Saturday, 30 July 2011

4 Car Insurance Mistakes to Avoid

It can be difficult to navigate the car insurance process, and many people make simple mistakes that can cost hundreds of dollars or result in the denial of a claim. When buying car insurance, there are certain pitfalls that many consumers fall into. Knowing how to avoid them will ensure that you maximize the amount of coverage you get for your money and avoid losing a claim because you didn't understand your policy.

1. Not shopping around enough
The number 1 mistake consumers make when buying car insurance is not shopping around enough. With most insurance companies offering online quotes, it may only take an hour to get a quote on premiums for a dozen providers. Premiums vary considerably from provider to provider, and so it is in your best interest to get as many quotes as possible!

2. Not reading through your policy
Taking the time to understand your policy can be the difference between having a claim paid or a claim denied. It's incumbent upon you as a consumer to know what you're insured for, and what is excluded from your plan. You can make your life easier by asking your insurance broker to give you a full rundown of your policy. That being said, you should still personally read your policy and know it well.

3. Failing to pay your insurance premiums on time
One of the most common mistakes customers make is not paying their insurance premiums on time. Failing to do so on many occasions may be cause for your policy to be cancelled. Not only will that mean you can't drive your vehicle in the meantime, but you may also have trouble being insured by other companies. Paying your insurance on time is vitally important.

4. Not notifying your insurance company of important changes
The insurance industry works on the principle of "Utmost Good Faith." You are obliged under contract to inform your provider of any major changes that could affect your premiums. That means that if you move homes and your car is stored somewhere new, you should call up your insurance company. A new location could mean that your car is at greater risk of theft. Other changes, like the addition of a second driver or the upgrading of certain parts, should also be reported to your broker.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

5 Quick Ways to Save Money on Your Home Insurance

Your home is one of the most important investments you'll make in your life, and often the costliest too! Insurance premiums for your home can often be expensive but there are ways to save money on your home insurance that can be as easy as making a phone call to your insurance provider.

1. Increase your deductible 
There is an inverse relationship between the cost of your deductible and the cost of your premiums. That is, if you increase your deductible, your monthly premiums will come down in price. Alternately, if you decrease your deductible, your premiums will increase. If you are fairly confident that you will not need to make a claim in the near future, it is a wise idea to increase your deductible. Over time, the savings in your premiums will more than compensate for the hike in your one-time deductible.

2. Compare rates 
When your dad taught you to "shop around," he was serious! Every insurance company has a slightly different way of determining premiums and you could save a lot by looking into different plans. Try to get a quote from as many companies as possible. It won't take very long, especially if the insurance providers offer online quotes. In fact, you may find that an hour could save you hundreds of dollars!

3. Lump your insurance together 
Most insurance companies offer special deals to customers who have more than one kind of insurance with them. For instance, if you have commercial and car insurance with one company, see what kind of discount you could get by purchasing a home insurance plan with the same company. You may find that there are tremendous savings to be had!

4. Do not include the value of your property 
A simple mistake made by customers --and insurance brokers alike!-- is that the price of the land is included in the insurance estimate. If this is the case, you may be paying to insure your plot of land, which is not subject to many risks! It's not as if a fire or storm will destroy the land on which your house is built! Make sure to ask your insurance provider if this is being calculated into your premiums, because it most certainly should not be.

5. Bump up security 
Investing in a beefed-up security system could pay serious monetary and safety dividends. It may cost you a big chunk of change up front, but your family will be safer and you will see a significant reduction in your premiums. Over time, this reduction will pay off the system, and your family will be safer in the meantime!

How To Prevent and Fix Interior Rain Damage

Rain damage in the interior of your vehicle can be one of the most aggravating forms of damage to your car, primarily because it's so easily preventable. Most people have accidentally left their window or sunroof open at some point in their lives. Some are fortunate enough to have done so at a time when there was no rain; others have left it open right before torrential showers. If you fall into the latter category, this blog post is for you.

Remove as much upholstery from the car as possible
Remove the floor mats and set them out to dry. If you're able to remove the seats, take them out as well and put them somewhere they will dry quickly. Use a wet vacuum (on dry suck setting) to remove as much water as you can from the seats and floor mats as well. You can often rent a Rug Doctor car vacuum from supermarkets or vacuum supply stores.

Pick up an Odour Bomb or other odour removing product
After you've set out your mats and other upholstery pieces to dry, your next step should be to pick up some kind of odour removing product. After rain has leaked into your car, it's going to smell pretty funky. The Odour Bomb is a heavy-duty product that goes beyond what air fresheners do. After opening it, you leave it in the car for 2 hours, remove it, and then let your car ventilate for 30 minutes. The damp smell should be gone.

Consider professional mould removal
If the rain damage is particularly bad, you may want to talk to a car detail specialist about having your car professionally cleaned. Sometimes mould can develop under the upholstery and leave your car smelling funky. If there's mould growing under your floor carpet, there's no amount of Odour Bombs that will get rid of the the smell!

