Tag Archives: Auto Insurance

You’ll be SHOCKED to hear this if you own a car with keyless entry!


I read a New York Times article today in which the author, Nick Bilton, shared a story about a string of vehicle break-ins that happened in his city over the past month or so that involved no signs of forced entry. Puzzling? Yes.


One such incident occurred to Nick while he was at home, sitting in his home office. It was mid morning when his dog’s ears perked up and began growling at something outside. So Nick walked to his front window that views the street where his Toyota Prius was parked, and locked. What he saw next was absolutely shocking!


Two teenagers, a boy and a girl, were beside his Prius on bicycles. The girl pulled out a small, black, box like object from her backpack, pulled on the car handle…and OPENED the door!


Flabbergasted, Nick ran outside scaring the kids away on their bikes, and chased them down the sidewalk hoping to find out what they used to open his car door. Unable to catch the attempted thieves, he began his search on what they could have used to gain entry into his vehicle. What he discovered is shocking and I feel needs to be shared with as many people as possible to spread awareness.


Owners who use keyless entry key fobs to unlock their vehicles are at great risk of vehicle theft.


In Nick’s research, he spoke with a founder of 3db Technologies, Boris Danev. 3db Technologies is a security company based in Switzerland, and Mr. Danev specializes in wireless devices, including key fobs, and has written several research papers on the security flaws of keyless car systems.


Mr. Danev explains that key fobs work in the following way:


In a normal scenario, when you walk up to a car with a keyless entry and try the door handle, the car wirelessly calls out for your key so you don’t have to press any buttons to get inside. If the key calls back, the door unlocks. But the keyless system is capable of searching for a key only within a couple of feet.

The teenage girl used a device called a “power amplifier.” Mr. Danev knew immediately what had happened to Nick as he was sharing his story and explained that these devices are relatively simple in nature and inexpensive to obtain ($100 or less).

When the teenage girl turned on her device, it amplified the distance that the car can search, which then allowed [Nick’s] car to talk to [his] key, which happened to be sitting about 50 feet away, on the kitchen counter. And just like that, open sesame.

Mr. Danev said that until the car manufacturers correct this “bug,” the best way to protect yourself is to literally put your keys in the freezer. This acts as a Faraday Cage, and won’t allow a signal to get in or out.

If you’ve never heard of a Faraday Cage before, Dr. Arthur Bradley, author of Disaster Preparedness for EMP Attacks and Solar Storms, explains it as this:

A faraday cage (a.k.a. Faraday shield) is a sealed enclosure that has an electrically conductive outer layer. It can be in the shape of a box, cylinder, sphere, or any other closed shape. The enclosure itself can be conductive, or it can be made of a non-conductive material (such as cardboard or wood) and then wrapped in a conductive material (such as heavy duty aluminum foil).

Learn how to build a Faraday Cage yourself here.

So when someone says, “I left my keys in the fridge,” don’t think they are losing their mind. They might just know something you don’t.

Photo of Amber Whitman


About the Author: Amber Whitman is the marketing consultant for the Reno Agency.




Thinking of Becoming an Uber Driver? Don’t Forget About Insurance.


Ridesharing has become a popular way to get around town and make a few bucks in the process. However, as appealing as this sounds, transportation networking companies, such as Uber and Lyft, don’t offer the necessary protection to their drivers. It is important that you have the proper insurance in place prior to becoming a ridesharing driver, so if an accident occurs, you aren’t left footing the bill on your own. Some insurance companies don’t insure drivers who are looking to get into this business either, so it’s important to talk with your independent agent to see if your insurance company does.


Currently, Pioneer State Mutual Insurance Company does not cover vehicles while they are being used for hire as a public or livery conveyance under
a Personal or Commercial insurance policy. If you are already participating in a ridesharing service such as Uber or Lyft, contact our office so we can discuss the next steps. Read more here.


Auto-Owners and the Michigan Association of Insurance Agents (MAIA) have released an article about what to consider if you are thinking about becoming a driver for a ridesharing service. Click here to read: Transportation Networking Companies (Ridesharing Services)

Insurance Explained: Types of Auto Coverage


The Insurance Information Institute created a great infographic to help you understand which auto insurance coverage you are required to have, which coverage is optional, and it also explains each coverage in words that you will understand.


