Moving or Relocating to Portland Maine – An Insider’s Guide

Small enough to navigate and make friends easily. Large enough to have plenty of live music, arts and sports. Hundreds of restaurants and almost 20 breweries, Portland Maine is one of America’s hottest little cities. It’s a regular on “best of” lists from publications as diverse as Men’s Journal, Elle Home Decor , Conde Nast Traveler and Time Money. But what’s it REALLY like to live in Maine’s largest city?


 

What’s it Like to Live in Portland Maine?

It’s easy to fall in love with Portland by walking its charming brick streets, eating fresh seafood, and drinking even fresher beer. You can find plenty of flattering and glowing reviews of Portland from locals and travelers alike. But what’s it like to really LIVE here?

Like most cities, Portland is a city of neighborhoods. Each has its own quirky vibe. This cheeky map by a local resident gives you a light-hearted taste of the personality and characteristics of each:

Portland Maine Offbeat Neighborhood Map
Tongue-in-cheek Portland Maine neighborhood map by a local resident.

 

Do I Need a Car in Portland Maine?

Unless you live and work on the downtown peninsula, and can walk 1-2 miles with your groceries, you’ll probably need a car. Like most vibrant cities, parking spots can be scarce. Fortunately, it’s easy to walk anywhere on the peninsula.

The Metro bus  is Portland Maine’s public transportation.  If you’re from a bigger city, you’ll find that buses arrive less frequently than you’re used to. UHaul car-share service has about 8 vehicles on the peninsula. Uber and Lyft operate in Portland, and there are several taxi companies. Our airport (PWM) and Transportation Center are both very close to the city (see “Transportlandia” on the map above). The Amtrak Downeaster and Concord Trailways bus both loop to Boston several times daily. Concord also has a bus to New York City.

Cycling is a popular way to get around (the Portland Bike Commuters Facebook Group has almost 500 members). Maine has some of the most bike-friendly laws thanks to the efforts of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine. You can bike year-round here, although cyclists’ numbers dwindle during our long winters.


Related Post: Portland Maine: Green Living in a Small City


How Much Do Apartments Cost in Portland Maine?

Portland is cheaper than Boston or New York, but it’s still a landlord’s market. Like many popular cities, Portland has had  a very low vacancy rate and a shortage of good apartments. But about 1000 new rental and condo units have been built or planned to meet the demand. Here’s a “heat map” of Portland Maine rents in October 2015:

Portland Maine rent heat map
Portland ME rent heat map, based upon October, 2015 apartments for rent.

The Portland Press Herald recently produced a very cool series of interactive maps of Portland Maine in 2015, showing rents, demographics and lifestyle features of Portland neighborhoods.

Looking for short-term rental between October and May? You might score an off-season cottage rental on one of Scarborough’s beaches or a nearby Casco Bay island (serviced by Casco Bay Lines). Off-season rentals can be a bargain – probably the cheapest you’ll ever pay to live close to the ocean.

Whether you rent an apartment or a cottage, we recommend that you buy Maine renters insurance to protect your property from damage and theft, and you from liability.


 

Related: How Much Does Renters Insurance Cost in Portland, Maine?

 


Can I Afford a Home in Portland Maine?

Portland’s home and condo market is strong. This reflects the desirability of the area and availability of jobs in Portland. The area has a wide range of housing stock, from old to new, townhouses to ranches, contemporaries to lofts. The median sale price in the Portland market in 2016 was $262,000 ($193 per square foot) for homes, and $269,550 ($280/SF) for condos, according to MREIS. Average prices for each were about $40,000 higher, due to the high price of some prime properties. Median pricing increased 7.3% from 2015.

Where Do I Park My Car in Portland?

As in most vibrant cities, parking is a premium commodity in Portland Maine. If your apartment doesn’t offer off-street parking,  get a free residential parking sticker for the area in which you live. This exempts you from 1-or-2-hour time zones on streets near your home. The stickers DON’T exempt you from parking meters, no parking zones, overnight parking, loading zones, etc.

The most hassle-free way to get to local businesses & restaurants is on foot or bike. If you must drive, the city of Portland Maine operates parking meters and pay and display parking stations . Hot tip: Portland Maine metered street parking is free after 6pm and on Sundays.

