give other vehicles plenty of room and brake early with reduced force.
  6. If your car begins to hydroplane, do not brake or turn the wheel abruptly as this may cause your vehicle to go into a skid or spin. Take your foot off the gas and keep the wheel straight until your car reclaims traction. Brake gently if needed.
  7. Don’t use cruise control. It can cause your car to accelerate when hydroplaning and reduces driver attentiveness.
  8. Grip the steering wheel with both hands to maximize vehicle control. This means putting down your cell phone (remember, texting while driving is still illegal in 35 states) coffee, makeup, shaver, sandwich or anything else that takes your hands off the wheel and eyes away from the road.
  9. Keep your windshield wipers in tip-top shape. Winter cold can wreak havoc on your blades, so get them checked before rainy seasons arrive.
  10. Defog your windows. Precipitation can cause your windshield to quickly fog up, so use the front and rear defrosters to maximize visibility.
In order to determine exactly how much car insurance you can afford, you need to understand what a deductible is and how it works. When buying car insurance, you must consider both the premium and your deductible when determining your budget for coverage.

What Is a Car Insurance Deductible?

Definition

A deductible is the amount of money that you are required to pay out of pocket before your expenses are paid on a claim.
When you have an accident, your car insurance company will pay for damages up to the limit of your policy. Regardless of how serious how the accident is, you will only need to pay your auto deductible.
NOTE: Keep in mind deductibles do not apply to liability auto insurance coverage, as that pays for damages incurred by another driver when you cause an accident. Rather, it would apply to coverage types that pay your damages, such as collision or comprehensive coverage.

Subrogation and Your Car Insurance Deductible

If you are involved in an accident with another driver and fault is not immediately clear, you may be advised to file a claim with your own auto insurance company in order to get your expenses paid sooner.
If, after the accident investigation, it’s determined that the other driver caused the accident, your insurer will generally try to get back the money they paid on your claim. This is called subrogation.
If your car insurance company successfully recovers the money paid for your claim, they may reimburse you for your deductible.

Choosing Your Deductible: Low vs. High

If you’re on a tight budget, you may consider lowering your auto insurance payment by increasing your deductible. However, this is one cost-cutting measure that may not always be in your best interests.
It’s true that a higher deductible will result in slightly lower monthly car insurance premiums; however, you need to realistically assess how much you’ll be able to pay if you do get into an accident. Remember, car accidents can happen at any time, so you must determine whether your current budget would allow for payment of a very high deductible.
If you don’t have easy access to these funds in your emergency savings, you may have to resort to measures such as a high interest personal loan or a cash advance on your credit card. In all likelihood, both options would cost you more than you’d save on your premium.

RV insurance protects your motorhome, travel trailer, camper, fifth wheel, etc. You can choose from a variety of coverages meant to protect your vehicle and provide peace of mind on trips and vacations or if you use your RV as a permanent residence. If you’re driving a motorhome, you’ll also need liability coverage to stay legal on the road.
How does RV insurance work?
When you buy RV insurance, your agent will ask simple questions about you, your RV, and how often you use it. You’ll then select coverages that will best protect you and your vehicle. If you damage your vehicle or you’re responsible for someone else’s damages or injuries, you’ll file a claim with your insurer. If your claim is covered, they’ll pay for the losses or injuries up to your coverage limits.
Do I need motorhome insurance?
Yes. You must have at least the state minimum for liability, since motorhomes are driven and not towed. When quoting motorhome insurance, all insurers will let you know the minimum requirements in your state. Failure to carry liability insurance could result in a revoked license, fines, or even jail time.
Do I need travel trailer insurance?
Because you’re not actually driving your travel trailer, you aren’t required by law to have insurance on a vehicle that you tow with a car or truck. However, your travel trailer is often a valuable asset, and should be protected the same way you insure your home, car, etc.
Most travel trailer policies include comprehensive coverage. It’s up to you if you want to add collision, but most financers will require you to carry both.

Morning roadways can get busy: The U.S. Census Bureau says 86 percent of American workers drive themselves to their job. If this includes you, stay cautious with these tips for commuting to work safely.
  • Leave early. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, speeding plays a role in approximately one-third of traffic deaths. If you have a long commute, build a few extra minutes into your schedule so you can stick to the speed limit and accommodate for heavy traffic. And stay alert throughout the drive — even if it’s a familiar commute. Be prepared for your exits, make lane changes early so you’re in the correct turning lane and listen to traffic reports to be prepared for situations that could cause delays.