III_infographic_auto coverage explained


2014 Model Cars: Least Expensive & Most Expensive to Insure


20 Least Expensive 2014-Model Cars to Insure

Family-Friendly SUVs and minivans are made for safely transporting children, therefore drivers of these vehicles are among the least likely to speed, crash, or have an insurance claim. Check out the list of the top 20 least expensive to insure below:


1. Jeep Wrangler Sport

2. Honda Odyssey LX

3. Jeep Patriot Sport

4. Honda CR-V LX

5. Jeep Compass Sport

6. Chrysler Town & Country Touring

7. Subaru Outback 2.5i

8. Dodge Journey SE

9. Honda Odyssey EX

10. Dodge Grand Caravan SE

11. Jeep Patriot Latitude

12. Ford Escape S

13. Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo

14. Jeep Wrangler Sahara

15. GMC Acadia SLE-2

16. Chevrolet Traverse LS

17. Toyota Sienna L

18. Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

19. Accord Sport

20. Jeep Wrangler Rubicon


To see a list of the average annual insurance premium for each of these vehicles, click here.


20 Most Expensive 2014-Model Cars to Insure

As you might expect, expensive vehicles top the list of the 20 most expensive cars to insure for the 2014 model year. Drawn by the luxurious accommodations and high speeds, wealthy clients often purchase these types of vehicles without considering how they are often tricky to drive and very expensive to insure, Edmund.com Editor Mark Takahashi explains. Check out the list for the top 20 vehicles that will come with the costliest insurance.


1. Nissan GT-R Track Edition

2. BMW M6

3. Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic AWD

4. Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT

5. Porsche Panamera Turbo S

6. Audi R8 5.2 Spyder Quattro

7. Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG

8. Audi A8 L 6.3 Quattro

9. Jaguar XKR Supercharged

10. Jaguar XK

11. Mercedes-Benz GL63 AMG

12. Porsche Panamera 4S

13. Audi S8 Quattro

14. Porsche Panamera S

15. Mercedes-Benz CLS550 4Matic AWD

16. BMW 650i

17. Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

18. BMW 640ix

19. Audi R8 V10 Quattro

20. Mercedes-Benz GL550 4Matic AWD


To see a list of the average annual insurance premium for each of these vehicles, click here.


Are Our Teens Missing the Point of what a ‘Designated Driver’ Is?


First of all, it is sad that we have to discuss an adult matter with our teenagers, but the reality is that teenagers are finding access to alcohol earlier than parents may like, and are abusing it.


The legal drinking age in the U.S. is set at 21 for a reason; teenagers make bad decisions when they consume alcohol.


“The age limit for alcohol is based on research which shows that young people react differently to alcohol. Teens get drunk twice as fast as adults, but have more trouble knowing when to stop. Teens naturally overdo it and binge more often than adults. Enforcing the legal drinking age of 21 reduces traffic crashes, protects young people’s maturing brains, and keeps young people safer overall,” says James C. Fell, a public health researcher at the Pacific Institute for Research & Evaluation, as stated on MADD.org.


Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici | Freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici | Freedigitalphotos.net



In a recent Bloomberg article titled, “Teens Missing the Point of ‘Designated Driver,’ Zachary Tracer wrote about an alarming realization about teenagers who drink alcohol:

U.S. teens recognize the importance of using a designated driver to get home. The problem is, that person isn’t always sober.


In 2013, Liberty Mutual Holding Co. and Students Against Destructive Decisions conducted a survey of 2,537 students in 11th and 12th grades. “About one in five adolescents say it’s fine for their driver to have some alcohol or use drugs, as long as that person isn’t too impaired to drive. Four percent just pick the least inebriated person to take them home,” according to the survey.


I’m sure if you look back to your high school and early college days, you can remember a friend, or possibly yourself, being the designated driver for the group, only to have had a beer or two before driving everyone home.


Teens “seem to think that unless they’re really falling-down drunk, that it’s OK for them to drive,” said David Melton, managing director for global safety at Liberty Mutual.


