Author: Sylvia Schultz

Understanding Fire Protection Classes and How It Impacts Your Premium

One of the tools that homeowner insurance companies use to determine how much you will pay for your homeowner insurance is your fire protection class. Fire protection classes range from 1 – 10. An independent company rates City and County Fire Stations. This company is ISO or Insurance Services Office.
Some of the factors that are used when ISO rates a City or County Fire Station are:
• Number of fire trucks
• Amount of water the fire trucks can carry to the scene of the fire.
• Amount of water the fire trucks can pump per minute.
• Number of firemen that is employed by the City or State is also a factor.
• Basically, ISO is looking at the response time and how much man power and equipment is available to put out the fire upon arrival.
The fire protection class is assigned to your home based on your responding fire department and its fire class. The class is determined by the responding fire department that will respond in the event of a fire. If you are inside the city limits, you are assigned a protection class based upon the city’s protection class.
If you are not inside the city limits, then your protection class is based upon the county protection class. If you are in the county, there are two factors that can impact for fire protection class: these two factors are the number of miles your home is located in proximity to a fire station and the number of feet that your home is located in proximity to a fire hydrant. In order to qualify for the fire protection class of the closest responding county fire department, your home must be located within 5 miles of the station and within 1000 feet of a fire hydrant. 1000 feet is the approximate length of 3 football fields. If you meet these two criteria, then you will be assigned a protection class 1 – 8 based upon the rating of the county fire station.
If your home is not within 5 miles of a responding fire department then your home is assigned a protection class 10.
If your home is within 5 miles of a responding fire department but there is no hydrant within 1000 feet, then your home is assigned a protection class 9.
If you are assigned a protection class 1 – 8, then you can expect your insurance rate to be lower than a home that is assigned a protection class 9 or 10. The chances of a total loss to your home by fire are reduced because of the response time to your home and the availability of water to put out the fire.
There was a change in 2012 in the way that ISO recognizes homeowners that are NOT located in the city limits but are paying fire protection to a city fire department. You may be familiar with paying an annual subscription to the city to take advantage of the city fire protection. In the past, if you were outside the city limits but within 5 miles of the city fire station and you have a hydrant within 1000 feet, you could pay an annual subscription rate that would allow your insurance company to use that cities protection class as your fire protection class. Last year, ISO stopped honoring subscription based rating. This has impacted homeowner’s insurance rates that have been paying the annual subscription rates. In some instances where there is not a county fire station within 5 miles your protection class may have changed to a class 10 causing a drastic increase in your insurance rates.
1st Choice Insurance would like to help you with your escalating premiums. As an independent insurance agency, we represent many homeowner insurance companies. We have found that three of our companies are great options for customers that are being impacted by the ISO changes.

Get Your Home Winter-Ready With These Easy Steps

Get your home winter-ready with these easy steps









Photo by Pixabay

Whether you see winter as a wonderland of sparkling snow and beauty or a worrisome hellscape of ice and cold, the fact remains — unless you live in the deep South, winter is coming. So you’d better get your home ready for it.

Homes today are built to withstand most normal weather fluctuations, but they do need a little extra TLC before winter hits, just to keep everything in top shape.

Check out these maintenance tips for keeping your home running smoothly all winter:

