My stuff was stolen out of my car. Is it covered?
Car insurance policies do not usually cover items in your car. Any damage to the car as a result of the theft, say a smashed window (after the deductible), would typically be covered under the comprehensive coverage of your car insurance policy. If the stolen items were high value items, there may be coverage under your home or renters insurance policy. Give your agent a call to see what your deductible is and if it might be worth your while to file a claim.Back to TopWhat is "full coverage"?
Generally, “full coverage” is an informal way of saying your insurance policy covers both your liability and your car through comprehensive and collision coverages, as opposed to a “liability only” policy. However, some people think that full coverage includes emergency road service or rental reimbursement. Bottom line, clarify the coverage you want to have before an incident because definitions may vary. “Full coverage” is not a legal insurance term that would be used in your contract.
“Full coverage” may be a valuable shorthand for those not working in insurance industry, but a good insurance professional should work to help you clarify what you have, want, and need. Perhaps you only want comprehensive coverage, but not collision? Perhaps you think “full coverage” should include “rental reimbursement” or “emergency road service”? Or low deductibles?
Not sure? That’s okay, let’s work to quickly clarify what’s a good fit for you. If you’re wondering what the coverages actually get you (here in OR or WA), let's set a time to review your policies.Back to TopWhat is collision coverage?
Collision covers damage to your vehicle from those incidents when you are driving your vehicle and hit some other object such as a rock, a curb, a guardrail, a garage door, or another car. It also covers your car if someone else smashes into it (though frequently their insurance will pay for this). People typically choose deductibles from $250 to $1000. Though not required by law, collision coverage will be required by your lender if you have a loan on the vehicle. Back to TopWhat is comprehensive coverage?
Comprehensive coverage, or “other than collision,” is designed to cover damages to your car that aren’t covered by your collision coverage. Comprehensive coverage is not required by state law. People typically choose a deductible of $0 to $500.
Comprehensive coverage tends to apply in losses when the vehicle owner has little direct control over the situation. Examples would be:
- Falling tree branch
- Airborne rock
- A moving deer or raccoon
“Moving”? I say moving because one of the more common misconceptions is that comprehensive will cover your car if you hit a rock, a pothole, or some other object that is stationary. In all likelihood, such an incident will be considered a “collision” loss, even if that rock shouldn’t have been in the middle of Farmington Rd or that pothole in the middle of TV Highway. Likewise, if you swerve to miss an animal, and strike a tree, or guardrail, the company will likely use collision coverage because there isn’t evidence of an animal if it runs off. In those cases, the loss will typically also be categorized as at least partially “at-fault”, even if was difficult to see.Back to TopWhat is the difference between comprehensive and collision coverage?
While both coverages cover damage to your car, each coverage comes into play depending on the cause of the loss. Comprehensive coverage tends to cover those causes that you had no direct control over (hail, vandalism, a falling tree branch, an airborne rock, or a bounding deer). Collision tends to cover those incidents when you are driving your vehicle and hit something else (that fire hydrant, curb, another car, etc).
Comprehensive coverage is almost always less expensive than collision coverage because collision losses tend to be bigger accidents. Your agent should be able to speak more accurately to your specific situation.Back to TopDo I need to share my driver’s license number if I get in an accident?
No. There is no need to share your driver’s license with the other party, and it’s inadvisable for identity protection reasons. You should exchange contact information and insurance information. (You do need to share your license with the police if they ask.)Back to TopWhat about factory or OEM parts here in Oregon?
Insurance companies are not required to pay for factory or Original Equipment Manufacturer parts if there are alternatives parts of equal or better quality available on the aftermarket. With a few exceptions, those alternative parts usually are available. Instead, the insurer can pay for aftermarket parts to restore your car to pre-loss condition. Oregon law does require that the parts be independently certified as equal to the factory parts. You still can insist on the factory parts, but you will likely need to pay the difference.Back to TopWhat are the child safety seat laws here in Oregon?
Here’s the short of it, extracted from ODOT (the Oregon Department of Transportation).
- Children must be in child safety seats until 40 lbs.
- Infants must face the rear until age 2.
- Kids over 40 lbs must use a booster until age 8 or 4 ft 9 in.
- Safety experts recommend that children should sit in rear seat until age 12.
Okay, okay, but when I can I break the kid out of the booster? ODOT says you should be able to answer “yes” to these questions.
Back to TopDo I have to have car insurance here in Oregon?
- Can the child sit all the way back against the vehicle seat?
- Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the seat?
- Does the shoulder belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
- Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
- Can the child stay comfortably seated like this for the whole trip?
Yes. Here’s the relevant state website, but in short, driving without liability insurance is a big deal in Oregon. At the least, you can get an expensive traffic violation, and if you’re in an accident, your license could be suspended. Back to TopWhat car insurance coverage am I required to have in Oregon?
First, note that this question is different than the next question, what coverage is good for my situation?
Here are the minimum's from Oregon's website,
“The minimum insurance a driver must have is:
- Bodily injury and property damage liability
- $25,000 per person;
- $50,000 per crash for bodily injury to others; and
- $20,000 per crash for damage to others’ property.
- Personal injury protection
- Uninsured motorist
- $25,000 per person; and
- $50,000 per crash for bodily injury.”
There are a very few exceptions for some farm vehicles and some specialty vehicles. But check before you drive.Back to TopWhich car insurance coverage is most important?
I believe that the most important coverage is the liability coverage because that is the coverage that protects you from the big one, the unexpectedly nasty accident that could put you on the legal hook for injury and damage amounts that could upend your life. The liability coverage is what pays for injuries you might have caused to other people and damage to their property. In particular, medical costs are high. And there are now plenty of cars on the road that are worth upwards of $50 grand. The potential value of this coverage to you could be in the $100s of thousands of dollars if you get good limits.
Next important is the uninsured, underinsured motorist coverage, which usually matches the liability limits. This is important because it will pay to you on behalf of people who don’t have enough coverage or any coverage. Similarly, the potential value of this coverage to you could be in the $100s of thousands of dollars if you get good limits.
