RECENT TRENDS IN AUTO INSURANCE

The factors influencing your auto rates

You might have noticed that auto insurance rates are on the rise. Despite safer cars and an aging population (safer driving habits), the trends in auto insurance started to deteriorate a few years ago. Fatalities in the U.S. from auto accidents had been steadily declining from a high in 1979. That year, 51,093 people lost their lives. Fatalities bottomed in 2011 at 32,479. But starting in 2015, there has been a sharp increase. In 2016, 37,806 lost their lives, and 37,133 lost their lives in 2017. The numbers for 2018 are not available, yet.[1] 
In no particular order, here are the trends driving auto insurance costs higher:

  • Distracted Driving. This one doesn’t need any explanation – we all see this nearly every day.
  • Rising Medical Costs. Combine an aging population with rising medical costs and more accidents, and you have a bad combination.
  • Uninsured and underinsured motorists. As bad as this problem has been for years, it’s actually getting worse.   
  • Attorneys. We’ve never seen so many commercials on TV and on billboards for personal injury attorneys. They have applied a lot of pressure. Wasn’t there a day not long ago when attorneys couldn’t advertise for ethical reasons?
  • Repair Costs. Cars are complicated to repair these days. For example, sensors and cameras are now routinely installed in bumpers. What might have been a small $400 claim for backing into a pole can easily exceed $2,000 today.      
  • Labor shortage for auto repair body shops. Talk to any owner of an auto repair shop, and they will tell you how they cannot find young people who want to work in this industry.
  • Low interest rates. Insurance companies earn money on funds they collect until the time they pay claims. Interest rates remain historically low. 

Clients oftentimes ask why their rates are not going down as their vehicle ages. Good question. Let’s break down the five main coverages in an auto policy:

  • Bodily-injury liability. This coverage pays for someone else’s legal damages if you are at fault. The cost for this coverage is minimally impacted by the age of your vehicle. If anything, companies charge more for older cars due to fewer safety features.
  • Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist (“UM”). This coverage pays your bodily-injury legal damages if another driver is at fault and does not have adequate bodily-injury liability coverage. Similar to liability coverage, the cost for UM coverage does not decrease as a vehicle gets older.
  • Medical. This coverage pays for your medical bills, regardless of fault. Similar to the two prior coverages, the cost for this coverage does not decrease as a car gets older.
  • “Comprehensive” – a/k/a Physical damage coverage for “other than collision”. This covers damage to your vehicle that is not the result of a “collision”. Age matters here. However, it only matters if your car is deemed a total loss – then the insurance company would pay less for an older car. Most claims do NOT result in a total loss. Rather, most claims are repair situations, and the cost of repairs (parts and labor), generally increases each year.
  • Collision. This covers damage to your vehicle that is the result of a collision. The same answer for comprehensive applies here. Most accidents do not result in a total loss.

We hope this helps. As always, we work for you, and we’re here to answer your questions. Thank you for your business!

  [1]https://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/general-statistics/fatalityfacts/overview-of-fatality-facts

FIRE SEASON IS UPON US: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

The Facts: Chimney Fires Fireplace and chimney fires can vary in size and severity — ranging from several hundred thousand dollars in losses when a single room is damaged to a multi-million dollar, total burn down of a home. During the three-year period from 2009-2011, each year on average:

  • 24,300 chimney fires started
  • 23 lives were lost
  • 93 people were injured
  • $115.9 million in overall property damage occured

Fireplace and chimney fires typically erupt for two main reasons: improper construction and lack of regular annual maintenance.

The Fiction: Masonry Chimneys Are Indestructible Most chimneys in residential family homes today are of two types: masonry or factory built. Masonry chimneys are built on site of hand laid bricks, and have been the standard fireplace construction for hundreds of years. Many homeowners mistakenly think this masonry is indestructible, but in fact, it can be damaged by extreme weather, lightening strikes, or shifts in the earth, as well as general age deterioration.      Factory-built chimneys are more popular in new construction because of the lower material and installation costs. However, they do not last as long as a masonry fireplace — generally 25 to 40 years depending on the amount of use and geographic location.

