Friday, April 21, 2017

5 Things That Can Affect Your Auto Insurance Rates

car insurance premiums

Sometimes when people change something about their lives, they are surprised to find out their insurance rate changes, too. This is true with car insurance, as insurance companies use many factors to price auto policies.
Knowing what some of these factors are, and why they matter to insurers, can help you better understand rate changes, if they occur.
Here are five reasons an existing insurance policy rate might rise or fall in price.

1. Car type

Different types of cars cost differing amounts to insure. That’s because some cars have more safety features than others and, statistically, those driving in cars with more safety features have less severe physical injury claims and, therefore, require less medical care. These features might also mean these drivers have fewer accidents because the safety features might help prevent them. When claims occur, though, repair costs may be higher if safety features get damaged. If you’re thinking of getting a different car, it’s helpful to call your insurance agent first, to find out how that car model will affect the insurance rate.

2. Change of residence

Even if your new home is only a block away from your previous address, if it’s in a different zip code, your auto insurance rates could change. Zip codes are one factor insurance companies may use to set rates. The claims within each zip code might have a different number of auto accidents, thefts, vandalism, fraud and other issues affecting claims. Auto policies vary in price from state to state as well. That might be attributed to accident rates, but it also can be from state laws mandating what insurance companies must cover.

3. New driver on the policy

Adding someone to your auto policy will also affect the rates. If the new person on the policy is a teen driver, some parents are surprised to see their monthly premiums increase. This is because teens in their first six months of driving independently have more crashes than in their next year of driving, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health and the Virginia Transportation Institute. As teens gain experience behind the wheel, they have fewer accidents. Still, because teenagers have a statistically higher incidence of auto accidents, the group is more expensive to insure. Check out these seven tips to make your teen a better driver.

4. Vehicle’s age

While it’s true some cars become more valuable (if kept in mint condition), most vehicles do not. The good news is that as cars get older, they may cost less to insure. One factor insurance companies use to set rates is the cost to repair a damaged car or the value paid to a policyholder for a car that’s beyond repair. If an insurance company decides to pay an older car’s cash value instead of repairing it, that’s usually less expensive than paying the cost of a newer car.

5. Accidents and violations

After an accident or moving violation, insurance rates sometimes increase. That can happen even if the accident is not the insured’s fault. Some companies, including Nationwide, offer Accident Forgiveness coverage in certain states. With this coverage option, your premium won’t increase after your first at-fault accident. Sometimes policyholders can also get auto insurance discounts if they’ve gone through a period with no accidents or violations.
It’s helpful to check with your insurance agent to ask about the factors that affect your car insurance policy. If you’re looking to get a new car, it’s also a good idea to ask us how the different models you are considering will affect your insurance rate.
Learn more about the price of auto insurance – it can help you estimate your budget and maybe even help you save money.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Landscaping Ideas on a Budget

6 Backyard Landscaping Ideas on a Budget


cheap backyard ideas
Low-budget landscaping needn’t be bare-bones. A little money and effort can create a big impact regardless of how much space you have.
Before starting your backyard renovation, have a design in mind. It’s easy to be wooed by beautiful blooms at nurseries. If you have a plan, you’re more likely to purchase the right plants and know where they should go. Here are some backyard landscaping ideas that can spruce up a yard on any budget.

1. Invest in soil

“Soil amendments and preparation – raking, tilling and grading – are the most important aspects of budget gardening,” says landscape architect Eric King. Plants grow better in improved soil, so you can start with smaller, cheaper plants rather than larger, more expensive ones.
To stretch your plant budget further, shop wholesale nurseries and end-of-blooming-season sales. Focus on perennials that can overwinter in your climate zone (so you don’t have the cost of planting each year) and that provide year-round interest through color or texture. You can add bright pops of color throughout the year with a few potted annuals.

2. Employ dimensional design

Even budget-friendly backyard landscaping ideas should include plants of various heights and textures for visual depth. Designing vertically, for instance, makes a small space seem larger and more interesting, so you get more style and function for your money. Ensure plants aren’t all one height, though.

3. Pick low-maintenance foliage

Include bushes and ornamental trees in your landscape design, too. These options add interest for decades, without the need to replant, thus saving money long-term. Slow-growing Japanese maples, for instance, add height, color and, in winter, architectural interest. Ornamental grasses add low-maintenance texture and eliminate the need to replant seasonally with flowers. Non-woody vines, like jasmine on fences or walls, add dimension and draw the eye upward. Woody vines like honeysuckle and bougainvillea, in contrast, are best suited for pergolas and other well-ventilated structures, because they trap moisture beneath their leaves, which contributes to wood rot. Vines can quickly fill in barren areas, providing extensive coverage at relatively little expense.

