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America's Top 10 Most Stolen Vehicles

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by Erie Insurance on August 4, 2017

We think about safety, comfort and reliability when we’re in the process of purchasing a new vehicle. But what about if it’s an easy target for car thieves? The report in this source article examines vehicle theft data submitted by law enforcement to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and determines the vehicle make, model and model year most reported stolen in 2016.

Take a look at the latest article on car theft and see if your current (or new) ride falls on this list. You can even click on an interactive map to see the top 10 vehicle thefts by state.

Check out the vehicles on this year's list from the NICB.

Help protect your vehicle by making sure you always lock your car and by having the right auto insurance. As insurance professionals, we can help you find the right coverage at the right price!

Coverage for my College Student?

 Article obtained from https://www.erieinsurance.com/blog/back-to-college

Article obtained from https://www.erieinsurance.com/blog/back-to-college

Is your child among the million students heading back to college any day now? If so, you’re probably busy helping them gather all the things they need for life away from home. 

One of the things that you’ll want to discuss with them before they go back to college is how to keep their car and their belongings safe and protected. Here are some answers to a few of the most common questions that parents of college students often ask us.

Are my child’s belongings covered by my homeowners policy when she goes back to college?

That’s a great question. Students also often take expensive items to school like laptops, bikes and TVs, which can be pricey to replace if damaged or stolen items. The good news is that most insurers’ homeowners policies are designed to cover your child if something is stolen or destroyed. 

At Erie Insurance, full-time students under the age of 24 are automatically covered under their parents’ policy. Part-time students and/or students who are 24 and older may need to take out a renters insurance policy to protect themselves and their belongings. 

Does insurance coverage differ if my child is living in a dorm versus an apartment?

Your children’s personal property is generally covered under your homeowners policy if they’re away from home. However, when students choose to live in an apartment, they should consider purchasing a separate renters insurance policy, which can provide for additional living expenses if an apartment becomes uninhabitable because of something like a fire. 

What steps can my child take to safeguard her belongings?

It’s a good idea to talk with your child about this since more than 13,500 burglaries were reported on U.S. campuses in 2014. In addition to taking personal safety precautions, your child will also want to keep these tips in mind:

  • Always lock the doors. Sounds obvious, but most dorm thefts occur during the day.
  • Fireproof things. Don’t leave candles, cigarettes and grills—the most common causes of fires—unattended. To be extra safe, consider flameless candles, indoor grills and simply kicking the habit.
  • Create a home inventoryIt is much easier to submit a claim if you save all receipts from major purchases, make a detailed list of everything of value in your home, and photograph or videotape your possessions.
  • Safeguard pricier items—or just leave them at home. Bikes, jewelry, watches and laptops are some of the biggest targets of theft. So be sure to lock them up or leave them at a trusted residence that doesn’t have a high level of foot traffic.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most insurers limit how much they will pay for theft of any one item (at Erie Insurance, the limit is $3,000). If a prized possession is worth more, you may want to add coverage.

You may also want to add identity theft coverage to your policy. At Erie Insurance, it’s automatically included in many policies and it helps a victim recover after identity theft or fraud. Talk with your agent to learn more about identity recovery coverage.

Do I need to make any adjustments to my child’s auto coverage if she’s away at school?

Because you’ll have one less driver living at home when your son or daughter goes off to college, your household might get a discount if the child doesn’t take the car to college.* If your child does take a car to school, review your coverage with an insurance agent to make sure he or she is properly insured. 

Are college kids eligible for any discounts?

This is an important question to ask your insurance agent. Erie Insurance has a college student auto discount that applies to young, unmarried, full-time college students who spend most of the year away from home without the use of a vehicle. If you’re renting and buy your car insurance and your renters insurance together from ERIE, you may be eligible for a multi-policy discount.* Ask your agent if you’re eligible for this type of discount.

*Discounts subject to eligibility and applicable rates and rules. Not available in all states

5 Questions to Ask Before You Buy That Fixer Upper

 PHOTO: HGTV’S FIXER UPPER

PHOTO: HGTV’S FIXER UPPER

So, you found your dream home … but it needs some work to make that dream a reality. With a little bit of planning, work and patience, you think you can turn that fixer upper into something special. Here are five questions to ask before jumping in.

1. Where is it?
As with all real estate, location is paramount. As you consider the upgrades your dream house will need, think about whether those changes might actually overprice the house for the neighborhood. In addition to being in a nice, livable home, you’ll want to recoup your money when you eventually sell.

2. How much work is involved?
Fixer uppers can be a lot of work, so know what you’re getting into first. Scout out the house with a real estate agent and an experienced inspector, who can help identify the home’s issues. Are they cosmetic concerns––ugly shag carpeting, ghastly old wallpaper, outdated appliances—that can be quickly and easily replaced? Or are the issues structural? Be concerned if a home’s foundation, structure and electrical wiring require work, and ask yourself: How much is too much fixing up? Also, consider whether you’ll be able to live in the house during renovation; finding alternative housing could mean added expense.

3. Who will do the work?
Before investing in a fixer upper, decide how much you can do yourself. If the repairs aren’t extensive and you have the skills to make them, you can save money with a little sweat equity. But if you’re considering a major renovation, you’ll likely need to hire a contractor. In that case, do your research before deciding to buy. Once you’ve found someone reliable, with solid references, have them help you estimate the scope of the work—and make sure they’ll be available when you’re ready to start construction.

4. How much should I pay?
When it’s time to crunch numbers, enlist your realtor’s help. Start by comparing prices for homes in good condition in that neighborhood to determine a fair purchase price. Then, estimate the cost of the renovation and deduct that from the fair purchase price to arrive at an offer to buy. And remember, even the best-laid plans can go awry. When estimating the price of renovation, factor in the possibility for cost overruns or timeline delays.

