What is an Independent Agent?

What is an Independent Agent?

 

Like it or not insurance is a fact of life.

How do you know the best way to go about getting insurance? There are a couple of different avenues that you can take.

You can go online, you can pick up the phone, or you can walk into an insurance office.

Then the question, do you use a captive agent or an independent agent? What are those things and how are they different?

Life is full of questions and hard choices, but insurance doesn’t have to be. We’ll make it simple for you.

LET’S START AT THE BEGINNING: What is an Independent Agent?

An independent agent is a trained and licensed professional that tailors coverage to meet your needs.

Commonwealth Insurance Services is a great example of an Independent Agency!

Our Independent Agents can provide several options to fit your insurance needs because we work with multiple insurance carriers, instead of just one.

This may come as a surprise, but an Independent Agent is basically a small business owner. Our agents are not employed by the insurance companies whose product we offer. A common misconception concerning an Independent Agency is that we sell our own product. However, we work on your behalf to find and obtain the best products for you from other companies.

Our office has:

  • 11 licensed agents
  • 6 licensed customer service representatives
  • 3 administrative staff members

All ready to answer your questions, help you with changes, advise you, and much more. We are not a one size fits all, we tailor-make your insurance experience to fit you and your individual needs.

NEXT QUESTION: What’s the difference between a Captive Agent & an Independent Agent?

The main difference is that an independent agent can provide more options than a Captive Agent. Captive Agents only offer one company’s products, meaning they can only place your policy with that one company they work for.

Independent agents on the other hand have options. We can place your policy with multiple companies depending on your needs. Having multiple companies to choose from gives us the ability to take your unique needs and ensure they are met.

So, the difference is, an Independent Insurance Agent helps you find coverage using multiple carriers and a Captive Insurance Agent helps you find coverage with the one company they work for.

FINAL QUESTION (WE ARE GETTING THERE): Which one should I choose?

If you ask us, we say go with an Independent Agent every time, and here’s why:

1. An Independent Agent is like a one-stop shop for all your insurance needs.

We offer a variety of insurance products from several commonly known companies. This means instead of going to multiple different businesses, you can have all your insurance needs covered in one place. Most independent agencies offer auto, home, life, health, and business insurance coverages. This means you have a single contact for all of your insurance needs.

2. You have the same point of contact even if you want to switch companies.

When you use an independent agency, you don’t have to start over when you are interested in changing companies. You can call the agency and they can coordinate the switch for you. This means you can continue to work with the same agent that you’ve built a relationship with and who knows your needs.

3. Support from someone who knows you in your time of need.

Nobody wants to face an insurance loss, but sometimes it happens. Having an independent agent when you are stranded on the side of the road or have sustained a loss to your home means you will have someone who knows you helping guide you when you need it the most.

4. Life is not a one-size-fits-all thing, so why should insurance be?

When you work with an independent agent, we review several options with you for your insurance needs. Because we work with several different companies, we can focus on finding a policy that fits your needs instead of fitting your needs into what one company offers.

WRAPPING IT UP: What you can expect from us as an independent agency

Insurance is just part of life and our staff is here to make it as enjoyable as possible. We have agents, a licensed service staff, and administrative staff here to help you.

We ensure that when you call our office you will not have to wait on hold for long periods of time. Our staff is available to answer any questions you have and to help find the best solution for all of your insurance needs.

 

What is OEM Coverage?

What is OEM Coverage and why could it be important for me?

 

Auto insurance is one of those things that most everyone can agree that they want to be completely covered, should an accident happen. One of those coverages that you can add on to your policy is OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer).

OEM is available to be added to your auto policy as an endorsement. This coverage helps to ensure aftermarket parts will not be used when repairs are made to your vehicle. OEM parts coverage guarantees that you will receive OEM parts when your car is being repaired after an accident, regardless of the cost. If you don’t have OEM coverage and you are wanting to have OEM parts on your vehicle, you will likely have to pay the difference out of pocket, and that can add up quickly! With this coverage, depending on the company you are with, not every vehicle is eligible for this coverage due to age and the types of coverage on the vehicle.  This coverage is also only available when an accident occurs.

