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Ways to Lower Your Homeowners Insurance Costs

The price you pay for your homeowners insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars, depending on the insurance company you buy your policy from. Here are some things to consider when buying homeowners insurance. Shop around It'll take some time, but could save you a good sum of money. Ask your friends, check the Yellow Pages or contact your state insurance department. (Phone numbers and Web sites are on the back page of this brochure.) National Association of Insurance Commissioners (www.naic.org) has information to help you choose an insurer in your state, including complaints. States often make information available on typical rates charged by major insurers and many states provide the frequency of consumer complaints by company. Also check consumer guides, insurance agents, companies and online insurance quote services. This will give you an idea of price ranges and tell you which companies have the lowest prices. But don't consider price alone. The insurer you select should offer a fair price and deliver the quality service you would expect if you needed assistance in filing a claim. So in assessing service quality, use the complaint information cited above and talk to a number of insurers to get a feeling for the type of service they give. Ask them what they would do to lower your costs. Check the financial stability of the companies you are considering with rating companies such as A.M. Best (www.ambest.com) and Standard & Poor’s (www.standardandpoors.com/ratings) and consult consumer magazines. When you've narrowed the field to three insurers, get price quotes. Raise your deductible Deductibles are the amount of money you have to pay toward a loss before your insurance company starts to pay a claim, according to the terms of your policy. The higher your deductible, the more money you can save on your premiums. Nowadays, most insurance companies recommend a deductible of at least $500. If you can afford to raise your deductible to $1,000, you may save as much as 25 percent. Remember, if you live in a disaster-prone area, your insurance policy may have a separate deductible for certain kinds of damage. If you live near the coast in the East, you may have a separate windstorm deductible; if you live in a state vulnerable to hail storms, you may have a separate deductible for hail; and if you live in an earthquake-prone area, your earthquake policy has a deductible. Don’t confuse what you paid for your house with rebuilding costs The land under your house isn't at risk from theft, windstorm, fire and the other perils covered in your homeowners policy. So don't include its value in deciding how much homeowners insurance to buy. If you do, you will pay a higher premium than you should. Buy your home and auto policies from the same insurer Some companies that sell homeowners, auto and liability coverage will take 5 to 15 percent off your premium if you buy two or more policies from them. But make certain this combined price is lower than buying the different coverages from different companies. Make your home more disaster resistant Find out from your insurance agent or company representative what steps you can take to make your home more resistant to windstorms and other natural disasters. You may be able to save on your premiums by adding storm shutters, reinforcing your roof or buying stronger roofing materials. Older homes can be retrofitted to make them better able to withstand earthquakes. In addition, consider modernizing your heating, plumbing and electrical systems to reduce the risk of fire and water damage. Improve your home security You can usually get discounts of at least 5 percent for a smoke detector, burglar alarm or dead-bolt locks. Some companies offer to cut your premium by as much as 15 or 20 percent if you install a sophisticated sprinkler system and a fire and burglar alarm that rings at the police, fire or other monitoring stations. These systems aren't cheap and not every system qualifies for a discount. Before you buy such a system, find out what kind your insurer recommends, how much the device would cost and how much you'd save on premiums. Compliments of Insurance Information Institute

What Determines the Price of My Auto Insurance Policy?

Most people don’t really know what determines the price of their auto insurance. When you know what underwriters are looking for, you can use this information to lower your premiums. The average yearly auto insurance premium is almost $800, but there is wide variation around this average. Many factors can affect your premium, and they all help determine how likely you are to have an accident. Perhaps surprisingly, many of them do a better job than just your driving record. Not all companies use all of these factors, and some might use factors not listed here. Your premium may depend on, in no particular order: Your driving record. The better your record, the lower your premium. If you have had accidents or serious traffic violations, it is likely you will pay more than if you have a clean driving record. You may also pay more if you are a new driver and have not been insured for a number of years. How much you use your car. The more miles you drive, the more chance for accidents. If you drive your car for work, or drive it a long distance to work, you will pay more. If you drive only occasionally—what some companies call “pleasure use”, you will pay less. Where your car is parked and where you live. Where you live and where the car is parked can affect the cost of your insurance. Generally, due to higher rates of vandalism, theft and accidents, urban drivers pay a higher auto insurance price than those in small towns or rural areas. Other factors that vary from one area or state to another are: cost and frequency of litigation; medical care and car repair costs; prevalence of auto insurance fraud; and weather trends. Your age. In general, mature drivers have fewer accidents than less experienced drivers, particularly teenagers. So insurers generally charge more if teenagers or young people below age 25 drive your car. Your gender. As a group, women tend to get into fewer accidents, have fewer driver-under-the- influence accidents (DUIs) and most importantly less serious accidents than men. So, all other things being equal, women generally pay less for auto insurance than men. Of course, over time individual driving history for both men and women will have a greater impact on what they pay for auto insurance. Compliments of The Insurance Information Institute