  1. Change your air filters — Your heating and air conditioning system have filters that keep dust and pet hair out of the furnace. These filters need to be replaced regularly, depending on what type of filter you use. Some filters are meant to be replaced quarterly, and some are monthly. Keeping these filters clean will ensure your system runs more efficiently and will mean fewer repairs down the line.
  2. Inspect the furnace — Hire an HVAC specialist to inspect and clean your system before winter. That way you can fix minor issues before they become major ones, and your air conditioner will be ready to purr like a kitten next Spring. An inspection and maintenance usually only cost $100-$300, depending on where you live, which is much better than replacing a furnace in the dead of winter.
  3. Clean your gutters — Clogged gutters can cause damage to your roof, stucco and foundation. You can do this yourself, but if your gutters are too far off the ground, it might be best to hire a pro.
  4. Check for leaks — Inspect around your doors and windows for drafts, and seal them up with caulk or weather stripping. Keeping your heat indoors makes your home more efficient and warmer. Caulking is one of the easiest and cheapest home repairs to make.
  5. Seal your driveway — Fall is an excellent time to repair cracks and put a coat of sealant on your driveway. Make sure the weather forecast is dry for a few days, then get to work. It will help your driveway last longer and look better.
  6. Touch up paint — Keeping the paint fresh in your home helps it look better longer. You don’t have to repaint the house every year, but fixing little dings in the drywall and covering up stains can help extend the life of your paint. Fall is the best time to do this because the weather isn’t as humid. Paint on the outside of your house protects wood, so if it’s starting to chip, it’s time to fix it. Water can damage your wood and cost you much more in repairs later.
  7. Seal your deck — If you have a wood deck, now is the time to clean and seal it. Sealing the wood will keep the deck looking good longer and protect the wood from the winter weather.
  8. Test your detectors — The most important thing is the safety of you and your family so test the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. They can mean the difference between life and death.
  9. Check the pipes — If you have pipes in unheated parts of your house, such as crawlspaces, you should check the insulation on those pipes regularly. If the insulation isn’t holding up well, replace it. Frozen and burst pipes can be costly, and will usually happen on the coldest day of the year. If you go out of town for an extended time, turn off the water to the house and drain the pipes.

By tending to these necessary home maintenance tasks, you can make sure your house is prepared to withstand a harsh winter and you can ward off potential disaster. The extra work now will make for a cozy, easier winter season.

Courtesy of Paul Denikin


FYI-If you have a 16 year old living in your household and you decide to allow them to get their driver’s license, your monthly insurance payment will be significantly higher. 16 year old drivers do not have the experience to avoid the same accident that you or I could easily avoid having done so in the past. Historically, 16-20 year old drivers have the most accidents. If you are adding the young driver and you have a full coverage car on the policy, the company will automatically rate the young driver on THAT vehicle. This is due to the public buying unreliable, cheaper, liability only vehicles for their teenage drivers in the past, but then relenting and allowing them to drive mom and dad’s nicer car-which is when the teenager has the accident. The company did not collect enough premium for that teenage driver on the cheaper, liability only car to cover the loss for mom or dad’s full coverage car.
Your options when your teenager gets their license are: 1) Find a company that will allow you to rate them on the car they actually drive; or 2) accept the fact that your premiums are going to be very high; or 3) put them off on their own policy; or 4) exclude them by signature from coverage and know that if they DO drive your car, there is absolutely NO coverage for their acts (if your company will allow this).

Attractive Nuisances – Say What?

You may think you won’t be held liable if a trespasser is injured in your back yard. But you might be if you have an attractive nuisance!

When something on a property is both dangerous and attractive to kids (think unguarded swimming pools, playground equipment or broken-down cars), the landowner is legally obligated to protect children from it.

The attractive nuisance doctrine was established in R.R. Co. v. Stout in 1874 when a railroad company chose not to lock up or guard a dangerous railroad turntable (a machine that turns trains around). The court decided the company knew kids were regularly playing on it and should have taken measures to keep them away.

Generally, an attractive nuisance is:

•Inherently dangerous and enticing to young children.

•Unguarded and exposed at a place where children are likely to play.

•Created or maintained by the landowner (pools count, ponds usually don’t).

Bottom line? Putting a secure fence around that trampoline is a really good idea!

