Going on our blog post from last week about the insurance discounts available to Denver and Arvada residents, this week we wanted to share with our Denver and Arvada residents the auto insurance discounts that are available to them:
1. Multi-Policy Discount.  Just like for homeowners, the quickest and easiest policy discount is the multi-policy discount that you can obtain simply by combining your home and auto insurance policies.
2. Multi-Car Discount. By insuring multiple cars with the same insurance company on the same policy, you will be eligible for reductions on your premiums.
3. Passive Restraint.  Purchasing a vehicle with factory-installed safety belts and air bags will qualify for a discount.
4. Antilock Brakes.  Factory-installed antilock brakes on all four wheels will help as well.
5. Anti-Theft Devices.  Active and passive disabling devices like alarms or vehicle recovery devices will add significant premium discounts to your auto policy.
6. Good Student Discount.  If you have teen drivers in your household, you will want to see if you can qualify for a good student premium discount.   Usually maintaining a B or equivalent grade point average.
7. Low Mileage Discount. One of the biggest discounts available is the low mileage discount.   Many insurance companies will reduce your premiums significantly for driving your vehicle less.
If you have any questions on the discounts available to you for your auto insurance, of if you would like to receive quotes on your autos, please feel free to contact our office.

We were recently asked how a homeowners insurance policy protects homes from flying debris and falling trees.  Is there coverage available for those types of claims? If so, is there a limit associated with it?
Most standard homeowners insurance policies do provide coverage for flying debris and falling trees; however, there are some very important conditions to be aware of that are related to this coverage.
For example, if a tree falls and damages an insured home, both the damage to the residence and the cost to remove the tree are both covered with the homeowners insurance policy limits.   Most policies, though, will only provide $500 to pay for the cost of removing the fallen tree.
However, if a tree falls into your yard, but does not damage your home, then the cost to remove the tree would not be covered by your homeowners insurance policy.  Damage to your trees and shrubs resulting from losses due to vandalism, theft, and fire will typically be covered by your policy, though.
If you would like to find out more about how your specific homeowners insurance policy would respond to these types of claims, please don’t hesitate to give our office a call.

As the temperatures are dropping fire and freeze-up claims both steadily rise.   In an effort to decrease both the frequency and severity of these types of claims, we want to spend the next two blog posts providing you tips to avoid both house fires and frozen pipes.   The post this week will focus specifically on preventing fires.
Fire Prevention Tips:
1. Woodstoves and Fireplaces: Inspect and clean chimneys and stove pipes regularly and at least twice a year.  Make sure to keep any combustible materials away from the heat source and dispose of any ashes into a noncombustible container.
2. Furnaces: Ensure your furnace is at least serviced and inspected annually by a licensed technician.
3. Fire Extinguishers: If you have a woodstove or fireplace you should have at least one fire extinguisher handy.
4. Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Check all smoke detectors to ensure they are functioning properly.  If you do not have a carbon monoxide detector, we recommend you install at least one near either the furnace or bedrooms inside the house.
5. Fire Drills: Even though it may sound a little corny, holding practice fire drills with your family may save their lives.  Teach your family what to do and where to meet in an emergency.
6. Wiring: If you have an older home, it is worth the investment to have a licensed electrician check all the wiring in the house.  Older systems have trouble handling the energy requirements of new homes and can present a serious fire hazard.
7. Eletrical Outlets: Don’t overload or overuse extension cords.
8. Space Heaters: Don’t ever leave space heaters unattended and make sure there aren’t any combustible materials nearby.
For more information on preventing fire inside your home or if you would like to find out how The Holste Agency can help you save money on your homeowners insurance premiums, please contact our office today.