Consider buying a wind and rain guard
If you like to leave your window a crack open at night to allow air to flow through your vehicle, you should consider buying a wind and rain guard. Wind and rain guards are plastic attachments that line the top of your car's window sill and streamline your vehicle, making it easier to drive in poor weather. Hanging down an inch or two over the top of the window, a wind and rain guard also protects against rain damage as long as the window is only open a crack. 

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Summer Safety Tips

There are few things better in the summer than a backyard barbecue: good friends, good food, and if you're lucky, a swimming pool to cool off in! Make sure you keep your summer months safe by properly storing and handling your propane tanks and enforcing pool safety rules. While you may be covered by liability insurance in the event of a pool accident, or home insurance in the event that a propane tank explodes, preventing accidents could save lives.

Propane safety
Propane is an excellent source of fuel for your BBQ but if it isn't used properly you could have a serious fire hazard on your hands. Firstly, be sure to store your tanks upright: this prevents leakage. To be sure there are no existing leakages, turn on the propane tank --without turning on the BBQ-- and spread a soap/water solution overtop of the valves.  If bubbles arise, there is probably a leak.

Secondly, when firing up your BBQ, be sure to do so outdoors. This seems fairly intuitive, but many people like to BBQ in their garages. On top of the inherent fire risk of lighting flammable gas indoors, there is also the added risk of suffocation when BBQs are lit in closed spaces.

Pool safety
As the owner of a pool, it is your responsibility to ensure that the people who use your pool are as safe as possible. Always be sure that there is someone present when someone is in the pool: nobody should swim alone! With children, an adult should be there at all times. Children should also wear floatation devices unless they are able to swim without one.

In addition, be sure you know how to turn off suction devices in the pool, as children can often be kept underwater by them. It is also wise to keep the deck of the pool dry. Puddles can be slippery and someone could easily slip and fall.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

6 Tips That Will Help You Prevent and Prepare For a Fire in Your Home

A fire in your home can be an incredibly devastating event. Not only could you lose precious photographs and family heirlooms, but without proper safety practices, your family's health could be at risk. Learning how to prevent fires, and how to react in the event that they occur, is of the utmost importance. 

1. Be sure your smoke detectors are working
Your best protection against a house fire is a functioning smoke detector. Be sure to install detectors outside of bedrooms and on every floor of your home. This ensures that no matter which floor you're on, awake or sleeping, the alarm will jolt you into action. Test your detectors once a month and change the batteries at least once a year -- don't let them run out of juice and then change them! One good habit to get into is to change them when you change clock batteries in the spring and fall. 

2. Practice safe cooking
Many fires begin as a result of people inadvertently turning on the stove and forgetting to turn it off, or leaving the kitchen while cooking. Make sure that there is always someone in the kitchen to watch the stove while it is turned on. If you have to do some work while cooking, make sure you do it within view of the stove to ensure that nothing catches on fire. 

3. Be careful when smoking
Responsible smoking will only do harm to your body; irresponsible smoking could lead to a house fire. Getting into a few good habits will ensure that your smoking does not put you and your family at risk. Firstly, do not smoke in bed. If you were to doze off with a lit cigarette, you could very easily set the bed on fire. Secondly, be sure to dispose of your cigarette butts in wide, stable ashtrays that will not easily fall over. 

4. Give space to your space heater
Space heaters, as warm and comforting as they are, can be extremely dangerous if placed too close to flammable items like bedsheets or pillows. If you're using a space heater, be sure that you give it enough space that it won't light something around it on fire. Also, turn off the space heater when you leave a room and when you go to sleep. 

5. Inspect your fire extinguisher
First of all, make sure you know where your fire extinguisher is located! Over time, people forget where the fire extinguisher is stored and when a fire starts they don't know where to look! It's also very important to know how to use your fire extinguisher. Directions on the side of the extinguisher are often sufficient, but knowing how they work beforehand will save you time. Make sure to read the directions from time to time to keep yourself prepped. 

6. Make an exit strategy
Having a set of escape plans ready is important, especially if you have small children. Run fire drills so they know how to safely escape from multiple places in the house. Drawing a diagram may be helpful in this respect. 

Keeping these tips in mind will help prevent a fire in your house and ensure that you are prepared in the unlikely event that you encounter a house fire. Your family's health is of the utmost importance: stay vigilant and be sure to keep fire safety in mind at all times. 

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Top 3 Reasons Why You Should Have Business Insurance

There are many reasons why business owners should have business insurance. It not only protects you against property damage, but ensures that you and your employees will not be sued in the event that you become liable for something on your business property. While most people are pretty familiar with auto, home and life insurance, commercial enterprises also deserve protection. 

1. Liability
In the event that an individual seriously hurts themself on your property, you could be stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. It could be as simple as someone slipping on a wet floor; you could become legally responsible for the individual's injuries. Business owners who claim that they don't need insurance because "they won't get robbed" or "there's no way a fire will start in my shop" should consider that any business could be sued if it is held responsible for an accident on its premises. For this reason alone, business insurance is an essential component of any operating budget. 

