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The Insurance Bundle Myth

One of the biggest myths in shopping for insurance is the insurance bundle discount.

A lot of insurance companies use this to entice customers to put all of their insurance policies with them. It is true that a discount is being offered on each policy but the overall rate of each policy might be higher than if you put each policy with a separate company.

There are very few companies that will be competitive across the board on insurance policies for auto, home, life, health, boat, motorcycle and business insurance.

There is exactly zero companies that will offer the best rate for every customer on all of these insurance policies. It is pretty typical for an insurance company to be competitive on either auto or home insurance policies. Whichever policy they carry a higher premium on would be made up by the competitive rate on the other policy.

Customers should look at all of their policies separately to make sure that they are, in fact, getting the best overall rate on all policy types. This is the value of an independent insurance agency. An independent insurance agent can shop out all of your policies with various companies to determine the best company for you. You would still have one agent for all of your policies and only one person to call to ask any questions you may have, but you would allow them to make sure you are getting the best overall rates.

A lot of times your independent agent can offer you discounts on each policy for carrying multiple policies with the agency which is equivalent to a bundle discount but you would not be forced to have all of your policies with the exact same insurance company.

As I write this I currently have my auto insurance with National General(GMAC), my home insurance with Bankers Insurance Group, my business general liability and workers compensation policies with The Hartford, my life insurance with AIG, and my health insurance with Blue Cross Blue Shield.

The overall rate along with claims satisfaction and ease of doing business should be the most important factors in deciding where to put your insurance policies.

It is also worth mentioning that you should talk with your agent regularly to make sure that your policies are still with the best companies for you. Insurance companies change rates quite often and what may have been the best for you a couple of years ago may not be the best option for you now.

Don’t get roped into words and phrases that advertisers use to make you feel safe and that you are getting the best value. Shop for yourself and see if they are truly the best options for you. Call your independent agent today and have them work for you.

Builders Risk and Vacant Home Insurance

Certain circumstances may warrant you having a different policy for your home than a standard home insurance policy. We will focus on 2 separate kinds of insurance policies; builders risk policies and vacant home insurance policies. We will discuss the differences of each so you can make an educated decision on what is best for you and your needs.

Builders Risk Insurance:

This is a policy that is either purchased by the owner or the builder on a home that is being built from the ground up. A builders risk policy will cover the home while it is under construction. Coverage is also extended to the materials and equipment that are being used to build the home.

Once the home is completed, the policy should be canceled and replaced by either a vacant home policy or a standard home insurance policy. Claims settlement payouts on a builders risk are based on the amount of construction that has been completed. This means that if you are insuring the home at $200,000 and home is 50% complete then they will payout $100,000. This is a very simplified explanation and a true value of the amount completed would be determined on the overall payout.

Vacant Home Insurance:

This is a policy that covers vacant homes that are unoccupied either because it is listed for sale, listed for rent or lease, under construction, or the home is currently not inhabited for other reasons.

It is very important that once a home is vacated for any of the said reasons, that you notify your insurance agent immediately to avoid any possibility of a denial of future claims.

If your home is unoccupied and a claim is filed under a standard owner-occupied policy, the claim can be fully denied or payouts can be significantly reduced. Most home policies request to be notified within 30-60 days from the home being vacated.

2 Types of Vacant Home Insurance Policies

  1. Vacant with Renovations

    This type of policy will cover renovations being done to the home as long as the existing studs and foundation are being used. Some policies require there to be a distinction if there are renovations being done or not so they can rate the policy accordingly. If you are building completely from the ground up, including new studs or foundation, you should purchase a true builders risk policy.

  2. Vacant without Renovations

    This policy is what you should choose if the home is not undergoing any renovations or construction and is either up for sale or rent. These policies are typically cheaper than builders risk policies or vacant policies with renovations since the risk level is typically lower.

If you have questions regarding what policy is right for you, please contact your agent before a loss occurs. Denials of claims or reductions in the total payout can be detrimental due to the large investment value of your home. Our agents are always available for any questions you may have for home insurance policies in NC or SC regarding the above topics. Please contact us at 704-494-9495 anytime.