Next is the coverage on your car. This is known as the comprehensive and collision coverage, together they cover your car from damage with a typical deductible of $500 or less. The potential value to you is typically the value of your car at the time of the accident.
PIP (Personal Injury Protection) coverage is important and required here in Oregon. The main value to you is $15,000 of no-fault medical coverage for you and passengers. (This coverage often overlaps with medical insurance or the liability limits of other insurance policies.)
Finally, least important but nice-to-have are the Emergency Road Service/ Roadside Assistance coverages and the Rental Reimbursement coverages. They can help smooth out the littler inconveniences of owning a vehicle and going through an accident.
The potential value to you of Emergency Road Service to you is $80-$150 (the cost of a tow) and the convenience of knowing you just call that number to coordinate the tow.
The potential value to you of Rental Reimbursement coverage is $500-$1500 for a rental vehicle if yours should be laid up for a period due to an accident.Back to TopWhat car insurance coverage is good for my situation?
If your agent or insurance company hasn't encouraged you to consider more than state minimums, you should find a new company and agent. Do you really want to accept protection limits that were established almost half a century ago without thinking about it?
The amount of liability coverage people recommend will vary. Some insurance companies are happy to sell you the lowest liability limits to win your business. Others will make the case that you should hang your head in shame if you don’t have high liability limits and a personal liability umbrella besides. Our approach is to recognize that you want to put your dollars to good use and to remind you how insurance plays a real role in protecting you and your assets from major losses. It’s easy to rush through and think, “I’m legal” so I must be okay. We recommend pumping the brakes to consider the coverage that fits you.
Things to consider:
- What is the actual cost difference? My clients are frequently surprised that the cost difference can be small. Often, it is only $5 to $10 more a month to double or triple the amount of coverage. In other words, if you injure just one person in an accident, that $7 monthly could make the difference in whether the insurance company has $25,000 available to pay on your behalf, or $100,000.
- Medical costs: Claim costs have gone up. I’ve seen medical claims go up over $100,000 dollars by the time surgeries and physical therapy are taken into account. If you injure other people’s bodies, you are on the hook to fix it. How much do you want the insurance company able to pay on your behalf?
- Property costs: For car costs, consider that it is now not uncommon for people to be driving cars worth more than $20,000. If you damage other people’s property, such as their car or RV, how much do you want the insurance company able to pay on your behalf?
- Finally, sometimes you’re down to your last penny (I’ve been there) and you just need to know you’ve got the legal limits of coverage. This is an important decision, but it’s not for all time. When things get better, when your agent next asks to review your coverages with you, see about bumping those limits up until you have the coverage that you can feel good about.
No one plans to get into an accident, but through insurance, you do have a chance to shape the financial outcomes of an accident. Take that moment seriously. Back to TopWhat is Emergency Road Service or Roadside Assistance?
Have you ever worried about what you’d do in the event your car broke down on that busy highway? Emergency road service, or roadside assistance, is the coverage designed to answer that worry.
Pretty much all carriers offer some version—or multiple—of emergency road service or roadside assistance. The cost is usually $10 to $20 per year per car, and depending on the company, the coverage usually offers a minimal or maximal coverage, or something in between.
On the minimal end, the coverage usually helps arrange and reimburses the cost of getting your broken down car to the nearest repair facility along with an hour of roadside assistance to bring you gas or put on your spare tire. If you want the tow truck to go some extra miles to get to your favored repair shop, you may need to cover a portion of the towing for that extra mileage.
On the maximal end, the coverage can tow your car those extra miles and may also include travel expense if the breakdown is far from home.
The coverage provides some peace of mind. It’s nice to know if your car were to break down, you just call the phone number on your insurance card or submit a request through the app, and you’ll get help coordinating the tow.Back to TopWhat is rental reimbursement or loss-of-use coverage on my car insurance?
Rental reimbursement coverage is designed to help pay for a replacement rental vehicle while your own car is being fixed due to an accident. In other words, the coverage kicks in if you can’t use your car because of an accident. The cost ranges from $10 to $30 per year and the coverage can ease the immediate financial impact from an accident.
Usually the coverage is paid either as a percentage or a fixed amount. A percentage amount would cover 80% of your cost of the rental vehicle, with a total benefit ceiling of $500 or more. A fixed amount would be for say $30 per day, with a total benefit ceiling of $500 or more.
Depending on the company, this coverage may bundle in certain other perks such as a reduced deductible if your rental car is damaged, or travel expense reimbursements if the accident happens more than a certain distance (say 50 miles) from home.Back to TopAn accident! What should I do?
Whether you're driving on a major road like 217 or pulling through the parking lot at Fred Meyer, being in an accident can be unnerving and disorienting. You'll make it through!
1. Be Safe: do what you need to do to make sure you and your passengers are safe from other traffic. Aid the injured and call 9-1-1 if needed.
2. Exchange information with
a. The other driver. Name, address, phone, number, their insurance policy carrier and policy#, and license plate. (Not your drivers license #).
b. Any witnesses. Names and phone numbers. Even if you think it’s a very simple accident, get the witness names and numbers. A 3rd party witness account can help establish what happened should driver accounts disagree.
c. Safely take a few photos of the damage on both cars and the general scene if you can.
3. Notify the police if there is any injury, if damage to any vehicle appears to be over $2,500, or if any vehicle is towed from the scene (use the non-emergency number if you’re not in an emergency situation.).
4. If an Accident Report (not the same as notifying the police) is required, you have 72 hours here in Oregon to file the report with the DMV.
5. Call your agent to discuss next steps.Back to TopGeneral advice for how to go through an auto insurance claim?
Filing a car insurance claim can involve a lot of details and people. Even a simple claim like a side-view mirror can involve both drivers, the insurance company claim reps, the repair shop or shops, and an adjuster.
Here are a few general guidelines for going through a claim.
1. If you’ve sustained injuries or even discomfort, tell it to the insurer and seek medical attention. This is important for your own recovery and for documenting how the injury may be linked with the accident. It is not unusual for it to take a few days to fully feel the injuries you’ve sustained.
