Thanks to mobile phones, a vehicle breakdown is usually more of an inconvenience than a real danger. A quick call to a tow truck or roadside assistance service will usually get you to safety within a couple of hours. But technology can fail, and there are still parts of the country that aren’t covered by cellular service. So to make sure you’re prepared for an unexpected breakdown, keep these 6 items in your car at all times:
1. Jumper cables
Most people have jumper cables in their car, but many drivers don’t know how they work. Familiarize yourself with how to use jumper cables so you can get to work on time after leaving the dome light on all night.
2. Spare tire, tire iron and car jack
Spare tires and tire-changing equipment are also included in most new cars. Just as with the jumper cables, you should familiarize yourself with how to change a tire, even if you plan to use roadside assistance when you have a flat. Flat tires are the most common cause of breakdowns, and you should know how to change a tire if help is unavailable.
3. Blanket or sleeping bag
For more serious situations, keep a warm blanket or sleeping bag in your car. This is essential to keeping your body temperature up during the cold months while waiting for help to arrive.
4. Drinking water
Along with keeping warm, staying hydrated is an essential element of survival. Keep clean drinking water in smaller plastic containers, which will thaw faster with a little body heat in the winter than large gallon jugs.
5. Mobile phone and charger
A charged mobile phone is your best chance at getting out of a serious situation. Whether you’ve been injured after a crash, or your car simply stopped working, being able to call for help when you need it is essential.
6. Emergency lighting
You shouldn’t assume that every breakdown will happen during the day. Road flares or reflectors can keep you safe on the side of the road by making you visible to oncoming traffic and emergency vehicles. And a flashlight with extra batteries can be a lifesaver if you’re changing a tire or jumping a battery after dark.
By keeping these 6 items in your vehicle, you’ll be able to handle most roadside emergencies throughout the year.
Like any home, you fill your rented place with all kinds of stuff, from furniture and appliances, to photos and outfits. You spend your time and money making it your own and making it comfortable…but did you make sure it’s covered?
Many renters think their landlord’s insurance covers their stuff if there was a break in, a little water damage, or a fire…but that’s not the case. Landlord insurance only covers the property and the landlord’s interests. Your personal property is your responsibility, and without proper coverage you could be left with the bill replacing things after a loss.
Homeowners across the country buy homeowners insurance to cover their personal property from damage, theft, and all kinds of losses. As a renter, you face many of the same risks as homeowners.  For example, what if the pilot light on your stove malfunctioned and started a fire while you were at work, destroying your TV, your furniture, your clothes…everything. How would you replace those lost items?
As a renter, how do you cover your personal property from loss? Renters Insurance.
Renters insurance works much the same way Homeowners insurance does…except it’s tailored to renters. It works to cover your:
  • Personal possessions – coverage for your things (clothes, furniture, electronics, etc.) up to your coverage limit after your deductible.
  • Personal liability – coverage if you’re ever legally responsible for an injury or property damage.
  • Medical payments – coverage for medical expenses if someone (other than a resident) gets hurt in an accident at your place.
  • Additional Living Expenses – coverage for extra temporary living expenses if your place is damaged and becomes uninhabitable.
It Fills Coverage Gaps
Renters insurance can also fill gaps left by your other policies, like your Auto insurance. Let’s say, for instance that you leave your laptop in your car one night after work.  You come out the next day to a broken window and a laptop-less car.  While the window might be covered by your auto insurance, most policies don’t cover personal items left inside. But Renters does! In this case, your Renters insurance could help replace your stolen laptop.
It’s really affordable
Renters insurance is incredibly cheap! Most policies (depending upon selected coverages) only cost $15 – $30 per month.
If your car’s totaled, most car insurance companies reimburse you for the actual cash value of your car, not the replacement cost. Let’s review the difference.
Actual cash value vs. replacement cost
Actual cash value (or ACV) is calculated by determining an item’s original value minus the amount it has depreciated after you bought it . Replacement cost, on the other hand, is the amount of money necessary to replace damaged, destroyed, or stolen property with a new item.
We’ll use an example scenario* to help explain the difference. Imagine you buy a car for $25,000. You drive it without incident for 5 years when suddenly bam! A disoriented deer runs out into traffic and into your path. Don’t worry, you and the deer are okay. Unfortunately, your car is totaled.
