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These days we’ve seen an influx of people choosing to travel rather than buy material things. It’s about the experiences over physical objects. Usually, choosing a car would result in hours of research, test-driving and multiple visits to different car lots. You got the car and you’re all set to hit the road, right? Being behind the wheel means you have one final decision to make: what type of auto insurance is right for me? The usual trend is that many will see the cheapest option and go with it just to get it and go. This path is riddled with hazards that may end up costing you more in the end. Take the time to sit down and evaluate which type of auto insurance matches who you are and how you drive. 

How Are You Riding?

Most of us are given a hand-me-down car when we first get on the road. It’s a little beat up from its long lifetime, but it’s still a great running car. If this is the case you may be straying away from quality insurance, but it’s still important to protect yourself with liability insurance for potential accidents. Do you tend to be protective of your vehicle and want to keep it clean and pristine? Comprehensive insurance may be the best option for you. Comprehensive insurance is a policy that covers all losses that aren’t covered by collision coverage, such as weather related incidents or vandalism.

What Are Your Assets?

Minor car accidents can end up becoming a bigger hassle than originally anticipated. Add a potential physical injury or a possible totaled car for the situation to become a nightmare. Every state is different, and it’s important to read up on your state’s circumstances and laws on handling auto accidents, as you could be held personally responsible for repair and medical costs. What happens if the total is over the state’s minimum liability and you don’t have that type of money? Other assets like your house or complete savings could be at risk in the case of a lawsuit. Umbrella insurance is typically encouraged in case there is a need for any assets to be covered.

Ride-Share Insurance

With the increase in popularity of services such as Lyft and Uber, you may be interested in getting a Ride-Share policy. If you are working with one of these companies don’t assume they have insurance to cover you. In actuality, the company’s full coverage doesn’t kick in until the driver is on the way to pick up a passenger or already has passengers in the vehicle. Be wary that if anything does transpire, the rideshare company’s insurance may not cover it. If you plan to work with one of these rideshare companies the best course of action would be to notify your insurance provider immediately.

Additional Services to Help Ease a Potential Headache

As the old saying goes, “Better safe than sorry,” and the saying would be correct. You never know when life could throw a curveball your way. If you are someone who worries and is anxious about the next unexpected issue, you may find it beneficial to look into additional small benefits you could add onto your current insurance policy. Having this small cushion could save you from a potential fall down the line. Here are some option to consider:

  • Roadside Assistance – If your car breaks down, you won’t have to worry about finding and paying for a tow company to get you out of your current predicament.
  • Rental Car Reimbursement – If your car is in a shop, your insurer will pay for your rental for the time your personal vehicle is unavailable. If you cannot go with a vehicle this addition can save you frustration and expenses. 
  • Full Glass Coverage – With this benefit, your windshield will be repaired or replaced without spending a penny. Most minimum policies won’t cover cracks or chips in your windshield.

A long-distance move may involve the need to transport a vehicle, especially if one member of the family will be driving a moving van. Before you decide whether it’s preferable to hire an auto shipping company or tow your own vehicle behind a truck or moving van, consider the following details.

Tow Dolly or Trailer: Choosing to Transport On Your Own 

Equipment can be purchased or rented to pull a car behind a moving van or behind your own vehicle. A tow dolly attaches to the vehicle you need to transport by securing the front wheels to a platform. Not every forward wheel drive (FWD) or rear wheel drive (RWD) vehicle can be towed with a tow dolly. You’ll want to check the owner’s manual, and know that for a RWD vehicle, you’ll need to disconnect the driveshaft. Also, according to U-Haul, the vehicle you are using to tow will need to have a hitch ball that measures 1 ⅞” or 2″. That specific rental company also requires that the towing vehicle be hard topped, have all lights operational, have mirrors on both sides, have a Class 2 tow hitch, and weigh at least 750 pounds more than the vehicle being pulled behind.

As opposed to a tow dolly, a trailer will keep all four of your towed vehicle’s wheels off the ground. For this option, rental companies will have different requirements for the weight of the truck doing the hauling and weight-carrying rating carried by the towing system. When towing a vehicle during a move, you’ll need to plan to drive more slowly than usual, with a maximum speed of 55 miles per hour.

Other safety considerations to keep in mind before choosing to tow your own vehicle include making sure the tires on both cars are properly inflated, the tire straps being used on the tow dolly are the right size for your vehicle, and you have access to level ground for loading the vehicle. You’ll also want to touch base with your insurance provider, as policy terms ultimately determine whether or not a trailer or items being towed would be covered in the event of an accident. Typically, if you own the tow dolly or trailer, your car insurance policy will include liability coverage, but it may need to be listed specifically in the policy paperwork. Some insurance policies will only provide coverage if the vehicle doing the pulling is owned by you. At times, though, the tow dolly or trailer itself needs comprehensive or collision coverage. A rental, however, will likely not be covered by your personal insurance policy. You’ll want to check with the rental company and make sure you understand any insurance offered on-site. 