More than 10,000 people were killed in collisions involving drunk drivers in 2012, accounting for 31% of all car-crash deaths that year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The driver was intoxicated in about 18% of fatal crashes involving motorists ages 16 to 20, the data show.


Designated drivers are supposed to abstain from alcohol. A separate study of bar patrons last year found that about 40% of designated drivers consumed some booze.


Image courtesy of suphakit73 | Freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of suphakit73 | Freedigitalphotos.net


If you think that your teenager’s use of alcohol doesn’t impact you, then you are wrong. Teenagers who consume alcohol are a liability risk to you, opening you up to insurance claims and lawsuits.





It is our job as parents to educate our children about the dangers of using alcohol, especially consuming it too early. You need to have the alcohol conversation earlier than you think too as “almost one in three 8th graders has tried alcohol,” found in National Institutes of Health survey results on Drug and Alcohol Use.




The National Institutes of Health suggest parents do the following to prevent underage drinking:


– Talk about the dangers of drinking with your children

– Drink responsibly, if you choose to drink

– Serve as positive role models in general

– Don’t make alcohol available

– Get to know your children’s friends

– Have regular conversations about life in general

– Connect with other parents about sending clear messages about the importance of not drinking alcohol

– Supervise all parties to make sure there is no alcohol

– Encourage kids to participate in healthy and fun activities that do not involve alcohol


Parent’s should pay close attention to the following warning signs that may indicate underage drinking:


– Changes in your child’s mood, including anger and irritability

– Changes in academic performance

– Rebelliousness

– Changing groups of friends

– Low energy level

– Less interest in activities and/or care in appearance

– Finding alcohol among your children’s things

– Smelling alcohol on a young person’s breath

– Problems concentrating and/or remembering

– Slurred speech

– Coordination problems


Statistics from MADD.org

– Kids who start drinking young are seven times more likely to be in an alcohol-related crash.

– High school students who use alcohol or other substances are five times more likely to drop out of school.

– One in six teens binge drink. Only 1 in 100 parents believes his or her teen binge drinks.

When Is a Vehicle Considered a Total Loss?


When and whether a vehicle involved in a collision is considered to be “totaled” for first-party insurance purposes is an issue of great angst and confusion for most consumers. We hear horror stories about older, functioning automobiles being “totaled” simply because the frame is bent or other seemingly minor and hidden damage occurs. Even insurance professionals can get turned around navigating the maze of rules and regulations regarding the act of “totalling” a vehicle under a policy. But it needn’t be all that complicated. This article will hopefully help take the guess-work out of when a car can be “totaled.”

car-85320_640 copy

Typically, cars are considered to be “totaled” when the cost to repair the vehicle is higher than the actual cash value (ACV) of the vehicle. Practically speaking, however, it is not always practical to repair a vehicle, even if the cost of repair is less than its ACV. A vehicle worth $4,000 requiring $3,000 in repairs might be considered “totaled” by an insurer even though the cost of repair is less than its value before the accident. Insurance companies will typically consider such a vehicle to be a total loss, even though the repairs are only 75 percent of ACV.


While the procedure varies slightly from state to state, the insurance company will typically take ownership of the totaled vehicle (known as “salvage”) and may obtain a “salvage title” for the vehicle. After it pays it’s insured the pre-loss ACV of the vehicle and forwards the certificate of ownership, the license plates and a required fee to the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV), the DMV then issues a Salvage Certificate for the vehicle. In some cases, the vehicle is repaired, re-registered with the DMV, and then classified as a “revived salvage” or “salvaged” vehicle. Of course, if the insured wants to keep the “totaled” vehicle, the insurance company will deduct the value of the salvage from the claim payment.


The criteria for deciding when a car is a total loss and when it can be repaired vary from insurance company to insurance company and might even be dictated and controlled by state statute or regulation. Further complicating the issue is the fact that insurance companies do not use the same sources for determining the value of a vehicle. The threshold used by your insurance company to make this determination can be discovered by calling your insurance agent. Insurance professionals, on the other hand, have to be familiar with these rules, criteria, and thresholds in all 50 states.


