Five Simple Ways to Lower Your Auto Insurance Bill

5 simple ways to lower auto insurance rates

Money is always tight, especially during the holiday season. The last thing you want is to spend any more than you have to on your auto insurance. Aside from the obvious thing—maintaining a clean driving record—is there anything else you can do to lower your auto insurance bill without skimping on coverage?

Yes, there is! Here are five things you can do to make sure your auto insurance bill is the lowest it can be:

1. Keep your credit record spotless. Why does your insurance company care about your credit rating? Because according the Insurance Information Institute (III), research shows that people who effectively manage their credit have fewer claims—something insurance companies love!

If your credit rating could use some improvement, make it better by paying all your bills on time, and reducing the overall amount you owe. (Click here for more tips on improving your credit score.)

2. Choose your vehicle wisely. If you’re in the market for a new car—or even just one that’s new to you—check with your insurance agent before you sign on the dotted line. Some of our clients have been unpleasantly surprised at how much insurance for their new ride cost them. Auto insurance premiums are calculated by using a number of factors, including how safe a vehicle is, how much it costs to repair it, and how likely it is to be stolen.

3. Ask about discounts. Be sure to ask your L & M Insurance Group agent about all applicable discounts. In addition to discounts for safety features like anti-lock brakes and air bags, some companies offer discounts if you’ve taken a defensive driving course, if you drive a lower number of miles than average per year, or if your teen driver is a good student or has taken a driver’s education course. Every little bit helps.

4. Consider raising your deductibles. If you have a claim, your deductible is what you pay before your insurance policy does. Raising your deductibles can reduce the cost of your comprehensive and collision coverage, but you’ll want to be sure you have enough money saved to pay that higher deductible if you have a claim.

5. Shop around. This is where an independent agency like L & M Insurance Group really shines. We represent more than 15 auto insurance companies, our staff has served the insurance needs of the Brandon, Riverview, and Valrico area for more than 25 years, and we’re committed to finding the best deal for your situation. Give us a call at (813) 672-4100, or email us for a free, no obligation quote.

Avoid These Thanksgiving Dangers

What do you think of when you think of Thanksgiving? Happy times spent with family, a delicious meal, maybe a football game on TV? You probably don’t picture putting out a fire in your kitchen or a trip to the emergency room! Unfortunately, too many people experience those events on Thanksgiving. In fact, Thanksgiving is one of the most dangerous holidays of the year!

Since we want all our clients to be happy and healthy through the entire holiday season. L & M Insurance Group would like to offer some tips to help you avoid the most common Thanksgiving dangers:

Fire

Thanksgiving is the number one day for home cooking fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). We know with family around, it’s easy to get distracted, so remember to closely monitor food cooking on the stove, and never leave your house with the turkey in the oven. Move anything flammable, such as kitchen towels or oven mitts, away from the stove, make sure all your smoke alarms are working, and have a fire extinguisher handy. Keep small children out of the kitchen when active cooking is taking place.

And don’t even think about deep-frying a turkey! It’s such risky business that the NFPA strongly discourages the practice.

Lit candles are another fire hazard to be aware of during the holiday season. Make sure they are at least three feet from anything that could catch fire, and never leave children unattended in a room where candles are burning.

Illness

Improper preparation and storage of your Thanksgiving turkey can result in serious illness, such as Salmonella poisoning or Listeria. Make sure turkey is thawed completely before cooking, and cook until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit on a food thermometer. Remember to refrigerate leftovers promptly after the meal. Click here for more turkey food safety cooking tips from the Centers for Disease Control.

And it’s not just the turkey you should be careful with. Raw fruits and vegetables can also make you sick if they’re not washed thoroughly before you eat them.

Car Accident

With many thousands of people going “over the river and through the woods” to their Thanksgiving destinations, chances of car accident are much greater than normal. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), Thanksgiving is the third most dangerous holiday for driving, behind Independence Day and Memorial Day. In 2015, 386 people died in car accidents during the Wednesday-to-Sunday period of the Thanksgiving holiday, and the NSC estimated more than 50,000 more drivers and passengers were injured. Sadly, many of these accidents are due to driving while under the influence of alcohol. Obviously you should never drink and drive, but we also encourage you to use extra caution to avoid other drivers who might not be so responsible. In addition, make sure everyone in the vehicle wears a seat belt, and put aside your phone or other devices so your attention is fully on your driving.

