The Most Popular 2012 Vehicles in Portland, Maine (our corner, anyway)

The Portland Maine area economy shows signs of life this spring, including car sales. With roughly half of the model year behind us, we thought it might be fun to share which new vehicles our clients have chosen.

We don’t pretend that this is a scientific survey of which cars are the hottest selling, or that it reflects any trends beyond simply what our Portland Maine insurance agency‘s clients have chosen to buy or lease. However, we suspect it’s a reasonable cross-section of local consumer behavior.

It would be interesting to compare these results against prior years, when $4.00 per gallon gas was a distant threat instead of a reality. We do notice that the best-selling models lean mostly towards the fuel-efficient end of the spectrum.

 

 

 

Car Buyers’ Insurance Tips

If you’re thinking about buying or leasing a new vehicle, here are a few tips for saving money on insurance and making sure you have the proper coverage:

  • Check Insurance Prices – Vehicles that seem similar can have very different insurance costs. Call your agent for a quote, or get car insurance quotes from 5 different companies at once from our online quote service.
  • Consider Increasing Your Deductible – Generally, new cars cost more to insure than older ones. They’re worth more, and are more expensive to repair. To keep costs down, consider increasing your physical damage deductibles.
  • Get the Discounts You Deserve – Insurers offer car insurance discounts for all sorts of things, from air bags to being a non-smoker, anti-theft alarms to having a student on the honor roll. Some even offer special discounts for certain types of vehicles, such as hybrids. Contact your agent  and tell them about all of the features of your vehicle.
  • Don’t Buy Coverage You Don’t Need – Many vehicles come with a roadside assistance plan. If you purchased AAA or your insurance policy includes roadside assistance, consider whether you want to drop those. This can save you money. Just remember to add it back on when your new vehicle’s roadside assistance benefit stops.
  • Combine and Save – If you have your property and auto insurance with different companies,  now’s a good time to combine them. Insurers offer substantial insurance discounts when they insure both your property and vehicles.
  • Review Coverage on Your Other Vehicles – Maybe you have an older vehicle that’s not worth as much as it once was. When is it time to stop insuring collision and comprehensive coverage? That’s up to each individual’s risk tolerance, but it’s a good time to consider it, anyway.
  • Mind the Gap – New vehicles deteriorate rapidly at first. If you made a low down-payment, your loan or lease could be “upside down.”  If your vehicle  was declared a total loss, the insurance company would pay the “book value”, which may be less than what you owe the finance company. An inexpensive optional coverage called Loan/lease gap would pay the difference. Talk to your agent about this potentially important coverage.

Avoiding Used Underwear & Red Cross Socks for $10 a Month

You rent a house, condo or apartment. Maybe you’ve been meaning to buy renters’ insurance.  Or maybe, you’ve been thinking something like this:

My Stuff Isn’t Worth Much

You think you have minimal furniture, electronics and clothes. But, you acquired it a little at a time; maybe you even bought some of it used. After a fire, you’re going to have to replace it all at once, and in a hurry. Even a 1-bedroom apartment easily holds $10,000 of stuff – more if you have a decent computer or a hobby like photography, mountain biking or music. That’s more than most of us have in the bank.

When you get Maine property insurance buy replacement cost coverage; it’s always worth it. Otherwise, the insurance company pays you “actual cash value”: the difference between replacement cost and depreciated value.

Replacement cost =  cost of new underwear in the store.

Depreciated Value = what I’d pay for the stuff in your underwear drawer (not much).

My Landlord’s Policy Covers Me

Your landlord’s insurance (IF they have any) covers them, and them alone. Whether the plumbing leaks on your sofa, a fire burns up your apartment, someone steals your computer, or someone slips on an ice cube in your kitchen, you have no insurance unless you buy it yourself.

I Can’t Afford It

Renters’ insurance is cheap: often less than $10.00 a month. That’s a few cups of coffee. Know what you really can’t afford?

  • To replace all your stuff (“new for old”, right?)
  • To rent a hotel room while your apartment is damaged.
  • Medical bills if someone falls in your house or your dog bites someone.
  • That fancy vase you accidentally knocked over in that gift shop on Exchange Street.

