Top Ways To Keep Auto Insurance Cost Down

As an Insurance agent, I am always asked “how do I keep my auto insurance cost down”? In this article, I am going to share some ways and tips on how to do this. Some of them are obvious, such as don’t get speeding tickets, while others such as your credit score, not so much.

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-Avoid getting moving violations

This is probably the most obvious one. Don’t speed, don’t run stop signs and drive safe. This not only affects your pocket book, but also your personal safety. Over 30,000 people die each year in car accidents. Also, I have seen 2 point defective vehicle tickets drive the price of insurance up. Insurance companies look back anywhere from 3 to 5 years on your driving record. I’ll also warn you that DUI’s and other serious violations turn you life upside down and you will be paying double for your auto insurance.

-Maintain a healthy credit Score

Studies have proven that people with good or high credit scores, are less of a risk for insurance companies to insure. They file less claims, are at less risk to get into accidents and pay their bills on time. Overall, if you have better credit, the less your premiums will be.

-Take advantage of ALL the insurance companies discounts

Auto insurance companies offer all kinds of discounts. Multi-car, Multi-driver, Multi-policy, good student, owning a home, accident free, college degree, electronic payment, paperless and many more. Make sure you talk to you agent and you are taking advantage of all the discounts offered.

-It might be a good idea to carry a higher deductible on that new vehicle

If you have a brand new, 50,000 vehicle you just drove off the lot, you might want to consider carrying a higher deductible for your Comp and Collision. On a vehicle with that much value, I would personally carry no lower then a 1000 dollar deductible. Over a 2 year period, you could save hundreds of dollars, if not more.

-Avoid filing claims

Claims is a very quick way to drive up insurance cost. This first comes down to safe driving. Drive smart, don’t run red lights, stop at stop signs and quit tail gate-ting the driver ahead of you.

Also, if you have a $500 deductible and back up into a pole and get 700 dollars of damage to your car, it might be best to pay that extra 200 out of pocket. The cost of your insurance going to after the claim, may be more costly then the 200. If you are in the case where a lot of damage occurs, use your insurance. That is what it is for.

More overall point in avoiding filling claims, is pick and choose when to file them at the right times.

-Decrease you liability limits & Reject Uninsured/Under insured Motorist.

Only in extreme cases would I recommend this. As a matter of fact, I don’t recommend this at all. If get into an accident, these are some of the most important coverage’s on your policy. You can live with a higher deductible, but you can’t live with either yourself or someone else’s 100,000 dollar hospital bill. By the way, if you run into an agent or company that recommends this, you should ask yourself if you should be doing business with them in the first place.

-Do you need Med Pay?

If you have a Cadillac insurance plan, you most likely don’t need this coverage, At the same time, the cost of it is so low, you might as well keep it on. I have very few clients who reject this coverage due to cost.

Overall, I have provided a basic plan on how to keep your auto insurance cost down. Some of this may be common sense, some may have provided detail. I hope this article helps. One more idea on how to keep cost down. If you have been with the same company for a long time, its time to shop around. There is not need to be “married” to one insurance company.

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How 10,000 People a Month Is Affecting Insurance Prices

According to an article published by the Denver Post, about 8000 to 10,000 people are moving to metro Denver each month. People have discovered our hidden secret of a great city, our beautiful mountains and our great people and culture. There are unintended consequences to this, such as more traffic, soaring housing and rent prices and property and casualty rising insurance prices.

A lot of people have been opening up there renewals lately and have noticed that there insurance has gone up. Some have noticed up to a 25 percent increase in their auto insurance and a substantial increase on their home insurance. Now the question is why?

There is a very simple answer to this. The more people in one area, the more traffic and more car accidents. In insurance terms, this means more losses for the insurance companies. Especially the Casualty side of it. (Auto and commercial insurance).Like I mentioned earlier, some have seen a 25 percent increase..

The big factor in why home insurance has gone up, is due to property values shooting through the roof. This has not only been for regular homeowners, but for condo associations, apartment complex’s and some commercial properties. A home that was $150,000 in 2010 is now selling for 225,000. Its going to cost more to insure.

Overall, I hope I have given you a better understanding of how a growth in population will affect you auto, home and commercial insurance prices. At the end of the day, the insurance company passes its cost down to the consumer.

2013 Wildfires Are Going To Hit Your Pocket Book…. Again…

Colorado is being hit hard again with wildfires. Unfortunately not only are the people who are directly affected going to be hurt by these fires, so are the rest of Colorado property owners. Millions if not billions of insurance losses has occurred this year..