2. If you have questions, ask. Whether you’re talking to the adjuster, the repair shop, or the insurer claim representative, they should be able to help you understand the process and answer your questions. If you sense that the person you’re speaking with is unsure or unclear, request to speak with a supervisor. If you want to run your thoughts by someone, call your agent.
3. Important questions:
a. What is the next step? Realize that it is a process, and the claim representatives should give you a clear sense of the next step.
b. Is my car safe to drive? The repair facility should be able to tell you.
c. Do I have rental reimbursement coverage? If you need a replacement rental vehicle.
d. How long? Ask each person you deal with how long they estimate it’ll take to hear from them or to get the repairs done.
4. Don’t sign off on the claim until damages are truly settled. Insurance companies will ask you to sign a release confirming that you’re content with the work they’ve done on your behalf. This is a usual part of the process (kind of like the end of a kitchen remodel or car repair). If you have outstanding concerns that have not been addressed (injury concerns, additional repairs needed, etc.), communicate those to the company.Back to TopIf I slide across the ice and crash, is it considered at-fault?
If your car slides and crashes, the accident will likely be classified as an at-fault accident by your insurance carrier. At-fault accidents can make your premiums go up more than other types of claims.
As someone who has taken dozens of ice and snow crash claim calls over the years, I say stay home if you can. Drive very carefully if you must drive. This applies more so in our beautiful section of Oregon where ice and snow are rare. Because snow is rare, municipalities do little to improve the roads. Plus, people are not practiced to driving in icy conditions. Why risk an accident a rare day or two of ice?Back to TopWhat can I do to get my teen driver ready to be a responsible driver?
Bottom line: the most important thing you can do is to take time to ensure your teen has good training and lots of supervised practice behind the wheel. We just had our first teen driver this last year
- Driver’s ed class: I strongly recommend a driver’s ed course through one of the local academies, through their highschool, or through ODOT. That will get them a discount on car insurance and that discount will typically more than offset the cost of the class over time—not to mention perhaps prevent an accident.
- Practice time: You may be tempted to skimp on the practice time behind the wheel. Don’t. It’s one thing for your teen to know the rules in their head. It’s another to practice driving in real life situations. As an experienced driver, it’s easy to forget how many complicated driving situations you navigate without much thought, whether traversing that parking lot at Washington Square Mall, merging onto highway 217, or attending to the one-ways in downtown Hillsboro-- or Portland.
- Don’t be afraid to pump the brakes. Driving a car is a serious responsibility that could result in damaging other people’s property or killing someone. Drastic to say but it’s true. Talk with your teen. If you don’t feel your teen is ready to drive, don’t be afraid to delay for your teen and yourself. You want them safe and comfortable. Also, your teenager driving your car is your legal liability. If they cause an accident, you’re likely the one on the hook for the damages and increased insurance costs afterwards.
- Set an example. Your teen probably sees you driving more than anyone else and will pick up many of your habits. How do you use the phone when driving? How do you buckle up? Deal with anger? ?? It’s a chance to better yourself.
- See it as an opportunity to give them life skills.
Back to TopDoes my home insurance cover flooding?
- Invite your teen into the process of car maintenance. Let your teen see how much it costs to put tires on the car, to get an oil change, or to get that timing belt change done.
- Ask your insurance agent to meet with your teen to explain car insurance and answer insurance questions. I’m not generally a nightmare scenario person, but I’m happy to give a few nightmare scenarios to teens to help them take it seriously.
- Consider having your teen share in your insurance costs. Your insurance agent should be able to give you a sense for the extra cost of having your teen drive.
No, flood insurance is provided through the National Flood Insurance Program or various private insurers as a separate policy. If the water is from backup or a burst pipe, check with your insurer.Back to TopDoes my home insurance cover losses due to earthquakes?
Maybe. Earthquake coverage can often be secured as an endorsement to your existing policy or as a standalone policy. Back to TopWhat should I know about earthquake coverage in Oregon and Washington?
It's important to know that earthquake coverage is truly a catastrophic coverage. In other words, it really will only help you in the event of major damage.
It’s important to know what your deductible is. For earthquake coverage for homes, the deductible is typically 15% or 20% of the dwelling coverage amount.
What that means is that with a 15% deductible for a home insured for $500,000, you’d be responsible for the first $75,000 dollars of damage. The company would begin paying repairs after the $75,000.
There can be no doubt that that deductible is a lot of money. Yet, if the earthquake causes $150,000 of damage, you’ll still be glad you have the coverage.
It’s important to know how the deductible is applied. Does it apply to the structure? And then again to the personal property?
Finally, how long of a period is considered one event? Not sure, ask your agent to find out for you.Back to TopWhat if a tree falls on my house here in Oregon?
Our home in Aloha has a massive oak tree and a few firs that could crush our house if they were to fall in a bad way. The bottom line is that if a tree falls on your home and causes damage, your insurance will help pay the cost of repairs for your home minus your deductible. Back to TopWhat if my neighbors' tree falls on my house here in Oregon?
Ordinarily, this will be covered by your insurance because it is your house policy that covers your home. Likewise, if your tree falls onto your neighbors’ house, their insurance covers the damage to their home.
If the tree was known to be diseased or unhealthy and an accident waiting to happen, there is a chance your neighbor (or you, if it’s your tree) could be found liable. In this case, their insurance would pay for damages. This is rare but does happen.Back to TopWhat if my neighbor’s tree looks unhealthy?
Open a conversation with your neighbor about your concerns-- a plate of cookies never hurts! Many times an expression of concern is all that’s needed for a neighbor to attend to or to cooperate with you in getting some tree maintenance done.
If the concern is significant enough, say the tree appears unhealthy, looms over your house, and there is little responsiveness from your neighbor, you can send a certified letter of concern about the tree with photos and a written opinion of an arborist. This communicates to your neighbor the seriousness of your concern and also creates a record of the communications in case any accident should happen.Back to TopWhat does life insurance do?
Life insurance is a policy that insures your life. It pays a guaranteed amount when you die to people you have named (called beneficiaries) ahead of time. Back to TopWhy would I purchase life insurance?
You want to know that people who depend upon you (spouse, children, elderly parents, charity organizations) are provided financial support if you die. Back to TopAre there different kinds of life insurance?
