Adventures in Car Insurance Shopping

Let’s face it. No one shops for car insurance for fun. You’re getting your first car, moving off of someone else’s policy, combining coverage, moving to a new area, trying to improve your coverage – or save money.

Not only can it be a pain, but it can be confusing, too:

The Fallacy of The Caveman
Technology brings all sorts of information and power to the consumer quickly and easily. TV ads stress how fast and easy it is to get a quote. This is a great way to gather information before making a decision – and many consumers use it precisely this way. It’s not such a great way to buy insurance.

The danger is that getting your own quote turns you into your own insurance advisor. The computer will quote whatever you ask it to. Maybe you’ve entered all the information correctly; maybe not. Maybe your coverage is appropriate for your situation; maybe not.

Add to this the fact that not every company offers comparable limits and coverage, and it’s no wonder that shopping is confusing, and why some people report results like this:

Does anyone really believe that they’re getting the same coverage if they pay 10% of what they were before? For that matter, what does $162.00 insurance even cover?

Part of what you get when you consult an insurance agent (like us, for example) is advice on what to buy, and help comparing one company to another.

Check out this guy:

Just because you CAN get a car insurance quote in 15 minutes doesn’t mean you have to make your decision in that time frame! This guy couldn’t even wait for the company’s web site to come back up. Apparently price was his only consideration. But what did he buy? Does he really know that he got a good deal?
Insurance: Just a Promise
When you’re shopping, don’t forget that insurance is only a promise to pay in the event of a loss. Consulting a good local agent usually costs no more than doing it yourself – and an agent can help you decide what to buy, compare different proposals, and evaluate the insurance company behind the quote.
Our recommendation: Use the power and speed of the internet to do your research, but take your time, talk to others and choose wisely.

5 Tips for Hiring the Right Contractor

April is the time of year when many homeowners plan the projects and improvements they’ll make to their property during the coming warmer months.

This is a good year to hire a contractor. The slow economy means that many of them are looking for work (they might even return your phone call!). Many of the “fringe” contractors who appear in boom times have washed out of the market; quality tradespeople tend to have work in good times and bad.

Nevertheless, finding the right contractor isn’t always easy. Here are 5 tips to help you in your search:

  • Seek referrals from friends, co-workers, other contractors, and material suppliers. Keep good notes.
  • When interviewing contractors, ask:
    – How many years they’ve been in business.
    – List of last 5 customers.
    – Where their permanent location is (even if they work out of their home).
    – Any professional affiliations or designations.
  • Certain contractors in Maine must be licensed (plumbers, electricians, oil burner technicians, etc.). For more information on these trades, visit the Maine Office of Licensing and Registration.
  • Get more than one estimate. Beware of bids that seem unreasonably low, and make sure that they include the same scope of work. Ask about the rate for work that wasn’t contemplated before the job, but may be needed after it’s started.
  • Get a certificate of insuranceincluding any subcontractors they may hire. Hire a contractor who buys General Liability Insurance and Workers’ Compensation Coverage. Otherwise, you may pay for damage the contractor causes to your own property, or injuries your contractor or their employees suffer while on your job. Self-employed individuals aren’t required to purchase workers’ comp coverage on themselves, but that doesn’t mean you have to hire them. This is especially important for hazardous work like tree work, roofing and siding installation.

Be sure to know your rights when dealing with contractors. The State of Maine provides an excellent guide that outlines these.

Finally, if you’re adding insurable value to your home (finishing a basement, adding a deck or addition, etc), be sure to contact your insurance agent to increase your homeowners coverage.

Good luck with your projects. If you’re doing any of the work yourself, be safe!

Watch for Moose!

The Maine Department of Transportation recently issued a reminder to motorists to watch for moose on the road. Out-of-state visitors often chuckle when they see “moose crossing” signs, but colliding with a moose is no laughing matter.

Maine averages more than 600 crashes a year between moose and vehicles, killing 22 drivers over the past decade. Nearly 90% of crashes occur between dusk and dawn, with about 80% in darkness.

Moose are dark brown, and therefore difficult to see at night. They are so tall that their eyes do not reflect oncoming headlights. They tend to move in groups; if you see one, they may well be another. Because of their height, the animal is often thrown into the windshield when struck, causing injury and significant vehicle damage.

While many Mainers know that deeer are on the move during November breeding season, many don’t know that moose are more active during their summer mating season.

The DOT has produced a helpful brochure with safety hints, offering advice ranging from driving safely in known moose-crossing areas (operating “within your headlights”) to what to do if you see a moose in the roadway (stay in your vehicle, and don’t try to drive around it), to what to do if a crash is unavoidable (let up on the brakes just before impact).

Southern Maine drivers, especially in urban and suburban areas, tend to think that they’re out of the danger zone. But moose collisions have occurred in heavily populated neighborhoods in Portland, Lewiston-Auburn and Bangor.

Buckle up, slow down, drive carefully and live!

We Fix $9.00 Haircuts

There’s an old story about a hair stylist who ran a successful business by providing consistent service at a fair price. His business grew, and his customers returned year after year. His shop was a fixture in the community.

One day, a discount chain hair salon opened across the street. They put up a big banner in their window: $9.00 HAIRCUTS!

Soon, the stylist noticed that he wasn’t as busy. His phone didn’t ring as much, and walk-in business was down. He saw some of his customers walking into the discount shop across the street. He wondered how anyone could possibly make a living cutting hair for $9.00, and he felt disappointed that his customers were wooed so readily by a low price.

Then, one day it occurred to him. He went to the local sign maker and had his own banner made. He proudly hung it up in his own front window.

It read:

Think about that the next time you’re shopping for a product or a service. There’s a difference between a low price and a good value. If you understand that difference, maybe you should talk to Noyes Hall & Allen about your insurance.