Wednesday, May 24 2017
Auto Insurance: What You Should Know
If you drive a car chances are you carry some level of auto insurance. If you don’t, then you better get it quick, because it’s the law in most states. But how do you choose the right company and coverage? You should start by doing a little homework so you know what you’re buying when you begin shopping.
Auto insurance can be pretty complicated and it can be difficult to understand if you don’t know the basics, so we’ve tried to highlight a few things you should consider when searching for auto insurance.
Auto Insurance –An auto insurance policy is an agreement between you, the insured, and an insurance company to help protect your financial assets if a covered loss occurs. A loss may include damage to your vehicle, liability for damage caused to another vehicle or individual, theft, medical, rental car, etc., depending on your coverage selections.
Bodily Injury Liability (BI) – Bodily injury liability coverage pays for injuries to other people, within the policy limits you selected, of course. This may include drivers and passengers in another vehicle, pedestrians and, in some cases, passengers in your vehicle, when the insured vehicle’s driver is legally at fault. It does not cover injuries you may have personally sustained in the accident. Bodily injury is often used to pay for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.
Collision Coverage – Collision coverage pays for damage to your vehicle – or provides you with a settlement that could allow you to replace the vehicle in the event of a total loss – if it collides with another vehicle or object (e.g., potholes, speed bumps, poles, etc.), regardless of fault. Typically, you must first pay a deductible, an amount for which you’ve agreed to be responsible before insurance pays – usually ranging from $100-$1,000.
Comprehensive Coverage – Comprehensive coverage pays for damage to your vehicle that occurs in a non-collision situation, including damage from wind, flooding, fire, hail, vandalism or theft. As with collision coverage, you must generally pay a deductible before your insurance company offers financial assistance towards repair or replacement costs.
Deductible – The amount you must pay out-of-pocket for damages before your insurance policy will pay an insurance claim is your deductible. If you have a $100 deductible, for example, and your car sustains $1,000 worth of damage, you must pay $100 before your insurer pays the remaining $900. Deductibles are most often found in amounts of $100, $250, $500 and $1,000, but may vary from state to state or by carrier. Also note that the amount of your deductible is inversely related to the amount of your insurance premium. Plainly stated, the more money you’re willing to pay out-of-pocket towards your repairs, the lower your insurance premium will be and vice versa.
Electronic Proof of Insurance – Uh oh, you’ve just been pulled over and, as the officer approaches your car, you realize you never put your new insurance cards in your glove box. Electronic proof of insurance allows you to display your insurance card to the officer on your smartphone. Before you get excited (not that you’d ever get pulled over, right?) check if your state has adopted this law and, as a backup, be sure to always keep a hard copy in the car in case your phone decides to die or freeze at an inconvenient time. RPM offers customers the ability to save a digital copy of their I.D. cards when they establish an electronic account on the company’s website.
Filing a Claim – The unthinkable has happened and you’ve gotten into an accident or your car has been stolen. These aren’t the only circumstances for which you might file a claim, but they are certainly some of the most common. Try to gather as much information as possible at the scene. Notify the police immediately and file a police report. Collect contact information from everyone involved, including witnesses. Document and photograph the damage and the scene, and contact your insurance company immediately. You can use your phone to take pictures of the other party’s driver license and insurance I.D. card. These items will contain most of the information you will need to file a claim, but don’t forget to also get a phone number.
Discounts – Everybody loves to get a discount! Most auto insurance commercials talk about discounts that can help you save money, but do they? Sometimes yes…sometimes no. Just because you get a discount doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be saving money. Look at the total cost, not the discount. You may notice that some companies start with really high rates and then pile on the discounts to make it seem like you’re saving money. When you compare final rates, however, you may notice the company that didn’t have big discounts is a lot cheaper.
It never hurts to ask, though, because it all adds up. Some of the more popular discounts include the following: Good driver, good student, multi-car, and one of the best is the discount you can get when you insure both your auto and home together. RPM offers up to 15% off when you buy both, which can save you a lot!
Liability Coverage – This is not an option in most states. The law says you must have liability coverage, but what is it? Simply put…if the insured vehicle is involved in a covered, at-fault accident, liability insurance is what pays for the property damage (vehicles and property like lampposts and fire hydrants) and bodily injury damages (medical expenses, pain and suffering and lost wages) for the other people involved. Most states require that you carry some level of liability insurance. However, there are a handful of states where you can drive without a motor vehicle liability insurance policy…if you can prove you’re financially able to pay the liability costs in the event of a collision. All insurance policies have exclusions and conditions, so make sure to review your policy carefully with your agent so you know what’s covered and what isn’t.