Life insurance can be a daunting purchase.  While many families know they should purchase it, the majority don’t know how or where to begin.   With that in mind we have compiled a list of the 5 tips to help any first-time buyers for life insurance.
Tip 1. Understand Why You Need Life Insurance
Most people understand that life insurance is designed to provide families with financial security in the event of the death of a spouse or parent.  However, we have found that many don’t know that life insurance protection can help pay for mortgages, a college education, help to fund retirement, day-to-day living expenses, and even charitable bequests.
If others depend on your income for support, you should strongly consider life insurance.  The younger you are when you purchase a life insurance policy the cheaper it will.  So, even if you don’t have any of the needs mentioned above immediately, you still may want to consider purchasing a small policy.
Tip 2. Determine the Amount of Life Insurance Coverage You Need
The amount of money your family or heirs will receive after your death is called a death benefit.  There are a number of ways to calculate the right coverage amount to ensure your family will have enough money to maintain their current standard of living.
The first way is to simply take your annual salary and multiple it by 8 or 10.   The next way is to add up your current monthly expenses and add any additional future expenses (like a college education) for a total benefit amount.   A third way is to use an online calculator that will help determine a proper benefit amount.  And the fourth way is to sit down with a licensed life insurance agent who can help guide you through determining a proper benefit amount.
Tip 3. Find the Right Type of Policy
Once you’ve got an estimate of how much insurance you’ll need, it’s time to think about the type of policy that best fits your needs. Today life insurance comes in many varieties, but there are four basic types term, whole life, universal life, and variable life. As a first-time buyer, one will more than likely fit your needs.
Term Life Insurance
As its name implies, term insurance provides life insurance protection for a specific period of years. Benefits can be used to help pay off mortgages and other outstanding debts in the event of a premature death.  This is usually the least expensive form of life insurance as it doesn’t accumulate a cash value or receive dividends.
Whole Life
In contrast to term insurance, whole life, also known as permanent insurance, protects you throughout your lifetime, from the day you purchase the policy until you die, as long as you pay the premiums.
Whole life insurance also builds cash value that can be accessed by the policyholder through policy loans.  The policy loans are paid back by decreasing the benefit amount by the amount of the loan plus any accumulated interest.
Whole life insurance is guaranteed for life as long as the premiums are paid, regardless of your health conditions.  Because these policies are permanent they are also eligible for dividends from the issuing life insurance company.
Universal Life
Universal life also provides permanent life insurance protection and access to cash values that grow tax-deferred. Universal Life differs from whole life in its flexibility that enables you to choose the amount of protection that best suits your family or business. With Universal Life, you can increase or decrease your coverage, as your insurance needs change and control the amount and frequency of premium payments.
Variable Universal Life*
Variable Universal Life insurance is a type of flexible premium, permanent life insurance policy that allows the policy owners to have premium dollars allocated to a variety of investment options.  Variable Universal Life Insurance generally provides a federal income tax-free death benefit, and is accessible through policy loans and/or withdrawals.
There are risks associated with investing in variable universal life insurance policies. Please be aware that assets allocated to the Investment Divisions are subject to market risks and will fluctuate in value. Please be aware there are fees and charges associated with these policies.
Tip 4. Look at the Quality of the Company
An insurance policy is only as good as the company that backs it. You want to know for certain that the company that issues your policy will be around to service it and eventually pay the death claim. To help you discern the strongest companies, there are several ratings agencies that rate insurance companies on the quality of their fiscal fitness, quality of investments, and overall financial soundness. A credit rating represents an independent assessment of the insurer’s ability to pay its claims on time and meet all its other financial obligations, the bottom line for any life insurance company. There are four leading agencies: A.M. Best, Standard and Poors, Moody’s, and Fitch.
Each agency has slightly different criteria and looking at different ratings for one company will give you a good overview of the company’s financial strength.
Tip 5. Consult a Life Insurance Expert
A Life Insurance Agent provides an invaluable service.  In addition to assisting with the setting up your initial policy and calculating a proper insurance limit, a life insurance agent will help you update your coverage as your needs change.


Here are the top 5 reasons why you should strongly consider buying the collision damage waiver when renting 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.


