What’s Causing U.S. Auto Insurance Rates to Go Up?


U.S. auto insurance rates increased 7.5% between January 2016 and January 2017. That’s after more than a 5% increase in 2006. What’s driving the increasing cost of car insurance? More accidents? More highway deaths? We hear about 4 major factors combining to make the cost of car insurance go up even faster than overall inflation.

auto & home insurance inflation

Medical and Labor Costs

Insurance pays for two big expenses: auto repairs and medical expenses.  Medical expense prices increased about 32% in the 8 years between 2005 and 2013. Auto repair labor costs have increased too. Also, it costs more to fix a newer car than an older one (see #3 below).

More Crowded Roads

Even if you aren’t driving more miles, your neighbors are. It’s not your imagination: the roads are more crowded. More cars on the road means an increased chance of a crash. Americans drove more that 3 trillion miles in 2015, a 3.5% increase from 2014. That’s the largest annual increase in 25 years. Why? Economists say an improving economy and low gas prices were the main reasons.

Lots of Newer, Hi-Tech Vehicles

Car makers are selling lots of vehicles. And many of them are computers on wheels. Americans bought 17.5 million new vehicles in 2015, a 5.7% increase from 2014. Newer cars cost more to fix than older ones. They also have advanced tech features. Rear bumper cameras are very common now. Front bumper radar and other safety features are available on many models. Even a side mirror likely has “blind spot warning” hardware. If you do get in an crash, chances are the insurance company will have to pay more to fix the other car than it would have a few years ago.

Distracted Driving

You may be the same safe driver you’ve always been. Unfortunately, many others on the road aren’t paying as much attention. A 2013 AAA study found that 2 out of 3 drivers reported using a mobile phone while driving. More than 25% admitted sending a text or email while behind the wheel. The National Safety Council estimates 26% of all car crashes involve cell phone use. Distracted driving increases the risk of a crash as much as driving drunk.

Related Post: Why Did My Maine Auto Insurance Go Up?

Should You Shop Your Maine Car Insurance?

Maybe. Every insurance company files their own rates based upon their experience and appetite. If your insurer had lots of claims in another part of the country, it could be affecting your rates. If you live in Southern Maine, contact a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent for a review at 207-799-5541. We represent many different insurers, so you can compare with one phone call.

Not ready to talk to a human yet? You can still compare prices from up to 6 Maine auto insurance companies online on our web site.

When you chat with us, we can provide personalized, custom, professional advice. As a Trusted Choice insurance agent, we are independent and committed to you.

How Much Insurance Savings Will a Home Security Alarm System Generate?


Maine’s property crime rate is a fraction of most states. We’re very fortunate to live in such a safe area. Even Portland, Maine’s largest city, has a property crime rate only slightly above the national average, and far below most U.S. cities. Sadly, crime still does happen in Maine. Many of our clients choose to protect their property by installing a burglar and fire alarm. Some include low temperature alarms, water flow alarms and other protective systems.

How Much Will an Alarm System Save on Home Insurance?

Let’s put it this way: you would never purchase an alarm system for the insurance discount. You purchase it for peace of mind and to protect your valuable property. But, if you’re going to install an alarm, you might as well get the home insurance discounts you deserve, right?

Which is the Best Alarm System for Insurance Discounts?

This list is ranked roughly from the smallest discount to the largest. Savings are based upon the average Maine homeowners insurance premium of $800 per year.

Smoke Detectors – $16

Working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are the absolute minimum that every home, condo or apartment should have. Smoke alarms save lives. They also save money on home insurance – although very little. There is usually no discount for carbon monoxide detectors. The discount isn’t usually affected by whether your detectors are hard-wired or battery operated, nor how many there are in your home.

Local Burglar Alarm – $16

If you have a bell or siren on the outside of your home that’s connected to an intrusion detection system, most insurance companies will give you a small discount.