These wildfires are going to drive up Colorado property insurance rates. In 2013, home insurance rates have gone up due to all the wildfires from 2012. The same thing will happen again to renewals 2014.

Lets start praying and possibly start doing some rain dances. Colorado needs rain and snow. BADLY.. Lets also hope we don’t get too much wind and hail. Even though hail does bring the BADLY needed moisture, the problem is that it destroys roofs.

Colorado the past decade is starting to show a state where property insurance has become a complex thing. Wildfires, wind and hail have caused this. Hopefully no more incidents will be passed on to the consumer’s pocket book in Colorado….

Why An Evacuation Plan & Being Prepared Is So Importortant

As an insurance agent for the past five years, I have been through experiences and have seen a lot of things that have made me more wise.   My job has been to insure people against the unforseen. To help them protect their families, lives, wealth, assets and property.  I see things a lot differently these days since starting my agency. Being an insurance agent has taught me a lot about risk management. I’ve  also learned a great deal outside of my work too. This has all changed my perspective in life over the years.

On September 11th, 2001, our world in the United States was turned upside down. We were attacked by terrorist in ways never even seen before. Tragically about 3,000 people were lost their lives.   Some lost lives  by jumping out of the towers, because they couldn’t escape.  Everyone’s security bubble was popped, and people woke up to see the times we live in to be crazy.   People were scared and I’ll admit, so was I.  At this point no one was truly “safe” any more. No one truly understood what had happened but it did  pull a lot people back into reality. It made us realize how delicate modern-day society can be, and just how precious life is.  This event created a lot of questions for myself over the past years.  It did for a lot of people.  It made me think deep and hard.  It made me draw the conclusion:   always be prepared for anything, and always keep a positive attitude for the best.

This past year in Colorado alone, we have seen hundreds of homes damaged or completely destroyed by wildfires. Lives were lost.  Colorado has been extremely dry in 2012, and this has sparked a condition for wildfires to break out. This occurred throughout the entire state. Then it happened. Wildfires broke out all over the place at different times of the year. They included, the Little Sand Fire, The Treasure Fire, Weber, Waldo and Flagstaff,  Lower North Fork, The High Park, Springer, Woodland, Last Chance, Ironing Board and Pine Ridge.  These wildfires have easily exceeded over $500,000,000 in damage and lives were lost.

The Waldo Canyon Fire that occurred in Colorado Springs was, in my opinion, almost unbelievable. Colorado Springs is just about an hour south of Denver. Colorado Springs is a small city. According to a 2010 Census, over 400,000 people live in the city. Metro Colorado Springs  includes around 650,000 people. They have small skyscrapers, and the city is wealthy. 

This modern, wealthy city faced wild-fire perils on the west side of the town that were unthinkable t starting  from June 23rd until the end of August. This was the quote “suppose to never happen”. Even though the west side of Colorado Springs is close to the Rocky Mountains and is in wild-fire area, the thought of the Waldo Canyon Fire getting that big and moving that far into a modern city, was truly “unthinkable”. Even with all the modern-day fire equipment, people, planes and tactics, the fire at times was quote “almost unstoppable”.

These are just two events in modern history, where “hell” literally broke out and caused havoc. Once caused by man, the other by nature. Most people were unprepared. They were to complacent. They also had the attitude of “it’ll never happen to me”. I know it’s extremely hard to prepare for a plane crashing into a skyscraper, and the same could be said about a wildfire literally breaking out in the middle of a city. But I believe situational awareness, planning, mindset and other factors can go a long way.

What happens when a fire fighter knocks on your door and says, “you have 10 minutes to leave”?. What if it’s not even a wildfire threatening your life, but something else. What if it is a terrorist attack? What about a flood? What if there is civil break down and unrest and there is no rule of law? There are many scenarios. And if you are one of those “it will never happen” people, look to the past. History will prove my point.

Everyone should have a plan. Unfortunately not many people do. Your plan needs to include all possible aspects and possibilities. Wildfires, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, civil unrest and disorder and any other possibilities which are unique to your situation and geographic area need to be considered.   For example,  if you live off the beach in California, you probably won’t have to worry about sitting out a week-long winter in your house. But you would have to worry about earthquakes.

Here are some of my tips on creating a plan. This also comes from more that just my experience in insurance.

