The Importance of Renters Insurance

Living in the Bay Area, renters insurance should be a much hotter topic than it’s given credit for.  It seems more and more common that landlords are requiring their tenants to purchase renters insurance as a requirement on the lease agreement. Unfortunately, there are a number of people who haven’t been properly educated on why they should have renters coverage. I’d like to go over a few reasons why renters insurance is so important.

 

Personal Property

This is one of the top reasons that one should purchase renters insurance. In case the building was robbed, the renters policy will provide coverage to replace one’s items. There seems to be a general misconception that personal property is covered by the landlord’s liability policy. This is NOT true. Most policies will not cover tenant’s personal property if something were to happen. How much money would it cost to replace all of your personal belongings?

 

Liability Coverage

This coverage is the main reason that your landlord is requiring you to get the policy in the first place. If you accidentally leave the water running when you leave the house and it floods, affecting the unit living downstairs, this part of the policy will protect you from getting sued. Also, if you accidentally left the stove on and it started a fire burning down 2 units, this coverage will save you a lot of money and headache. Minimum coverage starts at $100,000 and doesn’t cost much to raise the limits.

 

Protect Items IN Your Vehicle

This is especially important in the Bay Area. This coverage applies to cars being broken into and items being stolen. When somebody breaks into a vehicle and steals a laptop, your auto insurance will cover the broken window. Many people assume that the auto policy will also cover the stolen laptop, but it doesn’t. That stolen laptop would be covered by a renters policy or homeowners policy. With car break-ins rising in the Bay Area, why wouldn’t you want to make sure to protect those items and have some peace of mind?

 

Luckily, we’ve worked hard to bring an easy solution to help you cover these needs. You can have your renters quotes from top carriers in 3 minutes! Please visit www.safebutler.com/home for your quote today!

Is Social Security Number needed for Auto Insurance Quotes in California?

ssn
A user recently moved to California and came to SafeButler.com for his Auto Insurance. After signing up, he asked us an interesting question over chat, “Back where I lived, I had to provide my Social Security Number to obtain Auto Insurance quotes. Why doesn’t SafeButler need that?” Our answer was “You are not in Kansas anymore. This is California.”

Insurance is regulated state by state. Back in 1988, California voters approved Prop 103. Among other consequences, it prohibits insurance companies from using consumer credit scores as a rating factor. Thus Auto quotes in California do not need the SSN.

Thirty years later, Prop 103 remains a hotly contested topic. Insurance companies argue that it deprived them of one of the most accurate rating tools. On the other hand, consumer advocacy groups hail it as a big win for consumers. California Department of Insurance, the state’s insurance regulator, cited studies that claimed Prop 103 saved California consumers over $100B in 25 years since its approval. Whether Prop 103 is responsible for it or not, it is a fact that California’s insurance rate has been largely flat since 1988 while the national average has increased 43%.

One thing is for sure. As we tell our users if a website asks for the SSN to quote Auto Insurance in California, either the site doesn’t know what it is doing or it may be a fraud.

To bundle, or not to bundle, that is the question

BundledCash

As an insurance consumer, you have probably heard the pitch from an agent or carrier that you should move all your auto/home/landlord/motorcycle/life policies to the same carrier. Why? You get the bundling discounts to save money. Is that really true?

Well, most carriers do offer some bundling discounts. But it doesn’t always mean you save money by bundling. For instance, we have seen cases where carrier A offers cheap auto quotes with expensive home quotes while carrier B offers expensive auto quotes with cheap home quotes. Instead of getting a discount from a high bundled price from either carrier, our users saved money by putting their auto with carrier A and home with carrier B.

To figure out the best choice for our users, our computer recommendation system shuffles through a ton of combinations, bundled or unbundled. This is a task that human agents rarely perform, for multiple reasons. First, the amount of work required is generally too much for humans. Second, more importantly, a carrier has no incentive to put any client with a competitor even when unbundling means a better deal for the consumer. As SafeButler, we take pride in putting consumers first. As the Earth’s most consumer-centric insurance organization, we invite all insurance consumers to hold us accountable to that bar.