The Ignition: Deposit Build-Up Even with proper construction of a chimney, maintaining it through annual inspection and cleaning is critical. The buildup of chimney deposits — especially in cold winter when you may be building more fires and keeping them lit longer — is a major factor in chimney fire ignition. Creosote, in particular, is highly combustible as these crusty, tar-like and often hardened deposits can ignite when the internal flue temperature becomes very high.

The Prevention: Annual Chimney Inspection and Cleaning The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) recommends that chimneys be inspected at least once a year and cleaned as necessary. It’s important to recognize that the inspection and cleaning of a chimney is a specialized job, and should not be performed by a general maintenance company or handyman.      “A chimney and flue system is a complicated mechanical system that requires regular inspections, just as HVAC systems, plumbing systems, and electrical systems do,” says Matt Hunter, Loss Prevention Leader for Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company. “The only way to know if you have a problem with your chimney is to have it inspected regularly.” The Chimney Safety Institute of America (csia.org) is a network of 1,400 Certified Chimney Sweeps in North America. The group has committed to an additional 48 credits of continuing education every three years, so they are current with the latest techniques to diagnose proper draft and flow, and spot potential fire dangers.

The Winter Ahead: Tips to Prevent a Chimney Fire The winter of 2013-2014 was one for the record books in many parts of the country, and the upcoming 2014-15 winter is predicted to have the same extreme cold and moisture. This winter weather will put undue strain on chimneys, whether they are 100-year-old masonry or new factory-built. That’s because homeowners will be building more fires, and burning them longer. Hunter explains, “Fireman’s Fund has partnered with the CSIA to help raise the level of awareness of the need for regular chimney inspections and maintenance. This is especially timely as temperatures begin to drop across the country.” Here are some tips from the CSIA to make your winter fire burning a safe season:

  • Burn only seasoned wood, as your fireplace will burn cleaner and avoid creosote build-up that can lead to a fire.
  • Be sure not to overload the firebox — stack logs only up to half the height of the opening, and flames should never reach up into the chimney.
  • Your fireplace is not an incinerator, so do not burn wrapping paper or boxes as those materials can contribute to flue build-up.
  • Build smaller fires using hotter burning woods (hickory and ash) so they burn more completely and leave less deposits.
  • Keep an inch of ash on the bottom of the firebox — this allows the coals to nestle down and cool off at the end of the burn.
  • Factory built fireplaces are designed with a thinner sheet metal, and may not be able to withstand an all-day fire in them. On very cold days, consider building a fire intermittently throughout the day.
  • Be sure the fire burns down before going to bed; and close the fireplace doors tightly.
  • Avoid putting expensive artwork, precious family photos, or other collectibles on the mantle, hanging above or on adjacent bookshelves.

Copyright Fireman’s Fund 2014

*“2009–2011 Residential Fire Loss Estimates”, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, July 2013

Why Do Millennials Need Life Insurance?

Let’s talk about it

What is the best way is to discuss this important topic without immediately turning off my audience? I know that being a millennial myself, I take offense to condescending sales pitches. Nobody likes that. If you’re anything like me, you’re browsing your social media accounts, watching Netflix and carrying on a conversation with someone all at the same time. We love technology, multitasking, and Netflix (but seriously, though). If you want to reach a millennial, you’re going to have to skip the newspaper ad or TV commercial (what are those?) to sell life insurance, and find me online. Oh, and make it quick, because I’m busy!

Get ‘er done

It’s been said that millennials are the most uninsured generation alive today.[1] I remember a few years back, when my sister (who was an insurance agent), asked me about getting a life insurance policy for me and my husband. I was in my mid-twenties, and I had two thoughts run through my head: #1, isn’t life insurance for people who are in their 40’s or older? #2, I was somewhat relieved that she brought it up so that I didn’t have to. The process was quick and painless (minus the quick needle poke for the blood test!) and I was so at ease once the policy was in place. “Why was I so freaked about getting life insurance?” I remember thinking, after it was so simple to procure.

Is now a good time for you to get life insurance?