Using an Auto Shipping Company

The value of paying a shipping company to move your car across the country is that you won’t have to worry about the difficulty or risk associated with towing your own vehicle. The peace of mind, however, will come at a cost. Moving.com reported in 2019 that you can expect to spend between $600-$1,000 to ship a four-door sedan and $800-$1100 for a van, pick-up truck, or SUV. Other companies’ estimates suggest it could get as expensive as $2,000. If you ship your vehicle with a shipping company using an open carrier, keep in mind you may have to wait on the receiving end. These carriers make multiple stops because they are transporting so many vehicles at a time. Your car will also be exposed to dust and weather, but for most it’s worth the risk because an enclosed carrier costs significantly more. Summer prices will also be higher than winter because demand for moves during those months is so high. Keep in mind that you’re also handing over responsibility for an expensive item to an outside party, so take photos of your car to document existing conditions and existing damage before delivering it for transport. Also note that you will not be allowed to ship your vehicle with personal belongings stored inside. The service is for delivery of your vehicle, not also boxes and items that need to be moved.

When selecting a carrier, make sure the company is licensed and insured specifically for interstate moves. You’ll also want to check for any complaints that may have been filed against the company with the Better Business Bureau. If your car is a classic or luxury model, or simply especially expensive, you may decide that the transport company’s insurance isn’t enough. Speak with your personal insurance provider to see if your current plan will cover long-distance shipping or if it’s possible to add to your policy during the time of your move.

With colleges starting back up, maybe you have a child returning to school or leaving for the first time. You’ve got the twin XL sheets, the posters and the textbooks. Did you know that you also might need insurance for your college student?

Auto Insurance

If you already have auto insurance for your child’s car (and you should!), don’t cancel it if they are not taking their vehicle to college with them. There is a chance your auto insurance premiums could actually drop significantly if your child moves more than 100 miles from home. Most importantly, your child will still be covered when they return home and drive their vehicle. If they do take their vehicle off to college, thankfully they should still be covered under your policy. However your premiums may change depending on where your child is living during college – especially if they go out of state. 

Renters Insurance 

The good news is that if your child will be living in on-campus dorms or other university sponsored housing, their possessions should remain covered under your homeowners insurance. It’s important to note that the coverage limits may be different, so be sure to thoroughly discuss everything with your insurance agent before your child leaves. 

If your child will be living off-campus, their possessions will no longer be covered under your homeowners policy, and you will need to purchase a separate renters insurance policy to cover their items. A renters policy can protect your child’s expensive electronics such as a laptop or TV as well as other high value items like musical equipment or instruments. Like your homeowners insurance, your child’s renters policy also covers their insured possessions whether they’re inside your child’s living quarters or not. 

Health Insurance 

Although your child is eligible to remain on your own health insurance plan until they turn 26, there are still some things to consider when they leave for college. If your child will be living out of state during the school season and is not willing or able to return home for doctors’ visits, they may struggle with finding in-network providers. With the exception of emergencies, many health policies offer limited or no coverage for out of network providers. Before you make any moves, check with your child’s school to see if there are any in-network providers close to campus. 

If there are not, you have two options. First, you can have your child knock out all necessary medical appointments before leaving for school and schedule future appointments to coincide with breaks. If you do want the peace of mind that good coverage offers, look into supplementing your child’s health coverage with a student health insurance policy. Coverage may also be available through their college or your child could purchase their own coverage in the health insurance market. 

Sending your child off to college is an exciting time, whether they are a freshman or a fifth-year senior. Make sure your student has all the protection they need by utilizing the right insurance tools. 

Experiencing a car accident is stressful enough on its own. Add to that the possibility of medical bills, car repair bills, and the cost of renting a vehicle while yours is in the shop, and you’ll definitely feel overwhelmed. However, with rental car assistance or reimbursement, you may not have to worry too much about the latter. Here are 5 things you need to know about getting a rental car after an accident. 

It’s Not a Guarantee

Your ability to get a rental vehicle while yours undergoes repairs depends on a few different factors. First, do you even have this add-on in your policy? The add on that allows you to get coverage for a rental vehicle after an accident is called rental reimbursement coverage, and as an optional coverage, it is not automatically included in your auto insurance. However just because it’s optional does not mean you should go without it. 

