Thursday, 21 June 2012

How to Save Money as a Young Driver

Like it or not, it remains a fact that teen drivers – by virtue of being statistically more prone to accidents when put behind the wheel of a car – are subject to higher auto insurance rates. This is generally the case regardless of how talented or cautious an individual young driver may be; cold, hard statistics are seen to be the voice of reason in such cases, and, as such, a teen driver’s rates are guaranteed to be proportionately higher.

This does not mean, however, that a young driver’s rates cannot be subject to positive changes given certain essential steps and strategies. A few simple practices – if adhered to carefully – might help to lower car insurance for your young driver, making everyone’s lives easier in the process.

1. Good grades can mean lower premiums. Keeping performance up in school implies an ability to take important things seriously and perform well when necessary – both qualities that could lead to safe driving habits. By keeping your insurance broker updated with report cards that reflect positive performance, you stand a much better chance of minimizing rates while maximizing the likelihood of future success at the same time.

2. Driving courses are always a good idea. Safe driving courses have been shown to lead, logically, to safer driving, and for this reason they’re highly attractive to insurance providers. Taking a course to improve driving skill and safety can lead to reductions in insurance premiums for a young driver, not to mention improved safety on the roads and more peace of mind in the long term.

3. Practice safe driving habits and keep a clean record. A driving record free of accidents and tickets remains a young driver’s best chance to minimize their insurance rates, both in the short term and in years to come. As one might expect, this entails all the good habits that safe and responsible young drivers should follow: abiding by the rules of the road, avoiding drugs and alcohol entirely when driving, staying off phones and other devices when getting behind the wheel and being courteous and considerate to other drivers at all times. Where safe – and inexpensive – driving is concerned, it’s just that simple.  

Saving on Homeowner’s Insurance: A Few Simple Tips

Purchasing a new home can be a daunting process – not least of all on account of the equally daunting premiums that can come with it. Saving money on homeowner’s insurance, however, can be easier than some would think. By taking the time to consider a few simple strategies that could ultimately help you shave quite a bit off of your premiums, you might find that buying a new home doesn’t have to be so daunting after all.

1. Remember the first rule of saving on insurance: do your research. Knowing exactly what’s out there and what various insurance providers can offer in terms of their lowest possible insurance rates could save you a great deal of money – and frustration – in the long run. All it takes is a little patience; by finding out exactly who’s out there and what they can offer you, you’ll stand a far better chance of getting what you as a homeowner want and rightfully deserve.

2. Be aware of the habits that could land you in trouble with insurance providers. Any behaviours which are perceived by insurance companies to be risky or to pose a liability within the home could be held against you, and reflected in the rates you are required to pay. Activities or tendencies like smoking in the house, keeping an unlocked or unguarded pool in the backyard, leaving the house and property cluttered with potential tripping or slipping hazards and failing to engage locks or security systems could all be used as justification for higher premiums, so make sure that you are aware of these “red flags” so that you can minimize them or stop them entirely.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Buying a New Home? Be Insurance-Smart with these Helpful Tips!

Buying a new home – especially for the first time – often represents a landmark moment in the life of a prospective buyer, be it on account of a growing family, a new relationship or simply the next logical step forward in life. Exciting though the experience of becoming an official “homeowner” can often be, however, this process often carries with it certain risks, both with respect to the safety of the house’s new occupants and the home insurance hikes which are likely to follow. Features within the home itself or around the property which insurance companies deem to be potentially hazardous are almost certain to result in hikes in a homeowner’s premiums, as these companies will inevitably view such features as liabilities likely to contribute to the chances of an accident. Only by making sure that a home is safe and hazard-free before purchasing it can a buyer guarantee lower home insurance rates for themselves, as well as a safer overall experience in the home over the years that follow.

What, then, is the best way to ensure that a home is free of potentially costly hazards or other concerns before buying? In this case, thoroughness and common sense really are the name of the game, and to illustrate this point we’ve included several of the most important considerations to make when buying a new home below. Follow these pointers and you’re almost certain to be rewarded with a safer home, less costly home insurance rates and a more enjoyable living experience in the months and years to come.

1. While they aren’t technically part of the home itself, any trees on the property – especially old or large ones – should be thoroughly inspected. This is an important step which can be considered and, to some degree, investigated, before even moving on to the safety inspection of the home. Some trees can pose a liability if they appear to be in danger of damaging the home in some way; old trees which might be structurally weak and susceptible to collapse, for instance, or large trees positioned close to the home itself, are likely to be seen as a cause for concern by insurance providers. In order to avoid any problems or causes for worry that might result from trees on the property, you might want to have an arborist inspect the trees and give the go-ahead before buying. In cases where certain trees are problematic, the problem might also be solved simply by pruning them or having them cut down.