ONLINE INSURANCE QUOTES

Getting insurance quotes online has never been easier. We are in the technology age where our technology is advancing more quickly than anytime in history. Just think how much has changed in the last 10 years in how we shop, listen to music, watch movies, and access the internet. With all of these advancements in technology, the way we shop for insurance was bound to change as well. We will discuss some of the benefits of shopping for insurance along with some of the hazards as well.

Our website allows users to shop for insurance in 3 ways.

  1. Call a licensed agent.
  2. Get an instant online quote that you can bind yourself.
  3. Input your info into an online form that will be transferred to a licensed agent to shop

Every individual is different with different needs so shopping for insurance should fit those differences as well allowing the user to be satisfied with the results.

Some of the positives in shopping for insurance online are:

  1. Quotes are timely and in many cases instant
  2. Ease of use
  3. You can do it directly on your computer or phone without having to talk with someone
  4. You don’t have to deal with individual sales people
  5. Instant issue of your policy

Some of the negatives in shopping for insurance online are:

  1. You may not get the coverage you need
  2. You can’t ask questions
  3. Certain kinds of insurance aren’t available to be quoted or issued online
  4. You can’t always get quotes from multiple companies like you can when dealing with an independent agent

Many of the online quoting companies are very user-friendly, including our own. However, unless you are a licensed agent you may not understand what coverages will fit your needs. Insurance is extremely important and without the proper coverage, the results can be detrimental.

I still feel that shopping for insurance of all kinds including auto insurance, home insurance, commercial insurance, etc is best when issued and advised by insurance professionals so that you will be adequately covered in the event of a loss. It is for this reason that home insurance policies and commercial policies among others cannot be quoted and especially issued by customers themselves. We offer instant online quotes and the ability to issue your own policy to meet the increasing needs of customers but please be careful with this technology.

When in doubt please call us to ask any coverage questions or advice on what policy would be best for you. Even if you have already issued your own policy it can’t hurt to have a licensed insurance agent look at your policy and make any recommendations for you.

CERTIFICATE OF INSURANCE (COI)

What is a certificate of insurance?
A certificate of insurance is a document completed by an insurance company or insurance agency that lists insurance policy information including company name, policy number, coverage info, and term dates for an insured’s policy or policies.  It is commonly used for commercial policies to show proof of coverage.
Certificate Holder
The certificate holder is shown in the bottom left hand corner of the insurance certificate and reflects the name of the organization or individual that is requesting proof of insurance for the insured.  The certificate holder info requires the holder name and address to be listed.
Additional Insured
An additional insured is the certificate holder that also requests to be listed on the policy as an additional insured and further requests to be notified by the insurance carrier if the policy is to be canceled.  An additional insured has additional rights on the policy that a certificate holder does not have.  There can be an additional fee to list additional insureds on your policy with many carriers.  A box can be checked on each policy to signify that the certificate holder is listed as additional insured.
Sample Certificate
 
A sample certificate is a document that a contractor will send over that shows minimum requirements that a subcontractor must have in order to secure a contract.  The most common policy types, in order, that a contractor will require are general liability, workers compensation or employers liability, automobile liability, cargo liability (for truckers), and umbrella or excess liability.
What are the standard insurance policy types shown on a certificate of insurance?
A standard Acord certificate of insurance has space for some of the most common types of commercial insurance policies.  These common types are shown below in order of how they are listed on the insurance certificate from top to bottom.
General Liability
Automobile Liability
Umbrella or Excess Liability
Workers Compensation or Employers’ Liability
Blank Space/Other
Description of Operations Section
 
This section of the insurance certificate will list other pertinent information of the coverage being listed.  This section can make reference to an additional insured being listed on a specific policy, provide vehicle info on a scheduled auto policy, list information for other policy types, include other endorsements listed on the policy, etc.
Other Common Endorsements 
Some other common endorsement types that can be listed on commercial policies and indicated on certificates of insurance are shown below.
Additional Insured
Waiver of Subrogation
Primary and Non-contributory wording
Any Auto 
Hired Auto
Non-owned Auto
Aggregate Limits Apply Per Project
Aggregate Limits Apply Per Location
Certificates of insurance are a very common request in securing a contract for your business.  These contracts require certain minimum limits of liability from subcontractors and typically proof must be provided before you can begin work for that company.  You should pass that information along to your insurance agent before beginning any work to ensure that the cost of purchasing such policies do not outweigh what you are receiving for doing the work.  The cost of purchasing these policies and endorsements should be considered when you agree to perform a certain service.  A sample certificate of insurance or a list of insurance requirements can be requested up front from the contractor.
If you have any questions as to anything discussed please feel free to give us a call at 704-494-9495.