What Is Life Insurance?

Life insurance can be really confusing to someone whose never owned a life insurance policy. Here’s what determines term life insurance premiums. New to buying life insurance? Learn how it works and what you need to understand to choose your coverage. A life insurance policy is a contract with an insurance company. In exchange for premiums (payments), the insurance company provides a lump-sum payment, known as a death benefit, to beneficiaries in the event of the insured's death. Typically, life insurance is chosen based on the needs and goals of the owner. Term life insurance generally provides protection for a set period of time, while permanent insurance, such as whole and universal life, provides lifetime coverage. It's important to note that death benefits from all types of life insurance are generally income tax-free. There are many varieties of life insurance. Some of the more common types are discussed below. Term life insurance Term life insurance is designed to provide financial protection for a specific period of time, such as 10 or 20 years. Typically, premiums are level and guaranteed for that time. After that period, policies may offer continued coverage, usually at a substantially higher premium rate. Term life insurance is generally a less costly option than permanent life insurance. Needs it helps meet: Term life insurance proceeds are most often used to replace lost potential income during working years. This can provide a general safety net for your beneficiaries and can also help ensure the family's financial goals will still be met—goals like paying off a mortgage, keeping a business running, and paying for college. It's important to note that, although term life can be used to replace lost potential income, life insurance benefits are paid at one time in a lump sum, not in regular payments like paychecks. Compliments of Fidelity

Understanding Long Term Care Insurance

Long term care insurance is one of the newer types of insurance. Most people don’t know that it’s not just for the elderly, but for anyone who has become incapacittated for one reason or another. Understanding Long Term Care Insurance The phrase "long-term care" refers to the help that people with chronic illnesses, disabilities or other conditions need on a daily basis over an extended period of time. The type of help needed can range from assistance with simple activities (such as bathing, dressing and eating) to skilled care that's provided by nurses, therapists or other professionals. Consider buying a long-term care insurance policy with flexible options. Employer-based health coverage will not pay for daily, extended care services. Medicare will cover a short stay in a nursing home, or a limited amount of at-home care, but only under very strict conditions. To help cover potential long-term care expenses, some people choose to buy long-term care insurance. Policies offer many different coverage options. Since you can't predict what your future long-term care needs will be, you may want to buy a policy with flexible options. Depending on the policy options you select, long-term care insurance can help you pay for the care you need, whether you are living at home or in an assisted living facility or nursing home. The insurance might also pay expenses for adult day care, care coordination and other services. Some policies will even help pay costs associated with modifying your home so you can keep living in it safely. Factors to consider Your age and health: Policies cost less if purchased when you're younger and in good health. If you're older or have a serious health condition, you may not be able to get coverage — and if you do, you may have to spend considerably more. The premiums: Will you be able to pay the policy's premiums — now and in the future — without breaking your budget? Premiums often increase over time, and your income may go down. If you find yourself unable to afford the premiums, you could lose all the money you've invested in a policy. Your income: If you have difficulty paying your bills now or are concerned about paying them in the years ahead, when you may have fewer assets, spending thousands of dollars a year for a long-term care policy might not make sense. If your income is low and you have few assets when you need care, you might quickly qualify for Medicaid. (Medicaid pays for nursing home care; in most states it will also cover a limited amount of at-home care.) Unfortunately, in order to qualify for Medicaid you must first exhaust almost all your resources and meet Medicaid's other eligibility requirements. Compliments of AARP