Life insurance policies fall into two basic groups: term or permanent. Back to TopWhat is term life insurance?
For term life insurance, the company has agrees to insure you against death for a specific period of time, say 10, 20, or 30 years.
For example, let’s say you have a $250,000 20-Year Term policy at $200 per year. What that means is that the company has agreed to cover your life for $250,000, for 20 years, at the cost of $200 per year. As long as you pay that bill and keep the policy active, the company is obligated to pay the $250,000 to your beneficiary or beneficiaries should you die.
Term life insurance is the simplest, least expensive and most common life insurance product. Back to TopWhat happens when my life insurance term ends?
In most cases, at the end of the term, you’ll need to decide whether to reapply for more insurance. It will be more expensive because you’ll be 20 years older. Also, your medical circumstances may have changed, and there’s a chance that you may be ineligible for life insurance depending on your health experience. (This is one of the reasons people select a permanent life insurance product.)Back to TopWhat is permanent life insurance?
Permanent life insurance is designed to cover your life to the end of your days. While term insurance covers you for a set period of, say, 20 years, the goal of permanent life insurance is to cover your life for the rest of your life.
The structure of permanent policies can vary considerably from varieties of whole life policies to varieties of universal life policies. Permanent policies usually offer value and some benefits while you’re alive. For instance, you can use the policy to build a long-term asset for your beneficiaries, an asset that has a guaranteed value whenever you might pass away.
These products require due diligence because they require significantly higher financial commitment than term insurance. Additionally, they can be complicated to understand.Back to TopHow much time does it take to get life insurance?
It’s easy to put off getting life insurance because you’re concerned about the process, but don’t let the time discourage you from getting some. From start to finish, you’re looking at a total time commitment of 1 to 3 hours spread across two to ten weeks. In other words, 1 to 3 hours to select a policy that may very well cover you for 20 or 30 years.
That time includes everything from an initial discussion to think about what you’d like to apply for to the application, the underwriting, and the final decision of how much insurance you’d like at the end.
You may be able to put the policy into force right away, but you'll likely still need to go through the application process for the final determination of what the company is willing to offer you for the long run.Back to TopWhat's involved in getting life insurance?
Here’s what’s involved, pretty much anywhere you go.
First is simply deciding how much you think you’d like and to submit an application. This is where a good agent can be especially helpful. Yes, there are a variety of online life insurance calculators available, but the reality is that many of the calculators make assumptions about you, about what you want, about the structure of your family, or about your life.
Second is the full application, which usually involves a phone interview (30-45 minutes). In the interview, a person will gather more information from you and permission to seek additional information. For instance, underwriters will usually check your motor vehicle record, or put out a request to your doctor for medical records if they need further information to develop the rate.
A paramedical exam often is required (30-45 minutes) as part of the application depending on the policy amount, your age, and medical history. In such a case, the company pays for a trained paramedic to visit you at your home or your office when convenient for you. The paramedic will typically take height, weight, urine and blood samples, and also blood pressure as well. (You’ll get full access to all the results if you want them.)
Now underwriters go to work (0 minutes for you). At this point you pretty much wait for the company to finish collecting relevant information. A good insurance agent will keep a watch to keep the policy moving through the process. Sometimes medical records can take well-over a month depending on the medical facility. When all the information has been gathered, an underwriter reviews your application to determine your eligibility, final rating and premium.
Third, your decision (10-30 minutes). Now that you know the final price, you can decide exactly how much you would like to purchase. The company will ask for a few signatures and payment, and your policy will go into force. (In fact, you can reject the entire policy if you wish.) Back to TopIs there a stream-lined process for life insurance?
Sometimes you’ll see advertisements for a quick, stream-lined process that promises to avoid the hassles and in-depth questions traditionally associated with getting life insurance. While it's certainly true that underwriting has become increasingly sophisticated in the last 20 years, in my view, the reality is that clients will on average end up paying a bit more for such stream-lining, especially for amounts over $250,000.
Why is that? Well, one basic reason is that the less an underwriter knows about a risk, the more the company will typically charge as a way of compensating for what they don’t know.
Also, the life insurance provider may need to compensate for the possibility that their stream-lined process will attract a higher-risk group of applicants. F
For instance, say one particular life insurance company looks more favorably than others on the use of cigars. Not only does a life insurance agent consider that when recommending a company to a cigar-loving client, after a while, word spreads among the cigar lovers of Hillsboro, and they’ll specifically ask to apply to that company. In anticipation of more cigar-lover applications, life insurance companies will adjust their rates in advance to try to account for the extra risk.
In sum, paying a bit more for a stream-lined process may be worth it to you, but if, like most, you’re concerned about getting coverage for 10 years or more (with a bill!), why not take the bit of extra time to do a more complete application?Back to TopWhat does a total loss mean?
Most car policy contracts cover your vehicle at market value at the time of the loss. (Specialty vehicles can be a different story.)
When you have an accident and file a claim, the insurance company has an adjuster evaluate your vehicle to figure out two main things. First, how much the cost of repairs will likely be, and second, the value of your vehicle.
If the cost of repairs exceeds the value of your vehicle, then the company will consider it a “Total Loss.” In other words, if the repairs cost more than the car is worth, what’s the point of getting the repairs? In most cases, it’s not.
When the company considers your car a total loss, it will essentially offer to buy the car from you at full pre-accident value (usually minus your deductible) instead of paying to get the repairs done. Then, that money is yours to do what you want with. Most use the funds to help purchase a replacement vehicle.Back to TopWhat if I let my friend borrow my car here in Oregon?
Because companies know that people let others drive their car now and again, most auto policies do cover such uses up to a certain period or length of time. Such users are often called “permissive” users because they’ve used the car with the owner’s permission. However, there are three primary cases when you should double-check with your agent.
- If the person is a household member or a relative who lives with you, you should call your agent or insurance company to double check. Many companies have exclusions for resident relatives who are not listed or taken account of because of the way that can shape the risk profile of a household.