Protecting Yourself from Your Own Insurance Company

No, the title is not a typo. Seriously. Time and again, we’ve heard stories from people about how their claims are poorly handled by their own insurance companies. Here is a real story that happened recently. A friend of ours came to a stop at an intersection. He started driving forward when the light turned green. Coming from the right, in an attempt to race across the intersection, another car drove right past in front of him. His car caught the rear bumper of the other car and knocked it out of control. Airbags were deployed in both cars. Luckily nobody was hurt. But that also meant the police declined to come to the scene. The drivers exchanged insurance cards and found out both were insured by the same insurance company, one of the most well-known names.

What transpired in the claim processing infuriated our friend. The insurance company wanted him to accept 30% of the fault! The cited reason was that the other driver claimed that the light was yellow for her when she raced into the intersection. In this case, since the insurance company is paying from its left pocket to its right pocket, it had little motivation to get to the bottom of the truth. In these his-words-against-her-words type of claims, it is quite common that the insured finds himself getting little help from his insurance company.

Enter the hero that saved the day for our friend, his dashboard camera. In its clear video footage, it was shown without a shadow of a doubt that his car started moving only after the light turned green, which in turn meant that the light for the other driver must have turned red!

dashcam

You can find a lot of good dash cams online that are reasonably priced and easy to install. Here is Amazon’s Choice for less than $50. Maybe it should be the Christmas gift for yourself. 😉 Be safe, be savvy!

How does a Homeowner Policy Cover a Wildfire Loss?

wildfireHouse

Except in areas where wildfires are common (often known as high fire line score areas), Homeowner Insurance covers losses caused by wildfires in general. Here is a breakdown how each coverage item in a Homeowner policy helps after a home is damaged or destroyed by a wildfire.

Dwelling: This covers the repairing or rebuilding the home and attached structures to what they were before the fire, up to the coverage limit. The coverage amount is usually lower than the market value of the home which includes the value of the land. In high priced real estate markets such as the Bay Area, it is quite common to see homes that are sold for a couple of millions. Their reconstruction cost, and thus the needed Dwelling coverage amount, is actually often a fraction of the market value.

Other Structures: This coverage repairs or rebuilds detached structures such as fences, sheds or detached garages. It is often 10% of the Dwelling coverage amount.

Personal Property: This coverage replaces the lost belongings, such as clothes, electronics, furniture. There are two important things to know about this coverage. First, there are two different types of replacements, Actual Cash Value (ACV) and Replacement Cost (RC). ACV covers the fair market value typically. For instance, if a jacket is lost in the fire, ACV covers the amount to buy a similar used jacket on eBay. On the other hand, RC covers the cost to buy a similar new jacket. It is almost always worth the little extra money to get Replacement Cost. Second, there is usually a fairly low coverage limit for expensive items such as jewelry, furs, art, guns, etc. If you have any of those, you can buy an endorsement or a scheduled personal property coverage specific to your high-value item. You may even need an appraisal. Pro tip, it may be a better option to store the high-value items in a bank’s vault than buying insurance for them, particularly if the items have personal or emotional connections. It’s probably a good idea to take an inventory of your belongings annually. We are working on tools to make it easy for you.

Loss of Use: After a fire, the home may become inhabitable until repaired or rebuilt. This coverage pays for renting a home or staying in a hotel, up to the limit in either time or dollar amount.

Personal Liability: This covers damages caused by the homeowner in almost all situations except in auto accidents, which should be covered by the liability coverages in the Auto Insurance. It is an important coverage for the homeowner’s financial security. For homes that are right next to each other in a city like San Francisco, this coverage is even more important. Imagine a fire starts in your kitchen. It not only damages your home but also the neighboring homes. This coverage helps you make the neighbors whole. The good news is that getting a $300K Personal Liability coverage costs only a tiny more than a $100K coverage. We usually recommend at least $300K for this coverage. Some Umbrella Policies may even require the Homeowner Policy to have $300K Personal Liability coverage.

Medical: This pays for the medical cost of the residents or visitors regardless of fault, up to the limit. Besides other restrictions, the limit is typically not high enough for major accidents. So it is not a replacement for a good health insurance and an Umbrella policy.