Freeze Alarm with Auto-Dialer – $24

This alarm alerts you when temperatures drop below a certain minimum. These are becoming more common with “smart home” systems, and “the internet of things”. There’s no human intervention or monitoring system; the effectiveness depends upon the person answering the phone call and actually doing something about the problem.

Central Station Fire Alarm – $40

This type of alarm is hard-wired and calls a service that’s monitored 24 X 7. If the alarm goes off, the service notifies the fire department. This is considered by most insurers to be a “top shelf” protection plan.

Freeze Alarm with Central Station – $40

This is like a hybrid between the auto-dialer freeze alarm and the central station fire alarm. In a low-temperature event, the monitored service is notified and contacts your heating contractor for emergency service.

Water Flow Alarm with Central Station or Auto-Shutoff – $40

Some of the most expensive winter claims are caused by water running for an extended time. Water damage is also a lot more common than theft or fire. Whether caused by a broken pipe, freeze-up, or a washing machine hose that lets go, water damage and cleanup can be extremely costly. If water stands for an extended time (like when you’re on vacation, or someplace warm in the winter), mold can develop. It’s no wonder that insurance companies reward people who install protective devices to minimize the chance of this type of damage.

Central Station Burglar Alarm – $40

This is like the central station fire alarm, except for burglary. If someone breaks into your home, the monitoring service contacts the police department. Note that the central station alarm credits are additive. If you have a burglary, fire, water flow and low-temperature central station system, your discount might be $160 per year.

Hard-Wired Emergency Generator – $40

Many Mainers purchased generators after Ice Storm ’98, when many towns were without electricity for days. Some insurers offer discounts for permanently installed hard-wired generators. These devices “kick on” automatically when power is interrupted, and require no human intervention. They power the most essential electrical services of a home, including the furnace or boiler, well pump and kitchen appliances. Obviously, maintaining heat during a winter storm can help avoid a costly freeze-up. Certain insurers reward that by providing a discount.

What’s the Best Insurance Company for My Maine Home?

The answer depends upon the unique features of your home: its location, construction, protective systems and more. It also depends upon your family. Do you have pets? A swimming pool? Are you near the coast? As an Independent Agent, Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance offers a choice of several preferred Maine homeowners, condo and renters insurance companies. We can help you find the best match. And, if your needs change, or the insurance company does, we can help you find another – without having to switch agents. Contact a Noyes Hall & Allen agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541, and find out why we say we’re “Independent and Committed to You”.

Make Your Home Safe and Welcoming for Halloween


Halloween is one of America’s favorite holidays. Kids love to dress up, get together with friends, and go door-to-door in search of the biggest and best goodies. Plus, Candy Corn.

Ross Berteig photo (Flickr)
Ross Berteig photo (Flickr)
If your neighborhood teems with little zombies, superheroes and princesses, be sure your yard and stoop are safe and welcoming. A little pre-planning can prevent an accident that could be tragic for kids and their parents, and trying for you.

Here are some pointers for ensuring your house is a safe place for Halloween trick-or-treaters.

Pets First

Many dogs and cats are scared or disturbed by the repeated doorbell-ringing and the parade of oddly dressed strangers. Find a safe and comfortable space in your home, or take them to a friend or family member’s home in a less active neighborhood.

Clean Up

Many Halloween costumes can limit vision. This can increase the chance of tripping and falling. Make sure your yard is free of toys, yard tools, fallen branches or piles of leaves.  Create a clutter-free walking path well before dusk falls this Halloween.

Light Up

Create a well-lit path, and keep your steps and porch brightly lighted. Trick-or-treaters aren’t familiar with your home and yard. If your regular outdoor lighting isn’t sufficient for the high traffic of Halloween, supplement it with solar, string, LED, or glow-in-the-dark yard lights .

Try This Slick Door Trick

Here’s a neat idea: remove the glass from your storm door before trick-or-treaters arrive. This allows you to hand out goodies without opening the door, so kids don’t have to take that dangerous step backwards. Plus, it really freaks the kids out! Bonus: if your door has a solid bottom panel, it can help keep your pets safely inside the house.