 

My Friends/Family/ The Red Cross Would Help Me

Your friends and family rock. And they mean well. But, do you really want to wear your sister’s hand-me-downs; move back into your old bedroom in your parents’ house; or  have your brother say ” you owe me one”? No, you don’t.

The Red Cross is amazing. There they are on the TV news, delivering clothes and putting people up for a few days when they’re burned out of their homes. But, you probably don’t want to be that poor girl on the news. It’s always better to pick out your own clothes and choose your own place to stay.

If you live in the area of Portland Maine, renters insurance quote is just a few mouse clicks away. Or, you can contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541. We represent several insurance companies, so we can compare to find the best deal for you.

You Can’t Guarantee The Weather – But You CAN Insure It!

Many southern Maine jewelry store customers were hoping for snow on Christmas Day. Why? A local jeweler ran a well-advertised promotion promising free jewelry if it snowed on December 25. How can they afford to take that chance? We don’t know for sure, but we hope they consulted their local Maine insurance agent. While our agency had nothing to do with this promotion, we have helped clients reduce their risk by selling them weather insurance for special sales or events.

Can a Business Insure Against Bad Weather?

You bet! Let’s say your business plans an open house or a big one-day sale. You advertise heavily for 2 weeks before. You buy extra inventory, and add extra staff to take care of demand. But, a heavy snow storm keeps your potential customers at home, and you lose a lot of money. Or, you could buy a weather insurance policy to help recoup part of those costs, and cut your loss.

Can a Business Insure Against a Rainy Summer – or a Warm Winter?

What if your minor league baseball team suffers through a rainy summer? Or your tubing hill business encounters a warm, dry winter? Your organization might lose all sorts of same-day revenues: walk-up tickets; concessions; parking income, and more. A customized weather policy might pay a set amount if more than a certain number of game days have a specified amount of rain. A snow-area business could insure a mild winter in the same way, thereby stabilizing their income.

How Does Weather Insurance Work?

Like a good news article, weather insurance addresses the 4 W’s: What, When, Where and Who. As long as the event is measurable and the terms are specific, it can be insured. The price depends upon the terms. For example, if 6 inches of snow fall at a specific address in Portland, ME between 12:01 am and 11:50 pm on December 25 as measured by the National Weather Service, the insurer pays an agreed amount or percent of  a pre-determined period sales. Decrease the number of inches and you’ll pay more premium; shorten the sale period, you’ll pay less.

Fifteen Businesses That Might Buy Weather Insurance:

  • Florists and Nurseries – for big pre-season open house or important Spring and Fall weekends.
  • Candy Stores – The last few days before Valentines Day are key!
  • Golf courses – Insure against late snowstorms that can put a season on hold.
  • Baseball teams – Rainouts mean lost revenue.
  • Farmers’ Markets – Ever notice that it seems to rain EVERY Thursday?
  • Snowmobile dealers – Reduce the risk of overbuying inventory in a dry winter.
  • Ski resorts – It’s tough to make snow when in 40 degree weather. Even out budgeted revenue projections by insuring against warm weather.
  • Tour companies – It’s a short season already. One rainy month can cause disaster.
  • Car washes – Although I always seem to wash my car right BEFORE it rains, very few of us actually wash them WHILE it’s raining. A summer of rainy weekends means business lost forever.
  • Jewelers or Car Dealers – High-ticket items are perfect for attention-getting giveaway promotions.
  • Hotels & Motels – To level out income fluctuations when reservations are canceled due to weather.
  • Festivals and Events – They’re expensive to put on, and it’s often tough to have a successful “rain date”.
  • Beach parking lots
  • Film Production Companies

The possibilities are almost endless.

Where Can You Buy Business Weather Insurance?

Several online options offer “self-service” weather insurance. Being a Maine independent insurance agency, we recommend using the services of an agent or broker. It costs exactly the same.  A Maine  business insurance expert can help you determine your needs and work within your budget. They can also help you evaluate the market, to assure that the insurance company is reputable and financially secure. And, they can help you if you need to file a claim.