2. Property
The property in which your business resides is often the single greatest financial investment you'll make in your life. To leave your property exposed to chance could be to risk your life savings and the revenue source that provides for you and your family. It is one thing to risk your own livelihood, but as someone providing for a family, it is incumbent upon you to ensure that your business is protected. Don't leave yourself open to disaster: include business insurance in your operating budget and be secure in the fact that your business' physical space is protected. 

3. Tax deductible
Not only will a business insurance plan protect your enterprise from physical and legal damage, but you can write-off your premiums as well. This fact may alleviate some concerns that insurance is simply an unaffordable added cost; while you may be paying a monthly premium for peace of mind, you can also lower your taxable income by doing so. 

When it comes to your business, don't risk property damage or liability suits. For a relatively small amount of money, you can be sure that your commercial enterprise will remain profitable through the hard times and the good. 

Friday, 22 July 2011

How Car Accidents Can Affect Your Premiums

The reality is that even the best driver on the road may make a mistake at some point and be involved in a collision. You could have a momentary lapse of judgment and bump into a curb or even hit another vehicle. While an accident is never intentional, an insurance company must always hold someone responsible. However, if you're a good driver who made such a mistake, there is hope in the form of at-fault accident "forgiveness."

Who's to blame? 
In accidents where you're the sole individual involved, you are automatically to blame. For instance, if you back into a post, you are automatically found to be at fault. This makes logical sense: if there are no other parties involved, then the only possibility is that you are at-fault, since there is nobody else involved to make a mistake!

When it comes to accidents between two individuals or more, determining fault can be more difficult. As a rule of thumb, if you rear-end a vehicle or pull into one while making a lane change, you are at fault. In other cases, other factors will be taken into consideration to determine fault. Typically, the police will determine fault by gathering witness testimony and examining the scene.

If you're found to be at fault, an accident can stay on your record for up to 10 years. This means that your premiums will remain higher than normal for the duration of time that your insurance company chooses. This is why safe and responsible driving is such a vitally important habit; not only will you save yourself the personal trauma of having caused a collision, but you will save money on your premiums.

Accident forgiveness
Thankfully, good drivers are often eligible for accident forgiveness. If you've been with an insurance company for a number of years, and have maintained a clean driving record, you could be given a slightly reduced increase in premiums. Your accident will not be entirely forgiven, and you will see a small increase in your rates, but you will not see the same increase that others would. By maintaining a clean driving record, you have shown your insurance provider that you are a responsible driver, and that an accident is more likely to do with circumstance than poor driving habits.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

What are the factors that affect my insurance?

There are a number of factors that come into play when an insurance company determines your premiums. Generally speaking, they are looking for indicators that will tell them how responsible you are on the road and what it will cost in the event that you get into a collision or have your vehicle broken into or stolen. In this post of the Insurance Experts blog, we will discuss the biggest factors that come into play when an insurance company calculates your premium.

Driving experience
One of the most important factors that affects your premium is driving experience: how long have you been on the road, how many accidents have you been in and how many speeding tickets have you accumulated?  The better your driving record --and thus the less of a risk you are on the road-- the lower your premiums will be. Safe driving pays!

Your vehicle
Some vehicles are riskier to drive or are more likely to be broken into. For this reason, owners with different vehicles will often pay different premiums. If you're driving an SUV with a bad roll-over record, you may be paying more for premiums. If you're cruising around in a Ferrari, the parts of which can be very expensive, you may be paying more for premiums. Finally, if you own a Civic, renowned for being a car thief magnet, your comprehensive rates may be a little higher.

Age and sex
Unfortunately, young males pay more for premiums than anyone else. Statistically, young men are responsible for the greatest number of collisions and therefore pay more for premiums. Women tend to be considered less risky, in general, than men as well.

Driving time
Statistically, the more time you spend in a vehicle, the more likely you are to be involved in a collision. Therefore, if you only drive a few thousands kilometres a year, you will probably pay less than someone who commutes every day to work and tacks on 20,000 kilometres a year. There is more likelihood of an accident occurring for those who are exposed to the dangers of traffic on a daily basis.

If you live in the countryside, you may pay less for premiums. Cities are considered more dangerous, on average, than rural areas. If you live in a city, you are more exposed to crime and greater traffic risk. With more people on the road, there is a greater chance you'll be involved in a collision.

These factors can seem a bit daunting. Some of them you can't change and others you can't change without great personal cost -- nobody wants to move from their home because premiums are too expensive in their neighbourhood. However, you can make a difference to your premiums by driving safely and driving less. The longer you drive without an accident, the more likely you are to see a serious reduction in your premiums. Similarly, if you drive only when you have to and decrease your declared vehicle usage, your insurance company may give you a reduction on your premiums.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Consequences of Lying to Your Insurance Provider

Some people think that it's acceptable to lie about important facts like accident history, past traffic violation convictions and speeding tickets. Lying to your insurance provider is never a good idea and could lead to a future claim being denied. You could be on the hook for thousands of dollars because you didn't think it was important to be honest with your insurance provider.