Shut it Down

When you’re done for the night, make it obvious by turning all inviting lights off. However, if you’re still offering candy in a bowl on the porch, keep the path well-lit until your sweet treats are tucked away inside the house.

At Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance, we hope your Halloween is all treats, no tricks, and – most of all – safe and fun.

Who Is Liable for Pothole Damage to Your Car in Maine?



Potholes can cause hundreds to thousands of dollars of damage to your vehicle, including flat tires, bent rims, misaligned steering and underside  damage. They can even cause an accident if you lose control of your vehicle or swerve suddenly to avoid one.


What should you do after you hit a pothole? Clients of our South Portland Maine insurance agency commonly ask three questions after they hit a pothole:

Who Pays for Pothole Damage to My Car?

Potholes can appear quickly, and can reappear even after they have been filled repeatedly. Maine law absolves municipalities from liability for damage caused by potholes unless the pothole was reported more than 24 hours before your accident, and untreated.  This is difficult to prove, which means you’re usually not going to get help from city or town hall. Maine State Law is even more lenient with state-owned roads: the state of Maine is never liable for damage caused by potholes.



Is Pothole Damage to My Vehicle Covered by Insurance?

Hitting a pothole, or any other hazard in the road (other than live animals) is covered by the collision section of your Maine auto insurance or Maine commercial vehicle insurance policy. If you purchased collision coverage, your collision deductible will apply. If it is a single-car incident, it’s considered “at fault”, and therefore may increase your auto insurance rates. Your Maine insurance agent can help you decide whether or not you want to file an auto insurance claim for pothole damage.

Will Anyone Else Pay for Pothole Damage?

New car dealers sell a product called “road hazard warranty”. It typically covers road damage to tires and rims, with a small deductible. Check to see if you purchased this warranty when you bought or leased your vehicle. If so, you may be in luck.

"Fix It! Portland." web page.
“Fix It! Portland.”

What to Do if Your Vehicle is Damaged by a Pothole

  1. Pull off the road as soon as it’s safe. Is your vehicle is still OK to drive? If not, call a tow truck. 
  2. Note the date and time of the accident. Take a photo of the pothole and report it. If it’s a town road, report it to your municipality’s Public Works Department. If it’s a state route, report it to MDOT (207-885-7000 in Southern Maine).  The City of Portland has a web page: FixIt! Portland. They also have a mobile app.
  3. If you’re not sure your vehicle is OK, have a repair garage check it.
  4. Call your insurance agent if you’re considering whether to report an insurance claim.


Have questions about Maine auto insurance or Maine commercial vehicle insurance? Want to compare Maine car insurance quotes in 10 minutes? Contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541. We’re independent and committed to you.

Protect Yourself From Carbon Monoxide This Winter


About 20,000 Americans suffer from unintentional carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning every year, including 400 deaths. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if you inhale it.

Know the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Common symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, confusion, chest pain and nausea. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before ever having symptoms. If you suspect CO poisoning, get outside immediately and call 911.

Tips to Avoid Deadly CO Poisoning

Properly use and maintain fuel burning appliances such as your boiler, furnace, space heaters and similar heaters. Have them professionally checked. Ideally, you should do this before the start of the heating season, but it’s not too late now.

Install a quality CO alarm. Check the batteries twice  a year, along with smoke detector batteries.

NEVER use these appliances indoors or in a closed garage:  a generator, charcoal or gas grill, pressure washer or other gas or propane fueled device.

Keep vents and flues clear of debris. 

NEVER leave your car idling in a garage.

Check your vehicle’s exhaust system for leaks to help prevent CO from collecting inside your vehicle.

In Case of Power Outage

NEVER use a gas range or oven to heat a home.

Run generators outdoors only– never in an enclosed space.