2. Swimming pools, though often enjoyable to have and use, can cause all sorts of problems. In most cases, insurance providers will view swimming pools as sources of significant risk; this, in turn, might well add costs to your insurance premiums unless certain measures are taken – having the pool securely enclosed by a fence of a minimum height for instance. For these reasons, it is wise to make sure that any above- or below-ground pools on the property meet necessary safety standards before investing in the home.

3. Make sure that the house is electrically sound and meets all necessary electrical safety codes. This is a big one, especially given the fire hazards that can be posed by a faulty or out-of-date electrical system. In many cases, however, the chances of a home’s electrical system posing a safety risk depend on its age and type of electrical wiring; systems with aluminum wiring or knob-and-tube wiring, for instance, are usually thought to pose greater risks but are also generally only found in older homes. Nevertheless, it is wise to have an electrician assess the state and safety of a home’s wiring before buying it; only when the system is up to code should you consider making a purchase, or your home insurance premiums – not to mention your family’s safety – could soon be placed in jeopardy.   

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The Trouble with Tickets: Affordable Car Insurance Starts with You

As any reputable insurance broker will tell you, how much a given company charges to have you insured will depend entirely on who you are. Your age, gender, driving habits, credit score and any other pertinent information about you can often serve to indicate how much of a “risk” – and, consequently, how much of a liability to the company – you are likely to be. For this reason, the profile of you that your insurance company will build is likely to be thorough, encompassing many aspects of your character and behaviour. Unfortunately for many drivers, however, this will also include information about previous tickets and other records of infractions that you might have committed; a person with many previous speeding tickets, logically, is likely to have higher premiums than a person without.

For this reason, one of the most important realizations to make when thinking about how to save money on car insurance should also be one of the most self-evident: staying out of trouble on the roads will ultimately mean cheaper premiums in the long run. By following a few relatively simple pointers – we’ve provided some below – you’ll stand a significantly better chance of avoiding problems on the roads, steering clear of tickets and keeping your car insurance rates relatively affordable.

1. Pull over if you need to make a phone call. It’s admittedly hard to imagine the world as it would exist today without cell phones, but as handy as they are, cell phone calls and driving simply don’t mix. What’s more, we now have laws in place to emphasize this fact; talking on a cell phone while driving is now illegal across the country, and being caught in the act can net you a costly fine. As one might expect, these rules also apply to other distracting habits involving cell phones, such as texting and using GPS or other smart phone applications, so it’s best to avoid these practices as well. If a call or text really must be answered, pull over in a designated rest area or other safe location before reaching for the phone; if it means avoiding a nasty ticket, you’ll be glad in the end that you did.

2. Keep your speeds reasonable. Police speed traps are often well-hidden in an attempt to catch unsuspecting drivers exceeding the listed speed limit, and in most cases they work. For this reason, it’s wise to stay within posted speed limits, even in areas that seem relatively free of people and traffic. Regardless of any police presence in the immediate vicinity, speed limits are assigned and enforced for the sake of safety, both for drivers and pedestrians. Thus, the reasons for obeying speed limits are multiple; ultimately, however, the old adage “better safe than sorry” is just as effective a reason as any.

3. Where drinking and driving is concerned, the best policy is a zero-tolerance policy. If a speeding ticket is bad, most would agree that a “DUI” (“driving under the influence” of drugs or alcohol) is worse. In most cases, a DUI will entail a mandatory license suspension and points on your driving record, the results of which will almost certainly boost your insurance premiums in the months that follow. To avoid an outcome like this, always be sure to have a “designated driver” who has agreed to abstain from any intoxicants, and to make sure that this plan is enforced throughout the day or evening. If you yourself have been selected to be the “DD”, be aware that everyone metabolizes alcohol differently and that even a single drink is enough to qualify some people as intoxicated in the eyes of the law. It’s therefore wisest to avoid intoxicants altogether; again, “better safe than sorry” is a valuable rule to live by in this case.

4. In the eyes of an insurance company, a reckless driver is a risky driver. Charges of “reckless driving” are often harshly punished and are reflected in the insurance rates of drivers who accumulate them. Thus, perhaps the easiest way to avoid insurance premium increases might be simply to be a kind, courteous and careful driver at all times; doing so will likely allow for a safer and more enjoyable driving experience not only for you, but for your fellow motorists as well. In the end, it’s just common sense. 