For more information about business weather insurance, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541.

Recent Law: Texting & Driving Illegal in Maine

As of this week, Maine is the 33rd state to ban texting while driving. The recently enacted law includes a minimum $100 fine for drivers caught sending electronic messages including texts, emails or instant messages from a mobile device.  The law stops short of banning hand-held cellphone use by drivers. Several Atlantic states, including Connecticut, New York and New Jersey prohibit drivers from using hand-held devices.

map of texting bans by state as of Sepember 2011
source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (iihs.org.laws/maptextingbans.aspx)

It remains to be seen whether Maine auto insurance rates increase for drivers who are caught texting while driving. More likely, scofflaws may lose Maine Auto Insurance Discounts if their MVR (motor vehicle record) shows a violation.

It’s unclear how Maine commercial vehicle insurance policies might be affected if a business’ fleet drivers are ticketed for texting & driving.   In general, commercial underwriters have a higher threshold for violations before surcharging a policy.

If you have questions about your personal  auto or business vehicle insurance, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agency in South Portland at 207-799-5541. You can also request a Maine car insurance quote or a Maine business insurance quote on our web site.

Am I Covered if a Falling Satellite Hits My House or Car?

I realize I’m out of the loop, but was I the only one surprised to wake this morning to news that a huge piece of space junk is headed straight for Earth?

As usual, my friend Sabine was way ahead of me. She had already tweeted this insurance question (and blog post idea!):

 

 

The Answer to Every Insurance Question is: “It Depends”.

If you have  Maine homeowners insurance, business property insurance, or anything other than the most basic kind of property policy, you’re covered for damage caused by “aircraft, including self-propelled missiles and spacecraft”.

If you have  Maine car insurance, commercial vehicle insurance, or contractors’ equipment coverage, and have included “other than collision coverage”, you’re covered against hurtling space junk. If you bought “liability only” coverage, you’re taking your chances.

Fortunately, your chances of getting hit are infinitessimally low. Probably.

If you live in Southern Maine, and  have questions about your insurance, our Portland area insurance agency can help. Call Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541. Or, post on our wall by finding Noyes Hall & Allen on Facebook or tweet us @NHAIns on Twitter.

 

Do I Have to Wait for the Insurance Company Before Repairing Maine Storm Damage?

Hurricane Irene visited Maine yesterday. Fortunately, the southern Maine wind damage was mostly limited to fallen trees and limbs – at least judging by our clients who contacted us to report an insurance claim.

The most common claim question today is “A tree fell on my house. Can I remove it, or do I have to wait for the insurance company to inspect it”? As this prior post explained, fallen trees aren’t always covered by insurance. But, if a tree lands on your home or other structure, your homeowners or business policy probably covers both the damage it causes and the cost to remove it.

Generally, it’s fine to remove the tree from your home or driveway to assess the damage and to  make temporary repairs to preserve your property. You don’t need to wait for the insurance adjuster to see it; they can usually tell what happened by the scars that the tree or limb left behind.

5 Things to Do if a Tree Falls on Your Property

  • Document the damage with digital photos or video.
  • Take action to preserve your property from further damage. Remove the tree from the structure, make temporary repairs, or move property indoors.
  • Save damaged property for the insurance company to inspect.
  • Schedule – but don’t begin – permanent repairs. Repair contractors are very busy after a natural disaster. The earlier you schedule your job with a reputable, experienced and insured contractor, the better the chance of your property being repaired faster. Do not start repairs until the insurance company has a chance to see your damage.
  • Report your claim. Noyes Hall & Allen clients can contact an agent to start the process.

If you have questions about Maine homeowners insurance, condo insurance, renters insurance or insuring your Maine business property, call Noyes Hall & Allen at 207-799-5541.

Hitting Miranda Cosgrove’s Bus: A Liability Insurance Fable

If your household is like mine, you have an iCarly fan. Teens and tweens across America were distraught by news that iCarly’s star Miranda Cosgrove’s ankle was broken in a bus accident, causing her to postpone her popular “Dancing Crazy” summer tour. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt.

