Lowering Your Auto Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

One of the best ways to keep your auto insurance costs down is to have a good driving record.

Listed below are other things you can do to lower your insurance costs.

1. Shop around

Prices vary from company to company, so it pays to shop around. Get at least three price quotes. You can call companies directly or access information on the Internet. Your state insurance department may also provide comparisons of prices charged by major insurers.

You buy insurance to protect you financially and provide peace of mind. It’s important to pick a company that is financially stable. Check the financial health of insurance companies with rating companies such as A.M. Best (www.ambest.com) and Standard & Poor’s (www.standardandpoors.com/ratings) and consult consumer magazines.

Get quotes from different types of insurance companies. Some sell through their own agents. These agencies have the same name as the insurance company. Some sell through independent agents who offer policies from several insurance companies. Others do not use agents. They sell directly to consumers over the phone or via the Internet.

Don’t shop by price alone. Ask friends and relatives for their recommendations. Contact your state insurance department to find out whether they provide information on consumer complaints by company. Pick an agent or company representative that takes the time to answer your questions. You can use the checklist on the back of this brochure to help you compare quotes from insurers.

2. Before you buy a car, compare insurance costs

Before you buy a new or used car, check into insurance costs. Car insurance premiums are based in part on the car’s 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. To help you decide what car to buy, you can get information from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (www.iihs.org).

3. Ask for higher deductibles

Deductibles are what you pay 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 cost by 15 to 30 percent. Going to a $1,000 deductible can save you 40 percent or more. Before choosing a higher deductible, be sure you have enough money set aside to pay it if you have a claim.

4. Reduce coverage on older cars

Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverages on older cars. If your car is worth less than 10 times the premium, purchasing the coverage may not be cost effective. Auto dealers and banks can tell you the worth of cars. Or you can look it up online at Kelley’s Blue Book (www.kbb.com). Review your coverage at renewal time to make sure your insurance needs haven’t changed.

5. Buy your homeowners and auto coverage from the same insurer

Many insurers will give you a break if you buy two or more types of insurance. You may also get a reduction if you have more than one vehicle insured with the same company. Some insurers reduce the rates for long-time customers. But it still makes sense to shop around! You may save money buying from different insurance companies, compared with a multipolicy discount.

6. Maintain a good credit record

Establishing a solid credit history can cut your insurance costs. Most insurers use credit information to price auto insurance policies. Research shows that people who effectively manage their credit have fewer claims. To protect your credit standing, pay your bills on time, don’t obtain more credit than you need and keep your credit balances as low as possible. Check your credit record on a regular basis and have any errors corrected promptly so that your record remains accurate.

7. 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 car pool to work.

8. Ask about group insurance

Some companies offer reductions to drivers who get insurance through a group plan from their employers, through professional, business and alumni groups or from other associations. Ask your employer and inquire with groups or clubs you are a member of to see if this is possible.

9. Seek out other discounts

Companies offer discounts to policyholders who have not had any accidents or moving violations for a number of years. You may also get a discount if you take a defensive driving course. If there is a young driver on the policy who is a good student, has taken a drivers education course or is away at college without a car, you may also qualify for a lower rate.

When you comparison shop, inquire about discounts for the following:*

Antitheft Devices
Auto and Homeowners Coverage with the Same Company
College Students away from Home
Defensive Driving Courses
Drivers Ed Courses
Good Credit Record
Higher deductibles
Low Annual Mileage
Long-Time Customer
More than 1 car
No Accidents in 3 Years
No Moving Violations in 3 Years
Student Drivers with Good Grades

*The discounts listed may not be available in all states or from all insurance companies.

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.

 

How To Find Auto Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

Once you have a clear picture of how you use your car and your priorities, you’re ready to shop for insurance. Generally, it’s a good idea to compare policies from at least three different insurers.

You’ll want to consider fundamental factors such as coverage and price, but it’s also worth evaluating prospective insurers as well. The following are the most important factors to consider.

Types and amount of coverage

Try to compare apples to apples when choosing your insurance policy. All of the policies that you review should have the same types and amount of coverage. It is difficult to compare policies, for instance, if one provides $50,000 in property damage liability coverage, another only $30,000, and a third $100,000. Coverages that you’ll want to consider, though some are optional, include:

  • Primary liability—including bodily injury and property damage coverage
  • Medical payment coverage
  • Uninsured motorist coverage
  • Collision
  • Comprehensive

Check prospective policies too for secondary options that could prove beneficial, such as glass coverage—which often comes without a deductible—or reimbursement for a rental car.