Second, who was at fault for the accident? If it was deemed to be you, see the paragraph above. If you are not at fault, you will be dealing with the other driver’s insurance provider to handle the claim. The other driver’s insurance provider should give you a rental car that is comparable to the one that was damaged in the accident. 

The Loss Must Be a Covered Loss 

Rental reimbursement coverage cannot be used if your vehicle is in the shop for routine maintenance or any cosmetic work such as paint or other voluntary modifications. Even if it is in the shop for a few days, you cannot apply for rental reimbursement coverage in this instance. You also cannot utilize the coverage if you are taking a trip and renting a vehicle – unless you are renting a vehicle because your own is being repaired after an accident. As long as the loss is being covered by your auto insurance, you are free to use your rental reimbursement coverage. 

It’s Not as Expensive as You Think 

Car rental company Enterprise reported that the average American drives 3-4 different places per day, and the average length of time for a vehicle repair is two weeks. Renting a vehicle can cost upwards of $300 a week, depending on the size. However, a year of rental reimbursement coverage usually costs less than a single day of a rental car payment. Although there are limits, in the long run the benefits truly outweigh the costs.

It can be a glorious feeling to ride with the wind in your face and the sun on your back, but the fun can turn deadly in an instant if riders do not take the proper precautions. Motorcycle riders are overrepresented in traffic accident fatalities. Take the right precautions every time you ride your bike in order to protect yourself, your passengers, and your fellow drivers. Since May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, we put together some guidelines to help riders stay safe every time you start up your engines.

Check Your Bike Before Every Ride

Before you get on the road, it is important to check that every aspect of your bike is safe and operational. This is especially vital for those who only use their motorcycle occasionally, but full time riders would do well to follow a strict safety routine as well. Always be sure to check for gas or oil leaks, test headlights and turn signals, brakes and fluid levels, and examine tires before you ride off. If you have a passenger, remind them to keep their feet on the foot rests at all times and to keep a tight hold on your hips, waist, or belt.

Protect Your Body Properly

You must always – ALWAYS – wear a helmet when you ride your motorcycle. There are no exceptions to this rule! NHTSA recommends wearing a helmet that meets DOT, Snell, or ANSI standards – these have been tested and certified to ensure maximum protection. There should be a label indicating certification on either the exterior or interior of the helmet. It is most important to protect your head, but the rest of your body needs protection as well. Cover your arms and legs with a tough material such as leather or heavy denim, and wear the right gloves and boots.

Don’t Take Risks on the Road

Many crashes involving motorcycles happen because a vehicle driver simply did not see the bike on the road. Pay attention to your surroundings at all times, leave ample room between your bike and other vehicles, and remain on the defensive when there are other drivers around you. Always obey traffic laws. Just because your bike is small and can move differently than a standard passenger vehicle, it does not mean you have an excuse to do whatever you please on the road. Following speed limits and traffic laws helps keep not only you, but also your fellow citizens safe.

Don’t Drink and Ride

It is never safe to use alcohol or drugs before driving a motorcycle. Just like driving a car, boat, or other craft, driving a motorcycle while impaired will seriously impact your ability to operate the bike, make decisions, and react to dangers. According to a 2017 study by NHTSA, 28% of motorcycle drivers who were involved in fatal accidents were under the influence of alcohol. Do not ride your bike if you know you’re going to be drinking. It is never worth it to risk your life.

Having the right insurance also protects you as a motorcycle driver. Speak to your agent about motorcycle coverage and stay safe every time you ride.

April is distracted driving awareness month in the insurance world, and we at the Carnal Roberts Agency wanted to bring a different side of this topic to light on our blog this month. If you know the dangers of distracted driving, you avoid it. However as many of us know, you can’t control the actions of other people on the road. Here are a few useful tips for spotting – and avoiding – distracted drivers around you.

If You See a Driver Holding a Device, Get Away

Although in many states it is illegal to use handheld devices while driving, people will still do it anyway and make no effort to hide it. These people may have a phone held in front of their face, or they could be looking down. In either case it isn’t difficult to spot this distracted driver. If you see someone engaging in this kind of behavior in a car near you, the best thing to do is safely figure out how to get away. This could mean slowing down, changing lanes, or any other maneuver you feel you can safely perform. Do not let the distracted driver distract you, but do remove yourself from their path.