5. How will I pay for it?
Major makeovers will likely need separate financing. A Federal Housing Administration (FHA) 203(k) rehabilitation loan can help. It allows you to buy the home and have a reserve fund in escrow for renovations. A home equity loan (also known as a second mortgage) or home equity line of credit (HELOC) taken at the same time as your primary mortgage may also be an option. Both let you borrow against the equity you already have in your home—for new homeowners, that’s usually the amount of the down payment. A mortgage specialist can help you sort through the options.

Article as published by AAA

https://athome.chicago.aaa.com/affording/5-questions-ask-buy-fixer-upper/

Backyard BBQ Party Ideas

Be sure to take advantage of BBQ season while it lasts! A good backyard BBQ is so much more than just eating. It’s a perfect opportunity to organize awesome entertainment and activities. Try out some of these fun BBQ ideas that are sure to make your next cookout a hit.

Don’t forget to stay safe while grilling. Before you fire up the coals, check out these essential grilling safety tips.

(From Nationwide Blog)

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Do You Practice Safe Selfies? Start Now.

 Erie Insurance: http://bit.ly/2ouEB2A  by Leah Knapp

Erie Insurance: http://bit.ly/2ouEB2A

by Leah Knapp

The selfie: That simple act of holding up your phone and snapping a photo of yourself. (Please note: Having someone take a photo of you by yourself is not, by definition, a selfie.)

What once seemed reserved for teens obsessed with documenting every aspect of their lives and celebrity red carpet events now seems to pervade all corners of our lives. Even politicians have mastered the art of the selfie.

The practice seemed to hit its peak in 2013 when Oxford Dictionary declared “selfie” its word of the year. Yet, its ubiquity shows no sign of slowing.

And while selfies can be an easy way to capture a moment, they can be dangerous.

There are some statistics around selfie fatalities. But there is far less data about injuries resulting from selfies, likely because there is no reporting mechanism for such things.

…And let’s face it, who wants to admit to spraining an ankle taking a photo of themselves?

At last count, there were 13 landmarks around the globe that have actually banned selfies in some form or fashion.

And consider this: A 2015 survey by Erie Insurance found that 4 percent of drivers admit to taking selfies while they’re driving, while another 23 percent have seen others do it. With more than 420,000 people injured in car accidents involving distracted driving each year, it’s time to get serious about keeping your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

With that in mind, we’ve created these simple reminders for you to share and encourage others to #PracticeSafeSelfies. Download them below and help us spread the word. To download, right click and select "Save As."

Just don’t post them #whiledriving.

Great Shot

 

 

 

Keeping Kids Safe in the Backyard

by Erie Insurance on August 2, 2017

 

Many of us love the idea of turning our backyards into an inviting oasis where the kids can let loose while the adults unwind. Who wouldn’t want to kick back and listen to the happy squeals of their kids as they splash in the pool, bounce on the trampoline or swing higher on the swings?

Play it Safe

It’s important to take an inventory of your backyard and identify potential risks. Your insurance agent can help you determine what liabilities you have and what coverage limits are best for your specific situation. It’s about the peace of mind knowing you, your family (and the neighborhood kids) are protected if something happened.

It’s important to understand that swimming pools and trampolines are known as an “attractive nuisance.” In other words, you may have something that's kept outside that could tempt a child to sneak into your yard and use it. If that kid ends up getting hurt or worse, you could be held liable, even if they were trespassing.

Bottom line, there are many situations where if someone gets hurt at your home, you’re financially responsible for his or her  injuries. To protect yourself, talk to your agent. Understand what is covered under your homeowners policy and what isn’t, and consider an umbrella policy for more liability coverage for your backyard enhancements.

In addition, take a few extra steps to protect your family and your visitors. We’ll walk through some of the most common causes of backyard accidents and what homeowners can do to protect their families, their guests and their finances — without sacrificing the fun factor.

Up first, trampoline safety.

Young, Fabulous - and Insured: Protect your (Temporary) Home

by Tara Maciulewicz on July 20, 2017

 

Insurance probably isn’t top of mind for young adults heading off to college or renting their first apartment. But with freedom comes responsibility—and in this case, the responsibility is to make sure that they and their belongings are protected by getting the proper renters and auto coverages.

The good news is that many young adults may not need to take out additional policies and, for those who do, some policies cost mere cents a day. ERIE can help with policies that fit whatever life stage you’re currently in.

Protect your place

Dorm dwellers and apartment renters alike should definitely get schooled in insurance.

“When kids are away at school, they’re considered residents of their parents’ household and are covered to the full limit of the parents’ homeowners or renters policy until they’re 24,” says Jennifer Koebe, ERIE’s vice president and regional underwriting officer. This holds true as long as the young adult is a full-time student and maintains residency in their parents’ home—which they must have lived in directly prior to moving out—when not on campus or in an apartment during the school year.

Things are a little stickier with non-full-time students and renters who are 24 years of age or older. To protect this group’s personal property against damage from fire, smoke, theft, vandalism, lightning and other common disasters, they’ll need to take out a standard renters insurance policy, such as an ErieSecure Tenant® policy.

This policy offers personal property coverage, loss of use (coverage that kicks in to take care of living expenses associated with a temporary relocation), personal liability protection, and medical payments for damages or injury that occur in your rental unit or as a result of personal activities away from home. And, similar to how an ERIE homeowners policy works, the customer gets worldwide coverage that protects his or her possessions even if they are damaged, lost or stolen when away from home, whether the location in question is an exotic locale or a friend’s place across town.

The ErieSecure Tenant® protection (including liability protection), which starts at $100,000 in coverage and goes up to $1 million, typically costs less than $120 a year and far less when paired with an ERIE auto policy. It's recommended that renters consider a personal liability limit of at least $300,000 and that they opt for guaranteed replacement cost over actual cash value.

What’s the difference?

“In an actual cash value settlement, if something happened to that TV you’ve had for 15 years, you’d receive the money it was worth with the depreciation factored in,” Koebe says. “With a guaranteed replacement cost settlement, you’ll be able to buy a brand new TV. There’s a small difference in premiums between the two, but the value that replacement cost provides Customers dealing with an unfortunate situation is significant.”