In determining whether a vehicle is totaled, insurance companies will calculate the total loss ratio (cost of repairs/actual cash value) and then compare this ratio to limits set either internally within the company and/or regulated and established by state law. It is also sometimes referred to simply as the damage ratio. Some states dictate how high this damage ratio needs to be in order to be able to declare a vehicle a “total loss” and be eligible for a salvage title or certificate. This is referred to as the Total Loss Threshold (TLT). In order to total a vehicle, the total loss ratio must exceed the established percentage.


If the TLT is not dictated by the state, an insurance company will usually default to something known as the Total Loss Formula (TLF) which is:


Cost of Repair + Salvage Value > Actual Cash Value


If the sum of the first two quantities is greater than the ACV, the car can be declared a total loss. As an example, a damaged 2002 Toyota Echo with 185,000 miles in good condition has an ACV of approximately $2,800. Total repair costs are estimated at $2,000, for a damage ratio of 72 percent. This car would be considered a total loss in Arkansas, where the TLT is 70 percent, but not in Florida where the TLT is 80 percent. In Illinois, the TLF would be used and, if the salvage were worth $700, the car would not be totaled ($2,000 + $700 < $2,800). Of course, states utilizing the TLF rely on and defer to the judgement and opinions of licensed appraisers. Individual state laws provide the following with regard to the TLT:


Alabama: 75%

Alaska: TLF

Arizona: TLF

Arkansas: 70%

California: TLF

Colorado: 100%

Connecticut: TLF

Delaware: TLF

Florida: 80%

Georgia: TLF

Hawaii: TLF

Idaho: TLF

Illinois: TLF

Indiana: 70%

Iowa: 50%

Kansas: 75%

Kentucky: 75%

Louisiana: 75%

Maine: TLF

Maryland: 75%

Massachusetts: TLF

Michigan: 75%

Minnesota: 70%

Mississippi: TLF

Missouri: 80%

Montana: TLF

Nebraska: 75%

Nevada: 65%

New Hampshire: 75%

New Jersey: TLF

New Mexico: TLF

New York: 75%

North Carolina: 75%

North Dakota: 75%

Ohio: TLF

Oklahoma: 60%

Oregon: 80%

Pennsylvania: TLF

Rhode Island: TLF

South Carolina: 75%

South Dakota: TLF

Tennessee: 75%

Texas: 100%

Utah: TLF

Vermont: TLF

Virginia: 75%

Washington: TLF

West Virginia: 75%

Wisconsin: 70%

Wyoming: 75%


To read the full story, click here.



Living Single: Protect Yourself Financially With These Six Insurance Tips


One benefit of being single is that your money is your own, to use as you see fit, so you have the freedom to decide which savings plans and investment vehicles are right for you. But you are also solely responsible for protecting yourself financially, and insurance should be at the top of the list. The Insurance Information Institute provides advice to protect your greatest asset–you!


More Americans are living alone than ever before, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau report. The proportion of one-person households increased by 10 percentage points between 1970 and 2012, from 17 percent to 27 percent. In 2012, women represented more than half (55 percent) of one-person households, although men have been closing this gap over time. Sixty-two percent of unmarried U.S. residents 18 and older in 2012 had never been married. Another 24 percent were divorced, and 14 percent were widowed, the report noted.


If you’re flying solo, you have only yourself to depend on. Take the time to review your insurance and financial needs now in order to take care of yourself in the future. The I.I.I suggests the following six ways to help you enjoy living the single life–securely.


1. Life Insurance

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 13.6 million unmarried parents living with children in 2011, the most recent figure available. As a single parent it is crucial to make sure your dependents will be financially secure in the event of your death, so life insurance should be a key element of your financial plan. However, even if you do not have dependents, life insurance can be an excellent way to pay for your final expenses without burdening parents, siblings or other family members. A life insurance policy also enables you to leave a significant contribution to a charity you may want to support. Furthermore, whole life or permanent life policies create a cash value that, if not paid out as a death benefit, can be borrowed against or withdrawn on the owner’s request, creating a kind of “forced” savings plan. And remember, if you are single because of a divorce or a spouse’s death, you may have a life insurance policy with an outdated beneficiary designation, so make sure to make appropriate adjustments to your policy.