  1. Are you young and healthy? Then now is the perfect time to apply for life insurance because you’ll lock in a very affordable rate. Every insurance company understands risk. A healthy millennial is a low-key risk, especially if they’re a non-smoker with little to no preexisting conditions. If you qualify for the best rating, you could pay less than a dollar a day!*
  2. Does anyone financially depend on you? If you were to pass away tomorrow, would it leave your significant other, spouse, or children in financial distress? How would their lives be affected if your income was out of the picture? Even if you’re a stay-at-home parent, your spouse would have to pay for someone to care for the children, which is very costly.
  3. Do you have any debt? There are certain types of student loans that would be waived if you passed away. However, if your parents co-signed on a student loan, car loan, or credit card, then they could still be on the hook even after you’re gone. If your parents put them self in financial hardship in order to send you to college, then think of the financial burden you would relieve by naming them as your beneficiary.
  4. Do you have a policy through work? While it’s great if your employer provides a life insurance policy for you, it most likely ends when your employment does. Meaning, you can’t take it with you. Is it enough? Typically group life insurance policies are not enough to cover some of the exposures we previously outlined.

Read More Why Do Millennials Need Life Insurance?

TIPS FOR SHOPPING YOUR HOME AND AUTO INSURANCE

If you’re thinking about shopping for a new insurance carrier, there are important differences you should consider.  It seems that every insurance carrier is offering the best price – but that’s impossible.  The claim to a low price can grab a prospective customer’s attention.  In reality, all companies in all industries compete for your business in three ways: Price. Service. Quality. 

PRICE:

We would all love it if we could pay low insurance premiums that never increased at renewal, wouldn’t we?  Unfortunately, that isn’t the reality we face.  Distracted driving and increasingly severe weather1 have driven claims payouts higher.  The insurance company has a higher cost of doing business each year, and a prolonged low interest rate environment have negatively impacted insurance companies.

Every carrier has a niche market and can offer competitive premiums for their ideal client.  Longevity with a carrier can lower your rate and often provide you loyalty benefits for being a long-time customer.

Carriers base your rate on many personal factors.  Your age, sex, location, marital status, credit score, vehicles, driving history, etc., all go in to determining your rate.  Many times consumers will say things like, “my neighbor is paying half of what I’m paying for insurance.”  That may be true, but we don’t know the specifics of their policy, or how their personal information may differ from yours.

When getting quotes from a new company, provide as much information as possible, so the proposals they prepare are accurate.  Inquire about the discounts they offer to see if you are eligible.  Most carriers offer price incentives for premiums paid in full or monthly payments that automatically draft out of a checking account. Because each carrier offers different discounts, be sure to ask if there are other ways to reduce your cost.

SERVICE:

Have you ever dined at an amazing restaurant where the food was spectacular, but the service left you with a bad taste in your mouth? (pun intended!)  In today’s world, service is becoming a lost art.  So many things can be done through automation that the personal connection is lost.  It matters who picks up the phone at claim time or when you need recommendations on coverage options.  Mistakes buying insurance can be devastating.  Because you are insuring your most valuable assets (even your life!), consider the person who will be taking care of you.  Like all industries, insurance policies change and evolve.  It can be invaluable to have a trusted professional answering your questions.  Insurance rates are easy to shop, but trusted advisors are not.

Not every carrier has licensed agents – many companies work via a call center environment where you will speak with a new person every time you call.   Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  You’re interviewing the new company just as much as they’re interviewing you.

In addition, consider the service from the claims department.  When it comes time to file a claim, you want to feel confident in your carrier to provide excellent service and prompt claim resolution.  There are websites who rate insurance based on different factors.  You can do you homework and look into some of these top carriers before you contact them for a quote.2

QUALITY:

Gucci said “Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.”  Strangely, nobody ever seems to ask about price when their home has burned down, their car was totaled in an accident, or they lost a loved one due to a premature death.

Carriers are not create equal.  Some provide quality policies with robust coverage and others offer basic policies that require more coverage be added through endorsements.  Have you ever read an insurance policy from cover to cover?  Probably not – you would be nodding off by the second page.  Because there is a plethora of information in a policy, having a clear understanding of how your assets are covered is not easy.  It is important you trust who you are working with, so they can explain the details of your coverage.

You don’t want to have a nasty surprise when you file a claim and discover there are gaps in your policy.  While you’ll never be able to insure against everything, there are quality companies with quality policies to best suit what you need.