  • Wear appropriate footwear. Your shoes could affect your ability to control your car in some situations. Open-heel shoes can slip off and wedge under pedals, while high heels can catch on floor mats, delaying acceleration or braking. Wear sneakers or low-heel shoes while driving — and slip on your work shoes once you’ve arrived.

  • Drive distraction-free. Avoid anything that takes your hands off the wheel, your eyes off the road and your mind off driving. This includes using your cell phone (even hands-free devices), grooming, changing radio stations and other common distractions.

  • Avoid aggressive driving. Mornings can sometimes be stressful. Add a busy roadway, and that can compound. Be cautious to curb your road rage and avoid becoming the target of an aggressive driver.
  • Shield against harsh sunlight. Morning and evening commutes sometimes coincide with sunrise or sunset. In addition to using the car’s sun visor, wear a pair of polarized sunglasses and keep your windshield clean to maximize visibility. Also reduce your speed, leave extra space between you and the car ahead of you and turn your headlights on so other drivers can see you better.

1. Your Coverage And Deductibles

Car insurance providers allow you to choose your deductible and decide whether to add additional coverage that isn’t necessarily required by the laws in your state. The specifics of your coverage and deductibles play a major role in your monthly payment.
Additional coverage gives you added financial protection, depending on the claim, but will also add to your monthly costs. Remember that while adjusting your deductible will affect your premiums, the differences in premiums are usually very small.

2. What You Drive

Some insurers increase premiums for cars more susceptible to damage, occupant injury, or theft, and lower rates for those that fare better than the norm.
Some SUVs, for example, rate highly in terms of driver protection and passenger protection, which means discounts on insurance. While some small cars will cost more because of their lower-than-average safety ratings and desirability to car thieves make them more expensive to insure.

3. How Often, And How Far, You Drive

People who use their car for business and long-distance commuting normally pay more than those who drive less. The more miles you drive in a year, the higher the chances of an accident – regardless of how safe a driver you are. If you reduce your total annual driving mileage enough, you may lower your premiums.

4. Where You Live

Generally, due to higher rates of vandalism, theft, and accidents, urban drivers pay more for car insurance than do those in small towns or rural areas.

5. Your Driving Record

Drivers who cause accidents generally must pay more than those who are accident-free for several years.
And even though you can’t rewrite your driving history, having an accident on your record can be an important reminder always to drive with caution and care. As time goes on, the effect of past accidents on your premiums will decrease.

6. Your Credit History

It has been shown certain credit information helps predict future insurance claims. Where applicable, many insurance companies use credit history to help determine the cost of car insurance. Maintaining good credit can have a positive impact on the cost of your car insurance.