- If the person will be using your car for an extended period, call your agent to ensure no gap in coverage. For instance, if someone will be a regular user of your car for a while, it may be advisable to rate the permissive user with your policy. The length of time may vary, so check with your agent to be sure.
- If you are charging them for the use of your vehicle, contact your agent.
Check the other FAQ to see what happens if your friend crashes your car.Back to TopHow can I lower my insurance costs?
Back to TopWhat if I my friend crashes my car here in Oregon?
- Drive well. Don’t get tickets and watch out for those cameras in Beaverton and Tigard. Take extra care in parking lots.
- Don’t let your policy lapse. Lapsed coverage will increase your rates when you go looking. Plus, if you get ticketed for driving without proof of insurance you could have your license suspended here in Oregon. Then the insurance gets even more expensive.
- Don’t switch insurance companies every year. Many companies include longevity with a company in their rating. Do have your agent check around for you every few years, but switching carriers every year isn’t generally advisable.
- Consider purchasing a used car or keeping the old one you have. Ask for an insurance quote before you purchase a vehicle and include that increase in your "cost of my new car" calculation.
- Check your discounts: especially the teenager discounts, multi-car, or multi-policy discounts.
- Consider the telematics—or smartphone tracking—discount. While some carrier programs are better than others, these programs can add significant savings.
- Ask for a rerate. Here in Oregon, you can sometimes request a rerate with your carrier, which essentially gives them permission to rerun a complete insurance score and give you a better rate if they can give it to you.
- Raise your deductibles
- Consider dropping your comprehensive or collision coverage on your old car.
In short, your insurance will likely still cover the damages but to be sure you should check your actual policy or call your agent. Though your insurance will clearly record that you were not the driver, your insurance will have a claim. In effect, you’re lending your friend the car and the insurance coverage that goes with it.Back to TopHow can an insurance company use my credit history here in Oregon?
Insurers can use credit scoring for new policies. In other words, if you apply for insurance with a new company, it will likely be using your current score in addition to many other factors.
Insurers cannot use updated credit when renewing policies. So, if your credit history has deteriorated, the insurance company cannot automatically use that element at renewal to raise your rates here in Oregon. (One carrier got in hot water for this in 2009.) Likewise, this means that if your credit history has improved, the company will not automatically give you a better rate at renewal. That is why . . .
You can request what is called a “rerate." You can request that your current insurer reprice your policy with updated credit info. Moreover, the company cannot raise your rates because of the rerate. Thus, a rerate can only result in the same or lower premium. Back to TopWhat are the relevant credit history laws here in Oregon?Back in 2003 and in 2009, the Oregon legislature passed important laws that govern how insurance companies can use the credit score. Here is the relevant law: https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/746.661Back to TopWhy does an insurance company use my credit history?
Insurance companies take an astounding array of factors into account to determine the premium of your car insurance: car, claims history, driving history, driving experience, age, time of ownership, use of the car, and other household members among other factors.
Insurance companies began to incorporate elements of a person’s credit history about thirty years ago.
Insurers argued that elements of a credit history are predictive of a propensity to file claims and thus a relevant factor for determining a person’s rate. In other words, using credit history allows insurers to set the price of policies more accurately to reflect the likely cost of paying claims.
Accordingly, customers deemed less likely to file claims may see lower premiums while those deemed more likely to file claims may see their rates increase.
It is worth noting that this is a contested issue for some important reasons.
One simple irritation is that those who have a spotless driving and claims history may still see higher rates due to their credit history. It’s rare, but I’ve seen it, and I’ve also seen it with people who prefer all cash/checking transactions, people who rarely use the credit system.
On a broader and deeper level, opponents also argue that the use of the credit score ends up disadvantaging the poor and minorities. The argument is that, while insurers are already prohibited from using ethnicity and other factors in rating, the use of credit history still has the effect of pricing insurance unfairly.
I don’t know a perfect solution to these issues, but it is important to know that these concerns have shaped the laws here in Oregon. For instance, at renewals, an insurance company cannot use your updated credit to change your rate, but you can request a rerate in which the company rerates your policy using your updated credit. If your requested rerate gives you a better rate you get it, but the company cannot increase the cost based on your rerate.Back to TopCan an insurance company use my credit history in Oregon?
Yes, when you first apply for insurance the company will likely use elements of your credit history as one among many factors to determine your rate.Back to TopShould I sign up for the smartphone app discount? Or, is it worth it?
Nearly all insurance carriers now offer a discount if you and your household will allow them to track your driving through their smartphone app. Safeco has RightTrack, Travelers has IntelliDrive, Progressive has Snapshot, and other carriers have their own version.
The smartphone app uses your phone’s sensors to develop a portrait of your driving habits. That portrait typically includes:
- Braking: frequent hard braking is negative.
- Acceleration: fast acceleration is negative.
- Time driven: trip duration, regularity, or time of day.
- Distracted driving: phone use during driving. Of course, none of these apps requires you to use the phone while driving.
And then the company uses that portrait to rate your risk-level more accurately.
It is important to know that the discounts are not the same from carrier to carrier. Here are some key things to ask your agent before signing up.
How long do I need to have the app installed on my phone? Most companies require you to use it for only 90 days and a minimal mile limit. Others require you to keep it on your phone permanently.
Am I guaranteed to save money? Some companies guarantee a minimal discount, and you’ll always save money with it. Maybe a little. Maybe a lot. But you’ll always save something.
Can my rate go up? Some of these programs can result in an increase to your rate. You heard right. In other words, some of the programs might get a look at your driving habits and determine that you’re more risky than they expected.
Can I redo it? If you want to try for a better score, know when you can.
Overall, most of these programs usually do end up saving you some insurance money. In the longer run, those savings can really add up.Back to TopWhat discounts are available for car insurance?
Companies are continually trying to invent or reinvent discounts that will help attract and retain customers. Here are most of the car insurance discounts out there.
Back to TopShould my teen take drivers ed here in Oregon? Is it worth it?
- Multi-car: insuring multiple cars with the same company
- Multi-policy: having multiple types of policies with the same company. For instance, you have a home insurance policy and a car insurance policy and a personal liability umbrella.
- Telematics (app that tracks your driving): depending on the carrier may go up or down.