Price and deductibles

Naturally, when you compare insurance policies, cost will be a top consideration. You may be surprised by how much prices vary, so you’ll want to get several quotes. In addition to the price of the premium—the actual cost of the policy—look at the payment schedule. Will you incur an extra fee if you pay monthly? Can you get a discount if you pay for a full year all at once? When you compare prices, be aware of the amount of the deductible—how much you pay out of pocket before your insurance kicks in. Generally, you can lower your premium if you opt for a higher deductible.

Evaluating insurance companies

While price and coverage may be deciding factors when you purchase auto insurance, it’s worth considering the reputation and financial stability of prospective insurance providers as well. First, double-check that an insurer is licensed in your state by visiting the website of your state’s insurance division—where you can also review information about consumer complaints filed against insurance companies. In addition, you can check review websites and talk to friends about their experiences with insurers. Finally, take a few minutes to make sure prospective insurers are in good financial standing. Financial ratings agencies will provide this information. Online tools will often provide ratings information as well.

 

Check Your Smoke Alarm

Courtesy of iii.org

Ah, spring! The season of renewal, of fresh beginnings, of flowers in bloom – and of fresh batteries in the smoke alarm. Yes, you probably overlooked that last item, so here’s a reminder to put it on the spring to-do list.

Checking (and changing) the batteries in the smoke alarm is a good springtime habit. Most homes have a smoke alarm, but if you don’t check it with regularity, you can’t be sure it’s working. It is one of those out-of-sight, out-of-mind things, so here’s a reminder to put your home or business smoke alarm top of mind.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), almost three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or in homes where the smoke alarm was not working. NFPA also points to missing or disconnected batteries as the reason for inoperable smoke alarms. Dead batteries cause 25 percent of smoke alarm failures.

That chirping sound you hear at night? It’s not the first robin of spring. It’s the smoke alarm battery alerting you that it’s time for a change. And, if your smoke alarm is more than 10 years old, replace the entire alarm. It’s inexpensive protection that is worth every cent.

Most insurance companies offer discounts for smoke alarms, particularly monitored systems. After you check the batteries and/or upgrade your smoke alarm, check with your insurer on any possible discount. It might be a small amount, but the alarm itself is big protection – for every season.

Farm Insurance Tips

Courtesy of iii.org

According to Deutsche Welle, an Austrian court has held a farmer liable after one of his cows killed a hiker walking through his farm. The article reported that the cow grew enraged at the hiker’s dog and charged at them. The farmer will have to pay over $200,000 in restitution for the horrible event to the deceased’s spouse and son.

I’m not well-versed on the nuances of Austrian liability law and insurance. But what if a similar (hopefully non-fatal) accident happened on a farm in the U.S. – how would insurance play a role?

Luckily, there’s a thing called “farm insurance.” It can get complicated, but often a farm insurance policy is just a hodgepodge of property and liability coverages – with a lot of customization in between for the unique needs of each farm.

Today, let’s just focus on the liability part. Imagine Farmer Joe’s cow, Betty, runs wild and breaks the leg of someone visiting his farm. What happens?

Paying for liability damages and medical expenses

The standard farm liability policy will cover damages if someone is hurt on the farm (subject to various limitations and exclusions, of course). So when Betty breaks someone’s leg, Farmer Joe’s insurance will help cover any damages he has to pay. The farm policy will also pay for some medical expenses, regardless of who is at fault for the injury. Medical expenses usually include first aid and other necessary services.

Feats of strength are not covered

Easy enough. But imagine another scenario: Farmer Joe is holding a cow race on his farm and has invited his neighbors to watch. Betty breaks loose from the race track and breaks his neighbor’s leg. In this case, Farmer Joe is probably not covered for any injuries arising out of races, strength contests, or stunts. Nor is he covered if someone got hurt while riding Betty for a fee.