4. Create a destination point in your yard

Even if you have a tiny yard, you can create a destination point. A seating area and a garden feature, like a reflecting ball that’s separated from the rest of the lawn, are two examples. Budget-friendly options include refurbished and repurposed garage sale finds like retro-aluminum chairs and construction elements like salvaged windows or newel posts. If you’re handy, build your own seating after a trip to the home-supply store. Access your special area with a winding path that invites walkers to slow down and enjoy the changing views.

5. Set up a “secret room”

Mobile plantings can make the garden room multifunctional. Says landscape designer Chris Lambton, host of HGTV’s “Going Yard” series: “Using planters on casters lets you create a secret room with plenty of greenery but gives you the flexibility to easily move plants out of the way to repurpose the area for dining or entertaining.”

6. Consider alternatives

For paths or patios, natural stone or pavers are a good investment if you plan to stay in the home a while. On the other hand, “pea gravel or crushed stone can make a fabulous surface for much less money than mortared flagstone or pavers,” King says. If you choose stone or pavers, however, you can still save money by not mortaring them in place.
To install pea gravel, stone or pavers, remove any existing turf from the area and put down a layer of landscaping fabric to minimize weeds and to prevent the gravel from being pressed into the soil. You can add the pea gravel on top of the fabric. For stone or pavers, cover the fabric with sand for easy leveling. Soften the look by planting grass or creeping plants like elfin thyme or Irish moss in the spaces between the stones.
Improvisation is integral to low-cost landscaping ideas. If, for instance, replacing an unsightly fence isn’t feasible, screen it with reed or rolled bamboo. Repaint faded plastic planters using plastics paint from any home store. If your patio slab is broken, cover it with a layer of pea gravel.
Low-cost backyard renovations can be exciting and fun. Using your ingenuity to find the best deals and your creativity to employ a variety of materials can transform your yard from dreary to dynamic – even on a tiny budget.
Renovating your backyard can increase your home’s property value, too. Make sure you have the right coverage for your home and backyard, get a home insurance quote today.

Monday, April 10, 2017

How to Buy Life Insurance: a Guide

Purchasing life insurance is often a good decision. It protects your family financially when the unthinkable happens. Peace of mind for the future of your family requires some research and taking a few steps to find the best life insurance policy for your needs.
So, how do you buy life insurance? We break down the ways to get life insurance below.

Getting life insurance from your employer

Many employers offer group life insurance as a company benefit, whether they pay the entire premium or subsidize it. In fact, group life insurance represented 43% of all U.S. life insurance policies in 2014, according to the American Council of Life Insurers.
There are several advantages to these policies. If the company pays all or most of the cost, that’s, of course, a monetary savings for employees. However, the amount purchased may not meet your ultimate needs. If the benefits equal one or two times your salary, that’s probably not enough to leave your family in a comfortable financial position should you unexpectedly pass. You may have the option to upgrade the policy to a higher amount by paying the difference, or you can use this policy as a secondary one, purchasing an individual policy elsewhere.
One huge upside to group life insurance is you don’t usually have to take a medical exam to get it. It is easier to obtain group life insurance in these situations than as an individual.
The downside to getting life insurance through the employer is the coverage usually ends when employment ends. If you leave your job, whether you’re laid off or proactively find a new one, your life insurance policy doesn’t come with you. You might be able to convert it to an individual policy, but the costs may be higher than one acquired on your own. While a new employer might also offer life insurance benefits, there may be a waiting period.

Getting life insurance independently

If you want to buy life insurance independently of your employer, you can go to a specific insurance carrier or an online broker that sells policies from different companies. If you know what kind of insurance you want, you can get quotes online or with a phone call.
The advantage to getting online or phone quotes is you can get pricing information quickly and then compare quotes. If you go that route, it’s helpful to have a strong insurance background because you won’t be getting as much guidance as you would through your personal insurance agent. You might be comparing policy options without understanding the differences.

Talk to an insurance agent

Calling or meeting with a personal insurance agent is another way to get life insurance. Some insurance companies offer discounts to customer who bundletheir policies, like having homeowner, auto and life insurance all with the same carrier.
The advantage to using personal insurance agents is they already understand your financial needs and they care about you as a long-term customer. They’ll spend the time to discuss the various life insurance types so you can find the best one for you. The disadvantage to using your personal agent is that they may be tied to only one insurance carrier, so they may not be able to offer you life insurance options from other companies.

What’s next?

Once you’ve chosen the policy you want and gotten a quote, you’ll apply for the insurance. That involves speaking with an insurance agent, even if you got your quote online. The agent will ask some questions and discuss the policy you chose. The agent will also send you paperwork to fill out and sign.
It’s likely that you’ll need a medical examination as the next step. The company will contact you to set up a time. The examiner will come to your home or office for some basic testing, such as determining your weight, getting a blood sample, perhaps an EKG, and listening to your heart.
This entire underwriting process can take a few weeks. Assuming everything checks out, the insurance company will send you the policy approval and ask for payment, if you haven’t already given a deposit. The premium might be different than in the original quote, depending on the results of your  medical exam and risk category.