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Staying Safe While Riding Your Motorcycle

For those who love motorcycles, there is nothing more liberating and enjoyable than taking a ride on the open road.  At the same time, there are certain dangers that are associated with riding a motorcycle.  After all, you are far more vulnerable to injury if you are involved in an accident.  Therefore, it is important for you to follow a few safety precautions in order to keep yourself safe while on the road.

Wearing Safety Gear

Although some states do not require motorcyclists to wear a helmet, you should take responsibility for your own safety by making sure you wear one every time you ride.  According to motorcycle safety statistics, you are five times more likely to suffer from a critical head injury if you are involved in an accident and you are not wearing a helmet.

In addition to wearing a helmet, there many other pieces of protective equipment you should seriously consider using.  For example, to further protect your face, you should look for a helmet that includes a face shield or you should purchase protective eyewear separately.  Boots with non-skid soles, leather clothing and gloves can also help protect your body.

Making Yourself Seen

One of the main causes of motorcycle accidents is the fact that other drivers on the road simply don’t see the motorcyclist until it is too late.  Therefore, you should also take steps to make yourself more visible to other drivers.  If you attach reflect tape to your clothing, for example, other drivers will be better able to see you at night.  Furthermore, you should always ride with your headlights on, even if it is during the day.  You can also make certain other drivers are able to see you by taking care to stay out of their blind pot and by flipping on your turn signal a little earlier. This way, the other drivers will be better prepared for your change in direction.

Keeping Your Mind and Motorcycle in Good Shape

Of course, you will also be much safer on the road if you make certain to follow all traffic rules, to complete a formal motorcycle riding program, and to avoid consuming alcohol before riding.  In addition, you should make certain your motorcycle is in proper running order before you hop on.  Check the tires for cracks, bulges and other signs of wear, look for gas and oil leaks, check the headlights to make sure they are working properly, and check on all of your fluid levels.

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Covering Mechanical Breakdowns with Your Car Insurance Policy

Are you looking for a car insurance policy that provides you with a little something extra?  If you are interested in a policy that will keep your vehicle fully protected, you might want to consider adding mechanical breakdown coverage to your policy. 

What is Mechanical Breakdown Coverage?

Mechanical breakdown coverage helps protect your vehicle against more than just theft, accidents, fire and other problems that are typically covered by an auto insurance policy.  In fact, it is similar to the type of coverage you typically receive from an auto warranty.  If your auto warranty is expired or it does not provide you with enough coverage for the mechanical failures you may encounter, you might want to add mechanical breakdown coverage to your policy.

Is Mechanical Breakdown Coverage Right for Me?

Whether or not mechanical breakdown coverage is right for you depends upon a number of different factors.  Of course, the most important thing to consider is how much the coverage will increase your premium costs as well as the deductible.  If your deductible is $1,000 or more, for example, having the coverage in place may not be worthwhile because most mechanical problems will cost less than $1,000 to repair.  Similarly, if your premiums are increased by a significant amount of money, adding the coverage to your policy may not be a wise economic choice.

When deciding whether or not mechanical breakdown coverage is right for you, you should also take a closer look at what is covered by the policy versus what is covered by the manufacture’s warranty.  In many cases, the policies offered by insurance companies actually cover more parts and services than what is covered by the warranties you can purchase.

How Do I Qualify for Mechanical Breakdown Coverage?

Most insurance companies that offer mechanical breakdown coverage have certain limitations and restrictions in place.  For example, you may be required to initiate the coverage while your vehicle is still fairly new or has a fairly low number of miles.  At this point, you may have sufficient warranty coverage in place.  Nonetheless, the initial investment may be worthwhile because it will guarantee your eligibility to continue the coverage as the vehicle gets older or takes on more miles. Or, you can save yourself some money when purchasing your new vehicle by bypassing the warranty coverage and getting mechanical breakdown coverage from your insurance company instead.

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Preparing Your Vehicle for Emergency Situations

No matter where you live, the springtime months are a time to be on high alert for potential severe weather situations.  Although many people take a few extra precautions at home in order to be prepared for severe weather, many fail to consider getting their vehicles prepared for potential severe weather events.  Yet, many people spend over an hour of their time each day in their vehicles.  What would you do if you encountered severe weather or another emergency situation while on the road?  If you carry a basic emergency kit of supplies with you, you will be certain to be better prepared for these potential situations.