Medical Payment Coverage – If you’re injured in an auto accident, this coverage will pay your reasonable and necessary medical expenses regardless of who is at fault for the accident (up to your policy’s limits).
Premium – The price you pay for your insurance policy. It’s typically charged monthly, semi-annually or annually. Some insurance companies will offer insurance discounts if you pay your premium all at once instead of in monthly installments or if you have your payments automatically deducted from your bank account.
Property Damage Liability (PD) – Covers you if your car damages someone else’s property. It mainly applies to damage caused to another person’s vehicle, but can also apply to fences, shrubbery, trees, light poles, houses and other property. This does not cover damage to your own vehicle.
Rental Reimbursement – Rental reimbursement is an optional auto insurance benefit. If your car is damaged and the cost to repair it is more than your deductible, this coverage pays for a rental car, usually with per-day or per-accident limits. This benefit is only available; however, if you selected this coverage and the accident is a covered loss.
Roadside Assistance – Did your car break down on the side of the road? As the name implies, roadside assistance comes to your aid. It is often available as an additional coverage option from your insurance company. For example, RPM offers this coverage at a cost of less than a quarter a day. It covers a variety of services, up to the policy limit, including towing, reimbursement for expenses if you’ve locked your keys in your car, need a flat tire changed, etc. Roadside Assistance is another optional coverage, so be sure to talk to your agent about adding this coverage if you need it.
State Laws – Every state has different requirements regarding insurance, including the minimum amount of insurance coverage you need to carry. You can learn more about your individual state’s insurance requirements by visiting the insurance commissioner’s website.
Tort (PIP) Insurance – The Tort system, which operates in 38 states, makes the driver who causes an accident responsible for paying for damage to the victim’s property and medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages. The other 12 states use some form of no-fault insurance coverage. Kentucky, New Jersey and Pennsylvania allow residents to choose between limited-tort and full-tort insurance when seeking insurance policies. If you’re the victim of an accident in one of those states and you opted for limited tort coverage, this means that you give up the right to seek damages for pain and suffering, whereas full tort coverage allows you to seek compensation for whatever you think you’re owed.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage – Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage pays for injuries to you and other people in your vehicle, within the policy limits you selected, when the loss is caused by an uninsured driver. Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury coverage may apply if the person who caused the accident doesn’t have enough liability insurance to fully compensate you and your passengers for injury claims.*
Uninsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage/Collision Deductible Waiver – Uninsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage will compensate you, up to the policy limit, for damages to your vehicle caused by an identified uninsured motorist. Collision Deductible Waiver will pay your deductible if your covered vehicle is damaged by an identified uninsured motorist.*
* In some states these coverages may be combined into one coverage. Please contact us to learn about different options.
There’s no “one size fits all” insurance policy so your best bet is to do some research and speak to a local insurance agent about your specific needs.
Sunday, May 10 2015
Shopping for auto insurance?
The price you pay for your auto insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars, depending on your driving record, the type of car you have and the insurance company you buy your policy from. Here is a list of things you can do to save money.
Before you buy a car, compare insurance costs
Your premium is based in part on the car's sticker price, the cost to repair it, its overall safety record and the likelihood of theft. Many insurers offer discounts for features that reduce the risk of injuries or theft, such as air bags, anti-lock brakes, daytime running lights and anti-theft devices.
For more information on car safety, check the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Cars that are favorite targets for thieves cost more to insure. For more information on car theft, check the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).
Ask for a higher deductible
Your deductible is the amount of money you pay out-of-pocket before your insurance policy kicks in. By requesting higher deductibles, you can lower your costs substantially. For example, increasing your deductible from $200 to $500 could reduce your collision and comprehensive coverage premium by 15 to 30 percent. Going to a $1,000 deductible can save you 40 percent or more. However, keep in mind that you'll need to have the amount of the deductible on hand should something happen to your car.
Reduce coverage in older cars
Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverage on older cars. It may not be cost-effective to continue insuring cars worth less than 10 times the amount you would pay for coverage. Any claim payment you receive would not substantially exceed your premiums minus the deductible. Claims occur on average only once every 11 or 12 years. Auto dealers and banks can tell you the worth of a car, or you can look it up online at Kelley Blue Book.
