Some Things Your Car Insurance Company Won’t Tell You

1. How to determine the value of “total loss.”

Most companies will tell you that they use at least three methods or schemes to determine the actual a totaled vehicle’s value including value books, computer-generated quotes from dealers, and local market research. In this case, you will probably think that local area is your current neighborhood, but it is not specifically defined by the insurer. If, in any case, the company cannot find an auto replacement in your neighborhood, so they have to find it not from your “local area,” your totaled car’s value is certainly affected. For example, if you currently live in New York, replacing your totaled vehicle in suburbs will be cheaper than in the city. Insurance company will, of course, use quotes from suburbs area as the most-reasonably-priced estimates. The main purpose in totaling a vehicle is to allow the consumer (the insured person) to purchase the same car that is totaled in an accident within the local market. Since they use three different schemes to figure out real value of a totaled car, a consumer may end up with a cheaper car than the totaled one. It is impossible to be sure what value you will get when your company does not tell you how they determine it.

Fortunately, you can do some smart methods to help yourself and your company to do the value determination. First, you have to produce valid proof that your car was in good conditions when the accident occurred; car in good condition has better value than a wreck. Bring a copy of maintenance records including oil changes and inspection by an authorized mechanic. The records will tell your company that your auto was regularly maintained, meaning it was actually in great shape (in terms of appearance and performance) when the accident occurred. Moreover, you probably had special features installed such as multimedia system, anti-theft system, anti-lock brakes, rear view camera, or 5-harness seat belt. The car insurance company may charge you more because of some special upgrades, so make sure that your insurer includes that in the evaluation.

Another good thing is to find at least three dealers and get quotes on replacement from them; make sure all dealers in your local area or at least within short driving distance from your home. Present the quotes to your insurer and ask your insurer to provide a list of some car dealers who probably can provide a car for the price listed in the quotes. If you are not satisfied with the company’s value determination or you get less than you expect, you can choose to do mediation. So, meaning you present the case to third party (neutral) to get help to settle the dispute, or arbitration, or you can even request a formal inquiry to the court.

2. If you want to cancel your policy, do it officially

Most companies say that consumers can cancel their policies at any date, but you need to notify the insurer concerning the exact date you want to end the coverage. The statement is clear enough; in other words, it says consumers have to notify their companies when they want to cancel their policies. However, consumers often think that when they ignore the last bill before renewal, the company will automatically end the policy. Too bad, this is not how it is done. People can forget and deliberately miss a bill, and the company totally understands that. After this first missed bill, your insurer is going to send you one more bill for premium payment; if you don’t pay the bill, you will be cancelled for non-payment, and the record will hurt your credit score.

What you should do when you want to cancel auto insurance policy is to let the company know that you are canceling. Please make sure that you provide a specific date; it helps you avoid being totally uninsured for a certain period, time, term. The cancellation request will be sent to you, and all you have to do is to put your signature. It is recommended that you carefully check the document before signing it. Some companies may require you to provide valid proof that you indeed have another coverage before they can approve the cancellation. If you’ve financed your car, the dealer needs the updated policy information because valid proof of insurance is required in the purchase contracts.

Credit history still matters

The use of credit information to determine approval and premium rate is still common, despite the fact that some states already started to ban such practice. Some (if not most) companies use the credit history to generate risk score. They believe that it strongly linked or correlated to the likelihood of the consumer reporting a claim. More likelihood of filing a claim is exactly the same with high-risk driver that usually also pays more expensive premium fee compared to “safe-driver” or “the preferred class.” The preferred consumers are those with stable credit card history as it suggests financial stability, meaning they are not likely to miss a payment. People of this category are safer consumers to insure compared to people with shaky credit history. Auto insurance companies do not like consumer who pays sporadically or changes accounts quite frequently.

There are some credit card issuers who offer free credit score checking, but in most cases, you need to pay for the service. Unlike credit score, risk score for insurance-related matters will not be available for you, but both probably indicate the same thing which is financial stability. If you are currently in the market to purchase auto insurance, and it turns out that you have quite unusual activity on your credit history within only certain time frame, you can wait until one month to allow the credit activity to go back to its usual condition. If you cannot keep the credit score stable, prepare yourself to pay more expensive premium fee.

3. Budgeting by installments is not always efficient.

Installments can pay almost all items, and consumers think that it is indeed the best way to budget the expense. When it comes to auto insurance, you can ask the company to divide the annual premium into a monthly basis, quarterly, or on six month. Please put in mind that dividing the annual premium will cost you “fractional premium.” You can consider this additional service fee to arrange the installment. It can be as cheap as $10 per payment; the more you break it down, the most fractional premium to pay.