Photo of generator

Use flashlights for indoor light – not liquid fuel lanterns.

Use gas or charcoal grills or camping stoves outside – never indoors.

If your home gets too cold, go to a friend’s house or a community shelter.


Our local Maine insurance agency wants you to stay warm and safe this winter. If you have questions about whether your Maine homeowners, condo or renters insurance covers winter storm damage, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541.



Insurance for a Maine Home with a Wood Pellet Stove or Wood Boiler


Wood and pellet stoves and boilers have long been a popular source of heat for Maine homes and businesses. However, the vast majority of Maine homes use oil as heating fuel. Recent increases in oil prices have led to greater interest in alternative heating fuels in Maine. This has inspired technological improvements in wood-burning appliances.

Graph of home heating fuels in Maine 2011Source: US Census Bureau, American FactFinder

Insurance companies are often slow to adapt to new technologies and changing behaviors. This is prudent, since they rely on empirical data and the law of large numbers to manage risk. Their risk is much greater in the early years of adoption.

Maine homeowners insurance companies have carefully accepted homes heated by wood, provided:

  • The wood or pellet stove or boiler is a secondary heat source.
  • The primary heat source is controlled by a thermostat.
  • The stove is UL approved and installed in accordance with fire codes.
  • The insured follows woodstove safety tips.

In 2012, one of the insurance companies we represent, announced that they would insure homes, farms and businesses with certain wood and pellet stoves and boilers as the primary source of heat. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Homes using pellet or wood stoves must have a thermostatically controlled backup heat source, such as oil, propane or electric.

In addition to the traditional requirements listed above, some insurers require the make and model of the wood stove or boiler, and require the appliance to be:

  • Professionally Installed;
  • Self igniting and thermostatically controlled;
  • Fed automatically by auger or gravity from a bulk storage hopper or silo (pellet fuel only);
  • Protected by a sprinkler head above the unit, if required by code.

For more information about insuring your Maine home or business, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance in South Portland at 207-799-5541. Our Trusted Choice independent Maine insurance agency represents many insurance companies.


Preventing Clothes Dryer Fires


Now that the Maine weather is turning cooler, many families will be using their clothes dryers more frequently. As a Maine fire insurance agent, we urge you to be careful when using your dryer to avoid the tragedy of a fire in your home, apartment, condominium or business property.

The National Fire Protection Association estimated that nearly 18,000 dryer fires occurred in the U.S. in 2006, killing or injuring more than 350 people, and causing nearly $200 million in property damage.

Common Causes of Dryer Fires

Clothes dryer fire
Dryer fires cause $200 million damage annually. (City of Fitchburg, WI photo)

The leading cause of dryer fires is failure to properly clean the appliance. Lint can build up in the exhaust duct or the dryer itself. This blocks the flow of air, causing heat to build up to the point of combustion. Another common cause is heat build-up in the clothes being dried. This can occur when clothing that the manufacturer labels to be air-dried is placed in the dryer. Clothing with padding is a common culprit; heat builds up in the dense fabric. Clothes that have been soiled with flammables such as gasoline or paint thinners can also cause fires if they are not thoroughly cleaned first.

Dryer Fire Prevention Tips

  • Clean the lint screen before or after each load.
  • Periodically clean the dryer vent and duct. If you notice that your dryer is taking longer than normal to fully dry your clothes, this can indicate a blocked exhaust duct. Check the outside vent while your dryer is running to be sure that air flow is steady and strong. Don’t forget to reconnect the ductwork after cleaning!
  • Install a metal exhaust duct, not the plastic accordion-style ductwork.  Rigid ductwork is better than the flexible type, which can more easily trap lint.
  • Follow clothing manufacturer cleaning instructions. If the label says “air dry”, don’t put it in the dryer.
  • Keep the area around your dryer free of clothing and clutter.
  • Vacuum behind the dryer to prevent lint buildup.
  • Promptly remove dried clothes from the dryer. Do not leave them in the appliance or piled in a laundry basket.