We at L & M Insurance Group wish you a happy, healthy and SAFE Thanksgiving! As always, thank you for your business. Please feel free to call us at 813-672-4100, or contact us, if you have any questions about your insurance needs.

Starting a Side Hustle? You Might Need Commercial Auto Insurance

Commercial Auto Policy

Photo by Dan Chung on Unsplash

More and more people are starting side hustles, whether to make a little extra money to cover their bills, or to start their dream business. If you’re one of those people, you should consider buying a commercial auto insurance policy. It’s not just big businesses with multiple vehicles that need this coverage—it’s anyone who uses his or her vehicle for business reasons on a regular basis.

Personal auto policies almost always exclude business use, and if you’re in an accident, your claim could be denied. Be honest with your agent about the nature and extent of your business use of your vehicle so he or she can help you find the best deal on coverage you need.

Here are a few situations that call for a discussion with your agent about a commercial auto policy:

  • Do you use your vehicle to pick up or deliver goods such as newspapers, pizza, or other goods, or do you provide messenger services?
  • Is your vehicle registered or titled in the name of a corporation or partnership?
  • Do you have employees who drive your vehicle for business purposes on an occasional or regular basis?
  • Does your vehicle have special equipment permanently installed, such as ladder racks or permanent toolboxes that are used in your business?
  • Do you regularly drive to job sites or to meet clients, or sometimes transport clients from one location to another?

Bottom line: If you’re using your vehicle for business purposes, you need commercial auto insurance.

Commercial auto policies are designed to protect you and your business from financial harm if you’re in an accident. Though there are many factors that must be considered when rating a commercial auto policy, since the major coverages are basically the same, commercial auto insurance doesn’t always cost more than a personal auto policy.

L & M Insurance Group is a local independent insurance agency with the expertise to help you make sure your insurance coverage will protect your business and you personally from claims, even unwarranted ones. We have been serving the car insurance and commercial auto insurance needs of Riverview and surrounding communities for more than 10 years. Call 813-672-4100 for more information about commercial auto insurance (or car insurance in general), or click here to contact us by email.

Insuring Your Toys—Peace of Mind When It’s Time to Play

Insurance for Toys, Insuring Boats Personal Watercraft RV's and more

One of the best things about the Tampa Bay area is the climate—when other people are getting ready for winter, we’re still able to play outside! And many of us have the “toys” to do just that—toys like boats, RVs, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and personal watercraft. But remember, accidents do happen, and while they’re fun, these grown-up toys can also be dangerous and expose you to the risk of a lawsuit.

 

That’s where L & M Insurance Group can help. Before you hit the water or the trail, make sure you have enough insurance coverage for your toys if something goes wrong. Most of these vehicles aren’t covered by a basic auto or homeowners policy, so you’ll need to buy specialized insurance for them. This insurance doesn’t have to be expensive, and it’s certainly cheaper than a lawsuit!

 

When insuring your toys, you’ll want to be sure you’re covered adequately for:

  • Bodily injury—pays for injuries you cause to others if you’re responsible for an accident.
  • Property damage—pays for property you damage if you’re responsible for an accident.
  • Collision—pays for damage to your toy if you hit something.
  • Comprehensive—pays if your toy is stolen or if it’s damaged by something other than a collision, such as fire, extreme weather, or vandalism.

 

We also recommend you carry an umbrella policy (excess liability coverage over and above your other insurance) to further protect your assets in case you are sued. Please ask your L & M Insurance Group agent if you have any questions about your umbrella coverage, or if you need a quote for an umbrella policy.

 

Remember, if you can drive it, register, and tag it, you probably need insurance coverage for it!

 

Insurance coverage is meant to protect you from financial hardship due to accident and/or lawsuits. Talk to your L & M Insurance Group agent about what coverage you need to protect your assets and safeguard your lifestyle. Please call us at 813-672-4200 if you have any questions, or you’d like a free, no-obligation quote for insurance on a boat, RV, personal watercraft, or ATV. You can also contact us online by clicking here.