What to Include in Your Basic Kit

There are several items that you should include in the basic emergency kit that you carry with you at all times.  These include:

  •  Bag of sand or kitty litter
  •  Blanket
  •  Can opener
  •  Candles and matches (be sure to place them in a waterproof container)
  •  Collapsible shovel
  •  First-aid kit
  •  Flares
  •  Flashlight (don’t forget the extra batteries)
  •  Gloves (one pair of latex gloves and one pair of leather gloves is ideal)
  •  Poncho
  •  Rags
  •  Snack foods (high-calorie, non-perishable foods are best)
  •  Snow scraper and brush
  •  Tool kit
  •  Tow rope
  •  Water
  •  Window washer fluid

While some of these items are geared more toward winter weather conditions, such as the snow scraper and the kitty litter, it is still a good idea to keep these basic items with you at all times unless you live in a part of the country where winter weather conditions are rarely seen.  This way, you can be certain to have the items you need on hand when winter weather conditions do strike. 

Additional Items to Consider Adding to Your Emergency Kit

There are a few additional items that you might want to consider adding to your emergency kit for extra safety and preparedness.  Some of these items include:

  •  Disposable camera
  •  Emergency strobes
  •  Light sticks
  •  Reflective vest
  •  Siphon pump
  •  Spare clothing
  •  Tire chains
  •  Toilet paper
  •  Whistle

While it may be tough to give up the trunk space for these emergency items, it will be space well used when you enjoy the peace of mind of knowing you will be prepared if an emergency strikes.

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Tips for Cutting Car Insurance for Your Teen

Car Insurance for Your TeenAre you getting ready to add a teenager to your auto insurance policy? Many parents worry about the potential cost of adding a teen to their car insurance policy, but there are a few steps you can take to help reduce your expenses and make your policy more affordable.

Look Into Discounts

There are many discounts that you and your teen may be eligible to receive, such as the good student discount. If your teen is a full time student and maintains a B average, many insurance companies will extend a discount of up to 15%. If your teen completes a driver training program, he or she may be eligible for additional insurance discounts.

Get the Right Type of Car

Just as the type of car you purchase has an impact on your rates, the same is true for your teen. A teen who drives a high-performance car can expect to pay a higher insurance premium, so look for a more conventional vehicle without a lot of extra bells and whistles for your teen driver.

Make Some Policy Changes

Making a few modifications to your insurance policy can help to severely cut back on the premium costs. Consider increasing your deductible or dropping some of your coverage in order to save on your premium. If your teen is driving an older car, for example, carrying collision and comprehensive coverage may not be necessary.

Preach Safety

When all is said and done, the easiest and most effective way for your teen to help keep insurance costs down is to be a safe driver. Getting into just one fender-bender can be enough to increase the rates and to negate any special discounts you may have received. So, be certain to give your teen plenty of practice behind the wheel with you at his or her side and then gradually allow your teen to take on more solo driving time. This way, your teen will be more likely to be a safe driver.

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U.S. Department of Transportation Establishes New Fuel Efficiency Guidelines

Whether you are trying to protect the Earth’s natural resources or if you are simply someone who wants to see our country reduce its reliance upon foreign oils, you will be happy to know that the U.S. Department of Transportation has officially posted new fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks that will be released in 2011.  With the new, stricter guidelines, it will be far easier to find a vehicle that will be more fuel efficient.

The changes made to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s guidelines actually began back on January 26th, at which time President Barack Obama gave the department the directive to review technological, legal and scientific considerations in order to develop more stringent standards.

“These standards are important steps in the nation’s quest to achieve energy independence and bring more fuel efficient vehicles to American families,” said the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood.

According to these new standards, vehicle manufacturers will need to improve the industry-wide average fuel economy to 27.3 miles per gallon.  Currently, the standards for 2010 vehicles are set at 25.3 miles per gallon.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that these new guidelines will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 8.3 million metric tons an will decrease fuel use by about 887 million gallons.

In addition to calling for increased overall fuel efficiency, the new guidelines have also implemented an attribute-based system that considers the size of each vehicle in relation to its fuel economy.  Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Transportation has already started to look beyond 2011 and is working on a multi-year plan that will call for the fuel economy of vehicles to become increasingly more efficient.  In order to develop this plan, the U.S. Department of Transportation is considering factor such as market conditions, technology and future product plans manufacturers already have in place.  In this way, the new plan will consider all stakeholders involved in the plan as well as other federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

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Getting What It’s Worth When Your Vehicle is Totaled

totaled carHave you recently been involved in an automobile accident? If so, your vehicle may have been damaged to the point that your insurance company considers it to be "totaled," but what if you don’t agree with this assessment or if you want to keep your car? Are there any steps you can take to help improve your financial standing after you are involved in an accident? The reality is that you do have rights that you may not be aware of having, but you have to decide whether or not it is worthwhile for you to take advantage of these rights.