Watch for Swerving, Pausing, and Sudden Braking

You’re driving along and the car in front of you begins to waver back and forth across the lines. It could be accidental, but it is likely a sign of a distracted driver. It’s incredibly important to always leave plenty of space between your car and other cars, since the situation can turn dangerous in an instant if a car you’re too close to has a mishap. Similarly, be on the lookout for any car that lags behind after the light turns green. This is typically a sign that the driver’s eyes are not on the road, and this is a car you will want to avoid. Another common sign is if a car brakes suddenly to avoid hitting the car in front of them. This means they weren’t looking and did not notice the other cars slowing down. It can be difficult to avoid being rear ended by one of these distracted drivers, but always be on the lookout.

Practice and Encourage Distracted Driving Awareness

According to the CDC, nine people every day are killed in motor vehicle accidents involving distracted driving. Talk to your friends and family members (not just your children because adults drive distracted, too) about the dangers of distracted driving and how anyone can spot and avoid it on the road. Set an example for others by modeling safe driving practices yourself. You never know what can happen in a single instant. 

For some, it’s an easy question. You need commercial auto coverage when your business owns company vehicles – whether it’s one or an entire fleet. However this is not the only instance in which a commercial auto policy is recommended. If you often use your personal vehicle for work purposes, besides commuting, you just might need a commercial auto policy, too.

You Do Not Always Need a Commercial Auto Policy

As we previously stated, simply driving your own car back and forth to work is not a situation where you need to consider commercial auto insurance. Neither is giving rides to coworkers or taking your car out on a coffee run for the office.

What Kind of Use Might Necessitate Commercial Auto Coverage?

However, if you use your personal vehicle to transport tools or equipment to a job site, you should be considering a commercial policy. This is especially true if the tools and equipment are expensive and their damage or theft would put your company at risk. Another instance in which you might consider commercial auto coverage is if you use your own car to travel long distances for work, or to transport clients. Even a teenager who delivers food with his own car poses a liability to his company.

It Is Different for Rideshare Drivers

There is a slight exception in the case of rideshare drivers working for companies such as Uber or Lyft. Most commercial auto policies do not offer the coverage rideshare drivers require for their unique needs, although some insurers have started offering rideshare insurance.

It All Depends on Frequency

If you only occasionally use your own vehicle for work purposes, it is likely you will only need personal auto insurance. On the other hand, if your use of your own car for business needs is frequent and ongoing, you should talk to your agent about your options.

Commercial Auto Policy or Modified Personal Auto Policy?

Your insurance agent is equipped to advise you on whether you truly need a commercial auto policy for your own vehicle. Commercial auto coverage can be expensive, but it may be possible to modify your personal auto policy to take occasional business use into account. Otherwise, your Carnal Roberts independent agent can shop the market to find you the best quotes for commercial auto insurance.

Whether it’s a flat tire or a run-in with a winter storm, a vehicle emergency can really catch you off guard. The first step you should take in creating a road emergency plan is to give your insurance agent a call. Many insurance carriers offer roadside assistance services as a policy add-on, if it is not already part of your auto coverage. Often, available roadside assistance services will include towing, battery jump-start, flat tire change, fuel delivery, lockout service, and winching service. Your agent will be able to tell you if you can benefit from your auto insurance carrier’s roadside assistance coverage or assist you with adding it to your policy.

There is no such thing as being too safe, and you should still consider creating a car emergency kit in case your roadside assistance is delayed or unavailable for some reason. Here are some items you may want to include in your own kit.

Tools to Fix Your Vehicle

Say you get a flat tire. Perhaps your cell phone has died and you don’t have a car charger or you’re in an area with no cell service. In this case, you will not be able to contact roadside assistance, and it’ll be up to you to get out of the emergency situation. You can be prepared for this possibility by having a car emergency kit that includes items such as a properly inflated spare tire, tripod jack, and wheel wrench. It’s always a good idea to include jumper cables in your kit as well, and don’t forget a reflective vest and reflective triangles that will make you visible to passing cars as you walk around your vehicle making repairs.

Supplies to Prepare For Anything

Speaking of dying cell phones, your emergency kit should definitely include a car cell phone charger or even a portable charger. The latter, also called a power bank, is a device you “power up” at home and can use anywhere to charge your cell phone. These power banks can hold charge for several months if fully charged once and kept at room temperature. This may be an issue if you park your vehicle outdoors, but you can rectify the problem by regularly recharging your power bank and placing it back in your vehicle for storage. Consider also including a basic first aid kit, flashlight with replacement batteries, water bottles, and nonperishable, high-energy foods such as protein bars and nuts.

Emergency Phone Numbers

Even if your cell phone dies, a passerby may pull over and have a phone you can use. If this happens, you’ll want to be able to access phone numbers for your roadside assistance service, insurance agent, or an emergency contact. Have these numbers typed or written on paper that you can keep in your glove box instead of keeping them only on your cell phone.