Non Emergency Medical Transportation Insurance

Non emergency medical transportation is classified as the transportation of any individuals where an emergency situation  does not apply.  The service is usually different from that of a taxi service due to the fact that there is more passenger assistance offered.  The vehicles typically have the ability to accommodate wheel chairs.  Passengers are typically physically handicapped or elderly.  It is safe to say that if you have flashing lights and/or a siren than you are not classified as non emergency medical transportation.  You would be considered emergency transportation at that time.

If the above describes your business than please read on for information on adequately insuring your business.

What types of insurance do I need?.

Commercial Auto Liability

This policy will cover you if you hit anyone or anything.  It is very important that you make sure that your vehicle is not on a personal auto policy or your losses incurred can be excluded.  A commercial auto policy will be required for losses that occur while you are using the vehicle for business use.  Auto liability will cover bodily injury and/or property damages.  It is also highly suggested that you carry medical payments on this policy at the maximum allowable amount by the auto insurance carrier.  That way small accidents will cover any small injuries that your passengers may occur.

Physical Damage Coverage

This is simply the comprehensive and collision damage to your car if you are at fault in an accident.  Again, you will want to make sure your policy is a commercial auto policy or coverage can be denied if you are using the vehicle for commercial use.  You may want to inquire into coverage for any permanently attached equipment to your vehicle as well such as wheel chair ramps.   In the event of a loss you want to make sure this equipment would be covered as well.

General Liability Insurance

General liability will cover any incidents that you are liable for outside of hitting other vehicles.  If your passengers incur major injuries and you are sued, you will want to make sure you are protected.  A general liability policy will cover these types of losses.   These policies typically start at $1,000,000 per occurrence although higher limits are available.

Other Policies

Other policies that may be important for you can include workers compensation, professional liability, and excess or umbrella liability.  We discuss each of these coverage in other articles.  Please review those articles for a more detailed description of these coverage types.

 

You may have a contract that requires you to have certain minimum coverages.  Typically you will receive what they call a sample certificate of insurance or insurance requirements documentation.  You should forward that information to your insurance agent for review so they can help you get the coverages that you will need.

The State of NC will also have minimum requirements that will depend on the number of passengers you can transport, whether you are crossing state lines, and the gross vehicle weight of the vehicle.  Keep in mind that the state minimum limits may be less that what you may feel is feasible to protect yourself.  You should get quotes on different limits to see if the additional premium is worth your being better protected.

If you have any questions on non emergency medical transportation insurance or if you would like a quote, please feel free to contact us at 704-494-9495.

 

 

 

 

Auto Hauler Insurance

If you are going to be hauling autos you will need to make sure that you are properly covered.

We are going to discuss who might need these policy types and the different types of insurance policies you should consider to make sure you are adequately insured for hauling cars.

Car haulers are commercial vehicles that provide a service of transporting one or more vehicles from one place to another. Whether you are hauling these cars across town or across the country you should familiarize yourself with certain coverages below.

Liability

Liability insurance will cover the damage you do to another vehicle, property, or bodily injury to an individual should you be liable in an accident.

The limits of liability will vary depending on the following:

  • The state the vehicle is registered in
  • Whether you are crossing state lines
  • The number of automobiles you are capable of hauling
  • The gross vehicle weight of your vehicle you are using to haul the cars
  • Your contract requirements with the company you are hauling for

Physical Damage

This covers the damage to your vehicle in the event of an accident. Your insurance company will pay out the value of your vehicle minus whatever deductible you choose. This coverage is also referred to as comprehensive and collision coverage.

Cargo Liability

This coverage refers to the damage to the vehicles you are hauling while they are in your care, custody, and control. This is almost always required in any contract you would have. The requirements can vary depending on the number and value of the vehicles you are hauling. Any damage that occurs during the transporting of these vehicles will be your responsibility and without having a cargo liability policy you will have to pay out of pocket.

Other Coverages

Just like in a personal auto policy you should check your policy for additional coverages such as medical payments, uninsured motorist coverage, etc.