At the basis of any insurance contract is the Doctrine of Utmost Good Faith. What this means is that your contract with an insurance provider is intended to be open and honest. Your insurance company, according to this doctrine, will disclose all relevant information about your policy so that you know exactly what you are covered for. In return, a policyholder must disclose all relevant facts to the insurance provider. This is information that helps an insurance provider determine your level of risk and adjust premiums accordingly. When you sign a contract with an insurance company, you are declaring that you will be honest about everything relevant to your policy.

Not only do you have a moral and contractual obligation to be honest, but there are serious consequences if you do not hold to the Doctrine of Utmost Good Faith. You could be found in violation of contract, have your policy cancelled, and even have a claim denied. For instance, if you reported to your insurance company that you are hardly planning to drive your vehicle, and that you may put on roughly 5,000km a year, and then turn around and use it as a commuter vehicle for 30,000 km a year, you could have an accident claim denied. Moreover, you may be denied insurance coverage in the future if you were found in breach of contract. In the most extreme cases, individuals can be fined or imprisoned under the Insurance Act or Criminal Code of Canada for insurance fraud.

Ultimately, contracts are about trust. Regardless of whether you're dealing with a friend or a business, signing a contract means you are giving your word to live up to the terms of the contract. Not only are you at risk of losing thousands of dollars should a claim be denied, but you risk having your word mean nothing.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Tips for Driving in Parking Lots

A strange phenomenon occurs when drivers enter a parking lot: many completely forget that the rules of the road still apply! Just because it's private property doesn't mean that traffic rules suddenly cease to exist. The reality is that there are very specific rules in place to ensure that individuals do not get hurt. Often they are ignored and traffic collisions occur needlessly. To help you navigate parking lot driving, we've compiled a list of rules to keep in mind when navigating these vast spaces.

Do not cross yellow lines
Just because a parking lot is empty does not mean that a driver can just cruise across lanes without following them as if they were roads. Treat yellow lines as you would treat them on any other road: you cannot cross them! Without a set path of traffic, it would not be possible for another vehicle to anticipate your next move and could therefore be quite dangerous. The lines ensure that drivers stick to predictable pathways so others can anticipate where they're going.

Give the right of way
Remember that just like on public roads, drivers must give the right of way to busier streets. In the same way, the smaller roads which go between the main roads must give the right of way to the thoroughfares which feed directly into the closest public street.

Coming out of a parking space
If you're coming out of a parking spot, you must also give the right of way to oncoming traffic and you cannot cross the yellow line to move into the spot across from you. This is a common occurrence and can confuse other drivers and contribute to a collision. A driver pulling into the parking spot across from you may assume that you aren't going to move forward, and then bump into you as you pull into the spot he thought was going to be free.

Collisions in parking lots tend to be fairly minor in nature; for the most part, people are not going fast enough to cause serious damage. That being said, a fender bender can really put a damper on your day, and even small dents can cost you (and your insurance company) a lot of money. To avoid this inconvenience, follow these tips and remember to treat parking lots with the same respect as public roads. 

Saturday, 16 July 2011

5 Tips to Prevent Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a serious problem in Canada and the United States. Some estimates suggest that 25-30% of all accidents are caused by distracted drivers. Last year the Canadian Automobile Association listed distracted drivers as the greatest threat to safety on the road. While it may seem innocent enough to make a quick text on the phone while periodically looking up, the fact is that your reaction time will be slower and you may miss a pedestrian crossing the road or a car slowing down ahead of you. To ensure that you don't harm someone or yourself, here are five quick suggestions for how to keep your mind focused on the road.

1. Make a few playlists
For those of us who have long work commutes, there's nothing better than a punchy playlist to wake you up in the morning and a set of soothing songs to take you home. While it is nice to have your iPod next to you as you DJ your own private session, keep in mind that those few moments looking down could coincide with someone crossing the road or a light turning yellow. Do yourself a favour and create a playlist ahead of time, or even just throw your iPod on shuffle. Toss it on before you leave and don't look at it again -- go with the flow of the music; if you're feeling a different song, remember that you just don't have the right to look at the road when you're supposed to be driving. You have an obligation to those around you on the road to stay focused.

2. Eat before you drive
It's hard for many of us to find time in the morning to eat breakfast. It's easy enough to barter our most important meal for a few extra minutes of delicious sleep, but skipping breakfast --or trying to gobble it down in the car-- is a recipe for disaster. You simply cannot give your entire attention to the road while trying to unwrap a granola bar or peel an orange while driving. Take a few extra minutes in the morning to eat breakfast; it will not only stop you from being distracted on the road, it's also great for your health!

3. Know your trip
When driving somewhere new, know the trip ahead of time. Clumsily trying to enter the destination into your smartphone is not an option; your eyes won't be on the road where they should be. Memorize the route (yes, that's right, use your memory!) or programme a GPS unit ahead of time. Doing it as you drive is just plain irresponsible.

4. Get ready before you leave
The reality is that most people are busier than they should be. This leads people to do things while driving that they would normally do at home, just to save some time. Sometimes this includes doing one's hair or makeup! Do yourself and everyone else a favour: keep your eyes on the road and get yourself together before you get into your car.