Buy your homeowners and auto coverage from the same insurer
Many insurers will give you a discount if you buy two or more types of insurance from them. Also, you may get a reduction if you have more than one vehicle insured with the same company. Some insurers reduce premiums for long-time customers. But shop around carefully; you may still save more money buying from a different insurance company even with the multi-policy discount.
Take advantage of low-mileage discounts
Some companies offer discounts to motorists who drive a lower than average number of miles per year. Low mileage discounts can also apply to drivers who carpool to work.
Ask about group insurance
You may be eligible to get insurance through a group plan from your employer, or through professional, business and alumni groups or other associations. Group plans often provide substantial discounts. Ask your employer, or any groups or clubs of which you are a member, about this option.
Maintain good credit
Your credit rating may affect what you pay for insurance, so monitor it carefully. You can get this information directly from the three major credit-rating agencies (Equifax, Experian, Trans Union). There are also various Web sites that allow you to check your credit rating and provide tips on how to improve your score.
Seek out safe driver discounts
Most insurance companies offer discounts to policyholders who have not had any accidents or moving violations for a number of years. You may also qualify for a cut if you have recently taken a defensive driving course, if you are over 50 and retired, or if there is a young driver on the policy who is a good student, has taken a drivers education course or is away at a college, generally at least 100 miles away.
When you comparison shop, be sure to inquire about discounts for the following (availability will vary according to the state and company):
But don't forget that the key to savings is not the discounts but the final price. A company that offers few discounts may still have a lower overall price.
Monday, April 20 2015
Shopping for your dream house?
It’s important to keep insurance in mind throughout the home buying process. Most lenders won’t provide a mortgage without insurance coverage. Your insurance company or agent, together with your realtor, can help you get what you want – a good home that is properly protected.
EVEN BEFORE YOU START LOOKING FOR A HOME
Put yourself in the best possible position to be able to afford a home, receive the lowest possible mortgage rate and get insurance for your new house. This takes advance preparation on your part.
Check your credit rating
Good credit helps you in many ways, including getting a mortgage at a good rate. Depending on the state and the insurer, it may also help you save money on your homeowners insurance. Get a copy of one or all of your credit reports. Make sure they are accurate and report any mistakes immediately. The credit report helps you see how your credit standing compares to others. If your credit is not as good as it should be, begin to improve it immediately.
Check your home insurance claims-filing history
Get a copy of your loss history report, such as a CLUE report from ChoicePoint or an A-PLUS report from ISO. This is a record of home insurance claims you have filed. If you have not filed any insurance claims in the past five years, you will not have a loss history report. The better your claim record, the less you may pay for insurance. A good claims record can also be important if you are selling the home you are currently living in. However, a past claim does not have to be a problem; the reulting repairs or improvements, if done properly, can make a property more attractive to buyers and insurers.
If you are currently renting, it’s important to have insurance for your personal property. Your landlord’s coverage will not cover the things you own. If you haven’t owned a home before, it might be helpful to have a history of insurance when you go to buy your first home.
As you look at homes, remember that characteristics of the house (where it is, how it's constructed and the kind of shape it’s in) can send your insurance rates up or down.
Construction of the house
If you plan to live near the Atlantic or Gulf coasts, consider a brick home because it is more resistant to hurricanes. If you are buying in a seismically active region, look for newer homes built to current codes, or older homes that have been bolted to their foundations. They are better able to withstand earthquakes.
Age of the house
Older homes sometimes have features such as plaster walls, ceiling molding and wooden floors that could be costly to replace. Such special features may raise the cost of insurance. Also, an older home that has been updated to comply with current building codes is typically less expensive to insure than an older home that is not up-to-date.
Condition of roof and home
If you are considering a “fixer upper,” you may pay more for insurance until clear improvements are made. In particular, check out the condition of the roof. A new roof in good repair will be attractive to insurers and will save you money as well as aggravation.
These systems can wear out, become unsafe with age or become dated as safer technologies are introduced. Recent upgrades make your home safer and less likely to suffer fire or water damage.
Homes equipped with smoke, fire and burglar alarm systems that alert an outside service may get sizeable discounts. Strong doors, dead bolt locks and window locks may also reduce insurance costs.
You will need higher property and liability coverage if you are buying a home with features such as a pool or a wood burning stove. In the case of a pool, consider getting additional coverage, such as an umbrella or excess liability policy.