What Makes My Car "Totaled?"

Put simply, your vehicle will be considered totaled if repairing the damage to the vehicle will cost more than replacing the value. For example, if the insurance company deems that your vehicle was worth $12,000 before the accident, but estimates that it will cost $13,000 to repair it, the company will pay out the $12,000 rather than the $13,000 and will take the vehicle in exchange. Essentially, the insurance company chooses to purchase the vehicle rather than pay to repair it, as repairing the vehicle is not a sound investment. The insurance company will then sell the vehicle in an attempt to recoup some of the expenses. In many cases, this involves selling the vehicle to a salvage shop where it will be sold off for its parts.

Debating the Insurance Company’s Decision

In some cases, you may feel as if the car should be valued at a greater price than what the insurance company is willing to pay. In this case, you may want to negotiate a higher price with the company. In order to accomplish this, however, you will need to demonstrate that the vehicle was more valuable than the insurance company is claiming. Therefore, it is a good idea for you to take photos of your vehicles on a regular basis and to keep any receipts that can be used to show the money you have invested into the vehicle. You may also need to hire your own independent appraiser to determine the pre-accident value of the vehicle. Of course, this will require some investment on your part, which means you need to consider this cost as well as the amount of extra money you anticipate getting in order to decide if this is a good step for you to take.

If you are interested in keeping the vehicle after the insurance company has deemed it totaled, you may be able to negotiate that as well. Whether or not this is possible depends upon the laws in your state. If you are able to keep the vehicle, however, be prepared to receive a smaller payout from the insurance company because you will have to reimburse the insurance company for the money it could have received from the salvage yard.

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Identifying the Sections of Your Insurance Policy

When it comes time to compare auto insurance policies, it is easy to become a bit confused by what you are looking at.  As a result, accurately and fairly comparing the policies to one another can be difficult.  Therefore, it is important for you to understand the various sections that are included within a standard auto policy and what you will find within these sections.

Declarations

You can take a quick look at the basics of your auto insurance policy in the declarations section.  This section is usually only a page long and contains information about the vehicles that are covered by the policy, the drivers in your household, the amount of your premiums and the basic coverage limits within your policy.

Insuring Agreement and Definitions Sections

The insuring agreement section is where all of the details of your policy are covered.  This section can be somewhat difficult to understand because it may contain terminology that you are not familiar with.  To help you with understanding this section fully, you should consult with the definitions section.  Here, you will find definitions to the terms that are commonly used within the auto insurance field.

Exclusions

The exclusions section includes information about specific situations that are not covered by the policy.  Reading and understanding this section is just as important as reading and understanding the insuring agreement section, as you certainly don’t want to be caught off guard when you file a claim and discover the situation is not covered by your policy.

Conditions Section

Within the conditions section, you will find information regarding the conditions that must be met in order for your policy to remain active.  This section will also describe the conditions that must be met in order to successfully file a claim with the insurance company.

When comparing auto insurance policies, be certain to consider all of these sections and to compare what each policy has to offer.  This way, you can be certain to get the coverage you need without paying too much for coverage that you don’t actually need.

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Do You Need Gap Insurance Coverage?

If you are like many people who took out a loan in order to purchase a vehicle, you have probably discovered that the value of your vehicle is now less than what you still owe on it.  In some cases, the gap between what you owe and the value of your vehicle can be quite large, which means you will be left in a terrible financial situation if your vehicle is totaled in an accident.  While this possibility is disturbing regardless of your financial situation, if you are one of the thousands of people who has been left without a job or who is otherwise struggling to make it by, getting stuck with paying on a vehicle you no longer own is even more frightening.  Therefore, if you don’t already have it, you might want to consider adding gap insurance coverage to your auto policy.

What is Gap Insurance?