Why Young Families Need Term Life Insurance

Photo by Natalya Zaritskaya on Unsplash

If you have a young family, you probably find yourself financially stressed. Your expenses are rising at the same time that you might be dropping from two incomes to one, even if it’s just for a short time. Money’s tight—but while you’re budgeting for the next few years, don’t forget to include an important financial safeguard for the ones you love: life insurance. While it’s never pleasant to contemplate your own mortality, think of it this way: If you were to die, would your family be able to survive financially?

 

According to Met Life, half of all Millennials (those born between 1977-1992) say they have never been approached by anyone to buy life insurance, and more than 4 in 10 think they wouldn’t qualify anyway. This was two times greater than any other age group.

 

Life insurance doesn’t have to be expensive and complicated. For young families, we usually recommend term life insurance, which is relatively inexpensive and easy to get.

 

What is term life insurance?

Term life insurance provides coverage for a specified length of time, or “term.” The term length can be anything from one year up to 30 years. Currently, the most popular term is 20 years, which is perfect for a young family, most likely protecting you through the years when your children depend upon you the most.

 

Can I afford it?

Term life is actually quite affordable. Usually life insurance premiums are based on age and health, so if you take out a term policy while you’re young and healthy, your rate will be based on those factors for the length of the term. Some policies cost less than $50 a month, a small price to pay for your family’s financial security.

 

How much should I buy?

In addition to covering burial expenses, consider your family’s future needs, including mortgage or rent, and other expenses necessary to maintain their basic standard of living. You may also want to factor in college costs and retirement for the surviving spouse. Use an online calculator like this one to get a basic idea of how much coverage you should buy, and of course, you should discuss your needs with your L & M Insurance Group agent.

 

Remember, it’s not just the breadwinner who needs to be covered. If one parent is a full-time caregiver, consider buying a term life policy for that person, too. The costs of replacing his or her contributions (think child or elder care, housekeeping, and food preparation, for example) would quickly add up.

 

Term insurance is like auto insurance or home insurance in that if you haven’t had a claim during the policy term, you won’t get any of your premiums returned. If you want life insurance to be an investment vehicle, consider purchasing whole life—the downside of this is that it’s more expensive.

 

Term life insurance is cheap, easy to get, and great for young families. Please call your L & M Insurance Group agent at (813) 672-4100 to discuss your life insurance needs. You can also contact us online if you have any questions or you’d like a life insurance quote.

Congratulations Dalia!

Dalia Monzon Insurance Agent

L&M Insurance Riverview, FL

Dalia Monzon Insurance Agent L&M Insurance Riverview, FLL & M Insurance Group would like to congratulate Dalia Monzon, who recently obtained her Florida 4-40 customer service license. She has completed the classwork necessary to become a fully licensed Registered Customer Service Representative. We all appreciate the work she does to keep the office running smoothly.

Be sure to congratulate her on her accomplishment the next time you speak to her!

Well done, Dalia.

 

 

 

Loss of Use Benefits Explained

Loss of Use Tampa Homeowner's Insurance Coverage

If a disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, or fire strikes your home, you may find it temporarily uninhabitable, or even destroyed. Imagine if you have to live someplace else while your home is being repaired—how will you pay for the extra living expenses? Many homeowners insurance policies contain coverage to help you pay for those additional expenses. It’s called “Loss of Use,” “Part D,” or “Additional Living Expenses” coverage. Not all policies include it, but many do.

Here are the three types of coverage that make up Loss of Use:

Additional living expense—reasonable expenses you incur to maintain your family’s standard of living if you must live elsewhere while your home is being repaired. These expenses include things like rent or hotel bills, restaurant or grocery bills above and beyond what you’d normally spend, laundry bills, parking fees, or the cost of storing your belongings while your home is being repaired.

Fair rental value—if you own a tenant-occupied home or rental property and the covered loss makes the rental premises uninhabitable, the insurer will cover the lost rental income. Expenses which will not continue, such as what a tenant pays for utilities, will be subtracted from that reimbursement.

Prohibited use—if you must stay elsewhere when a civil authority, such as a government agency or the state police, prohibits you from accessing your home in a damaged neighborhood, even if your own home is unharmed.