2. Disability Coverage

If you were disabled and unable to work as a result of an accident or illness, what would you do for income? Who would take care of you? Disability income insurance can replace lost income. Keep in mind that 43 percent of all people age 40 will have a long-term (lasting 90 days or more) disability event by age 65. While many employers offer disability coverage, some smaller businesses may not, so you may want to consider buying a private disability policy, which will replace 50 to 70 percent of your income.


3. Long-term Care

The good news is we are living longer. The bad news is that if you end up needing long-term care services, it can get pricey. If you live alone and do not have the financial resources to pay for home health care, a nursing home or an assisted living facility, long-term care insurance can be a solution. In general, it’s a good idea to buy this type of insurance well before you turn 60-there is less chance you will be rejected, and the younger you are, the lower the premiums will be.


4. Homeowners and Renters Insurance

Singles are somewhat more likely to rent than own their home; according to the U.S. Census Bureau around 20 percent of owner-occupied homes are one-person households, while close to 40 percent of rental households are occupied by a single person living alone. If you rent a house or apartment, your landlord’s insurance will only cover the costs of repairing the building itself in the event of a fire or other disaster. You need your own coverage, known as renter’s insurance, in order to financially protect yourself and your belongings.


If you do own your home, (whether it is a house or condo or co-op apartment), it is important to make sure you have the right amount and type of insurance. Homeowners insurance covers the structure of your house, personal belongings, liability and additional living expenses. With condo or co-op insurance, on the other hand, you will need to make sure you have two separate policies to protect your investment: your own insurance policy, which provides coverage for your personal possessions, liability, structural improvements to your apartment and additional living expenses; and a “master policy” provided by the condo/co-op board. The latter covers the common areas you share with others in your building, such as the roof, basement, elevator, boiler and walkways, for both liability and physical damage.


5. Auto Insurance

If you are single because of a divorce, notify your auto insurance company that there is a change in ownership or designated driver for any cars you owned as a couple. If you, or your former spouse or partner, move to a new home, you should get a separate auto policy immediately. And if either of you buys a new car, arrange for a new auto policy before the car is registered. Removing a former spouse or partner from the insurance policy also protects you from possible liability if he or she is involved in an accident and gets sued. You can often save money by buying auto and homeowners or renters insurance from the same insurer. Check with your insurance professional to see what discounts are available.


6. Retirement Income

If you are single, chances are you will need to be more self-reliant when it comes to investing for your retirement as you may not have a spouse or children to step in and help out should you need that support in the future. Most single people will qualify for retirement income from Social Security, but is unlikely to be enough to pay for more than the bare necessities in retirement. Some will have retirement income from a “defined benefit” type of pension plan–one that pays an income based on your final income and years of service from an employer. Social Security income increases to match inflation, but defined-benefit payments do not, so they will become increasingly inadequate the longer you live in retirement.

For retirement income security, if your employer offers a 401(k) type retirement savings plan, you should contribute the maximum you can to it–especially if the employer matches your contribution. (The employer match is, in effect, extra pay for no extra work so don’t miss out on that!) If you don’t have access to a 401(k) plan, start your own tax-favored retirement savings plan immediately. When you retire, you may want to consider using some of your retirement funds to buy an annuity,  which pays you an income for the rest of your life. This will ensure that your lifetime income (from Social Security, a defined-benefit pension, and the annuity) is enough to pay all your expenses.

Other Things to Consider

Talk to your insurance professional about getting the best insurance protection for your specific needs and make sure that you are taking advantage of all available discounts. Keep in mind, in today’s economy, good credit is more important than ever. A clean credit record will entitle you to higher credit limits, lower interest rates on credit cards and more favorable interest rates on loans. Many landlords now perform credit checks before leasing an apartment and some employers investigate credit histories before making job offers. So whether you are buying a home, applying for a new job or looking for the best price on insurance, a good credit history will go a long way toward helping you realize your financial and personal goals.



This article was provided by the Insurance Information Institute, http://www.iii.org/press_releases/living-single-protect-yourself-financially-with-these-six-insurance-tips.html