Portland has several public and private parking garages ($2.00 – $4.00 per hour). There are also private pay-and-display lots, which are NOT operated by the city. These have been controversial, as they will boot your vehicle if you leave your vehicle too long.

Parking Bans in Portland Maine

Portland Maine Parking Ticket
source: maine.gov

 

During winter storms, the city of Portland Maine parking bans to allow public works crews to clear the streets and remove snow. During a Red Parking Ban, no one can park on city streets. This means you! Don’t ignore the ban; your vehicle WILL be towed, and it’s an expensive hassle to retrieve it.  Here’s a list of where to park during a snow ban.

How Soon Do I Need to Register My Car After Moving to Maine?

You should re-register your car in Maine and get a Maine driver’s license within 30 days after moving here.  Here’s are the 3 steps to register your vehicle in Maine after you move here:


 

Related: How & When to Register a Car in Maine

 


Settling In

It’s easy to find arts, sports and cultural events in Portland Maine. Another great way to meet new people is to get out and enjoy the outdoors, learn more about our area, or to volunteer. Here are links to some of our favorites:

We hope you find this information useful as you think about moving to Portland Maine. Greater Portland has been our home for more than 80 years. We love it here. If we can help with insurance in your new city, please contact a friendly local Noyes Hall & Allen agent at 207-799-5541.

 

Does Driving for Uber Affect Maine Auto Insurance?

 

Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) have quickly become part of the landscape in American urban and vacation areas. Portland, Maine got its first Uber service in 2014. Almost immediately, people questioned whether Maine insurance companies exclude coverage for Uber.

The Maine State Legislature regulated TNC insurance by passing LD 1379, “An Act To Establish Transportation Network Company Insurance”, effective June 03, 2015. Key features of the law specify:

  • How much liability insurance TNC drivers must have while logged into the network and not carrying passengers (matching Maine state minimum auto liability insurance limits of $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident for bodily injury/$25,000 property damage).
  • How much liability insurance they must have while carrying passengers ($1,000,000 bodily injury and property damage).
  • That personal auto insurance companies are NOT required to cover TNC drivers while they are logged into the network.

BEFORE You Sign up to Drive for Uber, ASK:

  • Does the TNC provide insurance for you while you’re logged in to the network? If so, at what limits? Do those limits change when you pick up passengers?
  • Does your personal auto insurance cover you when you’re logged in to the network? Ask your agent.
  • Does your auto loan or lease allow you to transport passengers or goods for hire? Many vehicle finance agreements prohibit it. If you do, the bank could consider you in default even if your payments are up-to-date. Read your loan or lease agreement, or ask your lender.

Uber insurance in Maine - quote from Eric Cioppa

Our Advice

Most insurers EXCLUDE coverage any time you’re logged into a TNC network, whether or not you have a passenger. For answers to your insurance questions, call your insurance agent.

 

Does Maine Homeowners Insurance Cover Stuff Away from Home?

 

Clients often ask if their homeowners insurance covers their belongings when they’re away from home. Here are 3 recent email inquiries with common scenarios:

  • I have removed some furniture and other items that were at my condo and am storing them at a warehouse.  Is my stuff is covered under my condo insurance, or do I need to insure the stuff through the company that is storing the items?
  • I’ve rented a self-storage unit for some of items that I don’t have room for in the garage. Are these items covered while they’re in storage?
  • I’ll be renting a condo in Florida for the month of March. Are my belongings covered when I’m away from home?

This infographic spells out the coverage found in most Maine homeowners insurance policies. Your coverage may differ, so check with your Maine insurance agency.

Off Premises Homeowners Coverage

In general, your belongings are covered to 100% of your Personal Property (Coverage C) limit on your Maine condominium, renters or homeowners policy. It doesn’t matter where they’re located, anywhere in the world.

The only exception is if they’re at a residence of yours other than the one listed on your policy. Then, it’s only covered to 10% of your Personal Property limit, or $10,000, whichever is LESS. Presumably, the personal property at that residence would be covered by another homeowners, renters or condo policy.

Keep in mind that certain types of property, such as jewelry and silver, have limited coverage on most policies. Talk to your agent about insuring jewelry on a homeowners policy.

If you need insurance in Greater Portland Maine, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance in South Portland at 207-799-5541.We’re independent and committed to you.

Should I Cancel My Maine Auto Insurance When I Sell or Won’t be Driving My Car?