7. Your Age, Sex, And Marital Status

Accident rates are higher for all drivers under age 25, especially young males and single males. Insurance prices in most states reflect these differences.
If you’re a student, you might also be in line for a discount. Most car insurers provide discounts to student-drivers who maintain good grades. In some states, younger drivers are also able to take driver safety courses that will lower premiums.
Your condo is more than a roof over your head: It’s your home. So make sure you understand the insurance requirements and coverage options for your unit.
Lender Requirements
Most mortgage lenders require proof of condo unit insurance before they approve a purchase. So if you are in the process of acquiring a condo, we highly recommend getting your insurance lined up as well.
Price Factors
Your condo unit policy’s price, or premiums, depends on two factors: the amount of coverage and the deductible. Less coverage and a high deductible mean lower premiums. More coverage and a low deductible mean higher premiums. Working with an agent that understands your situation will help ensure you have proper coverage and policy limits.
Master Policy And Unit Policy
Generally, a condo association insures the building and common elements under a single policy, called the master policy. This policy typically provides one of three kinds of coverage:
1. The basic building (walls, roof, floors, elevators), but not unit items (such as appliances, carpeting, cabinets, wall coverings) and in some cases not interior walls
2. The basic building and unit items, but not unit additions, alterations, or improvements made by you at your expense
3. The basic building and unit items, including additions, alterations, and improvements
When a master policy is in place, you will need to purchase an individual policy to cover the items and changes in your unit not covered by the association master policy. You may also want to consider coverage for damage to your unit not compensated because of the master policy deductible. Keep in mind that unit owner insurance responsibilities can vary widely.
For example, some associations may have no master policy, which shifts the responsibility for insuring the structure to the unit owners. Review your building’s insurance documents and bylaws early in the purchasing process to make sure you comply with all requirements and purchase adequate coverage for your home. If you would like assistance in this process, please feel free to reach out to our office.
Other Unit Policy Coverages
A typical condo unit policy also includes coverage for several other common items and situations:
1. Personal Property: In most cases, condo unit owners are responsible for insuring their possessions against theft, damage, or loss. Personal property coverage insures your clothes, furniture, electronic equipment, and other household items for their replacement value or their actual cash value (original price minus depreciation). Your property is usually covered whether it is in the unit or you have it with you when you are away from home.
2. Loss Of Use: This coverage applies if you temporarily have to live elsewhere because your condo was made uninhabitable by a fire or other covered peril. The policy will reimburse you for the portion of hotel bills, meals, laundry, and other living expenses that exceed what you would pay if you were living in your home.
3. Personal Liability: Liability coverage protects you if others make a claim or bring suit against you for physical injuries for which you are responsible. It also provides protection if you or a family member causes damage to others’ property.
Most insurance companies offer some sort of roadside assistance coverage as part of their personal auto insurance policies.  What does this coverage actually provide, though?  And, is it worth the cost?
Advantages of Roadside Assistance Coverage
By purchasing roadside assistance, most insurance customers can expect most of the following items to be included.  For specifics, we recommend looking at your policy or contact our office.
  • Towing — If your car breaks down, Roadside Assistance pays to tow it anywhere usually within like a 15-mile radius. It also pays to tow your car to the nearest qualified repair facility, even if it’s farther than 15 miles away.
  • Flat Tire Change — We’ll send a professional to you who can change your tire and put the spare on while you wait.
  • Locksmith Service — If your keys are lost, stolen or locked in the car, Roadside Assistance covers you. We’ll send a qualified service provider to help recover them. If the keys need replacing, you simply pay for the cost of the keys.
  • Battery Jump-Start — When your battery dies, we’ll come to you and jump-start it.
  • Emergency Fuel and Fluid Delivery — If you run out of gas, you can have fuel delivered to you. You simply pay for the cost of the fuel; delivery and service are free. Same goes if your car overheats: We’ll deliver the necessary fluids to get you running again, and you pay only the cost of the fluids.
Is Roadside Assistance a Good Value?
You could pay less than $15 for an entire six months of coverage when you choose Roadside Assistance for your car insurance policy. With just one emergency response, the coverage could easily pay for itself. You might pay around $200 to have your car towed to the nearest shop, but with Roadside Assistance, you pay nothing but your premium. Consider it financial protection from unforeseen out-of-pocket expenses.
If the smoke alarm goes off in your home, do you and your family have a fire escape plan?
Fire departments respond to approximately 370,000 home fires every year. And, while not all home fires are preventable, creating a fire-prevention plan can reduce the risk of fire in your home.
Check out the home fire prevention tips below to keep your home and family safe.
1. Sweep the chimney
Do this yearly to prevent the buildup of flammable creosote.
2. Install Smoke detectors
Place a smoke detector on every floor, and in or near every bedroom. Make sure to test the batteries regularly and change every six months.
3. Plan Fire escapes
Keep roll-out ladders near each window above the first floor for a safe escape in case of fire.
4. Be careful with space heaters
Place space heaters at least 3 feet away from other objects.
5. Use a Safe
Protect irreplaceable items and important documents in a safe that has an Underwriters Laboratory Rating of 125 or above.
6. Use a surge protector on electrical outlets
Use one surge protector per wall outlet to protect your electrical system and electronics.
7. Consider battery-operated candles
Rather than burning real candles, try battery-operated ones instead. If you do burn real candles, never leave them unattended.
8. Keep an eye on the stove
Don’t leave a hot stove while cooking. Stay in the kitchen, and avoid trying to multitask while cooking a meal.
9. Maintain your Fire extinguisher
Keep a working fire extinguisher in the kitchen, and replace it as often as the manufacturer recommends.
10. Practice Fire Drills
Run practice fire drills with your family to ensure that everyone knows which exits to use in case of an emergency.