Tips to keep your stuff safe

Even with an insurance policy in place, it still pays to practice some tips to protect your property and keep claims in check. Here are a few:

 

  • Safeguard pricier items—or just leave them at home. According to the Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool,* over 22,000 dorm burglaries occurred in the years 2013, 2014 and 2015 combined. Expensive bikes, jewelry, watches and laptops are some of the most frequent targets, so take care to lock them up or leave them at a trusted residence that doesn’t have a high level of foot traffic. Renters should also be aware that ERIE has a $3,000 coverage limit per item for the theft of things such as jewelry and watches. If a prized possession is worth more than that limit, make sure to talk to your agent about getting additional coverage for that item.
     

  • Lock your doors all the time. It sounds obvious, but most dorm thefts occur during the day.
     

  • Fireproof your home. Don’t leave candles, grills and cigarettes—the most common causes of fires—unattended. To be extra safe, consider flameless candles, indoor grills and kicking the habit. 
     

  • Engrave electronics. Engravings make it easier for police to identify stolen computers, televisions and tablet.
     

  • Create a home inventory. By saving all receipts from major purchases, making a detailed list of everything of value in your home or apartment, and photographing or videotaping your possessions, submitting a claim will be easier. You’re also more likely to receive reimbursement for what’s stolen or damaged.
     

  • Consider adding Identity Recovery coverage to your policy. College students are increasingly targets of identity fraud. The Federal Trade Commission reports college students (ages 20–29) represent the highest percentage of all identity theft complaints. College students have pristine credit records and they’re exposed to situations that can leave them vulnerable to identity theft. Fortunately, it’s affordable to add an ErieSecure® Advantage Bundle endorsement, which will help cover the cost of identity theft by reimbursing you up to $25,000 of fraudulent credit card fees. The Advantage Bundle also includes increased sublimit coverage for theft-related losses.

 

Like a favorite roommate, ERIE is there for you. Talk to an Erie Insurance agent today to get the right coverage for you.

 

Insurance 101

There’s no doubt about it—insurance can be as much of a head-scratcher as a trick question on a final exam.

While we can't make insurance any less complicated, we can help it make more sense. To understand how ERIE’s policies can safeguard you and give you peace of mind, check out these ERIE resources:

 

  • ERIE’s website–You'll find lots of helpful information and insurance glossaries along with a free online auto quote tool, a life insurance calculator and plenty of FAQs in the Support Center.
     

  • Eriesense blog–Here, you have access to hundreds of stories to help you live better and safer. For example, you can search on a variety of topics and find everything from the latest trends in cars and tech to interactive quizzes and videos.
     

  • Your ERIE agent–Your knowledgeable agent is there to help you, so don’t hesitate to throw any questions his or her way. If you don’t have an ERIE agent, you can find an agent at erieinsurance.com.
     

  • Your policy–For the final word, consult your individual policy. And if you still have questions, talk to your agent.
     

  • Another great resource for insurance info is the Insurance Information Institute’s website.

 

Read about protecting your wheels next.

 

*This analysis cutting tool was designed to provide rapid customized reports for public inquiries relating to campus crime and fire data. The data are drawn from the OPE Campus Safety and Security Statistics website database to which crime statistics and fire statistics are submitted annually, via a web-based data collection, by all postsecondary institutions that receive Title IV funding (i.e., those that participate in federal student aid programs). This data collection is required by the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act and the Higher Education Opportunity Act.

Insurance products are subject to terms, conditions and exclusions not described in this article. For additional coverage questions, please refer to our disclaimer and talk to an ERIE agent for policy details. Coverage is not available in all states.

Road Travel Maintains Increasing Trend in 2017

by Erie Insurance on July 8, 2017

 

U.S. road travel is already up 1.5 percent over last year.  So far, motorists have traveled 1.01 trillion miles on U.S. roads and highways in 2017. This matches similar travel trends seen in 2016.

This is positive news for oil refiners, as the driving season (typically the summer months) is just about halfway over. Increases in motor travel will likely have an effect on gasoline consumption, which was still down 2.7 percent at the end of the first quarter this year.

Read the full story from Thomson Reuters online news site, Reuters

ERIE Ranked Highest in J.D. Power Insurance Shopping Studay

Thousands of people recently shared their experiences about shopping for auto insurance in a new national study and Erie Insurance was awarded “Highest Satisfaction with the Auto Insurers Shopping Experience.”

The J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Insurance Shopping StudySM, now in its 11th year, provides an in-depth look at the entire auto insurance policy selection process. It explores why customers shop, their attitudes toward and perceptions of auto insurance brands and how they make their final purchase decision. Satisfaction is measured on three factors (in order of importance):

  • Price—How customers rate their new auto insurance provider on the price of the policy given the level of coverage.

  • Distribution channel—How customers rate their experience interacting with their new auto provider’s agent, call center rep and website.

  • Policy offerings—How customers rate the variety of coverage options, the degree to which their needs are met and the ease of obtaining a new policy.

For the fifth consecutive year, Erie Insurance ranked the highest in the study, with a score of 879 out of 1,000.

The study methodology and other findings

The study is based on responses from more than 16,400 shoppers who requested an auto insurance quote from at least one of the top 25 insurers that have the largest market share in the United States. Customers were surveyed from April 2016 to January 2017.

The study also revealed that shoppers are increasingly reliant on agent recommendations when considering and quoting insurers, compared to 2015 (with 9- and 10-percentage point increases, respectively). Another critical driver of satisfaction is communication. Companies like ERIE that ranked the highest in the study help:

  • Ensure the customer completely understands the coverage.

  • Provide guidance and/or tools for selecting the right coverage.

  • Make certain customers understand their premium calculations.

Are you shopping for insurance?