1. Mold and water damage
A spike in mold-related claims at the turn of the century led most insurers to strike the coverage entirely from their homeowners policies.
Since 2000, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of mold-related claims submitted to insurance companies. The peak came around 2002 when Ed McMahon filed a $20 million lawsuit against his insurance company for mold-related damages. After that, many insurance companies stopped providing coverage completely or limited their coverage to a very small amount.
2. Sewer backup
The only thing worse than having a bathroom or basement overflowing with sewage is the fact that you may have pay the entire bill yourself.
Sewage backups are a standard exclusion on many homeowners insurance policies. Without purchasing the additional rider (which is usually less than $100), there is a very good chance you will have to pay for the cleanup yourself.
We will often see the homeowners try to get their cities to pay for the damages, but without being able to prove negligence it is a very difficult thing to do.
3. Natural disasters
Depending on where you live, your insurance policy may exclude coverage for certain natural disasters, including wildfires, earthquakes, wind, and flood.
If you live in an area likely to be involved in a natural disaster, then your insurance company may be reluctant to provide coverage for the incident. For example, almost every homeowners insurance policy excludes any coverage for earthquakes, floods or landslides. That coverage must be purchased through a specialty insurance company or the government.
Also, if your home is located in a very remote area far away from any fire station or you live in a coastal area, then your insurance policy may not provide damage from fire or wind.
4. Neglect
Home damage that happens over a long period of time like a slow water leak or a termite infestation may leave with a massive headache and a huge repair bill.
Homeowners insurance policies are written to cover “sudden and unexpected losses” that happen to your home. Insurance companies expect you to care for your home and deal with any maintenance issues that come up. This means problems like a slow water leaks or infestations are usually excluded on your insurance policy because they develop over a long period of time and should have been detected by the homeowner.
Bruce Johnson, author of “50 Simple Ways to Save Your House,” recommends conducting regular home inspections to detect any potential problems. Tour the exterior of your home to look for cracks, decay or water damage. Check the condition of the roof and inspect the basement or crawl space for other hidden problems, including rodent droppings, termites or leaks.
5. Trampolines
Some hazards like a swimming pool or swing set may cause an increase in your premiums while other hazards like trampolines may be outright excluded on your policy.
According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, there are approximately 98,000 trampoline-related injuries every year with fractures and dislocations accounting for 48% of those injuries.
With that in mind many insurance companies are now excluding any injury related to trampolines. In fact, some insurance companies will actually cancel your insurance policy if they find out your have purchased one.
So if you have purchased a trampoline be sure to speak with our office to find out how it will affect your liability coverage and insurance policy.
6. Dogs
Dog bites now account for over one-third of all homeowners insurance claims with average damages totaling over $10,000.
With total damages now exceeding $310 million a year, it is easy to see why insurance companies are very leery to insure residences with dogs. Whether or not your insurance company will surcharge for owning a dog or provide coverage at all depends upon the breed of dog you own.
Troublesome breeds like pit bulls, German shepherds, Rottweilers, and huskies may make finding an insurance policy that will provide liability coverage very difficult. Providing proof of dog training and a proper fenced-in enclosure with help prove to insurance companies you are taking the necessary steps to protect yourself and others, and they may be willing to discount your premiums for doing so.
7. Intentional damage
If your rebellious teenager or estranged spouse intentionally damages your home, there is a good chance you will be paying for the damages yourself.
Intentional damages caused by an insured person – you, your spouse, dependents or any relatives living in the home – aren’t typically covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Estranged spouses are a very gray area for insurance companies: while they may not live at the residence, they may still be listed on the deed or have an insurable interest in the home, which will give insurance companies a right to deny any claim from their destruction.
If you have any questions on the claims scenarios above and would like to find out how your insurance policy will respond, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.

Now that the weather is improving we are finding that many of our Denver and Arvada residents are riding their bikes to work or school.  It’s a great way to exercise and save on commuting costs.
In fact, riding bikes is gaining more popularity.   The League of American Bicyclists points out that the “number of trips made by bicycle more than doubled” in the last few years.
An important part of riding a bike is knowing how to cycle safely and how to properly insure your bicycle.