Lots of policies, lots of options

There are many types of farms: dairy farms, cattle ranches, horse farms, poultry farms, agritourism farms. There are many different types of insurance coverages available for each unique situation. Here’s just a taste:

  • Horse farms and ranches (property and liability)
  • Commercial equine (liability for horse-breeding operations)
  • Equine (business coverage if a horse becomes ill or dies)
  • Livestock insurance (covers animals other than horses)
  • Crop insurance
  • Farrier (property and liability for people who shoe horses)
  • Riding instructor
  • Roadside farm stand and farmers’ market insurance
  • Agritourism (corn mazes, on-premises hay rides, petting zoos)

It’s always important to talk to an insurance agent about your coverage needs. You may not think that you have farm liability exposures, but if you live in a semi-rural or rural area and own livestock, it’s probably a good idea to double check.

You can read more about farm and ranch insurance here.

Carjacking Safety Tips

Courtesy of iii.org

Having your vehicle stolen is bad enough, but carjacking—having it taken while you’re behind the wheel—is potentially dangerous, even lethal. Foil would-be car thieves and keep yourself safe with these precautions.


Having your vehicle stolen is bad enough, but carjacking—having it taken while you’re behind the wheel—is potentially dangerous, even lethal. Foil would-be car thieves and keep yourself safe with these precautions.

Motor vehicle theft takes a human as well as a financial toll

A motor vehicle—car, SUV, truck, bus or motorcycle—is stolen in the United States approximately every 45 seconds. In addition, parts of cars, like airbags and catalytic converters (which are stolen for their recycling value) are stolen out of the cars themselves. Cars and car parts stolen in the United States often wind up on overseas markets, making recovery impossible.

And, though armed auto theft represents a small percentage of the incidents, carjacking is a violent crime that can add a dire emotional toll and even bodily harm to the financial loss.

Auto theft is covered under the comprehensive portion of a car insurance policy. However, as always, it’s better to prevent a loss than to deal with the fallout of having your vehicle stolen.

Prevent motor vehicle theft

There are a number of things that make your vehicle attractive to thieves—including make, model and the value of certain parts. Know that it’s not always the most valuable, the flashiest or the most expensive car makes and models that are most desirable. So whatever your car, don’t make it convenient for would-be criminals. Take these precautionary measures—and check with your insurer; some may even help lower your premium.

  • Keep your doors locked and windows shut anytime you’re not in your car, even for a few minutes.
  • Make valuables invisible. Don’t give thieves more motivation to break into your car. If you have to leave personal property in your car, keep it in the trunk. Even in areas you think are safe, don’t leave a purse or other valuables on the car seat unattended.
  • Park in secure, highly trafficked and well-lit areas. In public parking garages or areas, stay as close as possible to guard booths or store entrances. Best case, keep your car in a garage and always lock the door to your home garage.
  • Make use of anti-theft devices. Use a security device like a steering wheel lock or a gearshift column lock—the more difficult it is to take the car, the less likely a would-be thief will target your vehicle. Most new cars include tracking devices, which can help locate a stolen car, but these are available for purchase and installation into older cars, as well. Check with your insurance pro about how your anti-theft device might qualify you for a discount.
  • Exploit your vehicle identification (VIN) number. The VIN number is utilized by a number of law enforcement agencies and databases and insurance databases to make it harder for car thieves to sell a stolen car or its parts.

The VIN is usually found on the dashboard on the driver’s side of the car. Mark your VIN prominently: Use paint or an indelible marker to put the VIN under the engine hood and trunk lid and on the battery. This will make it harder for thieves to unload the car, and make it easier for the police to identify the vehicle if recovered.

If the worst happens and your car is stolen, you’ll want to file a police report. Then check that your policy covers car theft and get the claims process started. Notify your insurance professional about the incident as soon as possible—the longer you wait, the harder it will be to remember the details. Note that many insurance companies now use mobile apps, which can help you get the claims filing process started immediately.

Prevent carjacking

Although carjacking is relatively rare, because carjackers are armed when they commit their crimes, it is especially dangerous. Avoid being a carjacking target with these additional precautions:

  • Always have your mobile phone handy—and charged.
  • Avoid being alone in your vehicle in certain areas, such as high crime neighborhoods, isolated roads and intersections and desolate areas of parking lots.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Pay special attention to people who seem to be lurking or cars that suspiciously follow you into driveways. Call 911 and use your key fob or other car alarm if you feel a threat.
  • Be wary of how carjackers lure victims. These include bumping your car, pretending to be stranded motorists or flashing their lights as if there were something wrong with your car. In each of these scenarios, you might be tempted to pull over—only to have your car taken. Stay inside with the windows shut and the door locked and, if you feel a threat, drive to the nearest police or fire station.
  • Practice safe parking. Stick to well-lit areas. If you have any doubts about where you parked after the fact, find a security guard to accompany you to your vehicle.
  • Don’t sit in your car with the door unlocked or the windows rolled down.
  • Don’t stop at isolated ATMs, which might put you and your bank accounts as well as your car in danger.

