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Car Insurance Top Tips

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Car Insurance Top Tips

The car insurance industry has got really competitive in the last few years, so prices haven’t really changed much. There are now over 100 car insurers to choose from, so there are some very good deals out there for those who are prepared to shop around. 23% of motorists still choose to insure with the same company as the year before, but they could undoubtedly save money if they did check out some other companies.

Motorists could be forgiven for not getting other quotes, it used to be a very laborious exercise involving long waits while getting routed through the call centre, and boring repetition of facts to sales advisors. Now, thanks to the internet, it’s all a lot more simple. Car insurers also offer extra discounts to people who buy online.

However, you need to consider the quality of the policy, not just the price:

• Check that your low quotation is not due to an extremely high excess.

• Check that you will get a courtesy car if your car needs to be taken in for repairs.

• Check that legal insurance cover is included, if you want it, and automatic windscreen replacement.

• Find out if there is an accident help line in case of an emergency.

It’s a good idea to ring the insurer direct to talk through the policy in detail before signing up online.

Money saving tips – recommended!

You can get a quote with over 40 car insurers if you input your details into a good car insurance broker’s website. You’ll only need to give your details once. Call the insurer with the quotation to check exactly what is and isn’t covered.

If you have a garage, then you’ll save by keeping your car there overnight. You’ll also make savings if you can keep your car on a driveway. This is because there is more chance your car being broken into or v andalised if it’s kept on the road.

Give your insurer an accurate picture of how many miles you do each year – you will save if you travel less.

Some occupations, like being a l andlord, journalist or professional footballer (if only) attract higher premiums. You can save money if you work in finance or the civil service.

Get married! Men under 30 pay more if they’re not married – it’s just the excuse your girlfriend is looking for!

Under 25’s pay more, but you can get lower premiums if can put a driver over the age of 25 with a good driving record on your policy as a named driver. That person must be under 60 though, as premiums rise again at that age.

Agreeing to higher excess (the average cost is £100) will help lower your premiums.

If your car is not of a high value, you could get third party cover and make quite a saving compared to fully comprehensive insurance.

Pay as you go insurance is a new option for 18-21 year olds. It’s a recent development introduced by Norwich Union, in which you pay a unit cost per mile. The cost per mile is more between 11pm and 6am. You pay an initial fee of £199 to have a Global Positioning System fitted to your car, and then it transmits details of your mileage direct to Norwich Union. They send you a monthly invoice and you pay for the miles you’ve done!

Taking Pass Plus lessons to improve your driving abilities could save you around a third on your premiums. They cost £15 – £30 an hour and cover driving at night, in busy rush hour jams and fast motorway driving. You can find out more at www.passplus.org.uk . You can also improve your driving skills and make insurance savings with the Institute of Advanced Motorists ( www.iam.org.uk ).

Find out the insurance group of a car before you make the purchase. There are twenty insurance groups – the slower and less desirable the car (to criminals) then the lower the rating. You could make considerable savings by choosing a car in a lower insurance group.

If you want a high spec or performance car then you can expect to pay a lot more on your insurance. They’re a lot more likely to be stolen or involved in an accident. Making the sensible choice might be a bit boring, but it will be a lot cheaper.

Watch your speed. Most insurance companies will let you get away with a single fixed penalty fine but if you repeat the offence then your premiums will rocket.

Protect your no claims discount as soon as you can (usually after four years). It costs a bit extra but it’s well worth it.

Satellite navigation in your car will lower your premiums. Insurers have found that people concentrate more on their driving and less on trying to find their way, which means less chance of having an accident.

It’s a good idea to have an engine immobiliser or alarm fitted not just because it could help you keep hold of your car, it will also make you a saving of 5-8%.

If there’s two or more cars in the household, get them on the same policy to get a good discount.

I save money on car insurance by driving safely

I have discovered some simple truths about insurance in general, and car insurance in particular.

I’ve learned if you want to save money on your homeowners’ insurance, don’t burn down your house. If you want to save money on health insurance premiums, get healthier. You can even save money on life insurance by losing weight or quitting smoking. I’ve also discovered the irrefutable truth that I save money on car insurance by driving safely.

Being a safe driver will save you money on your car insurance.
Being a safe driver will save you money on your car insurance.

Oh, driving safely doesn’t mean doing 55 in a 70 or putting your turn signal on a block ahead of time. It just means paying attention, practicing some defensive driving skills and of course, obeying the traffic laws. Sounds simple enough, but you may be surprised at the number of grown adults who choose to pay more for their auto insurance by ignoring these things. Then of course, you have those who tempt the car insurance premium gods by texting while driving. To each his own, I guess.