Following these safety tips can help you avoid having to report a homeowners insurance claim, and keep your property and family safe. If you are looking for a Maine independent insurance agency representing many preferred homeowners and condo insurance companies, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541.

Homeowners Insurance and the Party Host

It’s summer in Maine, the short, sweet season we all wait for. Our social calendars fill up this time of year. From back yards to beaches, function halls to to city streets,  it seems there’s a festival, party, wedding or other event to celebrate every weekend.

If you host a party, are you liable for injuries to a guest? What if you rent a hall? Does it make a difference if you provide alcohol for your guests, or they bring their own? Are you responsible for your guests after they leave? If you are liable, does your Maine homeowners insurance cover you? Here are some answers.

What is Negligence?

To be legally liable for injury or damage, you have to be found negligent. Negligence is a very complex subject. There are entire books written about the subject. But at its most simple, negligence requires 4 things:

  • A duty of reasonable care – for example to keep your steps in good condition.
  • A breach of that duty –  e.g. leaving your child’s tennis ball on the stairs.
  • Harm – injury to a person or damage to property – e.g. your guest, a Division I scholarship pitcher, falls down the stairs and breaks his pitching arm.
  • Proximate cause – e.g. the ball caused the guest to fall, which caused the injury.
Let’s consider some possible party scenarios, and how your Maine homeowners insurance, condo or renters insurance might respond.

Someone is Injured at Your Home

You hold a high degree of care to people you invite onto your premises. If you host a party for your son’s baseball team, you could be considered liable if:

  • someone twists their ankle in a hole in your yard;
  • someone slips on water in your kitchen;
  • your deck collapses when people are on it;
  • someone is injured when horsing around the deck of your pool.

Homeowners, Condo or Renters Insurance – If you’re negligent, the liability section of your policy would pay damages to people who are injured, along with any legal expenses to defend you.

Someone is Injured Away From Your Home

If you rent a function hall or hotel for a wedding  reception, bat mitzvah or other party, you will probably sign a contract. The contract specifies who is responsible for any damage or injury. The hall may ask you for proof of Maine liability insurance. Usually, your homeowners or renters insurance is sufficient. For an large or involved function, you may need to buy Special Event Insurance. Your local Maine insurance agent can help you evaluate this.

Homeowners, Condo or Renters Insurance – Your local agent can help you evaluate the contract and whether the liability section of your policy would pay damages  or legal expenses to defend you.

Hosting a Party With Alcohol

There is a special area of negligence called “host liquor liability”. In short, if you provide alcohol to guests, the chances of injury or damage increase. You may be held responsible for injuries or damage caused by intoxicated guests, even after they leave your premises. The best way to protect yourself is to hire a professional bartender, and ask them for proof of insurance.

What if your party is not at your home? It doesn’t matter; if you are the host or organizer of the party, you can be found responsible.

What if your party is BYOB? You’re still not off the hook. If you allow people to consume too much alcohol on your premises, or allow them to leave while drunk, you might be found responsible for the consequences. Needless to say, if you allow minors to consume alcohol, you can be subject to criminal law and penalties, not just negligence law.

Homeowners, Condo or Renters Insurance – Most policies provide liability coverage for host liquor liability at your home or another location, as long as you’re not charging for alcohol.  No insurance policy covers criminal penalties or defense against criminal allegations.

If you are a Maine resident, and have questions about insurance, we’re happy to answer them. Contact a Noyes Hall & Allen agent at 207-799-5541. We’re independent and committed to you.

Keep Yourself Safe When You’re Out on the Town

Portland, Maine is a fun place to live or visit. It has world-class restaurants, lots of music venues, and bars ranging from polished cocktail lounges to pickled-egg dives. While Portland is a generally safe city, it makes sense to protect yourself at night – especially if you have been drinking.

Here are some personal safety tips to make sure that you end your evening with only pleasant memories.