Some of the common customers that will need to use auto haulers are below.

  • Auto wholesalers
  • Auto dealerships
  • Auto auctions
  • Relocators
  • Leasing and rental car companies

If you would like more information on auto hauler insurance or would like a quote, we have agents that are very knowledgeable on the subject and our rates are some of the best in the industry. We recently saved on our customers $7,485 per year by switching to our agency and they had a relatively small operation. Please contact us at 704-494-9495.

Professional Liability Insurance

 

What is professional liability insurance and why do you need it?

One question people ask me a lot is: what is professional liability and what does it cover?

Professional liability is like a general liability policy for industries that provide service and/or advice.

It is also commonly referred to as errors and omissions insurance.

Whereas a painter would need a policy to cover them for property damage or bodily injury for their negligence, an attorney would be more interested in having a professional liability policy that would cover them from being sued for giving harmful or damaging advice.

This is not to say that a general liability policy should not be chosen in addition to a professional liability policy for these service industries. In some cases, especially when there is an office where customers visit, a general liability policy should also be considered.

Professional liability policies not only pay out for any awarded damages to another party but they can pay your cost of defense in these situations as well. So even if a suit is unwarranted, the cost to defend yourself can cripple your business if you don’t have a policy in place to protect you for this.

What is a retroactive date?

Professional liability policies are on a claims made basis. What this means is that your policy would cover any losses that arose during that policy period only. A retroactive date can be used on these policies that will go back to the original date you began your business.

What this means is that if your policy is in effect from 04/01/2014-04/01/2015, your expiring policy would no longer be on the hook for any claims made after that expiration date of that policy. If you moved to another insurance company that began on 04/01/2015, they would pay out on any claims made after 04/01/2015. If you started your business in June of 2003 than that would be your retroactive date on your policy so any losses during that policy term would pay out for any errors that occurred since your policy began. This is why your rates for errors and omissions policies increase the longer you are in business.

What types of industries need professional liability or errors and omissions policies?

Insurance agents

Medical professionals

Accountants

Engineers

Financial advisors

Consultants

Attorneys

Software developers

Website developers

Appraisers

Real estate agents

Architects

Property managers

If you have any questions as to what policy is best for your business please give us a call at 704-494-9495 and we would be happy to discuss any questions you may have.

Tractor Trailer Insurance

Tractor Trailer Insurance, also known as 18 wheeler insurance or semi truck insurance, is an important part of the commercial auto insurance world. Truck drivers will need to familiarize themselves with several parts of this commercial truck insurance type. We will discuss several items that will help guard you against possible losses that can cripple you and your business. We will also explain several insurance terms that will help arm you with the information you need to get the proper coverage and quotes for these insurance types.

Liability Insurance-

Liability insurance is probably the most important insurance type that you will be purchasing. This is an insurance policy that will guard you against any losses that incur to another party due to your negligence while driving your tractor.

If you are at fault in an accident, the amount of liability you have is very important. If you are in an accident in a tractor trailer the loss amount can be very significant, or even deadly.

It is this reason that you should consider purchasing the highest liability limits. In most cases the Federal government will make this decision for you. If you are crossing state lines in a vehicle over a certain gross vehicle weight you will be required to have a minimum of $750,000. In some cases if you are hauling certain cargo such as hazardous material (hazmat) you will need to have $1,500,000 or even $5,000,000 worth of liability coverage.

Insurance rates are determined based on the vehicle type and weight, radius, driver experience, driving record, and items hauled.

Cargo Insurance-

Cargo insurance simply covers the load that you are hauling. In many cases, the company you are hauling for will require you to insure the contents that you are hauling while they are in your care, custody, and control. The limits of insurance on this can range from $50,000 on up to $1,000,000 or even more. Typically we see $100,000 or $150,000 cargo limits for dry freight that has smaller values.

Rates are determined by the radius, vehicle, driver experience, driving record, and what is being hauled. You will need to give your agent detailed info to get a quote for this type of insurance.

Physical Damage Insurance-

Physical damage insurance covers the vehicle you are in. This type of insurance is just like the physical damage on your personal auto. You will choose a deductible for comprehensive and collision losses. You will be covered for losses in a collision, theft, fire, hail, etc.