Extended Replacement Cost: Right after a wildfire destroys multiple homes in an area, the demand for construction labor and material is likely to soar. The Dwelling coverage may become insufficient to rebuild the home due to the resultant higher labor and material cost. This coverage provides additional coverage for the reconstruction. Sometimes in an attempt to allure consumers with a lower price, an insurance broker or agent may quote a Homeowner policy with zero Extended Replacement Cost. Be aware and thorough when comparing coverages between quotes.

Suffering a loss in a wildfire is extremely stressful. It can be helpful to prepare for the unexpected by having a solid Homeowner policy and knowing what and how much will be covered.

Can I buy (more) home insurance when a wildfire threat is imminent?

wildfireSome communities in California suffered tremendous loss in recent wildfires. According to United Policyholders, a consumer advocacy group, more than half of the fire victims did not have enough insurance coverage to repair or rebuild their homes. The gap averaged over $100,000. When serving our users with home insurance, we see a similar pattern of under-insurance. In these cases, we always recommend they bring the coverage amount to reflect a more accurate rebuilding cost. Using technology, we also automatically monitor the coverage amount going forward to ensure proper protection.

Interestingly, one of our users asked a question in response to our recommendation. “Why can’t I increase the coverage amount when a wildfire threat is imminent? That way, I don’t have to pay as much now and still get the protection when actually needed.”

Well, if the user indeed tries this, he will be surprised to find that, when a wildfire burns near his home, the insurance companies won’t allow any increase in coverage amount or any reduction in deductibles. They also won’t sell any new homeowner policy. It is called “binding restrictions“. When a binding restriction is in place, there is nothing an insurance agent can do to increase the protection unless a request for change was already initiated. Binding restrictions also occur during other natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding.

Upon hearing the explanation, our user happily took our recommendation. At SafeButler, we know that insurance is complicated and boring for most consumers. That’s why we take pride in making sure every user is well protected without them spending mental energy on it. For users that want to dig deeper to better understand our recommendations, we are always happy to explain. After all, we are your advisor and butler when it comes to insurance. 🙂

Progressive and esurance customers, be aware of fees

Imagine you are exactly in the middle of an auto or homeowner insurance policy period. So you “used” half of the protection you bought at the beginning of the period. In Insurance Industry lingo, half of what you paid is now “earned premium” while the other half is “unearned premium”. Insurance company can’t keep the “unearned premium” if you cancel the policy, at which point it must issue a prorated refund of your premium. Fair and square.

However, some insurance companies made things more complicated and less consumer friendly than that. For example, in California, Progressive and esurance charges a $50 cancellation fee for auto insurance. Progressive also keeps 10% of the “unearned premium” upon cancellation for motorcycle insurance. The only way to avoid these fees is to switch at end of the policy period. As consumers, stuff like this is probably not worth your energy and brain power. At SafeButler, we are the experts in dealing with all these ugly details. So leave it to us. Simply enjoy savings without having to think about it. After all, we are your insurance butlers. 🙂

What is Uninsured Motorist coverage for?

Isn’t every driver legally required to carry insurance? Yes, in theory. Unfortunately, the reality is that 1 out of 7 drivers on the road are uninsured. They typically don’t have much asset or income. Collecting from them could take years. If, God forbid, you got injured by another car, it is painful enough to deal with your medical problems. It’s not time to fight a medical+financial double whammy.

This is where the Uninsured Motorist coverage really helps. Now, your own insurance pays you immediately if you are hit by an uninsured driver. This is a vital protection for yourself and your family. The good news is that it doesn’t cost much. To save money on insurance, it is much more sensible to have at least $100K Uninsured Motorist coverage than having rental reimbursement or low deductibles. To see more details about what auto insurance coverages are vital and what are not, please check out Getting enough coverage is easier and cheaper than you thought.

Insurance for Uber Drivers

As a Uber driver, you are probably happy about the money you are making using your car. But don’t let a simple oversight ruin your financial life. Did you know that driving for Uber is considered driving-for-hire? Did you also know that by default your personal auto insurance does NOT cover driving-for-hire?

According to Uber, “while you’re online with Uber before you accept a request, you are covered by our insurance policy for your liability to a third party if you are in an accident when you’re at fault.” Did you notice that Uber did not mention any coverage for yourself or your car? That’s correct. Before you accept a request, if your car is damaged, Uber would NOT cover it; if you are injured by an uninsured driver, Uber would NOT cover it either. Because the accident happens while you drive for hire, your personal auto insurance would NOT pay you either even if it would have covered you otherwise!

