Homeowners insurance includes many myths and preconceived notions that can make the home buying process confusing and intimidating for first-timers. However, demystifying homeowners insurance may be easier than you think. Take these five common home insurance myths into consideration before buying your first home to help ensure a smooth process.

Myth #1: The surrounding neighborhood doesn’t affect the price of home insurance.

Contrary to popular belief, the cost of a home’s insurance premium is influenced by its surrounding area. Each neighborhood has a record of multiple factors that insurance companies take note of, including prior insurance claims and crime rates in the area.

Based on statistics provided by the FBI, the state, and other departments, each community is given a grade by insurance companies. The frequency of crimes, like burglaries and vandalism, within a community is compared against the city’s population. Neighborhoods with lower grades are considered higher risk, and homes within these areas will often have higher premiums.

Myth #2: External home fixtures don’t affect the price of insurance.

The physical structure of a home isn’t the only factor involved in home insurance. When it comes to calculating premiums, insurance companies consider every potential risk on the property. Homes with trampolines and swimming pools carry a higher risk of claims due to injury or property damage and are subject to higher premiums.

Dog owners may also be surprised to learn that they could face higher premiums. Although many domesticated dogs are friendly, insurance companies pay close attention to the risk of bites and other injuries.

Myth #3: Older, cheaper homes will have lower insurance premiums.

Though an older home may have a lower sale price, it may have a much higher insurance rate. Older homes are considered high risk to insurance companies for many reasons. Homes built in the ’80s and before may have outdated plumbing, and water damage and leaks are among the most common home insurance claims.

Another concern with older homes is the wiring system. Older homes may have aluminum wiring installed, which is susceptible to fire. Outdated wiring systems also may not be up to current state code, which can further drive up the price of a premium.

Myth #4: Homes within the same neighborhood will have the same premium.

Though the neighborhood a home is located does influence its premium, many factors could cause one house to pay a vastly different amount than even the one next door. For example, brick houses are at lower risk of fire damage than homes with wooden frames. However, homes with fiber-cement siding are fire resistant and have an added benefit of being termite proof.

It’s important to note that homes within earthquake-prone zones are evaluated differently. Brick houses are more prone to damage from earthquakes and will pay higher premiums than homes made of other materials within these areas.

Myth #5: Once a premium is calculated, the price is fixed and can’t be changed.

A homeowner has plenty of options to reduce the cost of their home insurance premium. Updating the roof to hail-resistant shingles, for example, will impress an insurance company. Additionally, installing security features such as a fence or alarm system will decrease both the risk of claims and the cost of your premium. Installing a sprinkler system to reduce the risk of fire damage is another way to make an insurance company happy, and they’ll reward you — by lowering your premium.

Now that you are armed with insider knowledge about the way homeowners insurance works, you can begin the hunt for your first home with confidence. If you have questions about homeowners insurance or are interested in quotes, an independent insurance agent can help you. Visit trustedchoice.com to get matched up with an independent insurance agent today, so they can help you get started on your journey.

five ways to lower your auto insurance bill

It’s easy to lower your insurance costs — especially if you have a great driving record, or don’t mind having higher deductibles.

Who doesn’t want to pay less for car insurance? Billions of dollars are spent on ad campaigns to convince you to “switch and save” — but the truth is, many people can find savings no matter who their insurance company is. According to the Insurance Information Institute and other experts, here’s how you can, too:

1.Drive safely. Accidents, speeding violations, and other incidents on the road can put your safety at risk, of course. But they also can hit your wallet pretty hard, because some can cause your insurance premiums to skyrocket. On the flip side, many companies will give you a discount if you don’t have an accident or moving violation over a set amount of time — so not only will you not pay more than you should, you could pay less than you would otherwise.

2.Make sure your coverage fits your life (and your car). If you can afford higher deductibles — that is, the amount you have to pay before your insurance kicks in — you can save significantly on your premiums. The Insurance Information Institute says raising your deductible from $200 to $500 could drop your overall cost by as much as 30%. You’ll also want to consider dropping collision or comprehensive coverage if your car is old and worth far less than it once was.

3.Pay your bills on time. And not just the ones from your insurance company, either. Most carriers use credit information when they’re determining how much your coverage will cost, so it pays to have a good credit history. Other things that can impact your standing include your outstanding balances and how much available credit you have.