As the name implies, gap insurance is coverage that is meant to fill the “gap” between what you owe on your vehicle and the vehicle’s current value. For example, if you are involved in an accident and your vehicle is damaged to the point where repairing it will cost more than replacing it, the insurance company will consider it to be a total loss.  Instead of paying for repairs to the vehicle, the company will reimburse you for the cost of replacing the vehicle.  If the vehicle is valued at $10,000, but you still owe $15,000, you will be stuck with having to pay the $5,000 difference.  This means you are still stuck with making a car payment, but you don’t have a car to show for it.  With gap insurance, the insurance company will pay off what you owe on the vehicle if it is totaled rather than only paying the value of the vehicle.

How Do I Get Gap Insurance Coverage?

You may be surprised to learn that there are actually a couple different options available for obtaining gap insurance.  When you purchase your vehicle, the lending institution may offer gap insurance coverage to be included with your lending agreement.  Or, the car dealership may sell gap insurance coverage to you with your purchase.  Another option is to contact your insurance company and to have gap insurance coverage added to your policy.  Regardless of where you purchase it from, gap insurance coverage usually does not cost a whole lot.  Therefore, it is a good idea to add this coverage to your policy, just be sure to compare offers in order to select the least expensive option.

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Obama Compares SUVs to Model Ts

President Obama grabbed some headlines recently after touring a car plant in California, where he was quoted as saying “The 1908 Model T – think about this – the 1908 Model T earned better gas mileage than the typical SUV in 2008. Think about that:  100 years later, and we’re getting worse gas mileage, not better, on SUVs.”

Some critics have maintained that the President’s comparisons are unfair, as the 1909 Model T was much lighter and less powerful.  Furthermore, the modern-day SUV has a number of features that weren’t even invented in 1909, such as improved safety equipment, emission controls, antilock brakes and more.  Still, the President’s comments echo the way many people feel about SUVs – including your insurance company.  The reality is that you can expect to pay more if you are an SUV owner, not only in gas but in insurance coverage as well.

SUVs and Auto Insurance Costs

If you own an SUV, you can generally expect to pay a higher price for your auto insurance coverage than you would if you had a car.  In fact, research has shown that SUV coverage costs about 10-20% more than the coverage for other automobiles.  This is largely because SUVs are so large and powerful, which means you will cause more damage to the other vehicle if you are in an accident than you would if you were driving a car.  Since this means your insurance company will have to pay out more to make the necessary repairs, your insurance rates are increased.

Guzzling Gas in Your SUV

SUVs will also hurt your pocketbook when it comes to fuel mileage.  While critics may find Obama’s comparison to the Model T to be unfair, this doesn’t change the fact that most SUVs are far less fuel efficient than most other vehicles on the road.  Although we have recently experienced a huge break at the pumps, gas still is not cheap and paying to fuel up your SUV can become quite costly.  Therefore, if you are in the market for purchasing a new vehicle and finances are tight, you might want to avoid purchasing an SUV.

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The Effects of Filing a Claim

Many people have heard horror stories about their auto insurance policies getting canceled or their premiums being increased to insanely high amounts after filing a claim.  But, is there really a need for you to be concerned about terrible things happening to you if you file a claim, or is this simply a myth that leads to a whole lot of unnecessary worry? 

Changes to Your Premiums

Depending upon the type of claim you file with your insurance company, it is possible that your premiums will be increased.  If your vehicle is damaged because you ran into an animal or if you are in an accident that is not your fault, your insurance premiums should not go up.  If you are involved in an accident that is considered to be your fault, on the other hand, you may see an increase your insurance premiums.  This is because research has shown that you are more likely to be involved in an accident in the future if you have been involved in one in the past.  This puts you in a “higher risk” category that results in a higher insurance rate.

The amount your premiums increase will vary from one insurance company to the next.  Some will automatically increase your rates by a certain percentage, while others will use a math formula to help them determine your rate increase.  Therefore, if your rates are increased after filing a claim, it is a good idea for you to do some comparison shopping with other insurance companies.

Getting Your Policy Canceled

The risk of getting your auto insurance policy canceled after filing a claim is actually far less than most people think.  While it is certainly possible that your insurance company will cancel your policy if you file several claims within a short period time or if you file a particularly large claim, most people do not need to be concerned about a cancellation when filing an auto insurance claim.  If you have ran into a streak of bad luck and you are worried about your auto insurance policy getting cancelled, you should consider whether or not the payout you will receive from your claim is worth the risk.  For example, if you have $1,500 in damages and your deductible is $1,000, receiving the $500 benefit may not be worth the risk of losing your policy or being faced with a rate increase.