- Advance quoting: getting a quote ahead of time
- Car safety discounts: based on the safety features of your car
- Loyalty discount: for how long you’ve been with one carrier
- For teens: Drivers Ed & Good Student
- For college students: college graduate, student away discount if the student goes to school far away from home without a car but returns home for breaks
- Affiliate discount: as part of a professional organization that the insurance company offers a discount to
- Low mileage discount: if you don't put many miles on the vehicle
- For seniors: drivers training or defensive driving course
Teen driving courses can easily cost $300-$600; so, it makes sense to ask: is it worth it?
Yes. Three main reasons plus a bonus.
- You’ll likely recoup that cost and more in insurance savings over time. Ask your agent to know more.
- An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In other words, investing some resources now to help your teen become a safer driver lowers the chance that they’ll get into an accident, possibly hurting themselves and others, and certainly raising your insurance rates.
- It’s more comprehensive. The course will take time to fill in some knowledge gaps that you might not have the time to explain to your teen.
Bonus- It may even end up giving you some good reminders! I was driving my daughter recently on Canyon Rd towards Portland and she gently shared with me that--in her opinion--I merged too early into the turn lane. I can neither confirm nor deny her assessment of the situation, but I do remember a client who got a ticket for just such an event. Good to know!Back to TopWhat is actual cash value?
Most car insurance policies insure your car for actual cash value. In short, this is what your car was worth right before the accident. This takes account of depreciation and the physical condition of the car as well.
For example, if you owned a 2007 Toyota Camry and crashed it today, the question would be “what was it worth before the crash?” After reviewing the year, make, and model of the car and its pre-crash condition, the insurance adjustor will determine how much it is worth, say $5,100. That is its actual cash value. (The adjustor should be able to show you how they arrived at that number, but don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek clarification.)
For most of the market, this method of valuation makes reasonable sense as a way to value cars and resolve claims, but if you have a specialized high value car, say, a classic, an antique, or a high performance vehicle, you should probably seek insurance at an agreed value.Back to TopWhat is agreed value?
Agreed value establishes the value of the insured vehicle by the consent of the insured and the insurance company at the beginning of the policy, by agreement. This is instead of insuring at the more typical actual cash value.
Agreed value policies are more typical for rare, classic, or high-value cars. Think collector cars. Sometimes it is called guaranteed value.
For example, if you own a 2000 BMW Z8 worth $195,000, you might request a quote for an agreed value policy. That way you and the company agree the car is reasonably insured for $195,000. If your car is totaled, the company and you have already agreed that the car is worth $195,000. That’s what the company is committed to.
Note- if you do have a rare car, it’s worth rechecking the value every so often because the insurance company will compensate you at the agreed value. If you insured the car at $195,000, and then 5 years later, the car is worth $250,000, the car will remain insured at $195,000 unless you or the company change the policy.Back to TopWhat is an adjuster?
When someone files a claim, an adjuster is a person who investigates damages and the policy to determine how much an insurance company should compensate the parties.
For example, let’s say you rear-end another car.
Upon filing your claim, an adjuster (or a team of them) would communicate with you, your car repair shop, and possibly with your physician to ascertain the damages. The adjuster would also communicate with the person you rearended, possibly her physician, and her car repair shop to ascertain the damages you owe.
Then the adjuster considers your auto insurance policy to determine what the insurance company has promised to cover. In this instance, collision coverage would obligate the company to cover damages to your car less the deductible. Personal Injury Protection would obligate them to cover your needed medical treatment.
What about the other party?
Because you caused the accident, you are liable for the damages you have caused, damage to the car and medical injuries as well. But you have paid for liability coverage on your policy, which means the company would also be obligated to compensate the person you rear ended.
The adjuster continues to seek information on the claim—it takes time—and to make the payments under the terms of the policy. Once those obligations have been fulfilled, the claim is closed. Back to TopWhat is a deductible?
Deductible typically refers to the amount an insurance company subtracts from a covered loss. In other words, the amount of a claim that you pay before the insurance company pays.
Let’s say an oven fire burns some of your kitchen. Contractors and the adjuster estimate it will take $12,000 to fully repair the kitchen. If you have a $2,000 deductible, that means you would be responsible for $2,000 of the repairs, while the insurance company would pay the remaining $10,000 to repair your kitchen.
Or, for a car, let’s say you’re driving to Rood Bridge Park and a truck throws up gravel that cracks your windshield. You do have comprehensive coverage on your car policy with a deductible of $250. Your windshield will cost $550 to replace and, so, you’ll pay for $250 and the insurance company will pay for $300. Back to TopWhat is an underwriter?
An underwriter acts as a gatekeeper for the insurance company. An underwriter works for the insurance company to evaluate the property and risks that the company agrees to cover, like your house, your car or your wild-driving uncle. Each company has developed it’s own guidelines for what is an acceptable risk for the company to take on.
For example, let’s say you’re seeking car insurance but your wild-driving uncle also resides in your household. If your agent says she needs to “talk to the underwriter,” it’s because she wants to ensure that the company can provide a car insurance policy and that the price correctly considers the risk of all the household drivers. Ultimately, it is the underwriter who can say “yes” or “no” to your policy at that insurance company.Back to TopWhat is replacement cost?
Replacement cost is one way the insurance company can cover your property. The other way is actual cash value. Under replacement cost coverage the company estimates how much it would be to repair or replace whatever was damaged with a similar item today.
For example, let’s say you lose your couch, a bookshelf, and a TV in a fire. Under replacement cost, you’d go out and find a new couch, a shelf, and a TV that are of similar quality and make as what you had previously and the insurance company would cover the cost less the deductible.
Under actual cash value, the company would try to determine how much your used tv, sofa, and shelf were worth, and then would pay you that amount less the deductible.Back to TopWhat is an endorsement?
When you insure a car or home, the insurance company typically has a base policy that establishes the terms of the contract to insure you and your property.
What an endorsement does is to change the terms of your base policy. By themselves, endorsements are neither good nor bad and can do all sorts of things. They can be used to add coverage, restrict coverage, or clarify the wording of a particular section.