Avoid Excessive Drinking

Know how alcohol affects your judgement. Everyone is different; you know your limits better than anyone else. Stay well on the safe side of those limits. Trust servers or your friends if they tell you you’ve had enough.

Be a Good “Wing Man”

Look out for others in your party. Watch your friend’s drink if they need to step away, and never leave your own drink unattended. If you lose track of a friend in a bar, don’t assume that they’re OK. Find them, call or text them to make sure they’re all right. If you think they’re making a poor decision (driving when they shouldn’t, leaving with the wrong person, etc.), talk them out of it. They may not appreciate it then, but they will later.

Safety in Numbers

Walk in groups whenever you can, and stay in well-lit areas. Use sidewalks, and walk near the curb to avoid doorways, shrubbery and other hiding places. Look like you know where you’re going – even if you’re not sure. Walk with confidence at a steady pace.

Avoid Conflict

If you find yourself in an argument that seems to be escalating, walk away. Never carry an illegal weapon. Nothing escalates a fight more than a weapon, and someone can get hurt with it – even you.

Protect Your Valuables

If you use an ATM, bring a friend with you, and use an indoor machine if possible. When you’re in a bar, at a show, or in a restaurant, do not hang your purse or bag on the back of a seat. Keep your wallet in your pocket unless you’re paying or showing your ID. Although theft is covered by your Maine homeowners or renters insurance, your policy has a deductible, and coverage for cash is minimal under most policies.

Stay in Safe Areas

Avoid walking near unprotected waterfront areas, alleys or “sketchy” areas. Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you.

Take a Cab

Everyone knows not to drink and drive, but too many people still do. Walking or biking after you’ve been drinking can be just as dangerous.  Fortunately, Portland has plenty of cabs on any given night. Do yourself a favor and take one home or back to your hotel. The cab fare is a lot less than the expense of a DUI, or the loss of your car insurance discounts.

By using good sense, you can keep you and your friends safe when you’re out on the town.

Five Thoughtful Holiday Gift Suggestions – Insurance Agent Approved!

It’s Black Friday, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. If you’re stumped for gift ideas this year, we have a few suggestions for thoughtful gifts that are approved by your local Maine insurance agent.

Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detector

Not only could they save hundreds of lives each year, carbon monoxide detectors are required in Maine before you can sell or rent any residence. They are a inexpensive, easy to install, and a great way to protect those you love.

Data Backup Solution

All electronic and mechanical devices fail eventually. It’s not a matter of IF, but WHEN it will happen to your loved ones. With the popularity of digital photography and music, we risk losing irreplaceable memories and expensive entertainment media.  Why not give a data storage subscription or an external hard drive? A recent study of home computer users indicated that nearly 90% did not regularly back up their data. By giving an easy means to back up their information, you are helping spare someone from heartbreak, expense, and inconvenience. How thoughtful!

Personal Emergency Response System

The “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up” TV ads became the unintentional source of humorous imitation several years ago. But there’s nothing funny about the thought of a loved one being unable to call for help when they need it most. If someone on your gift list lives alone, and has health or mobility challenges, they probably do worry about that scenario. Why not show them that you care about them by giving them a portable call button system?

Tree Pruning Gift Certificate

In our business, we see a lot of damage from fallen tree limbs. Another common question we get is “my neighbor’s tree fell on my property“, which can lead to community discord. Tree maintenance is not for the faint of heart, or the fragile of health. Proper pruning requires special tools and knowledge, good balance, strength and fearlessness. It’s best left to a professional. A gift certificate for a local tree pruning service can help preserve your loved one’s property, health, and neighborly relations.


When you were a kid, didn’t you often wish for a bike? More and more adults are rediscovering the joys of riding a bike. It’s healthy, saves money, is good for the environment, and – most of all – it’s fun! Who wouldn’t feel loved if you gave them a new bike?

The Noyes Hall & Allen team wishes you a safe and happy holiday season.