Independent agents vs. Captive agents

April 22nd, 2010

Captive Agents

1. Their insurance company often prohibits use of other companies.

2. Certain types of policies are pushed more than others at the insurance company’s request.

3. Agents are required to meet strict quotas, so may push for policies or policy types that are not as necessary.

4. Agent is prohibited from referring you if they can’t sell you a policy.


Independent Agents

1. Fewer regulations imposed by insurance companies.

2. Can provide several types of insurance. We offer personal and business insurance to fit your individual needs.

3. Ability to compare price, product and service among a variety of companies.

4. Ability to get a policy through another insurer if a primary company can’t write the policy.


Protect your Classic Car

April 21st, 2010

Depending on the type of car you own and your driving history of tickets and accidents, you are likely insured in the standard or preferred auto market. Both markets cover typical or average cars and operators. This allows insurance companies to use a comfortable set of assumptions about expected losses and repair expenses for developing insurance premiums. However, if you own a classic or antique auto you’re in a special coverage situation.

Classic and antique cars may have to be covered by a specialty market. A classic auto is commonly considered to be an auto around 15 to 25 years old. Specialty coverage is necessary because standard auto coverage rates are based upon a car losing value each year due to aging and normal vehicle use. The owner of a classic or antique car needs coverage for a vehicle that retains or increases its value.

Specialty car insurers typically base their rates on elements such as:

  • car’s current value (often established by appraisal)
  • any special design or features
  • deductible
  • use (exhibition, touring, parade)
  • availability of storage in a locked garage
  • owner’s age (no youthful drivers)
  • whether spare part coverage is included
  • availability of another car for normal vehicle use
  • whether the car’s coverage includes automatic increases to account for inflation

If you have a special auto, give us a call 800-443-5903  for advice.  Or fillout our online quote form 


Umbrella and Uninsured Motorists Liability

April 21st, 2010

How does your business umbrella policy handle a loss involving an uninsured or an underinsured motorist? Uninsured Motorist (UM) and Underinsured Motorist (UIM) laws vary by state. However, they are meant to provide an injured person with protection when their loss was caused by a driver who is either uninsured or who is inadequately insured. In the last few years, more court decisions have favored allowing “full compensation” for such losses. The result is that more judgments are being paid under a coverage part that was designed to be the “last resort” (collecting coverage under your own policy).

Liability coverage is designed to pay for injury that you caused to others. Let’s take a simple example. Phil owns PC Physician, a firm that services personal computers and laptops, including pick up and delivery. While making a house call, a PC Physician service van driver is distracted, runs through a red light and crashes into another car. The injury to the car’s driver and the damage to her vehicle are covered by the liability section of PC Physician’s automobile policy but the injury and damage to the PC Physician driver and van are not covered.

An Umbrella Liability policy only provides liability coverage, not coverage to you for any injuries you receive. UM and UIM provide coverage to you for injuries caused by another party, acting as substitute liability coverage. While state laws are fairly clear in their requirement that primary auto policies include UM and UIM protection, it’s not clear if umbrellas (secondary or excess policies) are also subject to the requirement.

In recent years, more attempts have been made to force umbrellas to pay for injuries involving uninsured or underinsured drivers. At each level of the court system, conflicting opinions have been written on this subject. The result is tremendous confusion within the legal system and the insurance industry whether an Umbrella Liability policy provides a higher level of UM and UIM coverage.

Rather than be confused, contact an insurance professional and discuss the issues within your state and the states where you operate automobiles. Determine what options are available from your Umbrella Liability carrier and what best protects your assets

Conduct an Insurance Check-up this Tax Season

April 20th, 2010

How to Save, Avoid Risk

Tax season is a great time to re-examine your financial risk with your insurance adviser, says Lionstone Insurance Advisors LLC. You may be wasting money on unnecessary coverage or not realize where you are vulnerable to serious losses. In addition, the insurance landscape has shifted since September 11th, and prices and protections are changing in some key areas.