When you’re shopping for insurance, J.D. Power offers the following tips:

  • Look for an agent with a reputation for integrity and trustworthiness, who can give you thorough advice on the pluses and minuses of various insurers and their products.

  • Compare the terms of various policies and assess how those policies might be affected by factors such as current events, driver performance and acquisition of new vehicles.

  • Be sure you’re well covered in areas where you most need coveragesuch as personal liability (when you hurt other people or their property).

Who Is Erie Insurance?

ERIE has been protecting families and businesses for more than 90 years. The company’s employees and agents follow the Golden Rule—treat others as you would want to be treated. 

“As you can see from this study, our prices, products and service often outshine the competition,” says Doug Smith, executive vice president, sales and products, at Erie Insurance. “When you work with an experienced ERIE agent from your neighborhood, you’ll get coverage that exactly fits your life and never pay more than you should. When something bad happens, we’ll make sure you’re back on your way, right away. We’ve built our reputation for being Above all in Service®.”

In the past year, ERIE has made improvements to the auto insurance quote tool on its website. Shortly after the J.D. Power survey closed in January, ERIE launched a refreshed website. For more information, get in touch with a local ERIE agent.

 

Erie Insurance received the highest numerical score in the J.D. Power 2013–2017 U.S. Insurance Shopping Studies (tied in 2016). The 2017 study is based on 16,424 total responses evaluating 21 providers and measures the experiences and perceptions of customers surveyed between April 2016 and January 2017. Your experiences may vary. Visit jdpower.com for more information.

Have a Safe and Happy July 4th Holiday

by Erie Insurance on June 29, 2017

 

Gearing up for the July 4th holiday likely means family picnics, being outside and enjoying a fireworks display. We’ve rounded up our best Independence Day tips and information in preparation for the upcoming holiday weekend. Check out ways to keep you and your family safe while enjoying America’s birthday celebration:

If you're planning your own fireworks display, read these fireworks safety tips and check out the tips on sparkler safety, too.

Before your BBQ, read these grilling safety tips.

Planning on spending time on the water? Read boating best practicesbefore you head out.

Motorcycle Tips if the July 4th holiday will take you out on the open road.

How to Get Your Car Ready for Summer

by Jennifer Sonntag on June 23, 2017

Summer is finally here! Longer days, warmer weather and spending more time outside. We take precautions from the sun and heat when we’re outside, but what about our cars? Did you know that the sun and heat can cause serious damage to your vehicle, too? Here are some tips to help you care for your ride this summer:

Prep work

 

  • Make sure your car’s cooling system is completely flushed and refilled every 24 months, and the levels, condition and concentration of the coolant are checked periodically.
  • Oil and oil filters should also be changed based on your car’s owner’s manual. (Changing the oil and filters every 3,000 miles is a good rule of thumb).
  • Keep your windshield clean and replace worn wiper blades. Be sure to check for plenty of wiper fluid in the reservoir, too.
  • Look at your tires and make sure to check the pressure at least once a month. When you do check, make sure the tires are cooled down and always rotate your tires every 5,000 miles to ensure even wear.
  • Check for changes in the way your brake pedals feel and take your car for repairs immediately if you hear scraping or grinding noises.
  • Remove dirt and insects from your lights and make sure all bulbs are working. Tip:  to prevent scratching, never use a dry rag.
  • Have a professional technician look at your car’s air conditioning system.  A marginally operating system can fail in hot weather. Newer car models have cabin air filters that clean the air entering the heating and air conditioning system.

 

On the road and in the sun

 

  • Keep an eye on your car’s temperature. If you see that it’s getting overheated, you can turn on your car’s heater to pull the air away from the engine to the passenger compartment of the vehicle.
  • During long trips, try to target your driving times for the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening.
  • When you park your car, try to find a shady spot and crack your window slightly. Leaving your windows cracked an inch will create enough space to vent the hot summer air.
  • Be sure to never leave children or pets in the car, even for a quick errand. A car’s interior temperature can heat up from 78 to 100 degrees in less than three minutes.
  • Update your car’s emergency kit.  While you might need that parka and snow brush for the winter, they won’t do any good for the summer heat. Here’s a sample list of items to include in your summer car emergency kit, in addition to your normal car emergency kit:
     
  • Water:  one gallon, plus one bottle per person
  • Sunscreen, bug spray and hat -- you might have to be outside of your car
  • Blanket: keep this in your car to use for shade
  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlight

 

Another thing you’ll want for your car is auto insurance you can count on. Talk to an Erie Insurance agent in your community to learn more and get a free quote.

Who Will Win the Self-Driving Car Race?

by Erie Insurance on June 16, 2017

 

Who Will Win the Self-Driving Car Race?

Every Memorial Day weekend, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosts the Indy 500, the most prestigious event of the IndyCar racing calendar. Thirty-three racecars took to the track this year, but only one driver came out on top:  Takuma Sato. Sato knows the race is grueling and a long-distance test for every driver. He also knows the rewards are more than worth the effort.

In many cases the race to build the first saleable, fully autonomous vehicle for U.S. roads is the same, grueling test. (Except for having a driver, of course) According to a recent report by the data-research company CB Insights, the self-driving car competition currently has more than 33 entries of its own, from the top-selling automakers as well as unconventional ones.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released its first Federal Automated Vehicles Policy in September, saying that self-driving cars could lead to an “unprecedented advance in safety on U.S. roads and highways.” According to the DOT, “human error” was responsible for 94 percent of the last year’s auto crashes, during which an estimated 35,200 people lost their lives. So, you could say that whichever company wins the self-driving car race, the real winners will be the passengers.

Tesla blazing the trail

The auto company that’s furthest along—and the one that some say already has won the race—is the unconventional brand, Tesla.

The “Autopilot” technology in the Tesla Model S can operate the car in a wide variety of driving conditions, keeping the vehicle in its lane and on pace with traffic by digitally taking over the brakes, engine and steering wheel. So in a way, there are self-driving cars currently on the road.