Why would these parts be better for your car?

Aftermarket parts are built for so many different makes and models and they don’t always work well with YOUR vehicle. OEM may cost a little more up front, but in the long run it could help you to save on repair costs.

How do I know if I need OEM parts coverage?

Well, that’s really your preference. If you feel strongly about having your car repaired with OEM parts, this coverage is the easiest way to guarantee this will happen! It can also be particularly helpful if you have a unique car model where OEM parts could potentially be more expensive.

Getting your car repaired after an accident can be a stressful situation, but having OEM coverage can provide some peace of mind knowing that you’ll receive the highest quality parts or your vehicle.

Call us today if you’d like to add this coverage to your policy.

Heavy Rain? Be on the lookout!

Your home protects you from the elements, but heavy rains can weaken that protection. With a little maintenance and a healthy dose of vigilance, you can stay safe and dry.

Spring rainstorms are a fact of life in many areas of the country which makes this the perfect time to start thinking about your home. These are some measures to prevent problems from happening during the next downpour!

Where is all that rain going?

Your roof and gutters form a key line of defense for your home – and in a storm, they’re vulnerable, because so many things can damage them. Trees, hail, and other objects can create weaknesses that might lead to leaks in your roof, check for missing shingles and other issues. And keep your gutters clear so all that water drains properly.

Are you checking everywhere?

Water dripping from the ceiling is hard to miss. Water in your crawl space, however, can easily go undetected because hardly anyone ever checks there. Don’t forget to look down there after a storm to make sure everything is nice and dry.

And don’t just look up – another place to check is your home’s exterior, whether it’s siding, brick, or another material. Weak spots can be hard to see, so look at various times of the day in different lighting conditions.

Of course, you’ll want to make sure your doors and windows are properly sealed to keep the elements out, too.

What about around your property?

Storm water has to go somewhere, and if your property doesn’t drain well, or if runoff goes toward your foundation, you could have problems. Watch for patterns, and grade property so it drains away from your home if possible. Always be wary of hillsides and tilting trees after heavy storms, because the land might not be stable.

Don’t forget to keep storm drains clear of leaves and other debris. This can prevent flooding both on the streets and your own property.

Don’t forget to stay safe and inside during the storm, check on the outdoors after the storm has passed.

Thankfully, powerful storms only hit once in a while. Preparing for them, however, can be done any time.

 

Car Sharing

Things to Consider Before Using a Car-Sharing Service

There are benefits and drawbacks to car sharing—just like when you drive your own car—but is sharing right for you? 4 things you should consider before getting started

Car sharing can be a great way to save money and increase flexibility.

According to AAA, in 2017 the annual cost of owning and operating a new car averaged nearly $8,500—and that doesn’t include payments for the the car itself. Because car-sharing services allow you to pay only for the time you’re using a car (in addition to certain fees), the cost can be significantly lower. If you don’t need a car often, or if you occasionally need a second car, sharing might be a good choice.

  1. It can help the environment and reduce traffic. This one is pretty self-explanatory, less cars on the street equals less greenhouse emissions and less traffic.
  2. If you’re thinking about peer-to-peer sharing, check your state’s laws. Peer-to-peer renting has many benefits, and often includes a selection of interesting cars. But if you’re the one providing the car, participating in the network can create issues, depending on where you live. Some states have enacted regulations around peer-to-peer sharing, including a limit on how much revenue you can generate annually with your vehicle. The sharing program itself also needs to meet certain requirements.
  3. No matter what you choose, check your insurance coverage. Sharing your own vehicle in a peer-to-peer network in some states could put you at risk—even though these programs include insurance, it might not be enough to cover medical expenses and other costs in the event of a crash. Also, your insurance company might not renew your auto policy, or your premiums could increase significantly. Car-sharing programs that feature company-owned vehicles include insurance, too, but it might be wise to consider additional coverage. For example, your credit card might provide extra protection, and insurance companies have non-owner policies available as well.