  1. You need to scout and brainstorm all scenarios of all possibilities in your area. For example If you are in a flood area, your plan should be based off not just one,  but many possibilities.
  2. Build your plan. The plan should include all family members, no matter where you  are at.(work, school, etc) Have a meeting point A, B, C and etc. This will let you reunite with family, especially if one of the family members gets mixed up in all the havoc.
  3. Include your family, friends, neighbors and whoever else you can trust in you plan.
  4. Have bug out bags. If you need to get out in 5 minutes, you have to be out in 5 minutes! Everyone should have a bug out bag in the family. For more info on bug out bags, Google it! There is a ton of info out there on them.
  5. Be ready to possibly bug in. If you have civil unrest and there is no rule of law, don’t go far from Dodge!  Best thing is to turn into a ghost.
  6. Be prepared with supplies! If you’re not, and if there is an emergency, grocery shelves will be empty. Just google about empty grocery shelves on you tube during Katrina. There are plenty of peppers on you tube that can give you good advice. I am not saying to have 5 years worth of food, but a good back up supply won’t hurt. Don’t forget other things, such as extra fuel, propane, candles, medicine, communication, maps and etc.
  7. Be able to protect you and your family. Yes, have some sort of defense plan. As we all know the gun is a great equalizer. I personally think a Gun is your best defense. If you don’t like guns, have something else! When thugs are looting your neighbor and every single cop is busy in the city, the only law left is between you and the thugs. When they get to your house, you don’t want you or your family to be victims.
  8. Have locations B and C as bug out locations. Maybe the city has become unsafe and now its time to get out of Dodge. You, family and friends all need to know these locations. It wouldn’t  hurt to have location D. This can be very important for reuniting later on.
  9. There are many more tips out there for being prepared and having a plan. In my opinion, there is no such thing as doing something wrong. A lot of it is personal preference. Go out and do more research. Find what is best for you.

So all in all, be prepared and have a plan! Don’t forget the 5 basic needs of survival. Water, Food, Shelter, Fire(heat) and Security. The last position you want to be in are like the unprepared people from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. No water, no food, no nothing. You wouldn’t also want to end up in the New Orleans Super Dome of lawlessness.  You never know what might be around the next corner or what lies in the future. Don’t be a “it’ll never happen to me” person. Because when the Calvary can’t come rescue you, it’ll be just you and your family, friends and neighbors. The best thing is always to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.

Home Insurance Rates Have Gone Up In Colorado

A lot of consumers have been getting their home insurance renewal statements lately and have been going into shock!!   Home insurance rates in Colorado have gone up on average about 10 to 15% and in some areas 40%.  These consumers can thank the tremendous amount of property losses taking place in the year 2012.  These losses are from wind and hail that we received in the summertime and wildfires that have been going on since the beginning of the year.

These wildfires include the Little Sand Fire, The Treasure Fire, Weber, Waldo and Flagstaff,  Lower North Fork, The High Park, Springer, Woodland and Last Chance, Ironing Board and Pine Ridge.  These wildfires have easily exceeded over $500,000,000 in damage, though the number not official, wildfires alone could reach eight to nine hundred million.

The state on top of all the wildfires also received a large amount of wind and hail.  During the  months of May, June and July, Colorado received a large amount of wind and hail.  This took place throughout the state of Colorado.

These losses eventually get passed onto the consumer one way or another, either by requiring 1-2% wind and hail deductibles or the consumer has seen insurance rates going up.  Some companies are even requiring that you package your auto and home and especially your rental property.  Companies are going towards or already have requiring that you package all your insurance products with them. The standalone home or landlord insurance policy is more than likely going to go away in Colorado.

If you are one of the consumers who is getting non-renewed or your home insurance rates have spiked, or if you are having problems getting any type of insurance on your home or auto, gives us a call.   As brokers we have multiple sources and can bundle your insurance needs.

Sources: –Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association

Wikipedia

Length Of Yellow Lights Could Prevent More Accidents

According to Hesham Rakha, The Director Of Sustainable Mobility at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, has conducted research that supports the idea of longer yellow lights at intersections prevents more accidents. Since 2005 he has been doing research on driver’s behavior on yellow lights. The researchers goal is to determine yellow light signal times for intersections that are safer and still efficient.

If a driver decides to slam on the breaks at an intersection during a yellow light, it could cause a rear end accident. If a driver decides to proceed, it could cause an accident with side street traffic. More than 20 percent of motor vehicle accident fatalities, occur at intersections.

“If the yellow time is not set correctly, a dilemma zone is eminent,” Rakha said.

“The dilemma zone occurs when the driver has no feasible choice,” he said. “In other words the driver can neither stop nor proceed through the intersection before the light turns red. This can also occur if the approaching vehicle is traveling faster than the posted speed limit and/or if the driver’s perception and reaction time is longer than the design one-second value.”

Overall Hesham Rakha research will most likely lead to a lot of states, cities and municipalities adopting the new yellow light traffic timing. To read more about his reasearch, please visit this link. This is going to overall lead to fewer accidents and less injuries and deaths. Not only is this great for the community, it will also be good for your pocket-book too.