How Much Auto Liability Insurance Should I Buy?
That’s a question we hear often. Many people who shop for Maine auto insurance have purchased “split liability limits”, which contain separate limits for bodily injury and property damage. On split limits policies, Bodily injury is also subject to a “per person” sub-limit. If you have one of these policies, your liability coverage might say 100/300/50. This means you have $100,000 of bodily injury coverage per person, subject to a $300,000 maximum per accident; and $50,000 property damage.

What If You Cause a Serious Accident?
Let’s pretend that you were responsible for the accident that injured Miranda Cosgrove, and you had those common Maine liability limits shown above.

There were 5 people on the bus. Would $100,000 be enough to pay for any one person’s medical bills? Would $300,000 be enough for all the bus’ occupants? Maybe. Maybe not. What if our fable had a commuter bus full of people? Uh-oh.

And that’s just the injuries from one vehicle. What about the damages from lost income due to the postponement of Miranda Coscrove’s tour? What about any other vehicles that may have been involved?

Who Will Defend Me Against a Liability Suit?
This fable has a knight in shining armor! Your auto liability insurance pays defense costs – regardless of whether the suit is groundless, and in addition to the limits of your policy. As long as you have liability limits remaining, your insurer will defend you.

What if You Don’t Have Enough Liability Insurance?
If you’re legally liable for damages, and your insurance isn’t enough to pay them, two bad things happen.

  • Your defense coverage stops. That means you have to pay for your own legal representation to defend yourself.
  • Your assets and future earnings are fair game. You could be forced to turn your home, investments, savings or other assets into cash to pay the damages. If that’s not enough, the court can garnish your future wages.

That’s a Fable. What Are the Chances?
Fortunately, they’re slim. But, celebrity sightings in Maine are common, especially in summer.  And, you might be unlucky to meet a celebrity in the worst way possible – by accident.

Remember, you don’t buy insurance to protect you from the probable – you buy it to protect your assets from financial disaster.  Buy enough to protect your assets and your future earnings. We generally recommend against split limits, and often suggest that our clients consider Maine personal umbrella insurance. For custom advice about your situation, or a Maine auto insurance quote, contact Noyes Hall & Allen agent at 207-799-5541 – and live happily ever after.

 

Game Changer: Pay as You Drive Car Insurance in Maine – Is Progressive Snapshot a Good Deal for You?

Let’s face it. Everyone thinks they’re a better-than-average driver. Most people think they drive fewer miles than the norm. And lots of us think that we’re paying too much for insurance because we subsidize those who are more aggressive,  less attentive,  less responsible drivers than we are. Soon, we will have a chance to put our money where our mouth is.

For years, green organizations like the Better World Club,  consumer advocates and transportation planners have called for lower insurance rates for people who drive less than average. Some call it ‘pay as you drive”; others call it “usage-based insurance”.

We’ve been watching this issue for years. We’ve shared our reservations about pay as you drive insurance and its cost – not only in dollars, but in lack of professional advice and lost privacy. While the concept sounded intriguing, we haven’t found a product we were comfortable recommending to our clients.

Until now.

“This is Our iPod”

Progressive Insurance is bringing its Snapshot auto insurance to Maine next month. With this product, they’ve refined the concept and addressed many of the concerns that we identified with the previous generation of usage based insurance.

Progressive says “this is our iPod”, a product that will change the way people buy and use car insurance. With Snapshot, Progressive offers discounts for quantity (driving less) and quality (driving better).

We think that usage-based Maine auto insurance has a good chance to redefine how car insurance is rated, and empower consumers as never before. It rewards safe driving habits by offering car insurance discounts for risk-reducing behaviors such as gradual starts and stops, driving fewer miles, and staying off the roads during the most dangerous hours.

Progressive appears to have respected the line between information gathering and privacy invasion. They’ve also removed the cost uncertainty that concerned us in the first generation product. Finally, they’ve integrated a cool feedback tool that allows drivers to self-monitor and compare their driving to others on the road.

We haven’t been fully briefed on Snapshot auto insurance, but these are some of the coolest rumored features:

Discounts!