For example, let’s say your home policy includes a $1500 limit for a loss due to theft, but you just bought a $10,000 set of earrings. You can ask the insurance company to endorse your home policy to recognize your $10,000 earrings and to broaden the covered causes of loss for you jewelry.
For home insurance, other common endorsements may add things like sewer backup, earthquake, or identity restoration coverage. For car insurance, common endorsements may add coverage for custom car features, add emergency road service, or clarify coverage when operating a car within a transportation network like Uber or Lyft.Back to TopWhat is dwelling coverage on my home policy?
On your home policy, dwelling coverage sets the main limit of coverage that applies to your home and its attached structures such as a deck or garage.
For instance, a good agent will typically gather the details of your home and then run those details through a replacement cost tool. The tool provides an estimate of what it would cost to rebuild your house, say $450,000, and then that number becomes the starting point for how much you might insure your home for.
The agent will suggest insuring your home for $450,000. That number sets the upper limit of what the company will pay out to rebuild your home in the event of a loss.
(Typically, the policy will included at least 25% of extended coverage as well, just in case that ends up not being enough.)
It is worth double-checking the basic information and build quality that the agent used. The tools are usually pretty accurate but I have seen some real difference leading people to be either under-insured or over-insured. This is particularly the case with older homes that have finished basements, finished attic spaces, additions, or quality upgrades.
Back to TopWhat is other structures coverage on my home insurance policy?
While the dwelling coverage covers your home and attached structures, the other structures coverage covers your structures that are separate from your home. For examples, these separate structures could be a fence, a detached garage, a shed or gazebo.Back to TopWhat is a declarations page?
A declarations page is simply a summary of your insurance policy. It declares a summary of your policy and typically lists:
- The effective dates of the policy
- The named insured
- The property being covered
- The financial limits of the coverage
- The deductible
- The premium
- Your exact policy form number and any endorsements.
It is important to know that the declarations page is not your full insurance policy but works with your full policy to outline the coverages and limits of your policy. Back to TopWhat is an additional insured?
An additional insured is someone (or an organization) who is added to the policy to extend some of the coverage to them. This is typically someone who has an interest in the property being insured and could be affected by a major loss to the property.
This is distinct from the named insured who actually owns the policy and can request changes to it.
For example, if your mom co-owns the home with you, but you live in it while she lives somewhere else. In this case, you’d be the named insured and request that your mom be listed as an additional insured. That way, if the home is damaged in a fire, her interest is also protected.Back to TopHow long do I have to tell my insurer of my new car?
The short answer is, don’t wait to inform your insurer of your new car purchase. It's too easy to put off or even forget to tell your insurer.
If you have car insurance already, the policy likely extends coverage for a period of time, 3 days, maybe a week, sometimes longer, BUT depending on the insurer, it may or may not extend all the coverages you have.
If you have no existing car insurance, you have no coverage to drive your new car! (I recently sold a used car to a woman who had no insurance because she had no car; so, she sensibly purchased her insurance before she drove her new car.)
If you get into an accident without the coverage in place, no insurance company is going to start a policy for you to cover that accident.Back to Topwhat is home insurance for anyway?
In short, in exchange for payment an insurance company agrees to help you recover financially from certain losses associated with your home.
Although companies have added many optional coverages over the years, at a minimum the company agrees financially to repair or replace your home structure and possessions against damages caused by certain perils such as fire, wind, or vandalism. If the damage causes you to lose use of your home, the company also agrees to help cover such costs. Finally, the company also provides some liability coverage for you personally.
In this part of Oregon and Washington, some of the more common claims are trees falling onto houses, fires, a sudden water pipe leak that ruins your flooring, or a theft.
Perils that are not covered under a typical home insurance policies are flooding, earthquake, or land-slides. Earthquake coverage may sometimes be purchased for your home. Flood insurance is administered largely through the National Flood Insurance Program. Land-slide insurance is very tricky to get.
If you have a home loan, your lender will require home insurance because the home is part of the collateral for the loan. The lender wants to be sure that you are in a position to rebuild if the home burns to the ground. Back to TopWhat is gap insurance?
If you total out your vehicle, gap insurance is the name given to insurance that covers the potential difference between the value of your car and the loan.
As an example, let’s say you purchased a new car from the dealership for $25,000. You put down $3,000 and financed your car with a loan of $22,000.
Two years later, you crash your vehicle and repair shop informs you that the car is totaled.
The good news is that you have good insurance that will pay you the value of your car. The bad news is that your car is only worth $14,000, but your loan is still at $18,000. In other words, even with the good insurance on your car, you’ll still owe the bank $4,000!
That’s where gap insurance comes in. Gap insurance will cover that $4,000 gap, the gap between the loan and the vehicle value so that you don’t get stuck with it.
You can get gap insurance through your dealer or often as a coverage on your car insurance policy. It’s usually less expensive when purchased on your car insurance policy.Back to TopShould I get gap insurance?
In general, the case for getting gap insurance is strongest the larger the loan and the longer the loan. You might consider gap insurance if:
Back to TopWhat is liability?
- You have made a smaller down-payment of less than 20%
- The loan is more than 5 years long.
- Your vehicle depreciates relatively quickly
- Rolled over an old loan into your new one.
It’s what a person owes or is responsible for.
In insurance, liability is typically used to refer to the damages that one person might cause to another (or their property).
For instance, if you accidentally smash into someone’s parked car in downtown Hillsboro, then you are responsible for—or liable for—the damage you caused even though it was an accident. In other words, you owe the owner of that car for the damages you caused.
Accordingly, when an insurance policy includes $100,000 of liability for property damage, it means the company is going to take on your risk of liability up to $100,000. Back to TopThe injuries from my car accident seem minor. Should I file the claim?
Were there injuries? If yes, file the claim. Injuries sustained by you or others often can lead to unanticipated medical costs and lingering issues. Best to take them seriously now. Also, it’s not unusual for auto-accident injuries to take a few days to fully manifest.