Insuring Your Bicycle

As a  bike can now cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars for a racing bike, it’s important to understand how to properly insure your bike from calamities like theft or vandalism.
Fortunately, bicycles are covered under the personal property section of standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. This coverage will reimburse you, minus your deductible, if your bike is stolen or damaged in a fire, hurricane or other disaster listed in your policy. Even better is the fact that most policies will cover you if the bicycle is stolen from your car.
You can insure personal property like a bike in two ways—for its actual cash value or its replacement cost. If you have an actual cash value policy, you would be reimbursed based on the depreciated value of the bike. With replacement cost you would be paid the cost of replacing your current bike less the deductible.

Liability Protection

 Homeowners and renters insurance policies also provide liability protection for harm you may cause to someone else or their property. If you injure someone in a bicycle accident and he or she sues you, you will be covered up to the limits of your policy.
It does not matter if you own or rent the bike; if you have a home or renters insurance policy, you will have liability protection. Most people have $100,000 to $300,000 worth of liability protection as part of their standard policy. But higher amounts of coverage are available. Your homeowners or renters insurance policy also includes no-fault medical coverage in the event you injure someone. This way, they can simply submit a medical claim to your homeowners insurance company without suing you. This coverage usually ranges from $1,000 to $5,000.

Special Note

If you own a particularly expensive bicycle, you may want to consider getting an endorsement to your homeowners or renters insurance policy. A number of insurance companies have endorsements for sports equipment; some specifically for bikes. The endorsement may have broader coverage and there will likely be no deductible.

This is the second part of our posts on the top ways Arvada and Denver residents can save money on their auto insurance.
If you would like to view part 1, please click here.
4.  Watch Your Credit
Most Insurance companies now use credit as one of the primary factors in determining your rate.  The higher your credit score, the less you pay in premium. They do this because insurance company studies actually show a strong correlation between your credit score and the likelihood of filing a claim.
For those people who may have had a hardship that negatively affected their credit, some insurance companies will consider a life event exception.  Make sure you talk to your agent if you’ve had an event in your life that would qualify.
Also, it is worth noting there are some states that actually limit the way Insurance companies can use this score, and a few other states have even banned their use.
5. Pay the Policy in Full
Many insurance companies now offer significant discounts (10 – 15% off the total premium) if you pay for the policy in full rather than dividing it up into monthly payments.  Also, by paying the policy in full you avoid monthly service charges that add $7 – $15 to each bill.
When you take those two things into account, you can save a few hundred dollars by simply paying for the entire policy upfront.
Most agents are used to just providing their clients with a monthly payment option, so be sure to ask what kind of discount you receive when you pay for the policy in full.  Also, ask your agent how much of an installment fee is charged on each bill if you decide to go with the monthly payment option.
By applying each one of the tips we have provided above, you will save hundreds of dollars on your policy this year and for years to come without having to sacrifice any of the coverages necessary to protect you and your family.
A Consumer’s Guide to Auto Insurance, National Association of Insurance Commissioners, 2 June 2011, www.naic.org
Consumer Alert from the Utah Insurance Department: Tips for Saving Money on Auto Insurance, Utah Insurance Department, www.insurance.utah.gov/docs/ConsumerAlert7-25.pdf
Reed, Philip, How to Save Money on Your Car Insurance, Edmunds, 30 April 2009, http://www.edmunds.com/auto-insurance/how-to-save-money-on-car-insurance.html
Which Cars Cost More or Less to Insure, MSN Money, http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Insurance/InsureYourCar/which-cars-cost-more-or-less-to-insure.aspx

In light of the recent disasters that have been happening both locally and on a national level, we thought it would be a good idea to share some tips on putting together a disaster recovery plan.