You file a claim with your insurance company and are relieved to learn that deer run-ins fall under comprehensive coverage. That coverage, however, will pay for the car you have now, not the car you had 5 years ago. And after 5 years of standard wear and tear alone, your car’s probably worth around $9,000.
How actual cash value is determined
Of course, all cars lose value as they age, but not all cars age equally. If your car is totaled, the insurance company considers the condition the car was in just before the accident, including mileage, option packages, and overall physical condition (think peeling paint, torn seats, rust … anything that’s not a direct result of the accident).
In some cases, you may be reimbursed for things like title fees, registration fees, and sales tax. But this varies by situation and state, so it’s best to get the details from your insurer. Once your insurance company determines a settlement amount, they’ll subtract your deductible before paying out your claim.
But what if your car’s leased or financed? Sometimes what you owe on the lease is more than the car’s ACV. Good thing there’s a coverage for that!
Loan/lease coverage
Let’s go back to your shiny, new $25,000 car. This time, rather than buying it outright, you decide to lease it. You put $1,000 down, leaving you with $24,000 to pay off.
Several months later, that same distracted deer dashes onto the highway and totals your car.
Your car insurance company will pay the actual cash value of your car, which has a new value after standard wear and tear depreciation of $20,000. That’s a nice chunk of change under normal circumstances, except, according to your last loan statement, you still owe $23,000 on your car! That leaves $3,000 — plus your $500 deductible — for you to cover out of pocket.
Loan/lease gap helps cover some of the difference between what you owe on your car and what your car insurance covers. It’s common for insurance companies to cover 90 percent of the difference. If you’re an Esurance policyholder and you purchase this coverage, it’ll pay up to 25 percent of the car’s ACV.** In the scenario above, 25 percent of $20,000 is $5,000 (but, of course, you’d receive only $3,000 since that’s what you owe).
Gap coverage doesn’t include expenses like unpaid finance charges or excess mileage charges, but it can help rescue you from dipping into that vacation fund to cover the rest of your lease.
If you’re considering adding this coverage to your car insurance policy, check your loan agreement first. Many finance companies automatically include it as part of your lease contract, which means you may already be covered.
As a homeowner, it can be easy to overlook important home maintenance, but with winter approaching, there’s one task in particular you’ll want to complete. And that’s getting your furnace in tip-top shape.
That bulky metal box in your basement (or crawl space, attic, or even hall closet, depending on where you live) is what produces the warm air that keeps your house cozy, making it possibly the most important piece of winter equipment in your home.
The good news is that furnace maintenance is relatively easy: a combination of simple do-it-yourself tasks and an annual tune-up by a professional. Here’s how to get it done.
Furnace Tasks You Can Do
Inspect the air filters. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program suggests doing a monthly check of your furnace’s air filter and replacing it when it looks dirty. Frequent changes prevent the accumulation of dirt and debris, which can reduce efficiency and lead to equipment failure. Changing the filter is especially important if you’re new to the home—who knows what dust and grime others left behind? Tip: To make sure you’re buying the right filter, check your existing one; the size is usually printed on the side.
Maintain a carbon monoxide detector. A failing furnace can leak carbon monoxide, so you’ll want to keep a battery-operated or battery-backup carbon monoxide detector in your basement (and every level of your home), according to the National Fire Protection Organization, placing it at least 15 feet away from the furnace to avoid a false alarm. Tip: Change detector batteries in the spring and fall, on daylight saving day, when you change your clocks.
Keep vents clean and clear. Before you turn on your system for the season, remove all the heating vent covers from the floors and ceilings around your home, and vacuum out the ducts. Dust, pet dander, and all those toy soldier pieces that seemingly go missing can collect there, causing your furnace to work harder. Tip: When cleaning ceiling vents spread a sheet on the floor and wearing goggles to shield your eyes from falling dust.
Tasks Best Left to the Professionals
Annual tune-up. A pre-season checkup by a professional is an absolute must to help prevent costly problems down the road. A heating contractor will make sure that your thermostat is working accurately and that your system is cycling on and off properly, and will typically go through a series of checks and tasks, including:
  •          Tightening loose electrical connections
  •          Oiling all the moving parts
  •          Inspecting all gas connections