 

Pets And Health Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

The pet insurance industry got its start almost a century ago in Sweden where about half that country’s pets are now insured. In North America, Veterinary Pet Insurance Co., a subsidiary of Nationwide, sold its first pet insurance policy in 1982 to cover the dog playing Lassie on television.

The North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) reports North America’s pet health insurance sector posted record growth in 2017, with combined gross written premiums hitting $1.2 billion. This represents a 23 percent increase in gross written premiums over 2016. The total number of pets insured in the U.S. and Canada reached 2.1 million at year-end 2017 up by 17 percent from 2016. According to NAPHIA, there are 12 major pet insurance companies in North America.

Pet ownership in the United States

Sixty-eight percent of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet, according to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). This is up from 56 percent of U.S. households in 1988, the first year the survey was conducted.

NUMBER OF U.S. HOUSEHOLDS THAT OWN A PET, BY TYPE OF ANIMAL

PetNumber
Dog60.2
Cat47.1
Freshwater fish12.5
Bird7.9
Small animal6.7
Reptile4.7
Horse2.6
Saltwater fish2.5

Source: American Pet Products Association’s 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey.

View Archived Tables

TOTAL NUMBER OF PETS OWNED IN THE UNITED STATES, BY TYPE OF ANIMAL

(millions)

PetNumber
Freshwater fish139.3
Cat94.2
Dog89.7
Bird20.3
Saltwater fish18.8
Small animal14.0
Reptile9.4
Horse7.6

Source: American Pet Products Association’s 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey.

View Archived Tables

TOTAL U.S. PET INDUSTRY EXPENDITURES, 2007-2017 (1)

YearExpenditure
2007$41.2
200843.2
200945.5
201048.4
201151.0
201253.3
201355.7
201458.0
201560.3
201666.8
201769.4 (2)

(1) Includes food, supplies and over-the-counter medicine, veterinarian care, live animal purchases and grooming and boarding.
(2) Estimate.

Source: American Pet Products Association’s 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey.

BASIC ANNUAL EXPENSES FOR DOGS AND CATS (1)

ExpenseDogCat
Surgical vet$474$245
Routine vet257182
Food235235
Food treats7256
Kennel boarding322164
Vitamins5846
Groomer/grooming aids8430
Toys4730

Airbnb And Renting

Courtesy of iii.org

Before you consider renting out your home, your guest room—or even your couch—first contact your insurance professional so you fully understand the financial risks and can take the proper precautions. Here’s some general information to jumpstart your insurance conversation.

If you are considering renting out your home, your guest room or even your couch your first step should be to contact your insurance professional. Peer-to-peer home sharing opportunities such as Airbnb can be a great way to bring in extra money and are increasingly popular; however, they can also leave you financially vulnerable. If your renter starts a fire and damages your property or is hurt while renting your home, will you be protected?

Peer-to-peer home rental

Peer-to-peer home sharing opportunities such as Airbnb are increasingly popular and can be a great way to bring in extra money. However, they can also leave you financially vulnerable. If your renter starts a fire and damages your property or is hurt while renting your home, will you be protected?

Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies are designed for personal risks, not commercial risks. Some insurers now offer a home-sharing liability insurance policy that can be purchased on a month-to-month basis, but there may be exclusions and limitations, so read the policy carefully. If you plan to rent out all or part of your home on a regular basis, many companies will consider this a business use and you may need to purchase a business policy—specifically either a hotel or a bed-and-breakfast policy.

If you are doing the renting

If you are the one using a peer-to-peer network to rent a space from someone else, check your own homeowners or renters insurance policy. In most cases, if your personal possessions are stolen or damaged off-premises, you can simply file a claim with your own insurer. And if you accidentally injure someone, you should also be financially protected.