Things to remember:

  • Loss of Use is only payable if the damage was caused by an insured peril. This does NOT include flood, which is normally excluded on a standard homeowners insurance policy. Federal flood also insurance excludes additional living expense coverage, but some private flood markets are starting to provide some Loss of Use coverage in their policies.
  • Most policies cap the amount of Loss of Use coverage, often at a percentage of the limit of insurance carried on the dwelling.
  • No deductible applies to Loss of Use coverage.
  • Loss of Use extends beyond the policy term limits if the covered loss occurs before the policy’s expiration date.

Loss of Use can be an important coverage to have if you’re ever faced with a serious homeowners claim. Since coverage terms vary, you may want to discuss with your L & M Insurance Group agent whether or not your homeowners insurance coverage is appropriate for your situation. Please call us at 813-672-4100, or contact us if you have any questions.

Prepare Now for Flood Risk

Florida Flood Risk

With Hurricane Harvey fresh in our minds, the Brandon/Riverview area is on alert watching the path of Hurricane Irma. While the effects of wind, such as damage from fallen trees, is likely covered under your homeowners insurance policy, less your deductible, damage from flooding is not.

Part of our preparations for Hurricane Irma should include planning for the possibility of flooding.   Here are a few things you can do to before the storm arrives:

  • Evaluate your flood risk. How likely is it that your home or business will flood? Even if you’re not in an official flood zone, you still might be at risk for flooding under the right circumstances. Twenty-five percent of all flood claims come from the preferred zones B, C and X.
  • Know how to stay informed with alerts and information, whether you monitor local radio or TV stations, or listen to a NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards receiver. Make plans for how you’ll stay informed if the power goes out.
  • Understand the difference between a flood watch (flooding is possible in your area) and a flood warning (flooding is happening or is about to happen in your area), and be prepared to evacuate if public officials tell you to do so.
  • Know your best evacuation routes, and plan ahead of time where you’ll stay if you have to evacuate.
  • Make a plan for communicating with friends and family. Write down and keep with you copies of important numbers, don’t just store them in your phone.
  • Gather items you’ll need to take with you if you have to evacuate. Include clothes, food, water, first aid items, money, phones and chargers, and important documents such as insurance policies, home inventories, personal identification, and prescriptions. Also include any irreplaceable items like pictures or other mementos.
  • If you have valuable or sentimental items you’re not taking with you, bag them or put them in plastic bins if possible, and place them in the highest safe spot in your home.
  • Consider buying flood insurance for the future. L & M Insurance Group represents several private companies that write flood insurance policies at a more competitive rate than those of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). These policies also have higher available limits than the NFIP’s standard policies.

According to insurance experts, only about 20 percent of the victims of the devastating floods in the Houston area following Hurricane Harvey had flood insurance. The remaining 80 percent will have to find a way to rebuild with only the possibility of federal disaster relief, which comes in the form of low-interest loans which have to be repaid, or Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster grants, which are typically not nearly large enough to cover the damage.

Floods are America’s most common and costly natural disaster, according to FEMA. They cause millions of dollars of damage a year, and can happen anywhere. Don’t wait until the water’s rising to prepare.

Give L & M Insurance Group a call at 813-672-4100 or contact us here if you have any questions about flood insurance, or if you’d like a quote. We are here to help.

Prevent Accidents With Basic Car Maintenance

car-maintenace

Whether you do it yourself or hire a trusted mechanic, regular car maintenance not only keeps your vehicle running well and safely, it also may prevent an accident. Since every vehicle is different, be sure to read your owner’s manual for information specific to your make and model. (If you don’t have an owner’s manual, you may be able to find one online.)

 

If you’re in the market for car insurance,

be sure to call us at 813-672-4100 for a free,

no obligation auto insurance quote.

 

Here are five car maintenance basics that will help you stay safer on the road:

 

Where the rubber meets the road

The condition of your tires affects how your car handles and how well it stops. According to one estimate, there are 33,000 tire-related crashes in the U.S. every year. Once a month, before you drive somewhere and your tires are cool, check their air pressure (don’t forget the spare tire). Also examine the condition of your tires, looking for any cuts, bulges, or uneven wear, and checking tread depth.  Rotate your tires about twice a year and have your wheels aligned as needed so your tires will wear evenly.