5. When in doubt, pull over 
If at any point you feel the need to send a text, do your hair, eat a breakfast burrito, or wiki something that's nagging you, be sure to pull over to the side of the road. Ultimately, it's not your place to take risks when you're sharing the road with others. It's your responsibility to be as focused on the road as is possible.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Do you have tenant insurance?

If you're a tenant renting a home, you may not be covered in the event that your possessions are damaged or stolen. What's more, you may not be covered for legal costs if someone is harmed on your premises. Tenants often assume that landlords have insurance to cover such losses, but in reality most landlords only cover damage to the building. You may be on the hook in the event that you're robbed or someone seeks legal action against you because of an accident on the property.

To determine whether or not you are covered, your first step should be to look at your lease. It should mention the kind of insurance policy your landlord has purchased and outline the perils that are included. If there is nothing in the lease that suggests the landlord has a policy to cover your possessions, speak directly with him or her to determine the extent of your coverage as a tenant. It is essential that you ask specifically about coverage for loss and damage to possessions but also whether you are covered for liability. The latter is incredibly important, as legal and medical costs --should someone be physically harmed-- can easily soar into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Thankfully, there are inexpensive solutions for tenants to cover their possessions and to protect against liability issues. Some of these plans can cost only a few hundred dollars a year. If you have thousands of dollars of expensive equipment, this is a small price to pay for security and peace of mind. In addition, you can rest assured that should someone hurt themselves on your property --and you are found to be at fault-- you don't have to worry about the legal and medical expenses that could very easily put you in serious debt otherwise.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Does my insurance cover Acts of God?

Acts of God is a term that refers to sudden and violent acts of nature that could not have been foreseen or prevented. Typically, cataclysmic events such as earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions fall under the category of "Acts of God." There is a persistent and pernicious misconception that insurance companies do not cover such events. In reality, insurance companies do not even use this legal term. In fact, you won't find the words "Acts of God" in any insurance policy in Canada; if you do, you should be highly suspicious of your provider!

In Canada, insurance companies use the terms "perils" and "exclusions" and are very specific about what is and what is not included in a policy. Perils refer to events which can cause a loss and could very well include earthquakes, floods and damage caused by volcanic eruptions; in short, most policies will include some so-called "Acts of God". Exclusions are events which you choose not to include in your policy and could also include "Acts of God". When you are drawing up a policy with your insurance broker, he or she will guide you through the perils which are included and the exclusions which you will not be covered for. It is imperative that you know what perils you are protected against in your policy. While a good broker will help you to understand your policy, it is incumbent about you to know your policy through and through.

At the end of the day, the term "Acts of God" is not a term that will appear on your policy. Keep in mind that some events that fall under this category traditionally may or may not be included in your policy. In certain areas, "Acts of God" such as flooding may cost a significant amount of money to insure because the risk is quite high, and therefore many people will not be covered. In other areas, where forest fires crop up regularly, the prohibitive costs of being covered against forest fires may prevent most from buying coverage. In the end, it is up to you to know your policy and be sure that you're covered for all perils that could conceivably arise.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

What do insurance providers do with my money?

Insurance policyholders often wonder what insurance providers do with their money. Some believe that their premiums accumulate in individual accounts until such time as a claim needs to be made. Others are convinced that their money is held in a common fund and that claims for any policyholder are paid out from that account. The reality is that a good deal of your money goes towards secure, long-term growth investments.

While you may feel that your insurance company is taking money intended to pay for claims and investing it for its own economic gain, the reality is that through investments the insurance industry is able to keep premiums lower. Imagine two scenarios: in one, your money is held in common and saved until a policyholder needs to make a claim, in the other your money is put into long-term bonds and other secure investments, growing at 5-10% per year. In the first scenario, the common fund would consist of the sum of the premiums paid towards it. In the second, the fund would not only include the premiums, but also the added income from the investments. Therefore, by putting your money into secure investments, insurance providers require a smaller amount of money for premiums, since there is the added income from investments to help pay for claims. It just makes economic sense.

If you are still concerned that your insurance provider is taking too great a risk with your money, keep in mind that the federal government monitors investments made by insurance companies to ensure that they are low-risk, slow-growth investments, rather than high-risk ventures that could end up bankrupting the company. In compliance with the stipulation that their investments should be stable, insurance providers choose to place three quarters of their investments in government bonds, which are guaranteed by the federal government. They also maintain a reserve of money that can be quickly converted into claim compensation in the event of a natural disaster. The Slake Lake fires showed that the insurance industry was able to pay upwards of $700 million in claims --the second largest payout in history-- in a relatively short period of time. They are able to do this precisely because their investments are secure and easily made liquid.

Friday, 8 July 2011

How To Save On Car Insurance

Taking an accredited driving course will not only make
you a better driver, it will result in an immediate reduction
in your insurance premiums. 
Car insurance can be a costly expense, especially if you are younger and have little driving experience. There are, however, a number of ways to dramatically reduce your premiums by getting proper driver's training and practicing safe driving habits.