Bobtail Insurance-

Bobtail insurance covers your tractor when you aren’t hauling the trailer. This could be when you drop the trailer off at it’s destination and are returning home with no trailer. It can also cover you if you are driving it for personal use.

Workers Compensation Insurance-

Workers compensation insurance is required by state regulations by any business employing 3 or more employees. Even if you don’t meet this requirement you should seriously consider having this coverage; even if you employ only one employee. See our workers comp blog for more information on this topic. You may have to purchase a policy through the residual market through the NC Rate Bureau if you have a requirement to have workers comp through a hauling company and you don’t have any employees other than yourself.

 

Getting Tractor Trailer Insurance Quotes-

The insurance rates on these types of vehicles and these coverage types can be pretty high. It is that reason that you will want to shop your coverage out through a qualified commercial insurance agent.

In many cases you are doing yourself a favor in having each policy type with a separate carrier. This way you are ensured to be getting the best rates on each policy type. Sometimes having everything on one policy type can end up costing you more so be careful.

It is helpful for you to have certain items ready and available for your agent to give you a quote. Some of those items are listed below.

Company info- Including company name, address, EIN, and owner information.

Tractor and trailer info- Including year, make, model, VIN, gross vehicle weight (GVW), and value.

Driver info- Including names, date of births, drivers license numbers, years CDL experience, and driver history.

Motor Carrier Number or Deparment of Transportation Number- Also known as MC number or DOT number.

Insurance Requirements- If you are hauling for a company, they will likely have certain insurance requirements or a sample certificate of insurance that you will need to match. This will be extremely helpful to your agent so the proper coverages can be quoted.

Please contact us at 704-494-9495 if you have any questions on this insurance type and if you would like us to shop our multiple competitive carriers for you.

 

Boat and Watercraft Insurance

Today we will be discussing North Carolina boat insurance. This is the time of year when the weather starts warming up and everyone starts spending more time outside. Those with boats are excited to get their boat from wherever it is being winterized and drop it back in the water or gas it up to be ready to go out when the weather allows. As a fellow boat owner, I can attest for that feeling of a bear coming out of his cave from a long winter of hibernating and ready to enjoy mother nature. This bear, however, likes to cruise on the water at 50 MPH.

Whether you are new to boating or you have been doing it since you were a kid, there are some watercraft insurance items that you should familiarize yourself with.

In NC, small boats with very low horsepower may be covered under your home insurance. Think small bass boats, row boats, and kayaks. You will want to check with your insurance agent to find out if your boat can be added to your home policy first. Typically anything with any considerable amount of speed and/or length will need a separate policy though.

Waverunners and jet skis normally will have a separate policy that would be separate from your home insurance policy. These types of personal watercraft are typically inexpensive and can cover you for liability, comprehensive, and collision losses. Most companies allow multiple personal watercrafts on the same policy too which makes paying them easier to stay on top of.

Boats, like vehicles, are rated based on the value, speed, and location of the boat. In addition, items like driver record, prior boat insurance, boating experience, credit, and multiple policies with the same company will also play a role in your overall rate.

When calling for a boat insurance quote you should have the same info that you would need to have when requesting an auto insurance quote such as address, serial number, and driver info.

You will also need to know the horsepower of the boat as this will make a difference in your rate. If you own a trailer be sure to have this info available as well.

 

We will discuss the following types of coverage that you can choose on your boat insurance policy:

 

  • Liability
  • Uninsured boater coverage
  • Physical damage (comprehensive and collision)
  • Emergency watercraft towing
  • Personal effects

 

Liability Insurance

Probably the most important kind of insurance for boats would be liability insurance. Imagine running your boat into a dock full of sunbathers or another boat full of people. The bodily injury from such a loss could be substantial. That is why you should consider having higher limits on your boat. Aside from the risk of being sued, you may find that choosing higher limits may not increase your premium at all or if it does the rate increase could be very minimal. Certain boat insurance providers have certain minimum premiums that must be met and increasing your limits will carry the same premium as the lower limits of liability. I suggest asking your agent to provide you with premium differences for choosing higher limits. My current limits of liability on my boat are at $250,000 bodily injury for each person, $500,000 bodily injury for each accident, and $100,000 property damage.