 

It seems simple: why would I have auto insurance if I don’t own a car? Or if I’m storing it for a long time? That’s a waste of money! Believe it or not, it may make sense to maintain your auto insurance, depending upon your future plans.

Of course most of us know better than to cancel our auto insurance when we own a vehicle. It’s illegal to drive without insurance in Maine, and foolishly risky everywhere. But there are cases when responsible people consider letting their Maine auto insurance lapse.

You’re Not Going to Use Your Car for a Long Time

You’re going on a long trip, sabbatical, or a semester abroad. Your car will be parked while you’re away. It’s tempting to save money by canceling your auto insurance, and start it up again when you return. Here are some things to keep in mind.

  • Someone may need to borrow your car.
  • You may want someone to drive it occasionally to keep it lubricated, rotate the tires, and prevent animals from nesting in it (it happens).
  • Things can still happen to a parked car. Trees fall, garages collapse, cars get stolen, vandalized, or damaged by people parking next to it.

 You’re Selling Your Only Vehicle

Our Portland Maine area insurance agency recommends that you at least consider a “named non-owner” policy – especially if you’re likely to be  without a car for less than a year. Here’s why:

1)      You Might Drive Someone Else’s Car. In the U.S., you’re borrowing someone’s insurance when you borrow their car. But do they have any? If so, how much? Without a named non-owner policy, you would be personally liable if they don’t have insurance, or don’t have enough to pay for the damage you cause.

2)      You Could be Hurt as a Passenger, Pedestrian or Cyclist. Your auto insurance provides medical payments coverage in case you are hurt in a car accident. This applies whether you’re a pedestrian, passenger or cyclist. A $5,000 limit would probably be enough to cover your medical insurance deductible.

3)      You might rent a car. A Maine named non-owner policy would provide liability coverage for vehicles rented in the U.S.  You’d still want to buy the Collision Damage Waiver coverage offered by a rental agency, but wouldn’t need to buy their liability insurance.

4)      You’ll Pay a Much Lower Rate When You Do Buy Another Vehicle. Insurance companies charge a higher premium if you have not had continuous liability insurance. People who have a lapse of more than 30 days typically pay a surcharge, and are ineligible for most preferred insurers’ policies until they’ve had continuous insurance for a year.

What is “Named Non-Owner” Auto Insurance, and What Does it Cost?

Named non-owner auto insurance provides only liability, uninsured motorist and medical payments coverage. It’s designed for people who don’t own a vehicle, but may drive other vehicles, such as rental cars, business fleet  cars, or friends’ or relatives’ vehicles. It covers only the people who are specifically listed on the policy.

Named non-owner auto insurance costs less than regular auto insurance. Rates vary, but are often about 50% of the cost of liability insurance for an owned vehicle. For example, if your current insurance costs $900, and $300 of that is physical damage (“comprehensive” and collision) coverage, a named non-owner policy might cost about $300 per year.

Think about whether  these situations might apply to you, and discuss it with your agent. To compare up to 6 Portland, Maine area auto insurance quotes in 10 minutes, visit our web site, or call Noyes Hall & Allen at 207-799-5541.

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Does a Maine College Student Need Their Own Insurance?

 

If you’re preparing to send a student off to college, your household is buzzing with activity. If your student is a freshman, there’s the added anxiety (for parents AND students) of doing it for the first time.

Many clients ask our Maine insurance agency these questions about insurance for college students:

Does homeowners insurance cover college students’ computers?

Generally, yes. If they’re living in college housing, they’re still considered part of your household. Your homeowners policy covers their books, clothes, jewelry, electronics and other property. What if you have a condo or renters insurance policy? Still covered. Remember, the same coverage limitations apply to property such as jewelry and money.

If your student does not live in college housing, be sure to consult your agent. Coverage can vary greatly in these situations.

Does homeowners insurance cover a “semester abroad”?

If your student is still a household member, your policy covers their belongings anywhere. If they accidentally damage property or injure someone, your homeowners policy defends any suit brought in the U.S.

Need broader protection? Some personal umbrella policies will also defend against worldwide liability suits. This is another great reason to buy Maine personal umbrella insurance.

Remember, NO auto policies cover outside of the US, its territories and Canada. If your student is driving in a foreign country, make other insurance arrangements there.