Most companies will probably offer you to pay in installments since it makes more money for them. When you apply for insurance, it is wise to ask whether there is any additional charge for installments option, and then you can compare the difference. If the fractional premium is not very expensive, then perhaps it is worth it. Another big difference between upfront payment and installments is that certain companies will immediately cancel your coverage if you miss one payment; even worse, they can do it without notification. It is best to pay up front if you can; the entire process will be easier, and you can indeed save few dollars.

Every vehicle model and type has certain premium rate

Of course, you all know that sport cars need more expensive insurance policies than a van, but insurance companies will not tell you the exact numbers. In general, it is true that attractive, sporty, luxurious car with turbocharged engine will go very quickly on the road, and it increases the risk of accidents, but this is not always true considering the discounts for safety features, security features, mileage (especially when you drive it less), etc. Auto insurance companies have a specific system to know the premium for all car models you can buy, based on the system rating by ISO (Insurance Service Office). Every type of car is rated from 3 to 27; higher number means a higher premium. Insurance Service Office says that it will not release the rating system for publication because its clients are insurance companies.

You will not get the rating system from your insurer; you may not even find it anywhere at all. The best thing you can do when you want to purchase a new auto is to ask the insurance how much insurance premium you need to pay for a new car that you want to purchase. If you keep a good relationship with an independent agent, he/she should be able at least to predict the price based on raw calculation.

4. Filing claim increases your premium.

People are always interested to see insurance companies reduce premium fee to attract potential customers. It is indeed one of the best things customers get from the competition in the market, but your insurer can increase the price right away after you file your first claim. The industry standard is to increase premium fee up to 40% of the base rate after first-at-fault accident. With the help of an online car insurance calculator you get a base rate of $500, your premium increases by $200. Some companies have different rules, but there is always a big chance your premium will go up after the first-at-fault claim. Some insurers offer “first-accident forgiveness,” meaning your first actual claim will not affect the premium at all, but the variable and requirement for eligibility can be different from company to company. You should ask your insurer if such discount is available and how to qualify for it.

Perfect Gifts for People Who Have Everything

All of us have those people in our lives who seem to have everything. Ties? They've got hundreds. Candles? Watches? Books? Good smelling lotions? They already have so many, they had a rummage sale last summer to sell all the extras. Even gift cards seem silly in these situations. To make matters worse, with the ever-growing health-consciousness in America we can not just fall back on the huge box of chocolates. For the holidays this year, I found the perfect solution: down feather beds! Five of the dearest people in my life got feather beds, and one down comforter and down pillows. All of them were rushed!

Down bedding makes wonderful gifts for several reasons. First, they are gifts that you know will not be stuffed in a closet somewhere and forgotten about. The hardest part is simply putting the feather bed on the bed. Once that is done, all the recipient has to do is crawl between the sheets! My favorite gifts are the ones that I can use for years and remind me of the person who has it to me. For example, a coffee mug tree has been on my kitchen counter since the day I received it from my aunt. I love it because it saves space, displays my favorite mugs and reminds me of her every time I have my morning coffee! What better way to show someone you love them, than by giving them something they can sink into each night and drift to dreamland thinking of you?

Second, feather beds truly improve quality of sleep when sleeping on one. By providing extra loft, the feathers take the pressure off your body and let you sleep longer in one position without having to toss and turn. With improved technology, down filled beds and comforters no longer come with a host of allergens attached either. Down used to be an impossible potential for allergy sufferers. Now, manufacturers have found ways of removing the allergens completely. Some of them even wash the feathers up to 800 times! (I have allergies myself and have never had a problem with either my feather bed or down pillows.) For the health-conscious people in your life, this is perfect. Forget the chocolates, bring on the feather beds and some high quality Z's!

Third, feather beds are one of those things that most people will not buy for themselves. It's not a necessity, so those on your gift list are not going to make room in a budget for it. On the other hand, I have never met someone who does not want a feather bed . What a joy to watch your loved one tear off the wrapping and open something he / she has always wanted, but never had! And it is not just adults who love them- my best friend bought one for his 11 year old son for Christmas this year and he squealed with delight almost as much as he did when opening the Dsi he was being asking for all year!

Birthdays, Christmas, Valentine's Day, any time you want to show someone you care is the perfect time to get a perfect gift for that someone who has everything!