Depending on your driving behaviors, you may earn up to a 30% auto insurance discount. You’re eligible for your first discount after 30 days. Your “final” discount will be set after your first 6 month policy term. Because the discount is based upon individual vehicle data, a different discount percentage will probably apply to each of your vehicles.

Voluntary and Flexible

You will be able to choose whether or not you want Snapshot or traditional rating. You’ll even be able to choose which vehicles you want to be rated in Snapshot. Let’s say you drive from South Portland to Augusta every day, but your spouse stays home to care for your toddler. You might choose traditional rating for the commute vehicle, and Snapshot for the other.

Truly Rewards Responsible Behavior

Maybe you’re a safe driving advocate, gas mileage fanatic or carpool rider. Maybe you use public transit or commute by bike. Snapshot is the first Maine car insurance that rewards your green behavior with green in your pocket.

We think that this may lead to safer roads, however marginally at first. Snapshot drivers are likely to try to reduce their car insurance rates by driving less and driving more safely. Who knows, maybe classes like Maine Clean Communities EcoDriving Workshop (offered in April for fleet drivers) will become popular with individuals, too?

Professional Advice

Snapshot is not a good idea for everyone. Because it will be sold by an independent Maine insurance agent, you will be able to talk with a professional about your situation, and determine if it’s a likely fit for you. If it’s not, an independent agent has other options for you.

No Up-front Cost

Unlike the first generation of pay as you drive car insurance, you don’t have to pay for the monitoring equipment. Progressive gives it to you; when your monitoring period (about 6 months) is over,  you simply mail it back to them in a prepaid envelope.

Cool Monitoring Tools

You can view your driving data up to the minute online. This just cries for an an update to the Progressive iPhone app. You will be able to see if you are tracking to get a discount within ten days of installing your device. Progressive will report how your driving compares to others. They will report how you drive, when you drive, and how much you drive. You’ll be able to use this feedback to improve your driving – and get a  lower car insurance rate.

Sounds Good. What are the Drawbacks?

Privacy Concerns

The devil of this concept has always been in the details of monitoring and reporting. Just what information does Snapshot capture? With whom is it shared? The Snapshot device is not a GPS. It doesn’t record where you drive – only how and when. It records mileage, speed and time driven. It also uses an accelerometer (the way Toyota’s “glass of water” iPhone app does) to measure hard braking and jack rabbit starts. It transmits this information to Progressive via cell signal.

Progressive says they will not share this information with any third parties. But what if their data is subpoenaed following an accident? We have no doubt that the data would be provided. – and possibly become public information. And, while the device doesn’t have a GPS, it does use cellular technology. It’s not too crazy to think that one could identify where your vehicle is or was by what cell tower picked up your Snapshot signal. Whether that’s good or bad might depend on whether you’re trying to recover your stolen car or whether someone accuses you of causing an accident, and reports your license plate number to the police.

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer privacy advocacy group, has testified their objections to pay as you drive insurance in the past. The publisher of Privacy Journal also expressed concern in this USA Today article. But as long as Snapshot remains an “opt in only” product, you can simply say no  if you think the cost of your lost privacy outweighs the insurance discount.

How Do You Know if You’re a Good Candidate?

Don’t drive much?  Have more vehicles than drivers? Have a “toy” for the weekends, or a truck that you only use for yard work and dump runs? Chances are good that usage based insurance will save you money.

Have Questions?

If you live in the Greater Portland area, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 799-5541. If you live elsewhere, call your Maine independent agent who sells Progressive products. You can also see Progressive’s Snapshot page for more information.

Identity Theft in Maine – Can Insurance Help?

Identity theft has been a hot topic in Maine recently. It’s a nearly unavoidable risk in our digital age. Many of our clients have asked about “identity theft insurance”.  We’re not aware of any insurance that can prevent identity fraud from occurring, or pay for fraudulent charges someone may make on your account. Some of the insurers we represent do offer solutions that can help if your information has already been compromised.

Experts recommend using the  3 D’s” to help you reduce the chance of identity theft, and deal with it if it does happen: Deter, Detect and Defend.