If you’ve injured someone, you want to be sure they’re taken care of. I’ve seen medical bills range from a few thousand dollars of doctor visits and physical therapy to well over $100,000 of costs. Let your insurance company pay those bills and keep track of the claim details from the beginning.Back to TopWhat if I hit a deer with my car?
Hitting a deer can cause significant damage to your car. Repairs are typically covered under your comprehensive coverage; so, check to see if you have that coverage. Back to TopWill a deer claim affect my rates?
While all claims can influence your rates, deer claims typically have little impact because they are classified as not-at-fault accidents. Back to TopDoes my insurance policy cover my medical injuries in an accident?
Here in Oregon, it is a requirement that your policy include what is called Personal Injury Protection coverage, or "PIP." Among other things, PIP coverage includes at least $15,000 of coverage for “reasonable and necessary” medical expenses incurred within two years of your accident. The coverage is per passenger in your vehicle and can be paid out regardless of fault.
Depending on the details of the incident, coverage may also come from another insurance policy (if the other party was at-fault), from uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage (if the other at-fault party doesn’t have insurance or enough), or from your own medical insurance.
Call your agent or claim representative to learn more about your specific situation.Back to TopWhat level of Personal Injury Protection should I have?
The most important element of “PIP” coverage is the medical coverage it extends to you and passengers of your vehicle. It is on a per passenger basis.
The state minimum is $15,000 and is what most people have because financial support is frequently available through other avenues such as health insurance or another party’s liability coverage if the accident was someone else's fault.
Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to consider bumping that coverage up to $25,000 or $50,000 if you don’t have health insurance or if you find yourself with--non-paying--passengers a lot. Kids? Friends of your kids?
For instance, we have several kids (well, okay, five), but it’s not unusual for us to have events every day of the week. We might drive to Hillsboro for a soccer game, give cousins a ride to Beaverton, give friends a ride to school, or carpool to Mt Hood or the coast. What these trips all have in common is that we’ll have anywhere from four to seven people in the car.
Because Personal Injury Protection coverage is on a per passenger basis, it is an inexpensive way to ensure there are better resources available for your passengers in the event of an accident with injuries.
Call your agent or claim representative to learn more about your specific situation.Back to TopWhat is the difference between a cancelation and a nonrenewal?
A cancelation means your policy is stopped by you or your insurance company. Perhaps you are switching insurance companies or you haven't paid your bill. Here in Oregon, if you haven’t paid the premium, the company must send you a notice at least 10 days before the cancelation.
Non-renewal is the insurance company choosing not to renew your insurance. For instance, a home policy is good for a year, and at the end of the year, the policy is typically renewed for another. But sometimes the insurance company refuses to renew the policy. The insurance company must give you at least 30 days’ notice.
The typical reasons for a non-renewal are related to claim history, driver information (tickets?), or the condition of your property. For instance, most carriers will non-renew your policy if you’ve had two home insurance claims within the past three years. Or perhaps the insurance company discovered that your roof is covered in moss, is missing exterior siding, or has big dead tree branches hanging over your roof. Occasionally, a company will non-renew simply because they’ve modified their underwriting criteria.
If you get a non-renewal and it’s unclear what the issue is, give your agent a call and ask for advice for next steps. Back to TopI’m renting a trailer. Is it covered?
Most car insurance policies will extend liability coverage to a trailer you rent for a short time for personal—not business—use, and some will also extend physical damage coverage to the trailer itself. It’s important to double-check with your agent to be sure. There are usually policy limits on the Gross Vehicle Weight rating of the trailer as well as on the length of time the policy will extend coverage.
Why is the liability coverage important?
Well, let’s say you are renting a trailer to move your furniture to a storage unit. While turning a corner with the trailer, you accidentally scrape up a parked car with your trailer. Thankfully, there’s hardly any damage to the trailer but you really damaged that parked car. That’s where your car policy will typically cover the damage to the other car that you are liable for.
Why is the physical damage coverage important?
Well, let’s say you are renting a travel trailer for a weeklong getaway. While pulling into a gas station, you scrape and dent the entire side of the trailer on a telephone pole. The repair shop estimates that it’ll be $5,500 to repair. If your policy extends physical damage coverage to the trailer with a $500 deductible, the car insurance policy would pay for $5,000 of the repairs. If your policy doesn’t have physical damage coverage, then the full amount of damage comes to you.
Again, because policies differ between companies, it’s important to double check your coverages beforehand.Back to TopDoes home insurance cover landslides in Oregon?
No. Landslides aren't covered; so, you won’t have it unless you specifically go looking for it.
My in-laws house collapsed in a mudslide in 2012 in Corvallis, OR. It can happen.
There are ways of securing landslide insurance, and Sensible Insurance is happy to check for you.Back to TopShould I be concerned about a landslide in Oregon?
There are a few ways to begin answering this question
A simple place to start is the interactive hazards map from the Oregon Department of Geology. It shows the areas most likely to be impacted. You can enter your address and see a colored map that helps assess relative hazard risk based on general land features.
You can also have your property evaluated by a geological and structural engineer who can check your specific property and home.
There are ways of securing landslide insurance, and Sensible Insurance is happy to check for you.Back to TopShould I get landslide insurance in Oregon?
Because your home is probably your biggest asset, it's at least worth getting a quote if your home is built in an area with landslide risk. Then, you can weigh it out for yourself with a real number.
Back to TopHow does the insurance company determine the value of my car?
One important part of any auto insurance claims process is determining the value of your car, especially if there has been significant damage.
The insurance company determines as best as possible the current vehicle’s value, before it was damaged in the accident. To establish this value, they’ll use details about your car, age, condition, regional market sales, and they’ll make you an offer.
Make sure you look over the details about your car. If you see anything that seems off or raises a question, inquire about it. They should be able to explain.
Special improvements? If you’ve had special improvements done to the car, like specialty rims, high-end headlights, or brand new tires, ask the adjustor or claims rep to account for those. Although those components will still be valued as a used, such improvements should be taken into account.
I recommend checking sources online such as bluebook.com, cargurus.com, or nadaguides.com as reference points to get a sense for the market value of your car. If the proposed numbers seem off, send the insurance company examples of regional used cars. It’s best if you can get actual closed sales values.
Back to Top