Home insurance can help prepare you for attractive nuisance claims, but coverage varies by policy. A licensed agent can give you expert advice on your situation. In the meantime, you may want to survey your property for any dangerous thing that looks like too much fun

5 Reasons To Avoid a Salvage Title Car

5 reasons to avoid salvage-title cars
You just found a late-model BMW selling for thousands of dollars less than the rest. The description sounds good. The miles are low and the photos are spotless.
But then there’s the asterisk: It’s got a salvage title.
The seller assures you the damage was cosmetic, that no structural damage occurred. He’s certainly offering a substantial break on price. What should you do?
Most salvage title cars are priced at least 5 percent below market, which seems like a good deal. But in most cases the true value is much, much less. Consumer Reports calculates that a salvage-title car is worth 50 percent of its Kelley Blue Book value, at best.
And it is extremely difficult to determine whether the damage was simply cosmetic, as almost every seller will claim, or structural. (Take a quick look through the used-car ads on Craigslist, searching for the word “salvage.”) If you decide to buy, you’ll find few banks will want to finance your find, and car insurance companies won’t even try to guess what it’s really worth.
What is a salvage-title car?
When a car has been in an accident, stolen or weather-damaged and repairs will cost more than the vehicle is worth, the car insurance company will total it and take possession. Insurers then sell these cars at auction to salvage yards or rebuilders. The car will be issued a salvage title to warn future buyers that an insurance company has declared the car a total loss.
Most states have laws that set a threshold on the amount of damage needed to declare a car totaled, usually between 51 percent and 80 percent of the car’s actual cash value.
There are occasions that a perfectly good car gets a branded title. A good hailstorm can do thousands of dollars of cosmetic damage, leaving the mechanicals as good as new. A fender-bender can cost more to repair than an old car is worth.
According to a Consumer Federation of America report, 2.5 million vehicles are totaled each year. Roughly 1.5 million are repaired and put back on the road. The latest Crash Report from CCC Information Services, a collision claims-management consultant, shows this number has grown dramatically over the past decade. In 2000, only 9 percent of all vehicles appraised after wrecks were flagged as a total loss. By 2010, this number had grown to 14 percent.
Largely, that’s because there are more older vehicles on the road. For vehicles aged 7 years or older, collision damage results in a total loss 68 percent of the time, CCCIS reports.
Can’t finance it — or insure it
If you are hoping to finance and fully insure a salvage-titled car, you may be in for a surprise. You may not be able to buy all types of car insurance. Few auto insurance companies are willing to write collision and comprehensive coverage on a salvage-title car. On the other hand, buying liability only will make for cheap car insurance.
Kyle Mediger, an independent agent and owner of The Insurance Advisors, says “insuring a salvage-title vehicle can be a real challenge. Most insurers are reluctant to write comprehensive and collision policies because it is so difficult to put a value on these vehicles.”
Financing a salvage-title car also is difficult.
Garry Smith of Hilo, Hawaii, of has owned several salvage-title cars over the years and currently drives a 2005 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab with a salvage title. If you plan on buying one, his advice is to be prepared to pay cash. Without comprehensive and collision insurance to protect the car, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find a lender.
Safety? You’re rolling the dice
Safety is one of the best reasons to avoid salvage-title cars. These cars can be dangerous.
Many rebuilders cut corners in order to fatten the bottom line. While structural and alignment issues are common, rebuilders also skimp on airbags. In 2003, Bobby Ellsworth was killed when the rebuilt salvage truck he was riding in crashed in San Diego. It turned out the airbags had been stuffed with paper towels.
The California Highway Alliance estimates that one out of every 25 previously damaged vehicles has phony or dummy airbags installed. Lax federal oversight and spotty inspection requirements make it easy for dishonest rebuilders to skimp on this essential safety device.
Almost no resale value
While the estimates vary, a salvage-title car is worth considerably less than a car that was never in an accident.
These cars are so difficult to value that Kelley Blue Book doesn’t provide pricing on them. “There are too many variables and unknowns,” says a KBB spokesperson. “From what we hear in the marketplace, wholesalers are paying 30 percent (to) 50 percent of the KBB book value.”
An honest seller will never get the current market price for a vehicle that has a salvage title attached to it. People willing to take a risk on a salvage title will demand a huge discount.
It’s your car — forever
If you buy a salvage-title car, plan on owning it until the wheels literally fall off. Because these cars are hard to finance, they can also be a challenge to sell.
“I have tried to sell several,” Garry Smith says, “and the deals fell through when the bank found out they were salvage titles and couldn’t be fully covered by car insurance to protect the bank’s interest in the vehicle.”
The pool of potential buyers is quite small when a salvage title is involved.
Fraud is common
You may be driving a salvage-title car already and not know it. Title washing can make it difficult to determine if your car has been in an accident and rebuilt.
State titling requirements vary, which means that a car that has a salvage title in one state can be driven to a state where an inspection is not required and a clean title will be issued. A car with a clean title is worth thousands more, which makes driving a car to another state well worth the trip for shady rebuilders.
Large insurance companies take advantage of loopholes as well. In 2006, State Farm settled a lawsuit with 49 state attorneys general after admitting it had resold between 30,000 and 50,000 totaled cars without salvage titles.
General tips
We would recommend that you avoid salvage title cars at all costs. As you shop:
•Have a trusted professional mechanic check out any vehicle you are considering. The better the deal you’re getting, the more you should insist on an inspection.
•Get a vehicle history report. Carfax and Autocheck are the top two providers. The money will be well spent if you discover a salvage title.
•Check with your local DMV in regards to their salvage title laws. Each state has different guidelines for salvage titles. Understand the local policies before you buy.
•Check the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System. This federal database was supposed to cut down on title fraud. While it has helped, it is incomplete, as not all states participate. Search the database for the VIN of any car you are interested in.
•Check with your insurance company in regard to coverage and car insurance rates before you buy.