There are many reasons you might want to rent out your home on either a short- or long-term basis. Depending on the rental scenario, your standard homeowners policy may not cover losses incurred while your home is rented out, and you may require a more specialized insurance policy.

Short-Term Rentals/Primary Residence

If you are planning to rent out all or part of your primary residence for a short period of time, for instance, a week or several weekends, there will likely be two insurance scenarios.

  1. Some insurance companies may allow a homeowners or renters policyholder  a short-term rental—assuming they have notified the company. Other insurers will require an endorsement (or rider) to the existing insurance policy in order to provide insurance coverage.
  2. If you plan to rent out your primary residence for short periods on a regular basis, to various “guests.” this would constitute a business. Standard homeowners insurance policies do not provide any coverage for business activities conducted in the home. To be properly covered you would need to purchase a business policy—specifically either a hotel or a bed and breakfast policy.

Long-Term Rentals/Second Home

If you are planning to lease your home to one person or a couple or family for a longer period of time, say six months or a year, you will likely need a landlord or rental dwelling policy. Landlord policies generally cost about 25 percent more than a standard homeowners policy to pay for increased protections. If you are regularly renting out a vacation home or investment property, this would also require a landlord or rental dwelling policy.
Landlord policies provide property insurance coverage for physical damage to the structure of the home caused by fire, lightning, wind, hail, ice, snow or other covered perils. It also offers coverage for any personal property you may leave on-site for maintenance or tenant use, like appliances, lawnmowers, and snow blowers.
The policy also includes liability coverage; if a tenant or one of their guests gets hurt on the property, it would cover legal fees and medical expenses.
Most landlord policies provide coverage for loss of rental income in the event you are not able to rent out the property while it is being repaired or rebuilt due to damage from a covered loss. This coverage is generally provided for a specific period of time.

Renters Insurance

As the landlord, your coverage is only on the structure itself and your financial interest in it. Your tenant’s personal possessions are not covered under your policy. In order to avoid disputes arising from damage to the renter’s belongings, many landlords require a tenant to buy renters insurance before signing a lease.

New Year’s Eve has always been a time for looking back to the past, and more importantly, forward to the coming year. It’s a time to reflect on the changes we want (or need) to make and resolve to follow through on those changes.
Unfortunately, while most New Year’s resolutions are made with vigor and hope, most people don’t make it past the first month with their resolutions.
With the following infographic, we wanted to take a look at the most common New Year’s resolutions, how likely they are to be abandoned, and what you can do to stick to your goals.
For example, did you know that happiness affects your ability to keep your resolutions?  Or that smaller, more manageable resolutions have a much higher chance for success?
Please take a few moments to explore the attached infographic to hopefully find a little insight and/or inspiration as you are setting your own goals for the New Year.

 

Coverage for Jewelry
A personal articles floater provides coverage for possessions with higher monetary values like:

  • Jewelry
  • Cameras
  • China and Crystal
  • Firearms
  • Golf Equipment
  • Personal Computers
  • Silverware
  • Works of Fine Art

Why should I consider a Personal Articles Floater?
Benefit 1: A Personal Articles Floater will provide higher limits on your valuable items. 
A Personal Articles Floater provides much higher limits than a standard homeowners policy.  Claims are usually handled one of two ways:

  1. The insurance company will pay the amount to repair or replace the item.
  2. The insurance company will use an “Agreed Value” limit for the item.  This means that, in the event of a covered claim, your insurance company will simply just pay you the amount listed on the policy.

An Agreed Value limit is great when you’re insuring items like jewelry and other unique items because it means if you suffer a loss on a covered item, you will not have to negotiate a settlement price with the insurance company.
Keep in mind, though, that in order to have an Agreed Value limit on your policy on valuable items like jewelry, you may need to provide a copy of a current appraisal on the item.
Benefit 2: A Personal Articles Floater can actually provide additional coverage.
A standard homeowners policy does not include some insurance coverages that are very important for rare or valuable items.
For example, a Personal Articles Floater may include coverage for “mysterious disappearance” or losses due to “breakage.”  This means if you misplace a valuable piece of jewelry or accidentally break a fragile piece of art you will have insurance coverage for both instances.
Benefit 3:  Coverage for a Personal Articles Floater can be expanded worldwide.   
Your homeowners policy will typically only cover items located on the premises listed on the policy.   However, with a Personal Articles Floater you can rest easy knowing your items are protected, wherever they may be.
For example. if you lost a piece of jewelry while on vacation, your Personal Articles Floater policy would pay for a replacement.
Benefit 4:  Most Personal Articles Floaters do not have a deductible.
A standard insurance policy will usually include a $500 to $1,000 deductible.  A Personal Articles Floater is different; many of them actually remove the deductible.
This a great feature because it means any claims filed won’t result in out-of-pocket expenses.
Some Tips when Adding this Coverage