Because there are so many types of insurance available, consumers should sit down with a reputable insurance professional who can help sort through some of the confusion. Solid advice from a Trusted Choice® insurance agency may save homeowners thousands of dollars by outlining which kind of coverage suits them. A comprehensive homeowners policy may even eliminate the need for other smaller, more specific personal insurance policies. Here are a few key issues consumers may want to explore when deciding if the insurance coverage they have is really right for them.   




Home-based business. At least 60% of in-home entrepreneurs are not properly insured, according to an IIABA study. Of those inadequately protected, nearly half didn’t realize they were at risk because they thought their homeowners insurance covered them. While a basic homeowners policy will cover a computer used at home for personal use, it won’t protect entire home-based firms. For example, homeowners’ policies typically provide $250 for computers off-site and won’t cover lost data or business liability. That leaves many people who use laptops for business and other entrepreneurs vulnerable.  


Valuable collectibles. “Standard” homeowners’ policies usually provide coverage for the “contents” of a home to 50% of the value of the house. So, people with extensive collections of silver, antiques, jewelry, dolls, etc. should consider additional coverage to protect these sentimental treasures. But the best way to buy this type of coverage is from the home insurance company—an “endorsement,” which is cheaper than a stand-alone policy. (For instance, a person with $100,000 coverage on their home will have its contents insured to $50,000. If that same person has $30,000 in antiques, that will significantly subtract from coverage for the rest of the home’s contents, such as clothing or furniture.) Many policies also set “sublimates” for contents insurance. For instance, most limit theft coverage on jewelry to $1,000 and firearms to $2,000. Those with more valuable jewelry, gun, or other collections should consider additional protection.


High income bracket. People lucky enough to have high-profile jobs or other accumulated assets should consider a comprehensive umbrella liability policy to protect against serious financial loss. Unfortunately, many people don’t have this coverage because they haven’t thought of it or they feel that their basic insurance programs are adequate. A good umbrella policy can cost as little as $150 per $1 million in coverage and insures against personal liabilities, including car- and home-related claims.


No replacement cost coverage on their property. Replacement cost coverage is 10 or 15% more expensive, but it replaces the item(s) with like kind and quality. Most standard home insurance policies provide replacement cost on the structure, but only “actual cash value” (ACV) on the property. ACV is the actual cost to replace the item, but after depreciation. With replacement cost coverage, a $1,000 TV set bought eight years ago would be replaced with a similar type of TV, regardless of depreciation.


Children in college. An IIABA national survey showed that 80% of college students who rent housing for the school year may not have adequate coverage to protect their belongings when away from their primary residence. Incidentally, it also revealed that one-in-seven college students lack health insurance coverage and that an alarming 85% of families thought their health insurance would cover a college student studying overseas for more than a month. In fact, most health policies do not extend abroad and families need to know they may be underinsured in that area. 


Home remodeling. Home renovation can leave homeowners vulnerable. One-in-four home remodeling projects increase the value of a home by more than 25%, but too few consumers consider increasing their homeowners insurance limits to reflect that increased value. Most insurance companies require homeowners to insure their home to a minimum of 80% of its replacement value to be eligible for full coverage. If coverage falls below that level and the homeowner experiences a loss, they will be penalized with a partial settlement. In addition, many people don’t take basic steps to protect themselves from liability exposure while construction workers are in the home. Consumers should always ask for a certificate of insurance from anyone employed in their home and seek advice from a good insurance agent.




Both travel and flight insurance usually are costly and unnecessary short-term policies that simply aren’t needed for those who have broader health and disability insurance through an employer or other plan. Don’t be lured by the flood of travel-related insurance offers since September 11th. Most typical health or life insurance policies include anything offered in specific travel insurance packages. And incidentally, baggage insurance is usually covered by a homeowners policy.