To keep heading in the right direction, Tesla released its Autopilot Version 8 software update in September. Key advances include a “more detailed point cloud” that allows the system to access six times as many radar objects as before, as well as the ability to use those objects as part of 3D radar “snapshots” of driving conditions.

The updated Autopilot also allows a crowd-sourced solution to conditions that still challenge the system, such as when an overhead traffic sign seems like it’s in the roadway, due to changes in road elevation. Autopilot will “learn” what the Tesla fleet does in specific scenarios, and will then be able to compare that to what a given driver is doing in the future. When behaviors don’t match up, Autopilot will “know” how to react.

Other competitors in the race

Some of the industry’s mainstream titans are hot on Tesla’s wheels. General Motors, for instance, received a Popular Mechanics “Breakthrough Award” for its Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving technologies in 2013, and the technology is being fine-tuned in the Cadillac CT6 luxury sedan for a production launch later this year. That’s a little later than originally planned, but GM is taking extra time to address the specific concerns shown with Tesla’s Autopilot. A key will be technology similar to that used in drowsiness-alert systems, which can analyze driving behavior and use facial recognition to tell if a driver may be getting sleepy. For Super Cruise, the technology will ensure owners remain engaged in the driving experience.

Separately, GM also spent $1 billion to buy Cruise Automation, an outside company that specializes in autonomous-driving technology. GM also invested half that amount in the Lyft transportation company, a major competitor for Uber. GM expects its investment to pay off in a fleet of self-driving Lyft taxis that’s scheduled to begin testing sometime next year.

Among the automakers setting the pace with GM and Tesla are Audi and Volvo. Audi’s autonomous RS 7 has successfully lapped racetracks in Spain and California with journalists on board, even breaking the track record at the Parcmotor circuit in Barcelona. Further, Audi claims that when its next-gen A8 luxury sedan goes on sale next year, it will offer Level 3 autonomy. That means the driver can “cede full control” to the vehicle in certain scenarios, and “rely heavily” on the automatic driving functions.

At Volvo, the brand is building on its present line of driver-assistance measures with self-driving versions of its XC90 SUV. They’re part of the Drive Me project in Gothenburg, Sweden, where the vehicles will be given to “normal, everyday families” for testing on public roads. From there, the automaker expects to have autonomous driving technology ready for commercial use by 2021.

Volvo also serves up a fair amount of self-driving technology for its 2016-2017 roster. The new Volvo S90 is a prime example, thanks to a Pilot Assist function that can automatically steer the car even when it’s not following traffic.

Tech companies revving their engines

Conspicuously missing from the discussion so far are the self-driving cars from the technology companies. With all the buzz about those cute little Google-mobiles and continuing rumors about an Apple car, neither is likely to end up in customer driveways anytime soon. The barriers to entry in the auto industry are sky-high, from the costs needed to produce them, to who gets to sell them.

Remember, in many states, it’s illegal for Tesla to sell its vehicles directly to the public. Tesla got its start by repurposing cars built by another company—Lotus—and still only sells about 5,100 vehicles a month. Ford sells that number of F-150 pickups in fewer than 2.5 days. A future based on self-driving cars will require production capabilities closer to the former than the latter.

That helps explain why Google, for one, has partnered with Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles for a new phase in autonomous-driving research. This time, the initiative is backed by a fleet of 100 Chrysler Pacifica minivans and a focus on ways to add autonomous-driving technology to the assembly line.

Other prominent tech collaborations include that between Microsoft and Toyota, as well as between Intel and BMW. Also, mirroring GM and Lyft, Uber has turned to Ford to explore self-driving cars. Meanwhile, The New York Times notes that Apple has “shuttered parts of its self-driving car project and laid off dozens of employees.”

As each carmaker makes its final lap toward the finish line, consumers await this cutting-edge technology that will also be a big win for passenger safety.

Make sure you and your car are adequately protected. Talk to an Erie Insurance agent about auto insurance coverage or get a quote online.

From a young age, Charles Krome felt destined to work in the automotive industry, growing up in Motor City with a last name like Krome. As an automotive writer for CARFAX, a leading used-car shopping website, Charles shares consumer advice on how to keep up with emerging technology when it comes to car buying.

The Hidden Cost of Car Ownership

by Nancy Daniel on June 6, 2017

 

When you think about the costs of owning a car, what do you think of - the gas, maintenance or maybe insurance?  Actually, depreciation is often one of the larger expenses of car ownership.

According to U.S. News & World Report, new vehicles lose value at an average decline of 15-25 percent each year during the first five years. And whether new or used, all vehicles lose value over time.  Since the rate of depreciation varies by vehicle model, it’s a good idea to take resale value into consideration when shopping for your new ride.  

According to the experts at Kelley Blue Book, picking a vehicle with excellent resale value is very likely the most important thing you can do when it comes to keeping costs down.  Paying a fair price for the car and securing a good loan rate can be undone by poor resale value, because eventually you’re going to sell it or trade it in.

Cars that retain a higher value

If you’re car shopping this year, it appears that bigger vehicles are depreciating better. Trucks and SUVs appear in nine of the top 10 spots on the Kelly Blue Book 2017 Best Resale Value Awards. Per Kelley, while the average new vehicle will be worth about 33 percent of its original sticker price after 60 months, the top 10 vehicles on their list will return an average of 50 percent to their owners at resale time.

The Kelley authorities say that choosing a car with good resale value can often save you more money in the long run than going for big rebates and other incentives.

New cars that may lose value the quickest

To highlight the other end of the spectrum, Forbes magazine shared the results of a study conducted by the used-vehicle website Carlypso.com.  Among the top 10 vehicles expected to have resale issues were the Nissan Leaf, Dodge Charger, Volkswagen Beetle, Mitsubishi Lancer and Kia Optima.