  1. Make sure to keep a detailed list of the items listed on the policy, including copies of the appraisals.
  2. Photograph each piece of your collection and store the photos in a safe place.  This will make it easy to list each item on you claim report if your entire collection is stolen or damaged.
  3. If you have a number of high value items, it may be in your best interest to store them in a safe deposit box or install a security system in your home.   Doing so will help discount the premiums on your policy as well.
  4. If you have something rare or unique not listed in the standard items above it may still be eligible for coverage.   Speak with your agent to find out what coverage options are available to you.

How Much Does the Coverage Cost?
Now the big question, right?   How much is this type of policy going to set me back?
The fact is Personal Article Floaters are actually much cheaper than you think given the coverage they provide.  The increased cost can be anywhere from $20 to $2,000 annually, depending upon the type of items insured and their associated value.
*The above information is to be used as guidance only, and should not 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.  Within this article we simply cannot analyze every possible loss exposure and exception to the general guidelines above.


 
Given the current economy many of us are looking to save money wherever we can. Did you know your utility bills typically account for 15% of your take-home pay? Knowing those bills can consume such a large part of your paycheck, wouldn’t it be nice to cut 25 -50% off of those bills?
We like to share money-saving tips with anytime we can, even if they’re not insurance related. To that end we have put together a list of our top 20 energy and money-saving tips and tricks. You can find the complete list below.
1. Do your chores at night. Limit the use of heat-generating appliances such as the oven, dishwasher and clothes dryer during the daytime hours when temperatures are hottest. That way you won’t make your air conditioner work harder than it has to during the day.

2. Water in the early morning. If you water your lawn on a regular basis, do so in the early morning hours. By doing so you reduce the amount of water that evaporates.FYI: It’s not recommended to water in the late evening because having damp grass overnight provides a good environment for parasites that can harm your lawn.
3. Change your light bulbs. Compact florescent bulbs use about 25% of the electricity of standard incandescent bulbs and will last for years. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, replacing a standard 60-watt incandescent bulb with a comparable 15-watt fluorescent light bulb could save you $69 over the life of the new bulb.
4. Seal up the house. Did you know that a properly sealed and insulated home improves energy efficiency by up to 20%? Invest in caulk and weather stripping to plug up any drafts around the edges of you doors and windows.
5. Stop gushing. Turn the valves under the kitchen and bathroom sinks halfway off. When you open a faucet water won’t come gushing out, but there will be plenty to wash dishes or brush teeth.

6. Check your insulation. Having a well-insulated house will save you a significant amount on your heating and cooling bills and is well worth the cost. It is also the kind of project average homeowners can do themselves.7. Use fans. Using a fan is a lot cheaper than running your air-conditioning unit. By doing so you can also turn your thermostat up a few degrees and still be comfortable
8. Don’t vent. Use bathroom and kitchen vent fans sparingly in summer and winter. These fans cost money to run and blow your cooled or heated air outside, forcing your furnace or air conditioner to make up the difference.
9. Hang ’em out to dry. Besides your refrigerator, your electric clothes dryer is the biggest energy-gobbling appliance in your home. So if it’s nice outside, simply hang your clothes out to dry.
10. Change your showerheads. You can switch to a low flow head without having to settle for a wimpy shower. Newer showerheads can generate high pressure while using less water. These heads cost around $20, have multiple settings, and can save a lot of water.
11. Keep it clean. Clean air filters monthly for central air, window and wall units. Dirt and dust hinder airflow, reducing efficiency.
12. Close the blinds. Rooms get hotter without shades or curtains to block the sunlight, especially with south-facing and west-facing windows. Insulated window treatments can help further reduce energy consumption as well.
13. Consider time-of-use plans. A growing number of electric companies are offering time-of-use plans, which offer lower rates for energy consumption during off-peak hours (usually from midevening to early morning). The catch is users often pay more for peak-hours use, so consider your daily schedule before signing up.
14. Have a free energy audit. Many power companies provide energy audits free of charge to help you find inefficiencies you may not be able to find on your own. Contact your power company to see if they offer this service.
15. Unplug. Disconnect your electronic gadgets when they are fully charged or you’re just wasting energy. They draw power when they are plugged in, so don’t let them soak up juice all night. Standby power for appliances not in use typically accounts for 5% to 10% of residential electricity use, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
16. Keep the dust out. Keeping your refrigerator’s coils dust-free can save about 6 percent on its power consumption. Just make sure to unplug the fridge before you do anything.
17. Power down. If you have an electric water heater, install a switch so it is on only when you need hot water. You can also buy a timer to do the job automatically. Turning down the temperature on an electric or gas water heater will also save you money year-round.
18. Install a programmable thermostat. As simple as this sounds, do you know that a programmable thermostat saves homeowners $300 annually on their heating and cooling bills. =
19. Check it. Hire a certified technician for an annual check on your home’s heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems to ensure they are operating at peak efficiency. Leaking ducts, for example, could reduce energy efficiency by up to 20%.
20. Heat health. To conserve energy, turn off radiators or close heating and cooling vents in vacant rooms. Heavy drapes also lower energy bills.