4.Ask about discounts. There are all kinds of discounts available for drivers — including some you might not have realized. Do you own your home? You might save on your car insurance. Do you purchase your homeowners and auto policies from the same company? You’re probably already getting a discount for that. If you don’t drive much, you could be eligible for a low-mileage discount. The list goes on and on (literally), so make sure your agent helps you get the savings you deserve!

5.Shop around. This goes for cars and insurance policies! Your car has a big impact on how expensive your insurance will be, so if you’re buying a new one, be sure to do your research on how much it costs to repair that particular model, the likelihood of theft, etc. And when it comes to insurance, an independent agent can help you get quotes from a number of insurance companies — they’ll make it easy to weigh your options and find the right balance between coverage and cost.

How to Drive Safely in Strong Wind and Rain

Driving in conditions that involve strong wind or heavy rain can be relatively common and may not be the most pressing safety concern for many drivers, but Travelers safety professionals know that driving in severe weather can significantly increase the risk of a dangerous situation for you, your family and other drivers. Severe weather demands your undivided attention, so be sure to reduce driving distractions by turning the radio down and turning off and stowing your phone to help you keep your attention fully on the road. Keep in mind that sometimes the best decision you can make is to avoid driving altogether and to stay off the road completely until the weather clears.

Driving in Heavy Winds

Wind may not seem like it can present a significant risk, but strong wind deserves special consideration from drivers. Strong wind can occur just about anywhere, but it can be more common in wide open spaces. Areas for concern also include highway overpasses, tunnels and “road cuts” through mountainous areas that can act as funnels for wind. The following tips can help keep you on the road and safe if you encounter heavy winds.

1. Anticipate gusts. Take special care when driving through areas prone to strong winds or when weather reports predict severe weather.

2. Notice larger vehicles. Be aware of large vehicles on the road such as tractor-trailers and recreational vehicles. They are more susceptible to high winds and drivers may have difficulties staying in their lanes.

3. Keep a firm grip on the wheel. Keep both hands on the wheel in case the wind begins to move your vehicle, especially if you are driving a large vehicle or towing a trailer.

Driving in Heavy Rain

In addition to the potentially poor visibility that accompanies most heavy rain, drivers should be ready to protect themselves against hydroplaning. Hydroplaning can occur when a vehicle is traveling too fast in heavy rain conditions, causing the vehicle’s tires to travel on a thin layer of water rather than grip the surface of the road. This has the potential to make steering and braking difficult and could even lead to losing control of your vehicle. Follow these tips to help you stay safe while driving in heavy rain.

1. Take your time. Slow down to help avoid hydroplaning. Also, one of the most dangerous times to drive can be soon after it begins to rain. The rain can cause oils on a roadway to rise to the surface and make conditions slick. Waiting a while after rains begin, rather than rushing to your destination, can be a safer plan when it is raining.

2. Turn your lights on. Turning on your headlights can help you to see more clearly and also helps other vehicles see you. Many states require the use of headlights during rain.

3. Give other vehicles more space. Add 1-2 extra seconds of following time in the rain, which gives you, and the cars behind you, more time to react to traffic.

Ten Tips on How to Sell Your Car Privately

When you’re ready to replace your old car with a newer or different vehicle, typically you have two options: trade it in at a dealership or sell your car on your own.

While the former may certainly be the quickest of the two options, it typically may not be the best way to maximize the money you’ll get for your vehicle. In most cases, selling your car privately is the path toward top dollar — but it’s never guaranteed. Keep in mind that a change in car ownership also means you’ll need to consider insurance coverage for the next vehicle you own, but make sure that your current vehicle maintains the appropriate coverage. Contact your insurance agent for guidance and to ensure you’ll be appropriately covered.

Some Tips on How to Effectively Sell a Used Car Privately

Selling your car privately takes time, effort, and a little bit of sales savvy. Are you willing to put in the work to make it happen? Want to make sure your car sells fast and for the best price? These 10 tips can help:

1. Make any repairs and get a tune-up.

If your car needs repairs, you’ll generally want to have them done before listing the vehicle for sale. While you’re at it, consider having the car tuned up, and be sure to save your service receipt to show potential buyers. Ask your auto mechanic to top off the oil and fluids, to make sure the lights are working, and to test the pressure on all the tires. You could even request a full inspection to ensure there are no other issues before you sell the car.