Thunder Megaphone – A Glacial Valley Can Focus and Amplify Thunder Into a Most Extraordinary Sound

We’ve all heard thunder, and we all know what causes it. Many of us have heard two distinct kinds of thunder, but perhaps we never really noticed or thought about it. Recently, I heard a third kind of thunder.

“Ordinary” thunder – a thoroughly extraordinary sound, but the kind of thunder we hear most often – happens when lightning occurs at some distance from the observer. The initial sound of the lightning bolt echoes off surrounding objects and air masses. Because it is echoed so many times, the thunder stretches out into many, many seconds, even though the initial sound might have lasted a second or two at most. Moreover, because the initial sound echoes off soft things with indistinct surfaces – clouds, thermoclines, and weather fronts – and because many echoes reach the ears of the observer at different times, the original sound is greatly distorted. Almost all high frequency components are filtered out, and the observer hears mostly a low-pitched rumble.

When lightning strikes very close to the observer, within a few hundred feet, the sound is entirely different. The observer might not hear echoes of the thunder at all, but only the pure initial sound. It is a single, sharp, intense “POW!” It may be followed by a much quieter, but still loud, whistling or hissing sound.

But what about that third kind of lightning?

I was camping alone in Crawford Notch State Park in northern New Hampshire, when thunderstorms began rolling into the valley just after dinner. I tidied up my campsite just before the rain started, then retreated to my tent. One thunderstorm passed without much incident.

Darkness had fallen by the time the second thunderstorm rolled up from the south. I occupied myself by counting the time interval between lightning and thunder to track the movements of the storms. Fifteen seconds before the thunder rolled up from somewhere west of Mount Bemis, and I knew the storm was just under three miles southwest of me. Seven seconds between the flash and the rumble beyond Frankenstein Cliff, and I knew the storm was passing nearly a mile and a half to my west.

And then it happened!

A flash. I counted eleven seconds. And I heard a sound unlike any thunder I had ever heard before.

The cacophony included at least half a dozen rapid repetitions of the “POW!” of a nearby lightning strike. But at the same time, there was the rumbling and roaring of “ordinary” thunder, but much, much louder than usual.

Before I could figure out what that sound was, there was another flash somewhere to the north. Again I counted eleven seconds, and again I heard that utterly incredible crackling and powing and rumbling and roaring.

This time, I figured it out.

It was a lightning strike right within the upper reaches of Crawford Notch just a couple of miles north of me. It was right within a gigantic stone megaphone formed by Webster Cliff on the east, Mount Field and Mount Willey on the west, and the old glacial cirque of Mount Willard for a backstop on the north.

And this 1,500 foot deep, three-mile-long granite megaphone was pointed right at Dry River Campground.

Yes, the beautiful U-shaped glacial valley of Crawford Notch is a nearly perfect megaphone, albeit open on top. The bare stone faces of Mount Willard and Webster Cliff echoed the initial “POW!” of the thunder almost undistorted. The western slope of the notch is a bit more heavily wooded, but there’s enough bare ledge and rockslide there to provide a pretty good echo. The open top of the notch was covered by the underbelly of the thunderstorm itself, which provided enough of a soft echoic surface to create the usual rumbling of thunder in addition to the clean “POW!” echoes off the rock faces.

But all of this sound was extraordinarily loud because of the megaphone that focused it all right on me and my campsite.

After I got this all figured out, there was a third lightning flash in the north. Yes, eleven second later, there was that glorious, unearthly sound again.

I wondered why I had never heard this kind of thunder before. I have probably experienced thunderstorms in Crawford Notch at least a dozen times over the years, but never heard the Thunder Megaphone.

My best guess is that I probably have heard it before, but never noticed it. Most of the times I’ve camped there, it was with a crowd of friends and family. Much goes on when a thunderstorm rolls in. Ponchos have to be broken out and put on, while at the same time, various disorderly what-nots need to get stashed into cars and tents before they get soaked. There is a bit of yelling and shouting to be done, and paradoxically among the mayhem, kids and dogs need to have their fears calmed. Meanwhile, tarps over the tents and picnic tables are flapping in the gales, making a poor imitation of thunder themselves.

In all my 25 years camping in Crawford Notch, this may have been the first time I experienced a thunderstorm while I was camping there alone. There was no tarp over the tent, and I had anticipated the thunderstorm well enough to get everything into the car long before the rain started.