Occasional home rental

There may be times when a major event in an area—the Super Bowl, say, or a graduation at a major university—depletes local hotel space. In these cases, it’s fairly common for people to rent out their home or part of it for the extra cash it brings in.

Many insurance companies take this situation into account when creating a homeowners or renters policy and, with sufficient advance notice, will extend your coverage to the renter on a one-time basis. Other insurance companies may require the purchase of an endorsement to the policy to provide broader coverage for the renters in your home.

In both cases, be sure to let your insurance company know ahead of time, so you can be prepared.

What To Do In A Tornado

Courtesy of iii.org

When atmospheric conditions are right, tornadoes can strike with little warning and cause grave amounts of damage in a very short time. These tips can help minimize your risk and keep you and your family safe.


What is a tornado?

A tornado—also known as a twister—is a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm and comes into contact with the ground. Tornado intensity is measured by the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale, which rates tornadoes from 0 through 5, based on the amount and type of wind damage.

How common are tornadoes?

An average of about 1,000 tornadoes are reported nationwide each year. Twisters are more common in the central United States, though they can occur almost anywhere in North America, including in large cities.

Tornadoes can happen at any time of year or at any time of the day or night, though they happen most frequently between early spring and July, and between the hours of 4pm and 9pm.

What are the warning signs of a tornado?

Signs that a twister is coming include:

  • Dark greenish skies
  • Large hail
  • Dark, rotating, low-altitude cloud
  • Loud roar, like a train

Despite the fact that meteorologists are now better able to predict them, tornadoes can strike with little warning. Therefore, it’s best to be prepared well before a tornado approaches. For tips, handy checklists (including ones you can personalize yourself) and planning advice to cover a variety of situations, get the I.I.I.’s Know Your Plan app. It’s a great tool to help get you and your family—including pets—organized and ready to act more quickly if disaster strikes.

In communities with a history of tornado activity, there may be a tornado warning siren and/or a digital messaging system to alert residents that there is a twister coming and that they should seek proper shelter immediately.

What’s the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning?

Both tornado watches and tornado warnings are issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/ National Weather Service. However, there are critical differences between the two alerts.

  • A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop. Be alert to changes in the weather, account for all family members, and listen to local radio and TV stations for updated storm information. Move cars inside and keep car and house keys with you. If time permits, move lawn furniture and equipment inside to minimize flying debris. If a tornado siren sounds, stay inside and take cover.
  • A tornado warning means a tornado has actually been spotted or is indicated on weather radar in your area. This means danger is imminent and you may only have seconds to take cover.

What to do when a tornado has been sighted

When a tornado warning sounds or a tornado has been sighted, do not try to outrun it. Stay calm but quickly seek shelter in the safest place possible.

  • If you are at home, the safest place to be is underground. Basements are usually the most protected area, but if this is not an option take cover in central part of the house away from windows—for example in a bathroom, closet, interior hallway or under a heavy piece of furniture.
  • If you are in an office building or skyscraper, go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building—away from glass and on the lowest floor possible—and crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter and, if they are not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off elevators, you could get trapped if the power is lost. If you are in a tall building you may not have enough time to evacuate to the lowest floor.
  • If you are at school follow the staff instructions and go to an interior hall or room in an orderly way as directed. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.
  • If you are in a car or truck, abandon the vehicle and seek shelter in sturdy structure. If you are in open country, seek shelter in the nearest ditch. Lie flat, facedown on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can.
  • If you are in a mobile home, get out! Even if the home is tied down, you are probably safer outside.

Safety precautions to take after a tornado

Tornadoes can cause dangerous damages, so take caution with potential hazards after the storm.

  • Stay in your shelter until after the storm is over or until emergency personnel have arrived.
  • Check the people around you for injuries. If necessary, begin first aid or seek help.
  • Check your utility lines and appliances for damage. If you smell gas, open the windows and turn off the main valve. Don’t turn on lights or appliances until the gas has dissipated. If electric wires are shorting out, turn off the power.
  • Outside, watch out for downed power lines and stay away from any puddle with wires in them. These could be carrying deadly live current.
  • Be aware there may be leaking gas pipes or fuel tanks nearby. The oil from these can be present in water or on the ground, so avoid using matches or lighters.

Recovering from a tornado

Damage caused by tornadoes is covered under standard homeowners and business insurance policies, and under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy.