There’s a lot to like about car sharing and a lot to think about. Don’t hit the road before weighing the pros and cons—and make sure you’re protected.

The Gift of Jewelry

Whether it’s a gift from someone or a gift to yourself, new jewelry can bring some sparkle to your life.

However, many people who find themselves victimized by burglars—or worse, a fire or some other disaster—find out too late that they didn’t have enough insurance to replace their jewelry.

Homeowners policies typically only cover valuable items such as jewelry up to a specific amount. There may be other issues as well, like whether your policy covers each individual piece of jewelry at a set amount or provides coverage for your collection as a whole.

This may sound complicated, but it’s really not—especially when you work with an independent agent who can explain your options and make sure you get the right coverage. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Do you need more coverage? Look at your policy or ask your agent to see what your coverage amounts are. Do you have one or two expensive pieces, or a number of smaller items that when added together exceed your limits?
  2. What kind of coverage should you get? This depends on your lifestyle. You may want to consider whether items are covered no matter where they are (such as if you travel internationally). You’ll also want to ask about actual cash value versus replacement value, and if you would be required to actually replace the jewelry in the event of a loss or if you could just keep the cash payment.
  3. Do you need an appraisal? In some instances, an insurance company will require you to get a piece appraised to determine its value.
  4. Do you have items with mainly sentimental value, or ones that are irreplaceable?If so, you might not need to purchase any additional insurance at all. But we recommend talking to your agent before making that decision.
  5. Do you have pictures? This doesn’t necessarily have to do with your insurance, but jewelers often are able to recreate lost or stolen pieces with the help of a photo.

Whatever you choose, remember you play an important role in keeping your jewelry protected, too: Be sure to store it securely, having the right coverage is great—but it’s even better when those special pieces stay with you and your family for years to come.

 

Do I Need Rental Car Insurance?

You’re standing at the rental car counter and they ask, “Do you want insurance with that?”

Most travelers have the vague notion they don’t really need to buy rental car insurance – that it is somehow covered already. With just enough doubt in their minds, and the need to make a quick decision, they buy it just to be safe.

Do I need to buy rental car insurance?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. However, you can likely reach a conclusion you’re comfortable with by considering these 3 questions.

  1. What Types of Insurance Are Available?

Typically, car rental agencies will offer 4 types of insurance to purchase:

  • Collision damage waiver – they won’t charge for a damaged or stolen vehicle.
  • Supplemental liability protection – you’re covered for costs to others if you cause an accident in the rental.
  • Personal accident insurance – pays for injuries or death of the driver and passengers of your rental car.
  • Personal effects coverage – reimburses you for stolen personal items while renting.
  1. What Coverage Do I Already Have?

Your car insurance likely will provide the same level of coverage for your rental as it does for your own car. Usually includes liability insurance, and may include collision, comprehensive and medical payments, too. There are exclusions, however. Some insurers won’t cover rentals in a foreign country, or rentals that are being used for business. Ask your agent to verify your coverages.

Consider your homeowners insurance, you may have personal property coverage to help repair or replace valuable belongings that are lost, damaged or stolen while you’re in a rental. Your deductible and policy limits will apply.

  1. What Coverage Might I Be Missing?

In the event something happens to the rental you may be looking at loss of use and diminished value fees that your regular policy may not cover. Loss of use is the income that the rental agency loses due to the vehicle being in the shop for repairs, and diminished value is the calculated reduction in a vehicle’s resale value as the result of an accident.

Next time you find yourself at the rental counter ask these questions and you will be able to make an informed decision.

3 Tips to be Home (and Safe) for the Holidays

The holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. Nearly a third of all home fires take place during the winter holiday season. It is also a peak time of year for home burglaries.

To keep your home safe and secure this holiday season, here are three simple rules.