My child is not taking their car to school. Can I get a discount on my auto insurance?

You bet! There are a few restrictions: The school must be more than 100 miles away from your home, and the student should not have the car on campus. Don’t forget to ask your agent about the “good student discount” on auto insurance and other car insurance discounts.

Should I buy the medical insurance the college sells?

Our agency does not sell medical insurance, so we are not experts on this topic. Ask your medical insurance provider for their advice. If your family has no insurance coverage, then it may be a good idea to buy the college’s plan.

Have questions about Maine auto insurance, personal umbrella insurance or homeowners insurance? Contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541. As a locally owned Trusted Choice independent insurance agency, We represent many of Maine’s best insurance companies. We offer choice as well as professional advice. We’re independent and committed to you.

 

Should I Buy Trip Cancellation or Travel Insurance?

 

A client of our South Portland Maine insurance agency recently returned after wintering in the Caribbean.  She shared the story of a friend who fell on the island, breaking her leg. Fortunately, the travel insurance the couple had purchased saved the day – and thousands of dollars. The injured woman’s husband called the travel insurance company from the parking lot where his wife fell. Within 10 minutes, an ambulance arrived to transport her to the local hospital, where she was evaluated and stabilized. Once it was determined that her leg was broken, they wanted to return home for surgery and recuperation.

The next day, a private jet flew them from the island to their local airport, where an ambulance transported them to the hospital. The bill for the island hospital stay and medical evacuation to the U.S. was over $25,000. Travel insurance paid for nearly all of it. Without travel insurance, they would have been on their own to navigate the medical system of a foreign country. They may not have been able to afford to go home as quickly as they did, either.

Are you planning a big trip? Consider buying travel insurance. High end vacations require a lot of advance planning. Sometimes, the unforeseen happens between your deposit deadline and your travel date. If your plans change or if  the provider is unable to fulfill the trip, it could mean a significant cost to you. Vacation insurance protects you against the financial impact of some of the things that can go wrong on vacation.

What Does Travel Insurance Cover?

Policies differ, but most of  “package travel insurance” policies provide some coverage for:

  • Trip Cancellation
  • Trip Interruption
  • Missed Connection Flight Change Charges
  • Medical Expenses for Emergency Accident or Sickness
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation Expense
  • Baggage Delay, Loss and Theft

The amount of each coverage varies from policy to policy. Some programs also allow you to add optional limits and coverage.

How Much Does Travel Insurance Cost?

The cost of travel insurance depends on:

  • The cost of your trip;
  • Your destination;
  • Age of travelers;
  • Method of travel;
  • Travel dates;
  • Level of coverage you choose.

For example, the cost to insure a $3,700 cruise to the Caribbean for a 50-year old lasting two weeks could cost as little as $161 per person.

What is Commonly Excluded  from Travel Insurance Policies?

  • Certain cancellation reasons (e.g. work, “change of heart”, etc.);
  • Injuries sustained in sports activities;
  • Identity Theft;
  • Political Evacuation;
  • Pre-existing Conditions (unless you purchase coverage shortly after making your travel deposit).

Many programs allow you to “buy back” these coverages.

3 Questions to Ask When Considering Travel Insurance

  1. Does my medical insurance cover me outside the U.S.?
  2. Do my credit cards protect me from trip cancellation?
  3. Does my auto insurance protect me where and when I travel?

If you live in Maine, travel insurance is available from Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance in South Portland. We’re happy to answer your questions and help you evaluate whether travel insurance is right for you. Contact a Noyes Hall & Allen insurance agent at 207-799-5541.

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.

What If You Are Hit by Someone With No Insurance?

The Uninsured Motorist coverage in your Maine auto insurance policy also protects you against uninsured and underinsured drivers. If someone hits you – their fault – and they have no insurance, your policy acts as if they had the same Bodily Injury liability limits you do, and pays for your bodily injuries, and those in your vehicle. It’s the same if the at-fault driver had low liability insurance limits, and you bought higher ones.

Isn’t Insurance Mandatory in Maine?

Yes, in Maine, car insurance is mandatory – at least liability insurance. Maine DMV requires proof of insurance to register your car. So everyone’s insured, right? Not really.

An estimated 4% of Maine drivers are uninsured – and that’s the 2nd best rate in the country. The Insurance Research Council estimated that nearly 14% of U.S. drivers had no car insurance at all.