Monday, 4 June 2012

When Disaster Strikes: What to Do in the First Minutes after a Car Accident

While most of us would prefer not to think about it, it remains an unfortunate fact of life that in a split second, the unthinkable can happen: in the time that it takes to blink, you or someone that you know could become the unsuspecting victim of a car accident. Without actually expecting such a thing to happen, it is important to be prepared for the possibility that, at any time, an accident could occur without warning; knowing what to do in the few minutes directly following an accident, for instance, could actually mean the difference between safety and harm – possibly even life and death. Listed below are a few of the essentials to remember in the minutes following an accident, should one ever happen to occur. In these crucial moments, having a plan and being able to follow it calmly and quickly could be what gets you – and your loved ones – home in one piece.

1. If possible, get yourself and your passengers out of harm’s way. If your car is still functional and can move safely, attempt to steer it over to the side of the road and out of the way of oncoming traffic, after which time you should turn it off and have everyone exit the car and move to a safe distance as quickly as possible. If the car cannot be moved safely, exit it and move away as described above but make sure to watch out for any nearby hazards like fires, broken glass or live electrical wires.  

2. Assess injuries and get help as needed. If anyone who was involved in the accident is injured or seems as though they might need first aid treatment, call 911 immediately and request an ambulance at the scene. If you or any bystanders have been trained in first aid and are able to do so safely, some basic first aid might be administered before ambulances arrive as well.

3. Stay at the scene until help arrives. Police and medical crews arriving at the scene will want to take statements from you and anyone else involved, and will likely find these statements useful in some way. It is also illegal in most cases to leave the scene of an accident before help arrives, so it would generally be in your best interest to stay put if possible.

4. Remain calm. While an accident can certainly prove emotionally strenuous, it is important to try to remain as focused and objective as possible, both immediately after the accident and after the authorities arrive. Determining exactly who is “to blame” is a task best left to the police and the respective insurance companies of those involved, so delivering your account of things calmly and objectively is the strategy most likely to lead to a fair judgment and a speedy resolution.

5. Document as much as you can. Beyond exchanging all pertinent information with any others involved (names, phone numbers, car makes and models, license plate numbers and so on), record as much about the incident itself as possible, as this might later prove useful in court. Any witnesses at the scene should also be asked about what they saw and should have their personal information taken down in case they need to be contacted or testify in court. 

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Safety Tips for the Cottage-Bound Driver

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about patio parties and home get-togethers in recent days, but while it is indeed important to consider these kinds of events from the perspective of mindfulness and safety, we should also remember that safety precautions during the summer season ought to extend beyond the home as well. The relaxed pace of the summer often encourages us to put our guard down when we might well need it the most – at the beach, for instance, or in the car. In light of these worrisome trends, our topic of focus today will be safety en route to everyone’s favourite summer getaway destination: the cottage. Employ these helpful tips and you’ll find yourself in a much better position to arrive at the cottage in one piece, ready to soak up the sun with friends and family.

1. Always remember the cardinal rule of the road: distractions are a driver’s worst enemy. This issue is compounded by the fact that many cottage-going drivers will inevitably find themselves with a full car on the drive over, and extra passengers can often add to the risk of distraction. To help minimize any would-be driving distractions en route to the cottage before they even start, establish with everyone who will be riding along with you that as much fun as going to the cottage may be, it is critical to everyone’s safety that you be allowed to focus on the road. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t communicate with your passengers or add to a conversation, but make sure that your attention never leaves the task of driving and that it remains your first priority. If you can’t react at a split-second’s notice, you’re likely too distracted; obviously, then, texting and talking on cell phones should be strictly off-limits.

2. Make sure to stay within the boundaries of the law. Safe driving is lawful driving, and nowhere should this be taken more seriously than on the rural, high-speed roads leading to many Canadian cottage destinations. Be sure not to exceed any posted speed limits, and keep an eye out for signage announcing changing rules or driving conditions on the road ahead. The benefits in following these laws are actually twofold, as failing to do so would not only be unsafe but might earn you costly and record-tarnishing tickets as well.    

3. Know when to quit. If your drive is expected to take multiple hours or days, be sure to stop regularly to rest, stretch your legs and even sleep if necessary (finding a place to stay should be easy, as innumerable hotels  adorn the roads to cottage country). Having a second qualified driver to take over driving responsibilities while you rest might also be an option, but this depends entirely on who you’re travelling with.

4. Seatbelts and child harnesses should be used properly and as needed. In this case, “as needed” can also be taken to mean “at all times while the car is moving”, and the reasoning behind this should be obvious. As a driver you have an inherent responsibility to your passengers and yourself where safety is concerned, and only by having everyone use the car’s safety features properly can this responsibility be upheld. Make sure that everyone is sitting correctly as well, and that any child locks which need to be engaged are attended to before you leave.