Don’t Leave the Kitchen Unattended

One of the leading causes of fires during the holidays isn’t Christmas trees or Christmas lights—it’s cooking.

Mind Your Festive Lights

To lower your risk of a fire, always follow these light-safety tips:

  • Use low heat, miniature lights.
  • Inspect every light before you put a strand on the tree.
  • Refrain from overloading power strips or outlets.

Use lights designated for indoor use only.

Don’t leave them on when no one is home, and always turn them off before you go to bed.

Outdoor lights are a little more complex—and just as dangerous. Keep these basic guidelines in mind when setting up your display:

  • Never set up your lights by yourself.
  • Never place lights by gutters that might contain dry leaves.
  • Never hang decorations from the lights.
  • Never rely on strands of lights to support themselves—reinforce them with insulated, not wire or metal, hooks.
  • Never ignore warm wires on your daily lights check.

Just like indoor lights, the most important step you need to take with outdoor lights is to turn them off before you go to bed, and when you are not at home.

Don’t Leave Your Home (and Gifts) Vulnerable

Leaving your house clearly unattended is an open invitation for burglars. If you plan on going out of town, even for a day or two, follow these simple rules:

  • Hire someone to keep your driveway shoveled.
  • Arrange for a neighbor to collect mail or any packages left on your doorstep.
  • Let trusted neighbors know of your travel plans, but do not post your plans—or photos—on social media.

It’s tempting to display beautifully wrapped presents under the tree prior to the holiday but, if your tree is within sight of any windows, you may want to keep your gifts hidden until the day you’re unwrapping them. Burglars often monitor homes, looking in windows for easily accessible items like large presents in the shape of a television.

If you’re staying home this holiday season, like many of us are, you still need to take steps to defend your home against burglars:

  • Don’t place your presents under the tree if they can be seen from outside.
  • If you are getting deliveries make sure they are brought inside immediately.

Be smart, be safe, and enjoy your holidays.

WINTER IS COMING! Get Ready with these 10 Fall Projects.

As the weather starts to cool down, you have the perfect opportunity to prepare your home for colder days. Get these projects done before it’s too late!

Upgrade your old furnace

  • If your furnace is 10-15 years old and is taking longer to heat up the house than usual, it may be time to replace it.

Check on Important Insulation

  • Specifically, check on weatherstripping around your doors, windows, and garage door. The felt strips seal these openings to prevent drafts, but they can wear down over time.

Clean out your gutters

  • Your gutters work hard over fall and winter, and they need your help. Clean them out to prevent them from overflowing with rain or snow and damaging your roof.

Replace Old Single-Pane Windows

  • Single-pane windows are poor insulators. If you have any of these windows, consider replacing them with double-pane windows.

Replace missing shingles

  • Your roof needs to be in good shape to resist wind, rain and snow. Replace any missing shingles and fix other signs of damage before those eyesores turn into serious and expensive leaking problems.

Prepare Your Fireplace

  • For wood fireplaces, clean them out thoroughly, check the chimney, and make sure that you have an ample supply of wood. Gas and electric fireplaces can also benefit from an annual inspection.

Switch your ceiling fan direction

  • Ceiling fans should turn clockwise in the colder months, which pushes warm air back down into the room. Most fans have a simple switch that reverses the direction.

Hibernate Outdoor AC Units

  • Clean and cover your outdoor air conditioning unit to protect it from rain and snow.

Winterize Irrigation Systems

  • In colder climates, your irrigation system should be blown out to remove any water and prevent freeze-ups that can ruin sprinklers.

Trim Problem Bushes and Trees

  • The last thing you want are branches to hit your house during a windstorm. Now is the time to inspect nearby trees and shrubs, and cut any low-hanging or dying branches before they can do damage.

 

5 Common Homeowner Mistakes

Owning a home is great, it can also be a hassle. When unexpected issues pop up—whether it’s a minor breakdown or a major catastrophe, it will require time and money to fix.

In many instances, the issues can be avoided with a little effort ahead of time.