A little research goes a long way

When you’re ready to shop for your next vehicle, it will pay to do some research on resale value before making an investment. Whichever new (or used) car you choose, Erie Insurance can ensure that investment is protected with a great auto policy at a great price. And we can help you take care of the depreciation issue, too, with a coverage endorsement that provides true replacement value.

It’s called New Auto Security, and you can ask your agent to add it to your ERIE auto policy. If you’ve had your new car less than two years and it gets totaled, ERIE will reimburse you the cost to replace it with the newest model year. And if your new car is in an accident but it’s not a total loss, ERIE will pay to repair the vehicle without a deduction for depreciation.

If your vehicle is past its second birthday, ERIE will pay the cost to replace it with another vehicle of the same model that is two years newer. That means the coverage is good to have no matter what the age of your vehicle.

Reaching out to a local Erie Insurance agent  is a good way to start your research. He or she can explain the coverage details and get you a quote.

A vehicle is considered new when it is less than two years old and is owned by the original purchaser. Eligible vehicles must carry both comprehensive and collision coverage, and the policy deductible will be applied at the time of a claim. Insurance products are subject to terms, conditions and exclusions not described in this post. The endorsement is sold on a per-vehicle basis, not per policy, and contains the specific details of the coverages, terms, conditions and exclusions. Coverage is not available in all states. Please refer to our disclaimer and talk to an ERIE agent for policy details.

811: The Number to Call Before Digging

by Carolyn Sennett on May 24, 2017

 

Whether you’re planning a DIY home improvement project or hiring a contractor, there’s a number to call before digging in your yard.

Don’t know the number to call before digging? That would be an easy 811. Calling it will get your underground utility lines marked and your project off to a safe start.

Utility services such as cable TV, telephone, electric, gas, water and sewer are often buried underground. Unintentionally striking one of these lines could result in power outages for entire neighborhoods, harm to yourself or someone else, and repair costs.

The free, federally mandated national number to call before digging aims to make the process easier. Instead of looking up phone numbers for all the local utility companies, you just need to call 811.

Does every digging project require a call?

Yes. Whether it’s putting a mailbox into the ground, installing a fence, planting trees, building a patio or deck, or excavating a new garden area, officials say that you should call 811.

What’s the process?

You need to dial 811 several days before you plan to start your digging project. When you do, a representative will collect your information and notify local utility companies of your intent to dig.

Once you make the call, a professional will visit the dig site to mark the approximate location of all underground utility lines with spray paint or flags. The utility service paint or flags colors are:

  • Red: Electric

  • Orange: Communications, telephone/CATV

  • Blue: Potable water

  • Green: Sewer/Drainage

  • Yellow: Gas/Petroleum pipeline

  • Purple: Reclaimed water

  • White: Site of intended excavation

How long will it take?

Most crews will arrive to mark your property within a few days. Be sure to check your state’s one-call center for more detailed information. Each state has different rules and regulations about digging.

The crew will make sure you know exactly where (and where not) to dig. The depths of utility lines may vary, and there may be multiple utility lines in the same area. Once your site is marked, it is safe to begin digging outside of the identified areas.

Plan on digging?

If you’re digging as part of a home improvement project, you’ll want to call your insurance agent. A home improvement project could increase the value of your home, so you’ll want to be sure you have the proper amount of coverage.

Typical homeowners insurance policies do not provide coverage for damage to underground service lines or pipes. The lines can be damaged during excavation or digging from the weight of vehicles or equipment above ground. The costs to repair the damage can be substantial.  If you have an ErieSecure Home® insurance policy, you can purchase service line coverage to help with the expensive repair costs. Ask an ERIE agent for more information about the coverage (and if it’s available in your state).

The story was originally published on June 10, 2015. It was updated with new information. 

The Difference between Regular and Premium Gas

by Amanda Prischak on May 23, 2017

 

Most people are clear on which type of gas their car needs. But not as many are clear on the differences between regular and premium gas.

What’s the difference?

One obvious difference is the price—premium fuel typically costs about 20 cents more per gallon than regular gas. Premium fuel also comes with a higher octane level—92 or 93 compared to 87 for regular gas. (You may also see a midgrade gas with an octane of 89, which is less commonly used than 87 and 93.)

Octane is how much compression a fuel can withstand before igniting. A higher octane gas won’t pre-ignite or explode as quickly, which explains why high-performance cars with higher compression engines often require higher octane gas. Engines that take higher octane fuel tend to work more efficiently and emit less emissions and exhaust.

Why the right fuel matters

Cars are designed to run best with a specific type of fuel, and your owner’s manual will let you know what that is.

Still, you may be tempted to fill your car up with a different type of fuel. This is often the case when you have to fill up with more expensive 93 octane gas.

If you use a lower than recommended level, the gas may combust too fast for your engine. That can cause the engine to make a knocking noise. In addition to this unwanted noise, a lower than recommended gas can also reduce your car’s power and fuel economy and cause engine damage.

When it comes to the opposite—using a higher octane fuel than recommended—the risk of danger is lower. The general consensus is that using premium gas when your car can run on regular gas doesn’t deliver any extra benefits when it comes to engine life, fuel economy or reduced emissions. So save your money and fill up with regular gas.

Six Questions to Ask an Insurance Agent

by Carolyn Sennett on May 18, 2017

 

When your life changes oftentimes your insurance needs to change, too. Yet it’s not always clear what kind of insurance protection fits you, your family or your business. What a family of six needs is much different than what a single 20-something needs. That’s why at ERIE, an insurance agent is there to help you get everything squared away. 

Here are six questions you should ask your agent:

1. My family is growing and changing. What coverage should I consider?

Life insurance* is something most families need. The primary reason most people buy life insurance is to protect their loved ones from the financial burden after an  unexpected death. To get a rough idea of how much you’d need, check out ERIE’s Life Insurance Calculator.

A typical homeowners policy covers personal belongings and furnishings up to certain policy limits. For higher-valued items, such as a diamond ring, a rare piece of art or expensive electronic equipment, you may want to expand your protection with higher policy limits or extra coverage.