DETER Identity Theft

  • Shred financial documents before you throw them away.
  • Don’t give out personal info to anyone unless you have initiated the contact and know who you are dealing with.
  • Lock personal information at home, especially if you are having work done at your house, or have roommates.
  • Choose complex passwords. Avoid birth dates or easily guessed numbers or phrases.
  • Don’t print your Social Security Number on checks,  carry your card in your wallet, or give it out unless absolutely necessary (insurance agents may ask for it to quote your home or auto insurance; it’s not required, but does provide the most accurate quote).

DETECT by Monitoring Your Accounts

  • Inspect financial statements for charges you did not make.
  • Check your credit report for information that seems incorrect.
  • Be alert to bills that do not arrive as expected.

DEFEND Yourself as Soon as You Suspect a Problem

  • Place a “fraud alert” on your credit reports. To place an initial 90-day fraud alert, call one of the three nationwide credit reporting companies:
    • Equifax:             800-525-6285
    • Experian:          888-397-3742
    • TransUnion:     800-680-7289
  • Close accounts that have been affected. Ask for written verification that the account has been closed and any fraudulent debts wiped out.
  • File a police report.

Identity Fraud Insurance in Maine

Your Maine insurance agency probably sells products that can reimburse you from expenses incurred to help you recover from identity theft.

 Identity Fraud Insurance May Pay for:

  • Cost of notifying merchants, credit agencies and lenders.
  • Lost wages and incurred daycare expenses for time you spend notifying authorities and lenders.
  • A “resolution service” to work with you through the process.
  • Fees for re-applying and re-issuing government-issued personal documentation.
  • Loan application fees for re-applying if your application was rejected because of incorrect credit information.
  • Attorney fees for defense of lawsuits from creditors, criminal charges, or contesting wrongfully incurred tax liability.

 

Identity Fraud Insurance Does NOT pay for:

  • Fraudulent charges on a credit card (these are usually wiped out by the lender, provided you notify them promptly).
  • Extra expenses you may incur because your credit was frozen due to suspected identity fraud.

Many of the insurance companies we represent sell Identity Fraud Expense Reimbursement coverage. To speak with an experienced Maine insurance agent, contact us at 207-799-5541.  For more information about identity theft, we recommend the FTC’s consumer web site.

 

Avoiding Commercial Building Roof Collapse: Removing Snow from a Roof

This week’s snow has accumulated on the roofs of Maine homes and commercial buildings, increasing the risk of collapse and ice dams. The snow has finally stopped in Portland, Maine – at least temporarily. It’s a good time to evaluate whether you need to remove snow from a roof.

High-Risk Areas – Heavy Snow Load Can Cause Roof Collapse

  • Large, flat roofs, or those with less than a 30º slope.
  • Heavily insulated roofs
  • Roofs with previous structural damage or stress.
  • Shaded areas, where snow can freeze into ice.

Evaluate Your Commercial Roof Before Snow Load is Critical

  • Create a plot plan to identify skylights, drains and scuppers, wiring and equipment.
  • Monitor rooftop conditions throughout the winter to identify ice buildup, blocked drains and snow drifts.
  • Use experienced, knowledgeable employees or (preferably) hire an outside contractor.
  • Hire only experienced contractors who can provide proof of business general liability insurance.

Warning Signs of Roof Collapse

  • Improper operation of doors or windows.
  • Deflection of ceiling finishes or exposed beams.
  • Roof leaks
  • Sprinklers moved from their normal positions
  • If you notice these, contact a structural engineer or your local building inspector.

How to Safely Remove Snow from a Roof

  • Do not remove snow all the way down to the roof membrane.
  • Use plastic shovels – never metal – on your roof.
  • Fill a plastic tarp with snow and release over the side of the building, carefully watching where snow is landing to avoid people and property.
  • If using a snow blower, adjust to prevent rotating components from contacting the roof surface.

Most Maine business property insurance policies cover roof collapse. Policies do not typically cover maintenance such as snow removal or other prudent loss prevention measures. If you have questions about commercial building insurance, contact the experienced Maine insurance agents at Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541.

We’re proud to be agents of Acadia Insurance, MMG Insurance and Hanover Insurance,  whose loss control tips which were used in this blog post.