Look, I know I save money on car insurance by driving safely. You can too. Give it a try. You may not only save some money, you may just save a life.

Pool safety

Pool safety

Every year about 43,000 people are injured in and around swimming pools and more than 600 people drown in home or public pools. Half of the pool fatalities occur in the yards of single-family homes. Here are some pool safety tips you
should follow:

  1. Never leave small children unsupervised—even for a few seconds.
  2. Put fencing around the pool area to keep people from using the pool without your knowledge.
  3. Keep children away from pool filters, as the suction force may injure them or prevent them from surfacing.
  4. Be sure all pool users know how to swim. Learners should be accompanied by a good swimmer.
  5. Don’t swim alone or allow others to swim alone.
  6. Check the pool area regularly for glass bottles, toys or other potential accident hazards.
  7. Keep CD players, radios and other electrical devices away from pools or nearby wet surfaces.
  8. Don’t allow anyone who has been drinking alcohol to use the pool.
  9. Stay out of the pool during rain or lightning storms.
  10. Never dive into an above-ground pool, and check the water depth before plunging into an in-ground pool. Keep clear of the area near a diving board.
  11. Don’t swim if you’re tired or have just finished eating.

Source: Insurance Information Institute; www.iii.org

Lawnmower safety

Lawnmower safety

Each year, approximately 75,000 people are injured seriously enough by lawnmowers to require emergency room medical treatment. Only a small percentage of the injuries are caused by mechanical failure; most are the result of human error.

Here are some tips to follow before and while mowing your lawn:

Become familiar with your mower.

Read the owner’s manual before using the mower for the first time. Note all safety and operating instructions. Learn the controls well enough to act instantly in an emergency and to stop the machine quickly.

Proper clothing is essential to protect your body from harm.

Always wear non-slip shoes instead of tennis shoes or s andals. Steel-toe safety footwear offers the most protection against the blade. Long pants help protect your legs from objects that may be thrown from under the mower. Use ear plugs to prevent hearing loss caused by exposure to the high noise levels.

Never leave a mower running unattended.

A mower left running unattended can be fascinating to a child. If the mower has an electric start, the key should never be left in the ignition.

Always start the mower outdoors.

Never operate a mower where carbon monoxide can collect, such as in a closed garage, storage shed or basement.

Police the area.

Before you start mowing, be sure the lawn is free of tree limbs, rocks, wires and other debris, which can get caught up in the blades.

The main source of danger is the blade.

To perform its task efficiently, the mower blade must be sharp and travel at a high speed. If a h and or foot gets under the mower while the engine is running, it can cause serious injury. Never attempt to unclog or work on a lawnmower while the engine is on.

Disconnect the sparkplug wire.

Any time it is necessary to reach under the mower, disconnect the spark plug wire to ensure that the engine cannot start. It takes a little extra time, but not as long as it does to recover from a serious injury.

Check for frayed or cut wiring.

When using an electric lawnmower, wires can easily get cut by the blade. Keep an eye on the wiring as you move the mower and check for frayed or cut wiring every time you mow.

Source: Insurance Information Institute; www.iii.org

A consumer’s top 10 tips to prevent identity theft

A consumer’s top 10 tips to prevent identity theft

Identity fraud is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country today, impacting several million people per year. According to a 2010 Identity Fraud Survey report*, about 11 million people were victims of identity fraud during 2009.

Traditional shopping

  1. Review your wallet or purse contents before you go shopping. Common theft is the easiest way for a criminal to steal your identity and commit fraud. Before you go shopping, think about how much information a thief would obtain if your wallet or purse was stolen. Avoid carrying Social Security cards, birth certificates or passports unless absolutely necessary. Don’t carry extra credit cards unless you plan to use them.
  2. Create a list of all your credit card and bank account information and store in a secure place. Be sure to include account numbers, expiration dates and credit limits. Also include the telephone numbers or e-mails or the customer service and fraud departments. If you find your card missing or stolen, refer to this list and immediately notify your credit card provider of the loss. This not only prevents fraudulent charges, but it also notifies your provider if the card is used again.
  3. Protect your Passwords and PINS. When creating passwords and PINs, do not use the last four digits of your Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, your birth date, middle name, pet’s name, consecutive numbers or anything else that could easily be discovered by identity fraud thieves. It’s best to create passwords that combine letters and numbers.

    Ask your financial institutions to add extra security protection to your account. Most will allow you to use an additional code or password (a number or word) when accessing your account. If asked to create a reminder question, do not use one that is easily answered by others. Memorize all your passwords. Don’t record them on anything in your wallet.