If you have renter’s or homeowner’s insurance…..and you have a loss …. in order for the adjuster/company to reimburse you, you will need to provide “proof of loss” – pictures, inventory, receipts, etc. Your insurance carrier is not just going to write you a check. Insurance is never meant to “better” you, just to indemnify, or reimburse, you for losses. Therefore, you will need to prove what you lost because of the fire, or burglary, etc.

There are companies that will come in and do an inventory for you (for a fee, of course). OR, you can just do what I call the “hokey pokey” – go to each room and slowly, slowly turn in a circle while holding your camera. Try to focus on things of high value as opposed to electronics and clothing or shoes which rarely hold any real value after purchase. (example; I bought a 42 inch flat screen HD TV back in 2006 and paid $998 for it – you can go to WalMart today and by the exact same TV for just under $500 now.) It is generally a thought process of “do I want to have to go to GoodWill to replace my belongings cause I’m too busy to do an inventory or save receipts? OR, do I want to be able to go to a higher end store to replace my belongings?” It is your choice, but I encourage taking a few minutes to do this.

Loan/Lease Gap Coverage – What is it and why should I buy it?

In case you didn’t know. When you take out a loan for your new car/truck, be SURE that the lender puts loan/lease gap coverage on your loan. If your vehicle is totalled in an accident, the insurance will offer you a “totalled value” which is probably less than you still owe your bank, seeing as how the vehicle is now worth MUCH less in totalled condition. You end up owing your bank the difference. This can only be done at the start of your loan. If you don’t and you have the bad luck to total your car that you still owe a lot of money on – the insurance offers you the “totaled value” which is not enough to pay off your loan-but you still need a car, right? So you go out and get another car with another loan and now you are in a situation we like to call “upside down on your loan”. You owe WAY more than you could ever get out of it.

Renter’s Insurance-Why Is It Important?

With all the recent house fires lately, I wanted to touch base on how important insurance can be. RENTER’S INSURANCE is very affordable, between $10-$25 a month usually. Renter’s insurance can keep you from having to establish a Go Fund Me page and beg for the help of strangers. Not only does it replace your belongings lost in a fire, but it gives you money to get another place to live and liability in case you get sued by someone who is hurt on your premises and medical payments for that person. Call me for a no obligation quote. 641-648-6665