If there are fewer accidents, injuries, property damage and deaths from motor vehicles accidents in your zip code, it will drive down the cost of insurance on all sides. Not only on Comp and Collision, but also on liability too. With less insurance losses in your area, the cheaper your insurance is going to be.

Sources: (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)

Insurance Journal

Your Credit Score & Getting Auto & Home Insurance

Insurance companies require a lot of information these days. One of them is your social security number and getting an insurance score. An Insurance score is acquired by looking at your credit report. Even though there are no points taken away for this inquiry, it will affect the price of you insurance overall.

Why Look At Credit?

Studies by regulators, universities and independent auditors show that someones credit score, is a strong and indisputable way to determine if someone is going to file an insurance claim in the future. It’s also proven by personal experience at my insurance agency, Someone with a higher credit score is always going to get a lower premium. They also file a lot less claims from what I have seen too. Insurance companies also report that 2/3 of their clients get a lower rate, due to credit. So overall people with good credit like other things, will receive a better price and favoring.

Am I Going to Pay A really High Rate, Because I Have Bad Credit?

No. Just because someone has bad credit, doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to get ripped off. With our agency being independent, if one company has a higher rate due to credit, we will shop with another that doesn’t. There are companies who specialize in insuring people with bad credit. They always usually have a more competitive rate versus  the ones who don’t. It would also be a good idea to try to clean up your credit. There are many ways to do this. That way you don’t have worry about this in the future.

What Is An Insurance Score?

An Insurance score is obtained by looking at your credit report. It is not considered a credit check, nor are any points taken away. The reason is because you are not trying to truly obtain credit and insurance is pre-paid. Some insurance companies might look at all 3 bureaus, some might just look at 1. Once an Insurance Score is received, it is used as one of many factors, in determining someones insurance premium.

What If I Try To Hide My Credit From An Insurance Company?

“So I know I have bad credit, is trying to hide from the insurance company going to get me a better rate?” The answer is No. As a matter of fact when an insurance company can’t find someones credit, they are automatically going to tier you in the worst Insurance score in their system.(this is not reported to the 3 bureaus.) For example if an insurance company uses an A to Z insurance score platform, you will be placed as a Z. So honesty is the best way to go.

Will An Insurance Company Still Get An Insurance Score, Even Though I Don’t Give them My Social Security Number?

Yes, they will most of the time. They do this through you first, middle and last name. They also do this by using your address, date of birth, previous address and other factors. It is also clear to the agent our company, if an Insurance Sore is received. If one is not received, the system will clearly notify that there was “no-hit”.

How to Choose The Right Contractor After An Insurance Claim

Choosing the right contractor after a claim can be tough. So in this blog I am going to discuss  how to locate the right contractor, and how to deal with the contractor during the process of the project. My standpoint and advice is coming directly from my knowledge and experience as an insurance agent.

First you need to find the right contractor. This can be done in many ways;  through the internet, recommendation from a friend, a door knocker and etc. Recommendations directly from your insurance company are not always the best. The contractors tend to favor the insurance companies and what they want to do, versus working solely for you. If you have an insurance broker or agent recommending a contracting company, they will generally work in the client’s favor.  (Brokers & agents need to keep their clients happy if they wish to retain business) I personally have a couple of contractors I recommend.

Be very careful about door knockers (solicitors that come in after a catastrophe, such as a wildfire or bad hail store.) Though not all cases but most likely, these are illegitimate people  who take your money and jump state.  Be very careful of contractors  from out-of-state.

Once you have found a contractor who you like, check them  out. See if he or she is  accredited with the BBB, or the Chamber of Commerce. Look on the internet for reviews(be careful sometimes they can be fake), see how long they have been in business, ask for recommendations and ask to see recent jobs they have completed  (not pictures of work but an actual address you can go see and look a completed project).  Also ask for a list of suppliers. Suppliers will be able to tell you how good and reputable a contractor is.

Now you have done your research and you have decided that the contractors are worthy of completing work for you. Now they are going to ask for you to both sign a contract. First of all, read everything in the contract. DON’T EVER SIGN ANYTHING UNLESS YOU HAVE READ IT AND UNDERSTAND IT! Make sure everything is under your conditions and the circumstance you want. Make sure there is also a grace period for you to back out without  stipulations. Don’t ever sign a contract that is incomplete or blank. Make sure you get an exact copy of what you sign.

Next the contractor is going to ask for money down or half down. My advice is NEVER  GIVE A CONTRACTOR ANY MONEY UNTIL THE PROJECT IS COMPLETE. If they can’t complete a job without any money down, then they are not a real contractor. A good contractor can get any job done, without any money down or up front cost.