1. Take an accredited driving course
One of the most important things your insurance company takes into consideration when evaluating your insurance premiums is your driving experience. As a young driver, there is not much you can do about having little driving experience; you simply have to drive safely for a number of years before your premiums will come down.

A driving course, however, will show an insurance provider that you are serious about driving and that you have skills that will make you a safer driver on the road. Most insurance companies will give you an immediate reduction on your premiums if you have a driving course under your belt. It also makes sense to take one for more important reasons: if you are going to be sharing the road with other people, you should be the best driver you can be. Taking a course will give you the skills necessary to be a safe driver and will minimize the chances that you'll be in a collision.

2. Keep in mind that driving safely will save you money
When determining premiums, insurance companies look primarily at your driving history. If they see accidents and traffic violations, you will be charged a much higher premium. Practicing safe driving habits will prevent you from being involved in collisions and ensure that you do not accumulate speeding tickets. Doing so will not only make you safer on the road, but it will save you money in the long run. After a serious accident, your premiums can remain at heightened levels for up to six years. After a speeding ticket, you may see your premiums increase for up to three years. If the well-being of those around you on the road is not enough of an incentive to drive safely, consider that you could save thousands of dollars on your premiums by doing so.

3. Choose the right vehicle 
The vehicle you drive will have a profound effect on your insurance premiums. If you drive a much more expensive car, you'll likely be paying more for insurance. If you were driving and (God forbid) crashed your Lamborghini, it will cost your insurance provider a lot more to replace it. On the other hand, if you crashed a rusty old VW Rabbit, which costs more to fill up than it would sell for, the insurance company the insurance company would not have to spend very much at all. Therefore, since the cost of replacement and repair is significantly higher for more expensive vehicles, insurance providers must charge more for premiums.

Thus, when choosing a car you should research the premiums you could expect to pay to insure it. Even some moderately priced cars could cost you a lot more to insure than others. Read our earlier post on Insurance Premiums and Buying a Car to see what cars will cost you the most to insure.

Tips For Staying Cool in the Summer

Try keeping the house cool, Texas-style. Leave
windows open at night and in the early morning
shut them to trap the cool evening air. 
For most of us in Alberta, July is the hottest month of the year. The cool evenings that make Alberta summers tolerable in June and August are replaced with sweltering, sweat-inducing nights. During the day, temperatures can soar into the high 30s, making any task besides immersing oneself in a vat of iced tea near impossible. For those unlucky among us not to own an air conditioning unit, it's almost guaranteed that you'll melt into your furniture, never to be seen again. Thankfully, there are a few simple tricks that can make those excessively hot summer days bearable.

Air Conditioning
Okay, it's pretty obvious. An air conditioning unit will lower your home's temperature dramatically, even bringing you to the point of needing a sweater! Unfortunately, a central air conditioning unit can be expensive. Thankfully, there are plenty of affordable smaller air conditioning units that fit in the window sill or can stand in a corner. As the hands-down best way to beat the heat in summer, an air conditioning is your best bet if you've got a $100 or so bucks to play around with.

Texas Tip
Apparently Texans have developed a strategy for keeping the home cold without the use of air conditioning. In the evening, when the temperature is the coolest, keep the windows wide open and let as much air in the house as possible. In the early morning, when the sun is just about to rise, close all the windows, doors and blinds. Keep the inside of the house as dark as possible. With no light entering your home, and all your windows and doors sealed, you will keep all the cool air trapped in your home for a good portion of the day.

Invest in Blinds
Throughout the day, keeping your blinds partially closed will substantially decrease the amount of solar heat entering your home. Invest in a set of blinds that can be raised from the bottom up, so that you can block the bottom half of your window and leave the top open. This way you can let in some light while keeping privacy.

Break Out the Fan
Fans, while never given the same applause as air conditioners, are actually very effective and cheap to operate in a home. A ceiling or room fan can drop the perceived temperature substantially, making life bearable on those sweltering Alberta days and nights. What's more, they only cost a few cents an hour to operate, meaning they're considerably cheaper than air conditioner units.

By taking into consideration a few of these tips, you will never be forced to endure a summer sweat-fest in your home again. If you've got some coin to throw around, invest in an air conditioner unit; it's the best bet for keeping you cool on a hot summer's day. If money's an issue, try the Texan technique and purchase a fan keep the air cool and flowing. In any event, these tips will surely minimize the heat in your home and ensure that you don't miss another great summer day because you're too hot!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

What To Look For When Buying Home Insurance

Deciding how much insurance to buy for your home can be difficult. If you're a first-time home buyer, you are likely mired in a million other things and knowing what to look for in a home insurance policy can be complicated. To help you out, we've compiled a list of a few things to look out for when getting insurance for the first time.

Comprehensive and Named Perils Policies
There are two main types of insurance policies for homes: named perils and comprehensive policies. In a named perils policy, you are able to select the types of risks you'd like to be covered for: fire, hail, earthquake, flood, Godzilla, etc. A comprehensive policy, in contrast, covers you for everything with some exceptions. This means that both kinds of insurance are ultimately the same: in one policy, you get to choose the risks you want to be insured against; in the other, you're covered against everything except for those listed in the fine print. Therefore, unless otherwise specified, both policies will leave you exposed to certain risks.