  4. Review your credit report now. One of the easiest ways to see if a criminal has stolen your identity is to review your credit report. Be sure to report mistakes to the credit bureaus. A federal law gives consumers the right to receive one free copy of their credit report every 12 months from each of the three main credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion).

    Order a report today from one bureau and review it, looking for discrepancies. In four months, order another report from a second bureau. In another four months, order a report from the third bureau. Doing this will enable you to see snapshots of your credit throughout the year at no cost.

  5. Never provide confidential information over the phone to an unsolicited caller claiming that they represent a financial institution or creditor. ID criminals often will use your social security number to open up fraudulent accounts or gain access to financial information or assets, especially with increased activity around the holidays. Do not have your Social Security number printed on your checks and do not allow merchants to write your Social Security number on your checks. If a business requests your Social Security number, ask them why they need it. If it is not a valid reason, don’t provide it. If you receive an unsolicited call and are asked to provide information, get the caller’s name, location, telephone number, and reason that they are calling. Call them back at the phone number on your billing statements to verify the caller’s identification.
  6. Never put outgoing checks or bill payments in your home mailbox, as they are easy to steal. While sending checks is a popular and desired holiday gift, it also has its risks, as thieves can steal mail containing checks and gain other personal information from bills and financial statements. Where practical, drop all items containing checks or financial information in a secure postal mailbox or at the post office.

Online shopping & Identity Protection

  1. Log off completely when finished with online transactions. Closing or minimizing your browser or typing a new Web address may not be enough to prevent others from accessing your online information. Instead, click “log off” to terminate your online session. In addition, don’t allow your browser to “remember” your username and password information.
  2. Increase your own computer’s security. Personal firewalls and security software packages (with anti-virus, anti-spam, and spyware detection features) are a must-have for those who plan on shopping online this season. Make sure your computer has the latest security patches, and make sure that you access your online financial accounts only on a secure Web page using encryption.
  3. Avoid e-mailing personal and financial information. Although your computer may be “well protected” with proper firewall, antivirus, Internet security or encryption software, the individual or company receiving your information may not have similar security in place. Always confirm with online retailers that they have proper Internet security in place before responding to any e-mail request.
  4. Delete, without replying to, any suspicious e-mail requests. Hackers and spammers often impersonate retailers to lure personal financial information. If there is any reason to doubt the authenticity of an e-mail message from a company you do business with, don’t click on links or buttons in the message. Instead, type the Internet address of the company into your browser, log on as you usually do, and examine your account information. You may also telephone a company to ask if an e-mail is legitimate.

Prevent common household fires

Prevent common household fires

Using our claim data, we’ve developed a list of the most common causes of fire-related losses as well as some things you can do to help prevent them.

Faulty wiring and outlets are one of the top causes of house fires.

  • Check the electrical cords throughout your home for signs of fraying, and replace all frayed wires.
  • Do not pinch or cover electrical cords with items such as rugs.
  • Be aware of the capacity of your home’s electrical system. Don’t overload your outlets. If you have questions about your home’s electrical system, you may want to consult a licensed electrician.
  • Underst and the difference between surge protectors and power strips – both allow you to plug in multiple electronic devices, but only the surge protector will help guard these devices from a power spike. Use surge protectors to protect valuable appliances, such as computers and televisions.

Carelessness in the kitchen may also lead to a house fire.

  • Never leave your pots or pans unattended on your stove.
  • Keep a kitchen fire extinguisher readily available and know how to use it.
  • If a grease fire erupts, turn off the heat source. Don’t throw water on the fire because it may cause the fire to spread.
  • If a fire starts in your oven, close the over door and turn off the heat to smother the flames.
  • If a fire starts in your microwave, turn off the microwave, and don’t open it until the fire is completely out. Unplug the microwave only if you can safely do so.

Clothes dryers are another common source of house fires.

  • If you’re installing your own dryer vent, follow the directions in the manual. If you’re unsure about how to properly install the vent, consider hiring a professional to do the installation.
  • Clean out the dryer vent regularly.
  • Clean out the lint filter after each load.
  • Lint may also collect under and behind your dryer, so don’t forget to clean these areas.

Alternative heating sources may also create a fire hazard.

  • Avoid using an older space heater, if possible. When purchasing a new space heater, pay attention to the safety features.
  • Don’t place a space heater near furniture, curtains or other objects that could easily catch fire.
  • If you plan to install an alternative heating system, such as a wood or pellet stove, follow the instructions. If you’re unsure about how to properly install the system, consider hiring a professional to do the installation.
  • Before installing a wood or pellet stove, check to ensure it complies with the laws of your state and municipality.