Credit life insurance. Trusted Choice® agencies recommend avoiding credit life insurance (for new furniture or credit card debt, for example) under any circumstance.  These policies, offered by credit card companies and other lenders, extend for the term of the loan and decrease in value over its life. They are designed to protect a third party if the consumer dies before the loan is paid off. However, they provide no protection to beneficiaries, only to the company that offered the credit or loan.


Deductibles are too low. The owners of an expensive home need to consider whether a low deductible makes sense. If someone steals the TV, it isn’t going to break the bank.  Those same consumers need lots of insurance for a total catastrophe or if they get sued. Therefore, they may want to take a $1,000 deductible and use the savings, which can be 10 to 20%, and buy an “umbrella liability” policy to give them $1 million or $2 million of coverage in case they’re sued.


Specific computer insurance policies. Though this coverage may seem like a good idea, because so many people now have computers at home, a standard homeowners policy will cover most basic personal computer equipment. If you have a home insured for $100,000, you typically have $50,000 of personal property coverage, including computer equipment not used for business. If used for business, the home insurance policy typically provides $1,500 or $2,500 of coverage for computers. Only people with home-based businesses, laptops used for business outside the home, or elaborate high-tech equipment need to consider extra coverage. But it’s cheaper to buy an endorsement to the home or home-business policy rather than a separate computer policy. (By the way, the same concept holds true for cancer insurance or trip-specific life insurance, and other specific policies. Broader coverage is cheaper in the long run and might be needed.)




Renters insurance not only protects the contents of a rented property, but also almost always shields the policyholder from liability. And it’s not expensive (because you’re not insuring the building—that’s the landlord’s responsibility). A typical policy that offers $15,000 in property protection and $100,000-$300,000 in liability coverage can be as little as $150-200 a year.


Dog owners whose pets are known to be aggressive should never go without liability insurance or they may be in for a rude awakening if they get sued. Bites are by no means rare. Companies pay out about $1 billion in dog-related claims a year and estimate that one-third of all homeowners’ liability claims are due to dogs. 


Insurance discounts are readily available for consumers who combine family policies, use one insurance company for several types of coverage, or take other measures such as using property theft deterrents or maintaining good driving records. Consumers should consult with an independent insurance agent at least once a year to evaluate changing needs and look for cost savings.

Are All Insurance Agents The Same?

April 20th, 2010

To get the best deal on insurance, many people consult an insurance agent or broker. But did you know that there are different kinds of insurance agents and brokers — and the one you choose can make a big difference in the type of service you get and the choices you’re offered? Here’s the difference:

Captive Agents and Brokers — Captive agents work with a specific insurance company, and as part of their business agreement with that company, they can offer only that company’s insurance products. They may also be required to sell other products from that company, such as annuities and investment plans.

Independent Agents and Brokers — Independent agents and brokers can offer products from many insurance companies. This helps them better serve your interests, as they can review multiple options to find a policy and rate that’s right for you. Insurance rates vary from company to company. Independent agents can put together a customized insurance plan.

If you’re ready to contact an independent agent to talk about saving money on car insurance, here are a few things to consider:

◦ Has your life situation changed recently? Many factors determine auto insurance rates, not just vehicle year, make, model, body type and engine size. If you’ve recently moved, gotten married, had a birthday or experienced a similar life milestone, mention this to an independent agent or broker. You may be eligible to save money on your car insurance.

◦ Is your car getting older? You don’t always need the same level of physical damage coverage on older cars as on newer ones. If you drive an older car, an independent agent or broker can advise you on what level of coverage makes the most sense. Raising your deductible could save you money each year, too.

◦ Do you have another type of vehicle that also needs coverage? If you have a motorcycle, boat, RV or other “toy,” you might save money by having it covered by the same company that insures your car. Talk to an independent agent or broker about it.

Another plus to working with an independent agent or broker is their ability to offer guidance for all your insurance needs—auto, home, life, business and more. They can customize a package of policies just for you.