As a homeowner you have to make sure you are clear about the excepted risks. You need to know what you are, and what you aren't, covered for. Your insurance broker will be able to fill you in on the details, but it is also a smart idea to read over the policy yourself to be sure.

Contents Insurance 
Contents insurance covers your personal possessions -- the stuff inside your house. There are also two kinds of contents insurance: market value replacement and actual replacement cost. With market value replacement insurance, your insurance provider will pay you market value for your possessions. This means that a computer that cost $2000 five years ago may only be worth $50 now, and you will be indemnified the smaller amount. Alternately, a piece of jewelry that was once worth $100 and has been recently appraised at $500 will be indemnified for the latest market value figure. Actual replacement cost policies will indemnify policyowners with something of similar quality as the original. Under such a policy, your five-year-old computer worth $2000 will likely be replaced with a new computer of similar quality.

Because actual replacement cost policies tend to pay out more for destroyed or damaged home contents, premiums or deductibles will be higher. For homeowners who have invested a good deal of money in electronics, actual replacement cost insurance will be worth the added investment -- should you have to make a claim, your highly depreciated gadgets will be replaced with items of similar quality, rather than a market value cash payout.

Loss of Use
In the event that you are unable to live in your house while your claim is being processed, some insurance policies will provide additional funds to pay for accommodation, food and other needs during this period. After a catastrophic event like a flood or wildfire, the knowledge that you will have a safe and secure place to sleep is a welcome comfort.

When evaluating your insurance policy and determining just how much insurance you need, be sure to read over your policy thoroughly. Look out for the kinds of risks you're covered for, be sure to know what kind of contents coverage you have, and try to find a policy with a "Loss of Use" provision. Being aware of your coverage will provide peace of mind for you and your family as you move through life.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

How To Protect Your Home While On Vacation

In the anticipation and excitement of pre-vacation preparations, most people don't think of what they can do to protect their home from burglars while they're away. The truth is that would-be thieves look for homes that appear unoccupied and could target your home if you don't make the appropriate preparations before leaving. A few quick measures taken before going on vacation will help to ensure that you don't return to a burgled home and the subsequent insurance claim process.

Get help from your neighbours
Good neighbours will look out for one another. Tell a few trustworthy neighbours that you will be gone on vacation; this way, they can keep an eye on your house from time to time to see if anything looks amiss. If you can, see if they can pick up the newspaper, shovel the walk and driveway, or mow the lawn to make your home look unoccupied. Neighbourhood kids are often looking for gainful employment and would be thrilled to have some spending money in exchange for such a service.

Make it look like you never left
The most important thing when leaving your home for an extended period of time is to make sure your house look like you're still living there. Invest in an internal and external light timer to make sure your porch lights go on in the evening and off at night, and to ensure that the interior of your house looks well-lit. There's no better welcome sign to burglars than a home that has had the lights completely off for days in a row!

Deadlock it up
Regular locks can much more easily be picked or broken than deadbolt locks. Make sure all of the entrances to your home have deadbolt locking mechanisms. The investment could even reduce your insurance premiums!

Before breaking out the golf clubs, snorkelling masks or ski poles, be sure to make appropriate security preparations before leaving your home. Talk to your neighbours and get their help with clearing out excess mail or a snowy driveway. Make sure to buy and set a light timer to keep your home looking lived-in. Finally, make sure you have deadlocks on all your doors. With these simple measures in place, burglars may think twice before robbing you.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

How To Quickly and Cheaply Touch-Up Scratches on Your Car

As a car owner, it is common to become incredibly attached to your vehicle. A scratch on your car is not just a scratch on a piece of your property, it's almost as if you've been personally wounded. When you see a gash on your car, you immediately want to fix it. However, many of us don't have the time or money to bring our vehicle to a bodyshop to have the scratch remedied. Thankfully, there is a quick and painless way to fix scratches on your car yourself.

What You Will Need
Dish soap (or degreaser)
Sandpaper (2000-2500 grit)
Artist's paintbrush
Denatured alcohol
Touch-Up paint

Step 1: Check Your VIN or Owner's Manual
Your VIN number, typically found on a small plate at the front of your dashboard, tells you a lot of information about your vehicle, including the original colour code. If your car has not been painted, you can use this information to find the appropriate touch-up paint to purchase. Alternately, your owner's manual may have the same colour information as well. If your car is no longer the factory paint colour, you will have to track down the place where you painted your car or talk to a bodyshop to get the precise colour information.

Step 2: Pick Up Supplies
Using the information from your VIN or owner's manual, go to the nearest vehicle supply story and pick up a can of spray-on touch-up paint. After that, drop by an art supply story and get a small artist's paintbrush. Remember, it should be small enough to paint the scratch you're fixing. Finally, get a small amount of denatured alcohol, fine grain sandpaper (2000-2500 grit) and car polish, if you don't already have these supplies.