Dirty chimneys also pose a fire hazard.

  • Have your chimney inspected annually by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep. Have a professional clean and repair the chimney as needed, especially before the cold months, when you’ll be using it frequently.
  • Use seasoned wood only. Never burn green or damp wood.
  • Never burn cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, trash or trees in your fireplace – these can all spark chimney fires

Tips for unoccupied or vacant homes and properties

Tips for unoccupied or vacant homes and properties

When properties are left vacant or are unoccupied, steps should be taken to prevent or mitigate losses due to heating system, electrical system, water damage, v andalism or other causes.

Heating system/Electrical

  1. The heating system should be cleaned and inspected by a contractor to help ensure it is working properly, especially through the winter months, to reduce potential damage from fire and freezing.
  2. If LP gas, propane gas or oil heat is used, ensure the fuel levels in the tank are checked periodically to prevent running out of fuel.
  3. If the home is not to be heated, have the fuel turned off at the main shut-off valve to reduce the malfunction/ explosion potential. The valve should be checked to ensure it is working properly.
  4. The home should be checked regularly (at least once a week) to ensure the heating system is operating properly.
  5. Be sure the electric power is not shut off since this will shut down the heating system. If electrical service to the home is to remain on, inspect main electrical panel, wiring and outlets; and repair or replace any defective or deficient items.
  6. Chimneys should be inspected by a chimney service and, if necessary, cleaned to ensure that they are free from obstructions such as nesting birds. Install chimney guard screen-caps to help prevent any infestation.

Water damage

  1. If the heating system is to be turned off completely, have the plumbing system drained (or properly winterized) to prevent freezing damage.
  2. If hot water heating system and/or water pipes will not be drained, have a water flow sensor and low temperature sensor installed and hooked into a centrally monitored alarm system; and keep thermostat at a consistent temperature throughout the winter months.
  3. If water will not be turned off, shut off dishwasher and washing machine hoses to prevent serious water damage losses. Insulate any water lines that run along exterior walls so the water supply will be less likely to freeze. Follow manufacturer’s instructions closely if heat tape is used on piping to prevent fires. Open cabinet doors to allow heat from the room to get into concealed spaces. Drain and shut off outdoor water faucets to prevent v andalism and freezing damage.
  4. If a separate hot water heater is present, inspect for leaks. If in an earthquake area, confirm it is retrofitted (e.g., strapped to the adjacent wall).
  5. Check weather-stripping, insulation, and exterior doors and windows to ensure no major deficiencies are present. Water and insects can enter through these openings.
  6. Inspect roof for any evidence of damage, leaks, missing or worn shingles/ridges; and replace or repair damaged, worn or missing shingles to help prevent wind, water damage or damage resulting from water backup of ice that forms around the edges.
  7. Inspect for ice dams on the roof that can prevent melting snow from draining off the roof, which in turn can back up and cause interior water damage.
  8. Inspect attic and basement for any evidence of water damage or mold. Fix all leaks, keep appliances clean, and increase ventilation to prevent the growth of molds and bacteria and reduce potential for invasion from unwanted insects or rodents.
  9. Gutters and downspouts should be checked and cleaned, if necessary. Clogged gutters can result in basement flooding when the snow melts in northern climates and/or water damage to interior walls in any climate as the water is no longer channeled properly. Check the downspouts and extensions to make sure water is diverted away from the house and does not pond next to the foundation.

V andalism

  1. Notify the police department that the property will be vacant, and provide emergency notification phone numbers.
  2. Clear snow from driveways, sidewalks, hatch covers and dryer vent openings to reduce slip- and-fall liability losses, reduce the potential for the home becoming a target for v andals by appearing to be unoccupied or vacant, and prevent melting snow from leaking into the home and causing damage.
  3. In temperate climates, make sure lawn is mowed and maintained regularly (e.g., free of debris or garbage).
  4. Promptly repair any significant hazards (e.g., missing or broken railing or steps, broken windows, etc.) to increase the appearance the home is regularly occupied.
  5. Have mail and newspapers forwarded to appropriate address or picked up on a regular basis. Even if all mail is stopped, the home should be checked at least weekly to ensure unread mail, flyers, leaflets, etc., do not build up and add to the vacant/unoccupied appearance of the property.
  6. Secure external doors and windows with high-quality deadbolt locks, security-type hinges, and sturdy door frames that cannot be spread apart. Slide locks or other equivalent security locks should be installed on sliding glass doors or French doors.
  7. Install variable light timers to increase the appearance the home is regularly occupied, and ensure the lights do not turn on and off at the same time every day.