Cold Weather Specific Items

If you live in an area with lots of cold weather, it’s a good idea to take this into account when putting together your emergency kit. A shovel and ice scraper are useful tools to have, cat litter helps provide tire traction, and you’ll likely need warm clothing and blankets if you are stuck for a period of time.

What Else Can You Do?

Practicing responsible car care is the best way to ensure your vehicle won’t get into any emergency situations. Unexpected situations do arise, but some emergencies can be prevented. Keep up with your vehicle’s maintenance and always keep a full gas tank. And remember – be sure to check with your Carnal Roberts agent first and foremost to find out about securing roadside assistance through your auto insurance carrier.

First, Remain Calm

If you believe your car has been stolen, your immediate response is likely to completely freak out. This is understandable, but there is a chance you could be mistaken. It is possible that your car was towed or even that your teenager took it without asking. Make a few calls to local towing companies to see if your car is with them. If you determine that your car was, in fact, stolen, you must still remain calm so you can follow the correct procedures.

Call the Police

This is your first step once you know your vehicle was taken. To report your car as stolen, you will need to provide facts that the police can use to identify your car. This information includes a detailed description of the vehicle including make, model and year, color, and any unique features such as bumper stickers or dents. You will also want to have your license plate number and vehicle identification number (VIN) on hand to provide to police. If you don’t know these off the top of your head, consider keeping a note of them in your wallet or cell phone. It’s especially important to contact police right off the bat, since many carriers will not honor a claim unless a police report is filed first.

Contact Your Insurance Agent

After filing a report with the police, it is time to file a claim with your insurance. Only a comprehensive auto insurance policy offers coverage in the case of theft, but even if you do not have this policy it is a good idea to notify your Carnal Roberts insurance agent about the incident. By notifying insurance, you may still be able protect yourself against any damage that occurs to persons or property while the vehicle is in possession of the thief or thieves. You will want to have at hand the same vehicle information you provided to the police, as well as items such as the title, a list of the location of all keys to the vehicle, a list of any personal property that was in the vehicle, the police report number, and contact information for your finance or leasing company. You provide the information, and your agent will take care of the rest.

Final Steps

After taking the initial steps to report the theft to police and involve your insurance agent, you will want to tie up any loose ends by notifying other parties that have an interest in your vehicle. Your agent will likely take care of this, but you can also place a call to your finance or leasing company. Report the theft to the DMV as well.

You should continue working with your insurance agent to see about rental vehicle coverage, but the only thing to do once all these steps have been completed is to wait. Your car may be recovered, but unfortunately there is a chance it may not be. Your agent will be there by your side throughout the process, whatever happens.

Brake failure is easily one of the most dangerous malfunctions that can occur in your vehicle. There are many reasons why brakes fail, but even if you aren’t a mechanic, you should know the signs of brake failure so you can get your car serviced as soon as you start noticing them! Here are six ways to know if your brakes are starting to malfunction.

 

Your Brake Pedal Has Fallen

A falling brake pedal is one of the classic signs of brake failure. When your brakes are in good condition, your pedal will stay in the same position every day. If it falls toward the floor, it will be impossible not to notice. This means that your brakes are likely out of adjustment, and it could mean that there is a mechanical failure or air in your vehicle’s system.

 

Your Brakes Are Squealing or Grinding

Brakes that squeal or grind aren’t just nuisances. They’re actually a pretty serious problem, because these noises can indicate that your brake pads are wearing thin and/or that the brake is worn all the way down to the rotors.

 

Your Brake Pedal is Vibrating

When we say vibrating, we don’t just mean the slight shudder caused by your anti-lock brake system (ABS)  when you slam on the brakes really hard. We mean a shudder that happens when you hit your brake normally, often accompanied by a chattering noise and a hard-to-control steering wheel. The chattering sound is usually produced by warped rotors, which the brakes can’t clamp onto as easily to stop the vehicle.

 

You Think Your Alignment is Off

If your car is pulling to one side or the other when you brake, don’t automatically mistake it for a slight misalignment! If you notice the pulling only when you apply pressure to your brakes, it could mean that one of the car’s wheel cylinders or calipers is seized or frozen. It could also mean that you have fluid leaking on the brake pads or shoes.

 

You Have to Hit the Brakes Harder

If you begin noticing that you have to press your brakes harder than usual to slow down or stop, it could mean that one of your brakes or an axle isn’t performing the way it should. Don’t let this continue for awhile; call your mechanic and bring your car in for a checkup as soon as possible.

 

What to Do

If you think your brakes are failing, it is imperative that you get your vehicle checked out as soon as you can. Properly functioning brakes can do more than save you from a fender-bender and an insurance headache – they can save your life.