Step 3: Wash the Scratched Area
Use dish soap, or degreaser if you have it, and a rag to clean the area around the scratch. This will remove any wax or dirt that could stop the paint from adhering properly.

Step 4: Sandpaper the Scratched Area
Use a fine grain sandpaper (2000-2500 grit) to sand the area around the scratch. Run a toothpick around the inside border of the scratch; if the paint cracks, remove any parts that could flake. Be sure the entire area is smooth and ready for an application of paint. Use the denatured alcohol and a clean cloth or foam swab to remove paint flakes and dust that the sandpapering may have produced.

Step 5: Apply the Touch-Up
Cut out a hole the size and shape of your scratch in a piece of paper and place it overtop of the scratch. Spray touch-up paint on the scratch, remove the piece of paper, and use the artist's paintbrush to smooth out the paint over the scratch. Repeat the process until the dried paint is slightly overfilling the scratch indent.

Step 6: Sand to a Complete Finish
Using another piece of your sandpaper, sand around the area to level out the paint.

Step 7: Buff the Area with Polish
Get yourself a good car polish to buff out any minor sandpaper marks. Buff around the scratch area until you can't see the scratch anymore!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Commercial Insurance 101

Commercial insurance is a vital aspect of any business venture. Whether you own a restaurant, consulting firm, law practice, or even insurance brokerage, it is imperative that you are covered in the event that your business is damaged or you are sued. Your business is usually the biggest investment you'll make in your life, and it's often your livelihood as well; be sure that you know you're covered for anything.

Commercial Property Insurance
Commercial Property Insurance covers loss or damage to your business' physical space and contents. This means that your storefront, stock, and equipment are covered in case of fire, theft or other physical damage or loss. Property insurance is particularly important for businesses that have considerable real estate investments and valuable equipment.

Commercial General Liability Insurance 
Commercial General Liability Insurance covers you in the event that someone takes legal action against your business. In most cases, this refers to personal injury cases where someone hurts themselves on your property and sues for damages. As medical costs can be in the millions of dollars, it is essential that your business be covered for such an event.

Professional Liability Insurance
Also known as Errors and Omissions, Professional Liability Insurance is primarily geared towards consulting firms and professional practices that work directly with clients. For instance, clients of law firms who feel that their case was not dealt with properly can sue for damages. Alternately, a consulting firm can be sued if a client believes the firm's advice caused them harm.

As a business owner, it is incumbent upon you to be sure you're covered. Don't throw away your life's work because you don't think anything will happen to you. If you're in Alberta, talk to the insurance experts at Sharp Broker Services about commercial insurance. For a free quote, click here.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Why Did My Car Insurance Premiums Randomly Go Up?

At the beginning of a new policy term, you may see increases in your premiums which can appear random. But, while it may appear that your insurance is increasing without reason, there are very sound explanations for such increases. Inflation, changes to your car and home address, added drivers, and at-fault claims can all contribute to an increase in your premiums.

Inflation is an economic process whereby prices increase and the purchasing power of currency decreases. In a healthy economy, this occurs at a slow and steady rate. It's the reason your grandparents talk about the "good old days" when they could buy a loaf of bread for a dime or a Coke for a nickel. Inflation affects insurance companies as well, and every number of years insurance companies will increase their premiums to compensate for inflation. This is a natural and normal increase, and is nothing to be concerned about.

Change in vehicle
Changing your insurance policy over to a newer or more expensive vehicle can often result in a spike in your insurance premiums. Newer cars are typically more expensive to repair in the event of an accident or vandalism, thus making it more expensive for your insurance company to insure. More expensive cars also tend to be pricier in the same way. Therefore, if you decide to jump from the Civic you're driving up to a brand new Maserati, expect to see your premiums go up!

Moving to a new address
Different neighbourhoods have different conditions which may affect your insurance premiums. If you move to a particularly crime-ridden end of town, you may see your Comprehensive Insurance, which covers theft and vandalism, increase. If you move into the city from the countryside you will also see an increase, since you are statistically more likely to have a collision in a city --where there are more cars-- than in the countryside. When evaluating a move, always keep in mind the effect this may have on your auto insurance premiums.

New drivers
If your child has received his or her driver's license and has been added to the family insurance policy, you will see an increase in your rates. If you make the addition mid-way through the year, you can expect to pay a partial premium the next year -- most companies will not immediately increase your premiums.

At-fault claims
If you've filed any claims with your insurance company in which you were at fault, you will likely see your rates go up. The fact of the matter is, the more at-fault claims you have, the more your insurance company sees you as an increased risk.

Understanding the reasons behind the hikes in your insurance can help you anticipate potential increases. When you encounter these "random" increases, it is also a good time to shop around. Insurance providers have very different ways of calculating risk and premiums will be affected in different ways by different companies. For instance, one company may have the same rates for those living in the city and those living in the country, while another will adjust premiums to compensate for the added risk of living in a city. Talk to different brokers and get online quotes where possible to make sure you're not overpaying for insurance.