Repairing Your Car

If you are hit by an uninsured driver, you’ll have to rely on your own policy’s collision coverage to repair your vehicle. That’s assuming that you have collision coverage on your vehicle. If not, you’re on your own to repair or replace your vehicle.

But that’s only half the story: what about the people who buy state minimum liability limits? Maine’s minimum limits are only $50,000 per person, $100,000 per accident, and $25,000 property damage. Is your vehicle worth more than the $25,000 minimum limit? What if the at-fault driver hits more than one vehicle? The minimum-limits driver’s policy only pays a total of $25,000 for all damage.

Out of Staters and Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Mainers are a pretty honest bunch. 96% of them carry at least minimal liability insurance. But what about people “from away”? What’s that nickname on Maine’s license plates again? Oh yeah…

Maine license plate - "Vacationland"

Most of our out-of-state visitors are from the northeast, right? Click on the map below to enlarge it, and you’ll see that of the 10 states within an easy day’s drive of Maine, 2 do not require drivers to buy insurance AT ALL. Six more require per person Bodily Injury limits of $20,000 or less.

Map of uninsured motorist laws by state

In Maine, Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury coverage limits almost always match your own liability limits. If you have less than $500,000 per person in bodily injury coverage, and your agent hasn’t recommended that you increase your limits, maybe it’s time to contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541. We represent several different insurance companies, and will help you find the best value for your individual situation.

Does my Maine Car Insurance Cover Me When I Rent a Car?

 

Summer vacation season is almost in full swing. As a Maine insurance agency, two common questions our clients ask is “does my auto insurance cover me if I rent a car on vacation?” and  “should I buy insurance from the car rental company?”

The answer is a bit complicated.  It may help to look at the types of coverage that the car rental companies offer.  Of course, car rental contracts differ. It’s smart to request a copy of the rental agreement to review ahead of time with your Maine auto insurance agent.

Liability Damage Waiver

 Maine auto insurance policies provide protection for liability you incur for injuries or property damage you cause to others within the U.S. Therefore, it’s not usually necessary to purchase a Liability Damage Waiver from the rental car agency since you usually already have coverage under your own insurance. An exception might be if you have purchased very low liability limits.

Collision Damage Waiver

Rental car agencies typically try to sell “Collision Damage Waivers” (CDW) for about $8 to $15 per day (an annual rate of $3,000+ a year) – pretty expensive for car insurance! These waivers are not insurance. In effect, a CDW simply buys a promise from the rental car agency that they won’t make you repair or replace a damaged or stolen vehicle.

If you already carry collision and comprehensive coverage under your own Maine personal auto insurance, your policy will extend to the rental car. You should carefully evaluate your existing coverage and discuss with your Maine insurance agent whether or not purchasing a CDW is appropriate for you.

BUT…

There may be gaps between the coverage your insurance policy provides and your contractual obligation to the rental company.  For example, many car rental companies hold you responsible for the loss of use of a damaged rental car. Many charge you the daily rental rate for every day the car is undergoing repairs (whether they were “sold out” or not). Maine Law requires your auto insurer to cover verifiable loss of use for the rental company up to 30 days. That’s fine as long as the rental company doesn’t claim more than 30 days lost income.

There are other expenses that most auto policies do not cover. One example is diminished value which can amount to several thousand dollars. Consult your independent insurance agent to find out what’s best for your travel needs.

 

Foreign Travel – You’ll probably have to purchase separate insurance when traveling outside the U.S. and Canada. Some personal umbrella policies may provide liability coverage for rental cars abroad; few will cover damage to the rental car itself.  Again, seek professional expert advice from an independent agent before you leave home.

Check the Vehicle

Protect yourself by checking the car carefully for damage – with a rental company employee present – before you leave the lot and when you return it. Request that all prior damages be noted in writing. We’ve heard about car renters being charged for damage weeks after turning in vehicles. If you didn’t have them check the vehicle when you returned it, there’s no way to prove your innocence.

The Bottom Line

Buying the waivers from the car rental company is the safest way to make sure you have no coverage gap. But, you’ll probably want to weigh the cost of those waivers against the additional risk you assume by not buying them.

We’re happy to answer these and other insurance questions for our clients.  Call us at 207-799-5541.

Bon voyage!

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!