Before a contractor shows up to any job site, make sure you get the following from he or she. A Certificate of Insurance, this should include general liability with a minimum one million in liability, workman’s comp, and commercial auto insurance with at least a half million dollar liability limit. Do not directly accept the certificate from the contractor. Get it directly from the insurance company or agent. They are too easy to fake. If you feel wary about the certificate call the company or agency. Make sure that the contractor has also pulled a permit through the proper authorities. Also, NEVER sign for any materials that gets delivered to the job site.  Once you sign for any materials, you are now responsible for them.  If they can’t deliver with supplies without a signature, then tell them you will find another contractor.

Finally your project is done and now the contractor is asking for his money. Make sure you do/get three things. Make sure you inspect the job and it meets your standards. Get the final inspection report from the proper authorities from which the permit was granted. Make sure that their report is satisfactory.  Finally make sure you get a signed lien waiver from the contractor.  Now you can pay them.

Waldo And High Park Fire Have Resulted In Nearly $450 Million Dollars In Losses

According to RMIIA, this wildfire season has been the most destructive in Colorado history. After major droughts through out Colorado, dry conditions caused 2 major wild fires to break out. So far the High Park & Waldo Cannon fire have cost nearly $450 million in losses and counting. This is all after the Lower North Fork fire, which burned 47 homes and killed two people. 2012 has by far been the worst year for insurance companies in Colorado. Not only have the wild fires contributed to major insurance losses, but hail, wind and flooding hasn’t helped either.  Alone this year, they have added up to about $322 million in losses.

So what does this all mean for your home insurance renewal coming in the mail with in the next year? Insurance companies are most likely going to have to pass on the nearly $800 million loss to consumers. A lot of companies are also looking at or already have gone to a mandatory %1 wind and hail deductible. We are also seeing a lot of companies making in mandatory, to have both your auto and home insurance bundled with them. They will no longer accept “mono-line” home insurance policies. This is also the same for “landlord” policies as well.

We are on a “bumpy ride” with property insurance rates and conditions for at least the next 3 years. Could even be longer. I personally think this is going to change how insurance works for a long time in Colorado. Not only have we had huge losses from wild fires, hail, wind and etc., other factors have and will contribute to high insurance rates in Colorado. Previous losses from 2009 and 2011 haven’t helped. Insurance companies have and still have to deal with a bad economy. This ultimately leads to poor return on investment for insurance companies. Insurance fraud spikes during bad economies. Also people who haven fallen of the books, due to losing their homes during the recession, doesn’t help neither

All in all, I hate to be bad news bears, but home insurance rates are going up again, in Colorado. This going to effect people across the board, including people who haven’t filed a claim in their life. Consumers can try to keep their insurance rates by shopping around. In this process, please consider us. We are independent insurance agents that represent multiple companies. We can also help out people who are going to be non-renwed due to losses.

Thanks for reading.

Mark A. Schneider- (Owner/Partner/Agent)

Wildfire Season Has Sprung Early In Colorado

Wildfire season has begun early in Colorado. With one of the most dry winters in a long time, Colorado is extremely dry. The wildfire that started earlier this week in Jefferson County, has already claimed 2 lives and destroyed 23 homes.  The fire originally started as a controlled burn, until the wind picked up starting an uncontrollable blaze. In some reports, the fire was moving faster than a speeding car.

What Do I Do If My Home Is At Risk?

  1. Always listen to the local authorities.
  2. Make sure all family members are always accounted for at all times.
  3. Always be prepared. Have a “bug out vehicle(s)” ready. This way you can leave with in seconds. Have everything already packed ready to go. This can include important documents(including insurance info), family memorabilia, important computers and pictures. Most of all make sure you have enough food and water for 7 days. If not longer.
  4. Make sure everyone is the household has a “bug out” bag ready. This usually includes clothes, supplies, food and etc.
  5. Have communication ready for every family member. Cell phones can lose coverage. I recommend CB radios due to range. If not the walkie-talkies at your local retail store is better than nothing. Make sure to get the ones with the furthest range possible.
  6. Make sure to have a first aid kit with you. The more money you spend on one, the better.
  7. Make sure you have a final location(bug out) everyone knows about and can meet up at. This is in a case if you lose family member(s).
  8. Always make sure that non-immediate family knows your okay if you have to evacuate, or if something happens.
  9. Have an emergency weather radio.

From an insurance stand point, such things as making sure you have enough coverage should always be done before the fact. This can serve as a reminder to people in risk areas around the state to be prepared.