2. Consider the market.

Take some time to analyze the current vehicle market before listing your vehicle. What time of year are you selling your vehicle? What type of buyers are on the market and what sort of cars might they be looking for and at what price?

For example, if you’re in a suburban area, sedans, minivans, and SUVs may sell more readily based on the demand. Collector cars or convertibles? Those might be harder sells if you’re not in a beachside town or selling in the heat of the summer. Understanding the market you’re selling in can help you both time and price your listing better.

3. Price it right.

In addition to knowing your market, you also need to gauge the value of your vehicle. You can look to online reference books or car dealer websites that list the prices of used cars for guidance. For a more accurate depiction of what people are paying for similar cars, head to an online marketplace for car buyers and sellers. These resources can give you a glimpse at what you could reasonably ask for the vehicle.

4. Know your car.

Some potential buyers are going to pull your vehicle’s report before they’re willing to make an offer on it. Want to make sure those reports don’t derail your sale? Pull them yourself before listing your vehicle. There are web-based services that provide vehicle history reports that can help you learn about your car’s history and other details.

5. Get it detailed.

If you want to maximize your selling price, consider taking it in for a full detail job — vacuuming, upholstery cleaning, waxing, the whole works — before you list the vehicle. If you’re short on cash, you can do many of these tasks yourself (they’ll just take a little bit of time). Just make sure you do it before you have photos taken. You want the car looking its best in your listing photos.

6. Take great photos.

Aside from the price and the mileage, the photos may be the most important part of a listing.  In taking photos of your vehicle, make sure you capture it from various angles and vantage points. You’ll also want to snap pictures of any details on the car — maybe the grill, wheels, sunroof or the navigation system.

7. Cross-list the car.

To reach the most potential buyers, you may want to list your car extensively. There are several online auto websites to list your used car for sale, so do your research to decide which one suits your needs. You can also advertise your car for sale in the Classified ads section in the local newspaper. If you’ve got a collector car, you can search online car forums and message boards for potential bidders.

8. Be responsive.

Don’t advertise your car if you’re not ready to start fielding offers. Once it’s listed, you’ll need to be prepared for phone calls, texts, and emails about the vehicle, and you won’t have any say in the time of day these queries may come. While you don’t need to respond to these messages immediately, consider setting aside a block of time each day to return calls and answer questions.

9. Don’t compromise.

If you’ve done your research and know what your car is worth, don’t feel like you need to accept any low-ball offers. Sometimes, you might not reach an acceptable number with a buyer, and that’s okay. If you’ve priced your car properly, it may be worth waiting for a better offer.

10. Have all the records.

Put together a folder of all your car’s service records and receipts. This shows potential buyers that you cared for and maintained the vehicle properly — a big vote of confidence when it comes to used cars. On top of this, it also gives them an idea of the car’s condition and what its maintenance requirements might be down the line.

After You Sell Your Car

Whether you’re selling your car privately or trading it in at a dealership, you’ll need to alert your insurance carrier and lien holder, if you have one, of the change of ownership. Contact your agent and let them know that you’ve sold the vehicle, and make sure to add your replacement car to your policy. Depending on your new car and how you plan to use it, you may also need to adjust your coverages.

Should I File a Claim Against Another Driver?

If you believe you’re not at fault for the damage to your vehicle, you have the option to file your claim with the other driver’s insurance company or with Travelers. Here are some things to consider when making a decision:

-You will not be required to pay a deductible if you file with the other company. If you file with Travelers, you may be required to pay a deductible and then wait for a possible reimbursement from the other driver’s insurance company.

-The other company will likely provide you with alternative transportation or a rental while your vehicle is being repaired. Travelers may not provide a rental if you don’t have that type of coverage.

-The other company may not agree that their driver is 100% responsible and may only offer to pay a portion of your damages.

-If you file a claim with the other company, we will not be able to assist you with your claim against that company. However, if you change your mind, you can come back to us and we will process your claim.

Every insurance carrier is different, but the information below may help you understand how to file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company and what to expect.