Homes near a fire station, those with a hydrant close by and those located in communities with a professional rather than volunteer fire department will cost less to insure.
Homes near the coast will be more expensive to insure because the risk of hurricane, wind or water damage is greater. In many states, you will pay the first few thousand dollars in damage before your insurance kicks in. You also need to think about the threat of floods or earthquakes. You will need separate insurance for these risks and it can be costly. Also, around the country, there are high-risk areas vulnerable to hurricanes, brush fires or crime that might not qualify for private insurance. To make insurance available, there are state-sponsored Fair Access to Insurance Requirement (FAIR) Plans. FAIR Plans, however, can be expensive and provide less coverage.
PLACING A BID
You have looked at a number of properties and are narrowing your search to a few homes. Now you need to get more specific information on the house and its insurability.
Check the house’s loss history report
Ask the current homeowner for a copy of the house’s insurance loss history report. This will provide information regarding claims filed during the last five years and answer two questions that any savvy homebuyer should ask: Are there any past problems in the home? If damage has occurred, was it properly repaired? Prior claims are not barriers to getting insurance, but you should know the history of the home before you go to closing.
Get the house inspected
A thorough inspection of the home is very important. The inspector should: check the general condition of the home; show you where potential problems might develop; double-check that past problems have been repaired; and suggest upgrades or replacements that may be needed. If a house has been well-maintained, you should have no trouble getting insurance. However, if the inspector raises questions, your insurance company will as well. In particular, have the inspector check for water damage, termites and other types of infestation. Special attention should be paid to the electrical system, septic tank and water heater. Find out if there is an underground oil storage tank, as many insurers will not provide policies for homes that have one.
Contact your insurance professional
Don’t wait until the last minute to think about insurance. Ask your current insurance professional if the house will qualify for insurance and get an estimate of the premium. The sooner you act, the smoother the process will be. If you do not have an insurance agent or company representative, get recommendations from family, friends or co-workers. Select someone you know and trust, as he or she will be an advisor for many years.
Shop around for the best coverage
Most people spend months looking for a house, but only spend a few minutes insuring it. Insurance companies sell insurance in different ways – some through their own agents, others through independent agents or brokers and still others directly by phone or over the internet. Select the arrangement that you are most comfortable with. Get the names of several highly regarded insurers. The higher the financial rating, the better prepared they will be if a real disaster strikes. Then compare prices – it could cut hundreds of dollars off the cost of your bill.
PURCHASING THE HOUSE AND INSURANCE
Congratulations, you are set to purchase your new home. Now you want to be sure you are getting the right insurance coverage at the lowest possible price.
Take the highest deductible you can afford
The higher the deductible, the lower the premium. Since most people only file a claim every eight to ten years, you will save money over time and preserve your insurance for when it’s really needed.
Ask about available discounts for:
Get enough insurance to:
Ask about additional coverage such as:
Damage caused by flooding and earthquakes is not covered by standard homeowners insurance policies. Instead, homeowners will need to pay an additional premium for coverage that is provided through the government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). To get flood insurance, your community must participate in the NFIP program. Policies for coastal properties will have a sizeable windstorm deductible, which means the homeowner may be responsible for thousands of dollars of damage before insurance kicks in. It pays to know what is in your policy. Earthquake insurance is offered by private insurance companies. In California, coverage is available through the California Earthquake Authority, a state program, as well as the private market. It can be expensive and comes with a high deductible.
AFTER YOU PURCHASE YOUR NEW HOME
Properly maintain the house
Maintain your home as you would your car. Every year, there are important things you should do to reduce the chance that you will experience water damage, fire or other insured loss. Insurance does not pay for routine maintenance or damage resulting from neglect. The cost for proper care should be calculated into your overall budget. It’s your responsibility to be the “risk manager” for your home. If you do your part to reduce insurance losses, not only will your home be safer, it will also save you money on your insurance bill.
Keep insurance up-to-date
Let your insurer know about alterations, additions and improvements to your home. Major purchases and lifestyle changes such as a marriage or divorce should trigger a call to your insurance professional. This way, you can maximize your insurance dollars by not being either under- or over-insured.
Monday, March 02 2015
Welcome to our blog! We are thrilled to be able to keep you updated regularly with insurance information and local news or events. As always, we would love your thoughts, questions or ideas, so feel free to let us know what you think.
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