Because insurance is intangible, buying it does not give us the excitement or instant gratification we get when purchasing a new car, home, or experience.  However, when we take our time to consider all of the details, there are great benefits to shopping your insurance and placing it with the carrier you feel best suits the needs of you and your family.Reference:

1 http://www.denverpost.com/2017/05/23/hailstorm-costliest-ever-metro-denver/

http://www.jdpower.com/ratings/study/U.S.-Auto-Insurance-Claims-Satisfaction-Study/1601ENG

TIPS FOR SHOPPING YOUR HOME AND AUTO INSURANCE

If you’re thinking about shopping for a new insurance carrier, there are important differences you should consider. It seems that every insurance carrier is offering the best price – but that’s impossible. The claim to a low price can grab a prospective customer’s attention. In reality, all companies in all industries compete for your business in three ways: Price. Service. Quality.

PRICE:

We would all love it if we could pay low insurance premiums that never increased at renewal, wouldn’t we? Unfortunately, that isn’t the reality we face. Distracted driving and increasingly severe weather1 have driven claims payouts higher. The insurance company has a higher cost of doing business each year, and a prolonged low interest rate environment have negatively impacted insurance companies.

Every carrier has a niche market and can offer competitive premiums for their ideal client. Longevity with a carrier can lower your rate and often provide you loyalty benefits for being a long-time customer.

Carriers base your rate on many personal factors. Your age, sex, location, marital status, credit score, vehicles, driving history, etc., all go in to determining your rate. Many times consumers will say things like, “my neighbor is paying half of what I’m paying for insurance.” That may be true, but we don’t know the specifics of their policy, or how their personal information may differ from yours.

When getting quotes from a new company, provide as much information as possible, so the proposals they prepare are accurate. Inquire about the discounts they offer to see if you are eligible. Most carriers offer price incentives for premiums paid in full or monthly payments that automatically draft out of a checking account. Because each carrier offers different discounts, be sure to ask if there are other ways to reduce your cost.

SERVICE:

Have you ever dined at an amazing restaurant where the food was spectacular, but the service left you with a bad taste in your mouth? (pun intended!) In today’s world, service is becoming a lost art. So many things can be done through automation that the personal connection is lost. It matters who picks up the phone at claim time or when you need recommendations on coverage options. Mistakes buying insurance can be devastating. Because you are insuring your most valuable assets (even your life!), consider the person who will be taking care of you. Like all industries, insurance policies change and evolve. It can be invaluable to have a trusted professional answering your questions. Insurance rates are easy to shop, but trusted advisors are not.

Not every carrier has licensed agents – many companies work via a call center environment where you will speak with a new person every time you call. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’re interviewing the new company just as much as they’re interviewing you.

In addition, consider the service from the claims department. When it comes time to file a claim, you want to feel confident in your carrier to provide excellent service and prompt claim resolution. There are websites who rate insurance based on different factors. You can do you homework and look into some of these top carriers before you contact them for a quote.2

QUALITY:

Gucci said “Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.” Strangely, nobody ever seems to ask about price when their home has burned down, their car was totaled in an accident, or they lost a loved one due to a premature death.

Carriers are not create equal. Some provide quality policies with robust coverage and others offer basic policies that require more coverage be added through endorsements. Have you ever read an insurance policy from cover to cover? Probably not – you would be nodding off by the second page. Because there is a plethora of information in a policy, having a clear understanding of how your assets are covered is not easy. It is important you trust who you are working with, so they can explain the details of your coverage.

You don’t want to have a nasty surprise when you file a claim and discover there are gaps in your policy. While you’ll never be able to insure against everything, there are quality companies with quality policies to best suit what you need.

Because insurance is intangible, buying it does not give us the excitement or instant gratification we get when purchasing a new car, home, or experience. However, when we take our time to consider all of the details, there are great benefits to shopping your insurance and placing it with the carrier you feel best suits the needs of you and your family.

Reference

1 http://www.denverpost.com/2017/05/23/hailstorm-costliest-ever-metro-denver/

2 http://www.jdpower.com/ratings/study/U.S.-Auto-Insurance-Claims-Satisfaction-Study/1601ENG