If you sustain tornado damage:

  • Contact your insurer as soon as possible and start the claims filing process. After tornadoes and other disasters, insurance companies will reach out to those with the worst losses first.
  • Take photos of any damage. A photographic record is useful when making insurance claims.
  • Make temporary repairs to prevent further loss from rain, wind or looting; these costs are reimbursable under most policies, so save the receipts.
  • Make a detailed list of all damaged or destroyed personal property. If you have a home inventory, it will be extremely useful here. Don’t throw out damaged property until you have met with an adjuster.
  • Don’t rush to sign repair contracts. Do your homework, deal with reputable contractors and get references. Be sure of payment terms and consult your insurance adjuster before you sign any contracts.
  • If your home is uninhabitable because of tornado damage, your homeowners or renters insurance provides coverage for additional living expenses (ALE) such as hotel bills or meals out. Save all related receipts and, if you have vacated your home premises, make sure your insurance representative knows where and how to contact you.

 

Understand Flood Watches And Warnings

Courtesy of iii.org

Floods occur in every region and 90 percent of all natural disasters the United States involve some type of flooding. Minimize the damage and losses from a flood by taking these precautions.


Understand flood watches and flood warnings

There are different alerts for floods, depending on the type of and immediacy of the potential danger. Educate your family and yourself about your community’s flood warnings:

  • Flood watches are issued when rain is heavy enough to cause rivers to overflow.
  • Flood warnings describe the severity of the situation and indicate when and where the flood will begin.
  • Flash flood watches are issued when heavy rain is occurring or is expected to occur.
  • Flash flood warnings are issued when flooding is occurring suddenly. In the event of flash flooding in your area, move immediately to high ground.

Take practical measures to protect yourself, your family and your property

Preparedness is paramount when it comes to encroaching floodwaters. Here are precautionary steps to take well before the threat of a flood is upon you.

  • Maintain a supply of emergency provisions, such as flashlights, batteries, a battery-operated radio, a first aid kit, medication, sturdy shoes, emergency food and water, cash and credit cards.
  • Maintain a supply of building materials and tools so you can fortify your house from a storm. These would include plywood, plastic sheeting, nails, hammer, shovels and sandbags.
  • Make a home inventory listing all of your possessions to help facilitate the claim filing process if your belongings are damaged or destroyed.
  • Locate switches for gas, electricity and water and know how to shut them off. In the event of an evacuation, you’ll want to turn these off before you leave.

For more preparedness tips, handy checklists (including ones you can personalize yourself) and evacuation planning advice to cover a variety of disasters, get the I.I.I.’s Know Your Plan app. It’s a great tool to help get you and your family—including pets—organized and ready to act more quickly if an emergency strikes.

Rent Without Wasting Money

Courtesy of iii.org

There are more options for renting a car than ever before—bricks-and-mortar, peer-to-peer and membership-based car sharing services. While this means more choice for renters, it also creates more questions about insurance coverage. Use these tips to properly insure yourself when renting a car, and avoid wasting money on duplicative coverage.


If you’re looking to rent a car, depending on your needs and location, there are a number of alternatives—the traditional brick-and-mortar companies, peer-to-peer car services and car sharing programs—each with its own insurance parameters. It pays to understand your existing coverage first, and then look at your rental insurance options.

No matter what company or what kind of company you’re renting from, the most important step is to read and understand the car rental or car sharing agreement. Most companies clearly state what is covered as well as the supplemental coverage that can be purchased. If you don’t understand, have the rental or car sharing company representative walk you through.

If you’re renting a car, check your own coverages first

Before you enter an agreement with any type of rental service, maximize use of the insurance you’re already paying for and avoid paying for duplicate insurance.

If you own or lease a car and/or have homeowners insurance, call your insurer to first check the following:

  • How much coverage you currently have on your own car – In most cases, whatever auto insurance and deductibles you have on your own car would apply when you rent a car (providing you are using the rental car for recreation and not for business).
  • If you still have collision or comprehensive – If you dropped these coverages on your own car as a way to save money on your car insurance, you may not be covered if your rental car is stolen or damaged. Insurance rules vary by state, so it is best to check with your insurance professional for the specifics of your policy.
  • If you are covered for administrative fees, loss of use or towing charges – Check to see whether your insurance company pays for—or provides a rider for—additional fees.
  • Whether your homeowners or renters insurance covers the loss of possessions – These policies (not your car insurance) generally cover your belongings if they are damaged or stolen out of your vehicle.