Here are 5 common mistakes and tips from experts to avoid them.

  1. Ignore the small stuff. The faucet with a slow drip. The little crack in a board on your deck. They might not seem like big problems, but they can turn into bigger issues over time. A leaky faucet means a high water bill, a crack can lead to rot, which could lead to replacing the board—or the entire deck. When you see “small” things around the house, take steps to address them now because it’s a lot easier (and cheaper) today than a year from now.
  2. Not doing regular checks. How often do you look around the house? You’d be surprised how many people haven’t been in their attic or crawlspace for years. It’s a good idea to do a walk-through periodically to look for issues. Don’t forget to look outside too!
  3. Skipping maintenance on your appliances. Maintenance can prevent serious risks. When was the last time you cleaned out your dryer exhaust vent? Too much lint buildup can cause a fire—so clean it out at least once a year. You also should check the hoses connected to your washing machine and dishwasher. If they are worn, replace them. Other tips:
    • Clean your refrigerator coils once a year.
    • Clean your dishwasher’s food filter regularly.
    • Test your smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors twice a year, installing fresh batteries each time.
  4. Neglecting other systems. Your HVAC system needs attention so it won’t fail when you need it most. Having it serviced each year will alert you to potential problems. Change filters at the appropriate intervals, and if it’s been a while since you’ve had your ducts cleaned, consider that as well.
  5. No home warranty. Despite your best maintenance efforts, the air conditioner may break down, leaving you sweltering in the summer. The water heater could stop working, meaning cold showers every morning. Or the refrigerator may not get cold any more. These things happen and if your appliance is out of warranty, you’re on the hook.

Your home is one of your biggest investments, so be diligent about caring for it. Keep your eyes open around the house. Don’t hesitate to get out tools or call a professional if needed. Remember, prevention is the best medicine.

Bored During COVID? Make Your Home Safer!

During these crazy times many people are working on home improvements.

There are plenty of simple maintenance tasks and other improvements you can utilize to make your home safer.

You won’t have to break out the power tools or worry about getting in over your head.

Water Works
Even minor leaks can cause major problems, from high water bills to costly repairs. Here are some easy ways to ensure your water stays where it should:

  • Check appliances. They’re the most common source of water leaks in homes, so it’s worth taking a look at least once a year to check for problems. The hoses that come with your washer and dishwasher can mean big trouble – they break down over time. Look for kinks or cracks, and replace if needed. Consider using reinforced hoses, ones with steel braiding or mesh won’t hold up forever, but they’re stronger than rubber or plastic.
  • Watch the pressure. Water pressure set too high can cause pipes, hoses and water lines to leak or burst. Inexpensive gauges are available at home-improvement stores to test your pressure.
  • Consider installing water sensors. These can alert you to a leak or other problem soon after it occurs – some can even send messages to your smartphone.

Keep Your Family On Their Feet
Millions of Americans are injured in falls each year. Look around your home. Should you make some of these fixes?

  • Reduce clutter. Everything from small pieces of furniture to area rugs can pose a hazard, so make sure they’re in appropriate places and out of the way if possible.
  • Add stability to stairs. Make sure stairways have sturdy rails, and maybe even non-slip strips, particularly outdoors.
  • Let there be light. It’s hard to walk safely when you can’t see obstacles or potential trouble spots. Make sure your home is well-lit, and don’t forget night lights, too.

Give Everyone Some Air
Pollution isn’t just an outside thing – the air in your home can be unhealthy, too. But helping people breathe a little easier isn’t hard when you follow these steps:

  • Test the air (and your detectors). Make sure you have working carbon-monoxide and smoke detectors and test them regularly.
  • Check your filters and ducts. Keeping your furnace filter and air ducts clean will keep your air cleaner as well.
  • Keep your home clean. Dust doesn’t just build up on the furniture – it ends up in the air as well. Regular cleaning means cleaner air.

Home improvement doesn’t have to mean a remodel. Making your home safer could be the best improvement of all.

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.