Miscellaneous

  1. Remove dead trees or overhanging large tree limbs from the property that could cause damage.
  2. In higher wind-exposed or coastal areas, install storm shutters (or other mitigation measures, such as 5/8” marine plywood) to secure windows ahead of a potentially damaging storm. Anchor fuel tanks and other storage tanks.
  3. Install smoke detectors on at least every floor (preferably tied into a centrally monitored fire alarm system so the fire department will automatically be notified in case of an alarm), and confirm that the sensors and system are tested regularly. Install carbon monoxide detectors and test them monthly, especially if the home will be shown to prospective buyers periodically.
  4. Have the home tested for radon and lead. If the level of either is unacceptable, take appropriate steps to correct the problem (e.g., install a radon reduction system, encapsulate lead paint, etc.).

Swimming pool safety and maintenance tips

Swimming pool safety and maintenance tips

Protect your friends and family as you beat the heat.

Before your family starts splashing around in the pool, make sure you check the pool liner for rips and tears – just one of the many tips listed below.

  • Maintain secure fencing and a locked entrance around the pool and deck area to prevent access when adequate supervision is not available.
  • Make sure there is adequate lifesaving equipment in the pool area, including life preservers and a rescue hook.
  • Keep chemicals safely stored away from the pool area. Follow all storage and usage instructions recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Never leave a child unattended in the water or pool area.
  • Inspect the liner periodically. Rips and tears can appear undetected at the top of the lining.
  • Check for signs of wear and tear in areas where pipes or other items may have penetrated the liner (e.g., skimmers, hoses, etc.).
  • For above ground pools, check metal supports for rust or deterioration. These may indicate areas where the pool could rupture or a person could be injured.
  • Check the deck for safety hazards (e.g., protruding nails, loose boards, etc.).
  • Keep your pool maintained and seasonably prepped. Be sure to lower the water level and keep the pool covered in the winter months.
  • Install an audible pool alarm to alert you if someone falls into the pool while it is unattended.

Fall maintenance tips

Fall maintenance tips

Prepare your home for cooler days ahead.

Fall foliage is beautiful, but not when it builds up in your gutters! Take these tips into account during the cool autumn months.

  • Have your furnace cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified technician.
  • Keep flammable materials, including all lawn and power equipment, away from water heaters and wiring in the basement.
  • Insulate water pipes in areas exposed to cold temperatures, and turn up the thermostat during extra cold periods.
  • Check for damage to your roof, and clean gutters and downspouts to keep debris from accumulating. This is especially important during the fall season to keep leaves from building up in gutters.
  • Check and repair caulking around doors and windows that show signs of deterioration.
  • Check caulking around showers, bathtubs, sinks and toilet bases; and make repairs as needed.
  • Have your chimney cleaned and maintained annually by a professional.
  • Clean and/or replace your furnace filter.
  • Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct and space under the dryer. Remove all lint, dust, and pieces of material.
  • Check your electrical outlets for potential fire hazards such as frayed wires or loose-fitting plugs. Be sure not to overload electrical outlets, fuse boxes, extension cords or any other power service.
  • Keep a mufti-purpose fire extinguisher accessible, filled and ready for operation.
  • Inspect your smoke detectors. Make sure there is one on each floor of your home. Test them monthly, and change the battery annually or as needed.

Summer maintenance tips

Summer maintenance tips

Enjoy longer days and warmer nights while protecting your investment.

Summertime is the best time to be outside enjoying the weather. Make sure your deck or patio is ready for the summer sun by keeping in mind the seasonal maintenance tips below.

  • Check deck or patio for possible deterioration and safety hazards such as loose boards and protruding nails.
  • Check electrical outlets for potential fire hazards such as frayed wires or loose-fitting plugs. Be sure not to overload electrical outlets, fuse boxes, extension cords or any other power service.
  • Check all window and door locks to ensure correct functioning. Make sure all locks are secure and there are no holes in any of the screens.
  • Inspect recreational equipment for proper operation and possible dangers (e.g., Are swing sets secure, and do they contain any rusty bolts?).
  • Carefully inspect your toilet. Look for the erosion of plastic floater valves, and check all pipe connections.
  • Clean or replace your furnace filter.
  • Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct and space under the dryer. Remove all lint, dust and pieces of material.
  • Inspect washing machine hoses periodically, and replace hoses that show signs of wear or leakage.
  • Have your roof inspected by a professional once every few years to identify areas of potential leakage.
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