Last week we mentioned how when the temperature drops, the number of claims associated with fires and frozen pipes skyrockets.   We also provided some tips on avoiding fire claims inside of your home.   This week our focus in avoiding the dreaded frozen pipes.
Before the Cold Hits:

  • Check for small holes or cracks in the exterior of your home and ensure they are insulated.
  • Cover around any water pipes that are on the inside of exterior walls.

 
If your House is Occupied During the Winter:

  • Maintain temperature settings at 3-4 degrees higher than normal.
  • Turn on any faucets and allow a constant trickle.
  • Open any cabinet doors under sinks to allow heat to warm the pipes.
  • Insulate your pipes.
  • Shut off exterior faucets used for garden hoses from inside your basement and leave the exterior faucets open outside.

 
If your House is Unoccupied During the Winter:

  • Set the thermostat no lower than 60 degrees and install a low heat alarm.
  • Have a plumber install a low water cutoff switch on a forced hot water boiler.
  • Have the water service shut off all to your house.
  • Drain all waterlines leaving drain valves open.
  • Shut off gas to the home.
  • Have the house checked weekly.

 
If you are interested in any additional tips for your home or you would like a quote on your homeowners insurance, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.

Flood vs. Water Damage

There are two insurance policies that deal with a homeowner’s damage due to water — a flood insurance policy and a homeowners insurance policy. Losses not covered by one of these policies may be covered by the other. Knowing the losses to which your home could be exposed will help you decide whether to buy one or both of these insurance coverage.
While insurance policies may differ in the coverage provided from homeowner to homeowner, there often are basic features common to all policies.
FLOOD INSURANCE
As the name implies, a standard flood insurance policy, which is written by the National Flood Insurance Program, provides coverage up to the policy limit for damage caused by flood. The dictionary defines “flood” as a rising and overflowing of a body of water onto normally dry land. For insurance purposes, the word “rising” in this definition is the key to distinguishing flood damage from water damage. Generally, damage caused by water that has been on the ground at some point before damaging your home is considered to be flood damage. A handful of examples of flood damage include:

  • A nearby river overflows its banks and washes into your home.
  • A heavy rain seeps into your basement because the soil can’t absorb the water quickly enough
  • A heavy rain or flash flood causes the hill behind your house to collapse into a mud slide that oozes into your home.

Flood damage to your home can be insured only with a flood insurance policy — no other insurance will cover flood damage.  To determine if your home is located in a flood plain, contact your county planning office. If you are living in a flood plain, flood insurance may be an excellent purchase.
HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE
A homeowners insurance policy doesn’t provide coverage for flood damage, but it does provide coverage for many types of water damage to your home. Just the opposite from flood damage, for insurance purposes, water damage is considered to occur when water damages your home before the water comes in contact with the ground. A few examples of water damage include:

  • A hailstorm smashes your window, permitting hail and rain free access into your home.
  • A heavy rain soaks through the roof, allowing water to drip through your attic or ceiling.
  • A broken water pipe spews water into your home.

Even if flood or water damage is not covered by your homeowners insurance policy, losses from theft, fire or explosion resulting from water damage is covered. For example, if a nearby creek overflows and floods your home, and looters steal some of your furnishings after you evacuate, the theft would be covered by your homeowners insurance because it is a direct result of the water damage. However, the flood damage would be covered only if you have flood insurance.
It’s important to note that flood insurance and homeowners insurance do not duplicate coverage for water damage. Instead, they complement each other.