 

Brakes

Beware of noise when braking—it could indicate worn brake pads. Worn pads can damage rotors, which can be expensive to repair, and if neglected long enough can lead to brake failure. If you hear grinding, scraping or squeaking sounds, have your brakes inspected as soon as possible.

 

Keep it clean

auto maintenance

When you’re driving, you want to be able to see well and to be seen, so keep your windshield, mirrors and lights clean and free of stuck-on debris such as love bugs. Don’t forget to clean the inside of your windows—they can get grimy, too, making it harder to see.  Clean your wiper blades to remove buildup of dirt, and replace them when they fail to easily sweep your windshield clean.

 

And speaking of lights…

Make sure all your lights and turn signals work. Are you headlights aligned? If they’re not, you may have trouble seeing the road at night.

 

Fluids

Fluids like engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and power steering fluid keep your vehicle running smoothly. Check oil level once a month, and change it regularly (again referring to your owner’s manual for frequency). Flush and replace fluids according to your vehicle manufacturer’s schedule. Watch for telltale puddles beneath your vehicle—you might have a fluid leak.

 

A well-maintained vehicle is not only a safer vehicle, it will last longer and run better, saving you money in the long run. We hope you’ll never be in a car accident, but if you are, rest assured L & M Insurance Group will be here for you. Please call us at 813-672-4100 if you have any questions about your car insurance policy, or if you need a quote. We’re here to serve you.

Safe Driving Tips for Rainy Days

Safe Driving Tips by L & M Insurance

In the South, over 90 percent of weather-related crashes occur on wet pavement, according to the Federal Highway Administration. We here in the Brandon and Riverview area are certainly familiar with navigating frequent summer storms, so L & M Insurance Group would like to offer a few tips to keep you driving safely when it’s raining or the roads are wet.

  • Rain makes it harder to see and be seen, and it makes the road slippery, so keep your windshield wipers, tires, and lights (headlights, taillights, brake lights, and turn signals) in good repair.
  • Turn on your headlights when it’s raining. This is the law, but it’s also common sense. Your headlights not only help you see, they help other drivers see you. Even though many cars have daytime running lights, turning on your headlights also turns on your taillights, so drivers behind you will be able to see you better. Don’t turn on your high beams, however, as they can cause distracting and dangerous reflections.

Did you know—it’s illegal to drive with your emergency flashers on? Flashers are to be used only when a vehicle is stopped or disabled. If you feel the visibility is so poor you need to turn on your flashers to be seen, you should safely pull off the road as far as you can, and wait out the storm. (And yes, now you can turn on your emergency flashers.)

 

  • Don’t use cruise control. Under slippery circumstances, you want to be completely focused on your driving. Plus, if you need to slow down quickly, you can ease your foot off the gas, which is safer in wet conditions than braking. Since cruise control aims to keep your vehicle traveling at a set speed, it might even accelerate at a time you should be slowing down.
  • Slow down and allow more space between you and the vehicle ahead of you. It takes longer to stop in wet weather, so allow yourself the time and space to react to the unexpected. Also give yourself extra time to get to your destination when it’s raining or conditions are wet so you won’t be tempted to drive too fast. Remember, all it takes is 1/12th of an inch of water and a speed of at least 35 MPH to be at risk for hydroplaning (when a layer of water builds up between the tires of your vehicle and the road, leading to loss of traction).
  • Steer and brake gently. If you start to skid, ease off the gas pedal and gently steer the vehicle in the direction you want to go.
  • Don’t drive through large puddles or standing water. If water is deeper than the bottom of your door, you could seriously damage your car. And never drive through moving water unless you can easily see the ground through it. Your car—and you—could be swept away.
  • Take extra care on wet days that follow a dry spell. Oil and grime deposits on the road can mix with the rain to make things extra slick for the first few hours after rain begins falling again.

We likely have at least a few more weeks of wet driving conditions, so please stay safe out there!

FYI, for information on safe driving, consider taking the National Safety Council’s defensive driving course. You may be eligible for a discount on your auto insurance. Be sure to check with your L & M Insurance Group agent at 813-672-4100 to see if you qualify.