So, when the lightning and thunder came, I had nothing to do but observe.

What a treat!

I half hope we get a thunderstorm the next time we go camping in the mouth of the Thunder Megaphone.

Summer Vacation – Preparing For Your Summer Vacation

We all know that planning and preparation for anything goes a long way to minimizing problems later. There is no better example of this than taking a summer vacation. Are you thinking about this year’s summer vacation? If you are, have you already started planning and preparing for your vacation or trip? Why not?

There is actually no excuse as there are a large number of planning and preparation tips available for summer travelers online, in seasonal magazines, even from some travel agents. Having said that, some advice may put us off because it pertains a specific location or country. When planning and preparing for your summer vacation, however, we are encouraged to keep our destination in mind.

No matter what your vacation destination is, you will need to take the time of year and the climate conditions at that time into consideration. If you are visiting a tropical location, you will need to bring along the appropriate clothing. Bathing suits, shorts, t-shirts, and tank tops are common appeal found at beaches and aboard cruise ships. While you may be expecting warm and sunny weather, it is still advised that you prepare for the worst. Raincoats and an umbrella may be a great addition to your summer clothing.

Need a very good example of this? What if due to a miscalculation or a mistake in planning, you ended up at your tropical destination during their “rainy” season!!!

No matter where you are traveling to, overseas or even in your own country, I would encourage you to always have the proper forms of identification. For example, living here in Spain, we are obliged by law to always carry proof of identification which may be an id card or passport. Although this is not the case in all countries, it really isn’t worth neglecting this.

Part of our planning and preparation for our summer vacation is considering all possible eventualities. So, I would strongly encourage everyone to have the following documentary proof with them while traveling…

  • Passport
  • Driving Licence
  • Health Insurance
  • Car Insurance
  • Car Rental Agreement which may include the car insurance

For many the most popular summer vacation destinations, especially in southern Europe, are the coastal regions and the beaches. Each year millions of individuals and families flock to beaches. If you are spending your summer vacation at the beach, or you know that a great deal of time will be spent there, it is important that you bring along the appropriate clothing and sunscreen.

Believe me, I know from observing painful experiences that many of us still do not realize the dangers of sunbathing or just being out in the sun without sunscreen. The worst is when I have seen young children having a great time in the pool during the hot summer months here in southern Spain. I have then seen them the following day with painful looking blisters and sores because they had not used sunscreen or enough of it.

Always have sunscreen and plenty of it. In addition to sunscreen, you will need to make sure that you have beach towels and plenty of water or liquids on hand.

Cruises are becoming more popular as a summer vacation choice for many individuals and families who are looking for something different. If you are taking a cruise, you are advised to start preparing for your trip as soon as you book your reservation. Unlike many other vacations, a cruise often requires a larger amount of planning and preparation.

When preparing for your cruise, it is important to keep in mind where your ship will be going and what stops are planned as part of the itinerary. When on international waters or traveling to a foreign country, a passport is required.

Please don’t make the mistake of leaving this too late if you do not have a passport. Each country has its own process for receiving and approving applications. Make sure you know what to do in yours.

I have not only seen the disappointment of people who have had to cancel their vacation and lose money, I have also seen all kinds of problems arise mid vacation when passports expire. Don’t take the risk.

We all have our favorite things we take on vacation. This can range from tooth paste and soap to washing detergents. People take all sorts of things with them – just in case.

For the most part, if you forget to bring along certain supplies you can always find and purchase replacements. The only downside to purchasing what you need at your vacation destination may be the price. Popular vacation destinations may have inflated prices. Others will surprise you at how inexpensive your favorite brand is.

With the recent increase in airport security and new travel restrictions, we may all need to accept that we will need to wait until we get to our destination before buying certain products. Part of our planning and preparation is to check what we can and cannot take in our luggage.

There’s a final point I wish to make about summer vacation or any vacation preparation. We all need to make sure that we can make contact and be contacted by others.

Make sure you have the details of all the important contacts you may need at a given time. This may be family or friends. It may be your country’s consulate or your car rental company. The point is, just think how much easier it will be if you have the details at hand.

Equally, develop an itinerary and give copies of your travel plans to those that need to know so that they can contact you should the need arise.

I cannot over emphasize how important the preparation for your summer vacation is. To some, preparing for their vacation may seem a daunting task. To others, it may seem unnecessary or even boring.

How ever you may regard preparing for travel or vacations, please ensure you follow the tips suggested as well as any others you can think of.

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