Fortunately, fixing this coverage gap is easy. Simply make sure your personal auto insurance has a ride-sharing endorsement. (An endorsement in an insurance policy is an add-on coverage.) A lot of insurance companies in California provide this endorsement, including Allstate and Farmers. The cost is only $15-20 per year, according to Allstate. Now that is money well spent for a great protection.

How to make sure you have the ride-sharing endorsement?

Option 1. Ask your agent to add it for you.

You can call your insurance agent to add the ride-sharing endorsement for you. This usually can take effect immediately. In some states though, your insurance provider may not support this option. For instance, in California, Geico doesn’t offer ride-sharing endorsement.

Option 2.  Switch your insurance company

If your current insurer doesn’t offer ride-sharing endorsement, you can switch to another insurer which does. During quoting, look for “ride-sharing” and make sure you select it. If the quoting process doesn’t ask you about “ride-sharing”, you can assume that the quote doesn’t have this endorsement.

Option 3. Use independent insurance services

The easiest option may be using a service like SafeButler.  It has helped hundreds of Uber drivers get the right protection while saving them money. Although it’s by invitation only, for limited time, you can sign up as an Uber driver for free. It will automatically ensure your auto insurance has the ride-sharing endorsement. In addition, it’ll quote from multiple top brands to get you the best deal.

Getting enough coverage is easier and cheaper than you thought

In a casino, the house always wins. When it comes to insurance, the insurance companies always collect more in premiums than paying out in claims. Otherwise they wouldn’t be in business. Then why do we buy insurance? Other than it is legally required, we want to use predictable and affordable losses (i.e. premium payments) to prevent unpredictable and catastrophic ones that could ruin our lives. When it comes auto insurance, we recommend spending money on the following three “vital coverages“.

  • Bodily Injury Liability

If you hit someone, you’d be responsible for the injured person’s medical bills, lost wages, plus pain and suffering. In addition, if sued, you would likely have to pay a hefty legal bill. With so many highly-paid professionals driving in the Bay Area, $50K may not be enough. (The per occurrence coverage is less relevant because most cars on the road have only one person in it.) So we recommend carrying at least $100K-per-person.

  • Property Damage Liability

With so many Tesla’s and other luxury cars on the road in the Bay Area, damaging one of them could easily generate a loss of over $50K, costing potentially tens of thousands out of your pocket. So we recommend carrying a $100K coverage. The good news is that doubling this coverage from $50K to $100K cost you almost nothing.

  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist

1 out of 7 drivers on the road are uninsured. They typically don’t have much asset. Collecting from them could take years. With this coverage, your own insurance pays you immediately if you are hit by an uninsured/underinsured driver. This is a vital yet inexpensive protection for yourself and your family.

All other coverages are merely “convenience”. e.g. Compared with a $1000 deductible, the additional benefit of a $500 deductible is at most $500. The interesting thing is that giving up this $500 benefit in deductible is often more than enough to boost the vital coverages from $15K to $100K. In addition, Medical Payment coverage pretty much overlaps with your regular health insurance coverage. You can remove it to save money.

At SafeButler, your insurance coverages are automatically and continuously reviewed by licensed professionals whose sole objective is to ensure you and your family are well protected, and your insurance dollars are spent wisely.

Protecting Assets as Young Professionals

You just graduated and landed a job. Congrats! Did you know that, before you receive the first paycheck, you already have assets worth protecting? You may wonder, hey, I don’t own any real estate, my car is a piece of beaten-up junk, and my bank account balance is zero. If I hurt someone in a car accident, what can they take away from me anyway? Do I really need to carry good coverage other than the state-mandated minimum?

Well, the surprise is called “wage garnishment”. In California, up to 25% of income may be garnished by court order. If your Bodily Injury Liability coverage is exhausted, the remaining liability doesn’t automatically disappear even if you have no asset. The injured party could come after your future income. So don’t incorrectly assume you don’t need good liability coverage even if you currently have no asset. Your future is worth protecting too. If you would like to save money on auto insurance, it is important to differentiate what coverages are vital and what are merely convenience. You can boost your liability coverage while saving money by cutting out the convenience coverages. Now that is a smart new grad!