If a teenager in your home is learning how to drive, you’ll definitely need additional auto insurance once the teen is licensed.

2. Do I need additional insurance if I’m remodeling or adding on to my home?

In some cases, remodeling projects can increase your home’s value. If they do, you’ll want to adjust your insurance coverage so your home’s reconstruction cost is fully protected. Your insurance agent can help advise you in this situation. He or she can also let you know more about the kinds of insurance a contractor should have in place before work begins.

3. I’m fresh out of school and new to the workforce. What coverage do I need?

If you’ve left home and are renting an apartment, you’re no longer covered by your parents’ homeowners policy. Instead, you’ll need renters insurance to cover your belongings and more.

When it comes to auto insurance, you may be tempted to buy a bare bones policy to save money. That’s a risky move because it may not give you enough protection. If your insurance policy doesn’t cover all the damages, your savings and future wages could be at stake.

If you have student loans or debts, ask an insurance agent about life insurance. It may not be something you want to think about, but you want enough life insurance coverage to cover final expenses like a funeral service if something were to happen to you.

If someone like a parent cosigned on your loan, life insurance can help them avoid getting stuck with the bill. The good news? Life insurance is far cheaper than most people think—and that’s especially true when you’re young and healthy.

4. What coverage do I need for my home-based business?

From inventory to libel issues to customers visiting your home, home-based businesses definitely need coverage. Depending on the nature of your home-based business, you may need a simple endorsement to your homeowners insurance policy or a new policy.

5. A friend was sued after a car accident. How can I make sure I’m protected against something like this?

Your insurance policy already includes liability coverage, yet state minimums are almost never enough for most drivers. Having too little liability coverage puts you and your assets at risk.

Personal Catastrophe Liability (PCL) coverage (commonly known as “umbrella” insurance) provides an extra layer of liability protection over and above your auto and homeowners policies in the event that you (or a covered family member) are sued. For most people, an extra $1 million in coverage costs less than $20 a month. Your insurance agent can review your auto insurance policy limits and tell you more about PCL.

6. How can I save money on my insurance?

Nearly all insurers offer price breaks on coverage based on having a safe driving record and bundling your auto and homeowners coverage. Talk to your ERIE agent to find out more. There are also other ways to lower your bill.

It’s important, though, to be cautious about selecting an insurance company based solely on price. Instead, seek out companies with reputations for excellent customer service, strong financial standing and a reputation for handling claims quickly and fairly.

No matter what stage of life that you’re in, seek the advice of an insurance professional like an Erie Insurance agent. He or she can help you find the right coverage at the right price to fit your needs.

*Erie Family Life insurance policies are not available in New York.

The Gig Gap

by Jane Bianchi on May 12, 2017

 

For many decades, having a job meant being an employee of a company—often for life.

Today, it’s a different story. That’s because many people are a part of the so-called gig economy of independent consultants who often move from one job to the next. This might mean selling goods through a network marketing company like Avon, moving products on Amazon or eBay, or running a home-based graphic design business. The trend is only growing: an Intuit study predicts that more than 40 percent of the U.S. workforce will be contingent workers by 2020.

Upsides like freedom and flexibility attract people to this kind of work. Yet there are downsides, too, like hustling to find jobs and managing a fluctuating income. Another lesser known one is not having enough— or even any—business insurance.

Fortunately, there are easy ways to fix that. Here’s how for some of the most common types of work.

You drive for a ridesharing service like Uber or Lyft

Did you know that you’re no longer covered by your personal auto policy as soon as you make yourself available as a driver? Before you accept a ride, be aware that Uber and Lyft only cover you for liability on a limited basis. They do provide more coverage when you accept a ride and when you have the passenger in your vehicle, but some of it (like collision damage to your own car) can be subject to high deductibles.

ERIE was the first insurer to offer a "business use” coverage designation on personal auto policies. The exact price varies by location and vehicle, but it’s about 30 percent more than the rate for people who never use their cars for business. Your ERIE Agent can help you find the right protection at the right price.

You’re involved in network marketing

Tupperware, LuLaRoe, Scentsy— there are lots of ways to make money selling products as a consultant. If you do, it’s worth considering extra protection.

Even if you sell something relatively harmless like clothing, you’ll still want to add an incidental business endorsement to your homeowner's insurance policy. It will protect you if you're hosting a professional party at someone else's house and accidently smash her antique vase. It also protects you if someone comes to your house for one of these parties and gets hurt.

You sell items on Amazon, eBay or Etsy

When you have a professional selling plan on Amazon, you’re required to have at least $1 million in business liability insurance. No insurance is required to sell on Amazon if you don’t have a professional plan or if you sell on eBay or Etsy. Still, it's worth considering, depending on how much business you do on any of these platforms, in case your inventory is stolen or someone is injured by an item you sold.

You run a business out of your home

Imagine that you're renting out a room via Airbnb and you accidentally break your guest's expensive camera. Or what if someone says you libeled or slandered them in the course of your business? In these instances and many more, you might not be covered, since homeowners and renters policies aren’t always designed to cover home-based businesses.

If it turns out you need extra coverage, you can add an incidental business endorsement to your homeowners policy. There are different kinds to fit your exact business—generally speaking, they’ll run you about $30 to $70 per year.

If your situation is more complex— for instance, you rent out more than half of your home or you have employees—then you may need to buy a separate commercial insurance policy and/or a
workers’ compensation policy.

Finally, you might also consider buying professional liability insurance. This type of coverage protects you if someone accuses you of doing inadequate or negligent work. A few examples could include a bookkeeper making a critical accounting mistake for a client or a real estate agent accidentally misrepresenting key information.

The bottom line is this: Whether you have a side hustle or draw a full-time income from your work, it’s a good idea to talk with your ERIE Agent about making sure you have the right coverage in place.

These Are the Top Safest Cars for Teens

by Amanda Prischak on April 24, 2017

 

Any parent of a teen driver will tell you that safety is a major concern. 