 

Uninsured Boater Coverage

This is very similar to uninsured motorist coverage on your auto policy. Put simply, this covers you for bodily injury to you and your passengers and property damage to your boat if you are hit by an uninsured boater.

You would be surprised at how many people with boats are not insured. It is this reason why we don’t personally sell boat insurance without this coverage. Typically whatever your limits of insurance you have chosen for your liability part of your boat policy will match the uninsured boater coverage.

Also if the person that hit you only carries the minimum limits of insurance and you carry higher limits, you will be covered up to your higher limits where their limits leave off. This is commonly referred to under-insured boater coverage and is only available if you choose higher limits of liability. The cost of this type of insurance is extremely inexpensive and therefore highly suggested that it is added to your policy.

 

Physical Damage

Physical damage covers the comprehensive and collision losses on your boat. This is just like your auto policy. Theft, vandalism, and weather related losses are the most common types of claims that will be filed under comprehensive coverage. Your boat colliding with a dock, rock, boat, land, or pretty much anything else will be filed under your collision coverage.

You will be paid the value of your boat which can be determined by a valuation similar to Kelly Blue Book or an agreed value based on your estimate of what your boat is worth minus whatever deductible amount you choose. The higher the deductible you choose, the lower the insurance premium.

Trailers can be covered under your boat insurance as well so if you have one you should report that to your agent so they can account for that being covered as well. A lower deductible can sometimes be chosen for your trailer.

 

Emergency Watercraft Towing

On-water towing is much more expensive than having your auto towed. The overall rate will depend on how far your boat must be towed and what lake or ocean you are on. I would recommend having coverage for at least $300 per incident.

There are programs out there similar to AAA Motor Club on an auto policy that will provide you unlimited towing on the water if you pay for a predetermined premium up front but typically having it added to your boat insurance policy is less expensive and works nearly as well.

 

Personal Effects

Certain companies will provide coverage for personal items like skiing or fishing equipment if they are stolen or various other losses occur. You will need to check with your agent to see what types of coverage you can choose and what these premiums would be to see if this coverage is right for you.

Please contact us at 704-494-9495 if you have any questions regarding boat and watercraft insurance or if you would like us to quote our various companies for your best possible rate.

Personal Property Inventory

 Your home insurance policy likely has coverage for your contents of your home listed under personal property. This includes all of your items that you own that are not permanently attached to your home. Examples of personal property are clothing, appliances, electronics, tools, furniture, jewelry, etc. What you may not be aware of, is that you, as the insured, are responsible for documenting the items that you own in the event of a payout from your home insurance claim.

In the event of a loss, the insurance company will ask for a detailed list of items that you own in determining the claim settlement amount. They will not just write a check for the amount of coverages that you had chosen on your policy which is listed on the declarations pages of your policy. Further, you will need to prove that you owned said items.

If tragedy struck and your home and all of its contents were destroyed by a fire, how good of a job would you do in remembering every item you own? On top of that, very few us can remember brand names and especially model numbers of these items. How many work shirts do you own? How many pairs of shoes?

I would strongly recommend that every home owner take the proper precautions in documenting all of their personal property. Their are different ways to go about this and it is probably best to take a mix of these different ways of documenting your possessions.

  1. Keep receipts of all major purchases. Store these receipts somewhere away from your home. Furniture, appliances, electronics, etc. are examples of some items where receipts will be helpful in the event of a loss.

  2. Take photos of rooms in your home to prove what you own and help trigger your memory of items you own should you have a total loss. Store the photos or files away from your home.

  3. Walk around your home with a video camera talking out loud about purchases naming brands and models when known. Store the video or file away from your home.

  4. Use a site such as www.knowyourstuff.org to track your contents. They also offer an app that you can use directly on your phone.

The more details of your belongings, the better prepared you will be to get your insurance company a list of these items.

 Keep in mind, as we discussed in other blogs, that certain items are limited in their total payouts and these items would need to be scheduled on your policy. Some examples of these items would be jewelry, artwork, guns, computer equipment, and musical instruments. Check with your insurance company to see if appraisals are needed or what items will need to be scheduled.

 Don’t wait until it is too late to take a personal inventory of your owned items. Every little bit of time you take now will be greatly appreciated in the event of a tragedy. It will help ease the stressful situation of a large claim and you will be happy that you did it.