The credit card you use to rent a car may also provide some insurance. Though coverage is likely to be limited—for example, it may only cover the deductible if you make a claim—it’s worth knowing what protections it will provide.

  • Know that benefits differ – Insurance coverage can depend on the company or bank that issues the card or even the level of card. For example, a platinum card may offer more robust coverage than a green card. If you have more than one card, you may want to compare what insurance they offer for car renters.
  • Contact the credit card issuer to find out what they cover – If you are depending on a credit card for insurance protection, ask the company or bank that issued the card to send you their coverage information in writing.
  • Credit card insurance benefits are usually secondary – That is, they will kick in after your personal insurance policy or the insurance coverage offered by the rental car company are utilized.

Insurance if you’re renting from a brick-and-mortar car rental

Brick-and-mortar car rental companies are generally found at airports, train stations or other locations where travelers converge. These traditional rental companies allow you to simply reserve or select a vehicle from one of the many generally available on any given day. The insurance you’ll be offered is fairly standard (though, like all car insurance, it varies by state).

Depending on what type of auto and/or homeowners insurance you carry, you may want to consider some of the insurance coverage provided by the rental car company. While auto insurance regulations, costs and coverage will vary by state and insurer, consumers renting from traditional companies can generally choose from the following coverages:

  • Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) – Also referred to as a collision damage waiver, an LDW is not technically an insurance product—it is designed to relieve or “waive” renters of financial responsibility if their rental car is damaged or stolen. Waivers may also provide coverage for “loss of use,” in the event the rental car company charges for the time a damaged car cannot be used because it is being fixed, as well as towing and administrative fees. The LDW may become void if the accident was caused by speeding, driving on unpaved roads or driving while intoxicated. However, if you carry comprehensive and collision auto insurance, you may already be covered for damage to a rental car.
  • Liability Insurance – By law, rental companies must provide the state required minimum amount of liability insurance coverage—often this does not provide enough protection. If you carry your own auto insurance and have opted for higher liability limits (which is recommended), you’ll be adequately covered. Non car-owners who are frequent renters have the option of purchasing a non-owner liability policy, which can provide the additional liability needed.
  • Personal accident insurance – This covers the driver and passengers for medical and ambulance bills for injuries caused in a car crash. Whether or not you should consider this depends on your health insurance and the personal injury protection (PIP) provided by your auto insurance, which will likely cover medical expenses.
  • Personal effects coverage–This provides insurance protection for the theft of items from a rental car. Consider this if you do not carry homeowners or renters insurance to cover this type of loss.

Insurance if you’re using a car sharing service

With car sharing programs, for a monthly or annual membership fee, consumers can pick up a vehicle at a wide range of locations for periods ranging from minutes to days. These programs are popular in urban settings where owning a car can be expensive or difficult, but where it’s convenient have a car available when it’s needed. Coverage options vary widely, but there is usually some insurance included.

The insurance offered by these types of companies is not standardized so read the insurance coverage information carefully (it can usually be found on the service’s website). If you have any questions, call the company’s customer service line. And contact your auto insurer if you feel you need more information to make an educated insurance coverage decision.

  • Car sharing programs (like ZipCar) generally include insurance costs in the fee. However, if the car is involved in a collision or is stolen, the renter may be billed for a specific dollar amount that is stated in the membership agreement. For an additional cost, customers can purchase a “waiver” to avoid paying the accident fee.
  • Many car sharing programs limit coverage for young drivers to the minimum state required amount of liability. Renters under the age 21 should read the insurance coverage carefully. If it’s not adequate to their needs, they can look into whether their parents’ auto insurance would cover them for the difference, or purchasing their own non-owner liability policy.

Insurance if you’re renting from a peer-to-peer service

Peer-to-peer car rental networks enable consumers to rent personally owned cars from others. Insurance coverage varies widely, depending on location and service.

  • Peer-to-peer rental services (like Turo) may offer a range of insurance options and, under some circumstances, the driver may decline coverage.

 

Next steps: When considering these options for your rental car, it helps to have a general understanding of your auto insurance coverage.