One way to help alleviate those fears is to have your teen drive a safe car. Each year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) publishes a list of the safest cars for teen drivers.

This year’s list was the most stringent yet. The IIHS added even more criteria to the best used cars for teens, while small overlap front crash protection has been factored in for the best choices section of the list. And the bar has been raised for the less expensive good choices as well, with better side and head restraint ratings required.

Even with this new criteria, this year’s list includes 49 "best choices," starting under $20,000, and 82 "good choices," starting under $10,000. This year’s report also cautions teens to avoid high horsepower cars and minicars.

To see which vehicles made the cut, check out the source article on iihs.org.

When and How to Replace Windshield Wipers

by Amanda Prischak on April 17, 2017

 

During the rainy spring season, many people realize just how important windshield wipers are.

Yet like anything in your car, they don’t last forever. Constant exposure to the elements makes them one of the fastest wearing parts of your car.

When to replace windshield wipers

Windshield wipers typically only last about six months to a year. Telltale signs that it’s time to replace yours include:

  • The edges are frayed or fold up.
  • They leave behind streaks when you use them.
  • They make a scraping sound.

    After battling snow and freezing rain all winter, wipers are often ready for replacement when spring arrives. 

 

How to replace windshield wipers

  • The good news is that it can cost as little as $20 to replace your windshield wipers, and the job can take less than one minute. Here are some tips when it comes to choosing ones for your car.

  • Check your user’s manual. Your car manufacturer will list what kind of windshield wipers work with your particular car.
  • Read some reviews. When it comes to windshield wipers, there is a wide range of styles and prices. Narrow the list by reading a few reviews from reputable sources like Consumer Reports.
  • Consider the season. Many manufacturers make more expensive winter wipers that do a better job ridding windshields of ice and snow.
  • Check the price. While more expensive blades might do a better job of clearing rain, experts caution that they probably need to be replaced just as often.
  • Decide if you’ll DIY or not. Replacing windshield wipers isn’t especially hard to do—but also know that many auto supply stores will do the job for free if you buy your wipers there.
  • Top off your windshield wiper fluid. Having enough means you’ll always be able to wipe away bugs, grime and other gunk from your windshield.
  • Keep them clean and protected. You can help extend the life of your windshield wipers by cleaning them off with a wet towel every few weeks, making an effort to park in the shade and using an ice scraper to de-ice your windshield instead of using your wipers. 

5 Security Tips for Your New Home

by Jessica Thiefels on April 5, 2017

 

When you think of home security, you probably imagine expensive, intricate systems that cost more than you’re willing to shell out—especially after buying a new home.

But that’s not always the case. Good home security doesn’t require a pricey, state-of-the-art system. In many cases, small changes and habits are all you need to keep burglars at bay.

Keep these five security tips in mind as you move into your new home. They can save you from spending on an expensive system, while enjoying the same peace of mind.

1. Fake cameras actually work. Fake security cameras sound funny—and ineffective—but don’t rule them out. Not only are they a fraction of the cost of an actual security camera, but, "Most fake security cameras have a noticeable blinking LED light that deters criminals at night when they’re most active," according to home security experts. If the light stops blinking, just replace the batteries.

Purchase a few to place around the front and even rear entrances to your house to provide maximum protection. Don’t forget to pair them with “This home is protected by…” security stickers. These stickers can be purchased for less than $10 online. This makes your fake cameras seem even more real.

2. Fewer windows=good move. Adding more windows to boost the amount of natural light into your home might look good, but they make your house a more attractive option for intruders. Nearly 30 percent of burglars gain access to a home through an unlocked door or window—and windows on the first floor are especially common targets. It’s easy to forgot to lock windows after opening them to get fresh air, and that can be a costly mistake. If your garage door has windows, tint them so intruders can’t see if you’re home or away. The same goes for your front door and first floor windows—invest in blinds and keep them closed for the best line of defense. You can also put a frosted coating on the lower half of your windows, which only lets outsiders  see only through the top half. These come in peel and stick form, so you can make this update quickly and economically.

3. Make your home look occupied. It’s become increasingly common for break-ins to occur during daylight hours, since most people are away at work, the kids are at school and the neighbors aren’t out and about to notice anything suspicious. Here are a few ways to make your home look more active during the day to deter potential burglars:

  • Have landscapers come at all different times of the day so there’s someone there in the morning, afternoon and evening. It will be harder for burglars to spot a pattern this way.

     

  • Keep lights on in the most visible rooms in the house. You can install a timer to have them turned on and off if you don’t want them on for eight hours straight.

     

  • Don’t let mail pile up while you’re away, which is a clear sign that no one is home. Ask a friend or neighbor to pick it up each morning and leave it in your home. This way, if anyone is watching, it appears as though people are checking in and going in and out of the home.

4. Consider your landscaping. Believe it or not, your landscaping can deter criminals. People who are attempting to break into a house want somewhere to hide if the mailman drives up or a neighbor comes outside. If you have large trees or bushes planted along the first story of your house, it gives burglars a great place to wait it out.

Avoid this easy hideaway by keeping your landscaping simple, trimmed and polished. Plant bushes that are low to the ground and provide maximum protection—think rose bushes or citrus plants that have spiny leaves. Also consider using gravel instead of mulch so you can hear when someone approaches your home.

5. Video doorbells are worth checking out. One new way to keep your home safe and deter your kids from opening the door to strangers is a video doorbell. More affordable than most security cameras, these easy-to-install gadgets provide on-demand video, a live view of your front porch at all times and motion detection alerts sent straight to your smartphone.

Several of the newer models allow two-way audio so you can communicate with anyone who rings your doorbell, even if you aren’t home. These are a great security feature if you have kids who open the door for strangers or if your door doesn’t have a peephole.

Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a lifestyle blogger. She’s written for Reader’s Digest, AARP, Lifehack, Homes.com and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 for money-saving ideas, health tips and more.