The best way to get started is by gathering as much information as you can.  This includes putting together contact lists and home inventory sheet.   Here are a few suggestions to help you get started on the right foot:

  • Make a list of each of your insurance policy numbers and the insurance company name, and keep the information in your wallet, purse, or on your mobile device. For example, nearly all states use some form of a wallet-size auto ID card, which is required to be kept on your person, or in the vehicle. It’s a good idea to do have similar information with you on all your other insurance coverages.
  • Make a record of your insurance agent’s web site address, and keep this information in your wallet, purse or mobile device. After a widespread catastrophe, more and more agencies post information about claims procedures on their web site. This is especially important in cases where the agency itself has been affected, and has set up temporary operations at another location. In addition, agency web sites will usually post emergency insurance claim phone numbers, etc.
  • Use social media to contact your insurance agent. Many agencies use some form of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., and these information outlets can provide vital, timely information about claims procedures and other necessary information for policyholders.


An often overlooked part of a disaster preparedness plan is finding out how your community will respond in the event of a tragedy.  We recommend taking some time with the following organizations to understand their disaster response plans:

  • Find out how you and your neighbors would be informed about an imminent disaster.
  • Ask if evacuation routes have been established.
  • Contact your city’s or town’s planning and emergency assistance organizations.  Ask them for information about disaster planning.
  • Contact your children’s school(s) or day care center to learn about the emergency plans they have in place.
  • If a family member is in an elder care facility, check to see what emergency procedures they will follow.
  • Take a First Aid/CPR class from the American Red Cross.
  • If you have pets, have a contingency plan in place. Many emergency shelters won’t accept them.

We hope the information above will help you prepare for any type of disaster.  If you have any further questions or would like to find out more, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.

A lot of reports discuss saving money on your auto insurance.  The problem with many of those reports is the suggestions provided only translate into a savings of $20 or so a year.
We want to provide you with five tips that will translate into saving hundreds of dollars on your policy.
The best part is our suggestions don’t have anything to do with eliminating coverages or decreasing limits.  
1. When Purchasing a Car, Factor in the Cost of the Insurance
While many people intuitively know insurance on an SUV is more expensive than on a sedan, very few actually understand the factors that make it more expensive.
Here are the vehicle factors that will drive (no pun intended) up the price of your auto insurance:

  • Vehicles with a lot of horsepower
  • Vehicles with high repair costs
  • Vehicles with less protection devices
  • Vehicles with higher damage costs in accidents
  • Vehicles with high theft rates
  • Vehicles that cause higher amounts of damage to other vehicles

Also, remember that just because a vehicle has a high safety rating does not mean it carries a low insurance cost.   The vehicle could still be very expensive to repair or susceptible to theft.
Insurance companies will also take into account the average demographics for a particular vehicle.  For example, minivans are often driven by moms who tend to avoid driving at peak hours, at night, or aggressively; so they tend to be cheaper to insure than some standard sedans.
Taking into account all of the factors listed above, here are the Top 10 least expensive vehicles to insure:

  1. Mazda Tribute I
  2. Honda Odyssey LX
  3. Chrysler Town & Country LX
  4. Jeep Wrangler X
  5. Dodge Grand Caravan SE
  6. Toyota Sienna CE
  7. Hyundai Tucson GLS
  8. Kia Sportage LX
  9. Hyundai Santa Fe GLS
  10. Jeep Patriot Sport

2.  Ask About Discounts
Most carriers have a number of discounts available to qualifying drivers.  It is always good practice to confirm with your agent that you are receiving the maximum number of discounts available.
Here are some of the most common discounts:

  • Multiple vehicles on the same policy
  • Auto and Home Insurance with the same company
  • Participation in driver education/safety courses
  • Good student driver under age 25
  • Mature driver (between 50 and 65 years of age)
  • Being a member of a particular association or employer
  • Airbags or other safety equipment
  • Anti-theft devices
  • Car Tracking Systems (LoJack)

3. Keep a Clean Driving Record.  
Insurance company statistics show that drivers with just one violation are much more likely to be involved in an accident at some point in the future.
Therefore, drivers with clean records will typically have much lower rates and qualify for more discounts on their auto insurance than drivers with even just a small fender bender or speeding ticket.
If you live in the Arvada or Denver Metro area and would like to see how we can help you save on your auto insurance, please give our office a call.