Category Archives: Auto Insurance

Snow Tires: Tis the Season

by P. Andersen, November 18, 2014


As the temperatures dip into the teens this week (In NOVEMBER?!?!), it is time to think about snow tires.  I know, I know, it is too soon to talk about snow tires!  Sadly, we are almost to Thanksgiving, and with the goal of keeping you from having a claim or an injury, I am standing on my soapbox and singing the praises of snow tires…

First, if you bought your car up in the northeast, you were given All-Season Tires by default.  Many people feel that their all-season tires are designed to survive winter’s wrath, but really they are designed to do everything pretty well.  Rain, not bad.  Dry, perfectly fine.  Snow?  Ummmm… Snow?  Not so good, really.  Should we have another winter like the last one, a good set of snow tires will serve you very well indeed.

Why snow tires?  First, read a basic Q&A here, at About Cars…    As you can see, snow tires are made of special rubber, they have tread designs specific to the needs of snow and ice, and they make a huge difference in your driving safety when the white stuff falls.  Even on dry pavement, the rubber is more pliable in the cold – while your all seasons get hard and brittle in the winter, snow tires stay soft and grippy.  If you need your car daily, there is no better investment in the northeast than snow tires, making your front or all wheel vehicle safe and secure as you commute.  Another benefit for those of you that have sporty cars?  You can buy summer tires for the other 3 seasons, improving your driving in wet and dry during the warmer months.

Two Options…

Option 1:  If you have a small or economy car, you likely have wheels in the 16″ – 17″ size range.  This is a good size for snow tires, so you can have them installed right on your current rims.  This requires a repair shop or tire store to do the install.  The benefits are you only have to pay for the tires and installation, the drawback is that you have to pay for that installation twice a year, as you switch between your winter and summer tires.

Option 2: Get a totally separate set of wheels with your winter tires.  You may see the term “Steelies” used for steel wheels that are often utilized for this purpose.  For those of you with performance vehicles, this option may save you some money, as winter tires for large diameter wheels are expensive and less effective.  Winter tires work well on smaller wheels, because the tire sidewalls are larger than the low profile sport tires your car likely came with.  My car, for example, has 18′ wheels with low profile tires, but I can get 16′ steelies and winter tires – and pay less for the tires.  The drawback to this option is the initial cost, as steelies run from $50 to $100 per wheel, and you may need 4 tire pressure sensors installed as well – a one-time charge, dependent on your car.  The benefit is the ease of switching the wheels between seasons yourself if you have a jack, and that you will have the wheels winter after winter.  You also save your pretty shiny wheels from the winter salt and punishing ice, making them look better for longer.

Now?  Sigh…

Now is the time!  Contact the many retailers that sell those winter tires that you need more than you realize.  You may be able to get rims off of Craig’s List, or order them online.  Store your summer tires for the year (always on their side, stacked), and enjoy the next 4 months without worry.  You won’t believe the change in your car after you make this investment!  Now drive smart, drive carefully, and get there safe.

 Check out this quick comparison of some of the major snow tire players in the market from ConsumerSearch.

Insurance Facts & Myths: What You Know, What you Don’t

By P. Andersen, 10/28/14


Do you know your insurance facts? Can you pick out the insurance myths that seem to crop up time and time again? Here is a quiz that gave to 2000 respondents, and the results may surprise you. I put the 10 questions below for you to answer, and you can click the link at the bottom to see how you did. If that isn’t good enough, there is a gender breakdown! That’s right, among the 2000 respondents, women did substantially better on this quiz than men!  Leave your ego at the door guys, or prove you ACTUALLY know what you THINK you know…

But what is the point? The point is that we all make decisions based on perceived facts. We don’t ask questions because we mistakenly think we know the answers, and because of that, we miss out on some important things in life. This is not just about insurance, it is about a world that we think we know, but that really is full of mystery.

But today, let’s focus on the insurance side of things. Decide if these 10 statements are facts or myths, then click the link and see how you did. Ready?

1: I should buy insurance coverage for my house based on its real estate market value.

2: Red cars cost more to insure because they get pulled over for speeding more.

3: If I cause a crash with extensive damages to others, my auto insurance company can cancel me immediately.

4: Small cars are the cheapest to insure.

5: The Affordable Care Act (also called Obamacare) allows health insurance companies to base rates on medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer.

6: Comprehensive auto insurance covers everything and anything.

7: Thieves prefer to steal new cars.

8: If my friend borrows my car and crashes it, their insurance will pay for damage.

9: The Affordable Care Act (also called Obamacare) requires me to take the health insurance plan offered by my employer.

10: Out-of-state speeding tickets can’t follow you home.

Results? Click here. Good Luck!

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance

By P. Andersen, 10/17/14


At Levitt-Fuirst, I manage a sub-company called Risk Reduction Services (RRS).   Simply, we collect proof of insurance documents from contractors for our clients.  If there is a claim caused by a contractor, our clients can feel secure that the contractor has insurance to pay the claim.

All of this made me think of personal auto insurance.  When you are in an accident, you expect the other driver to have proper insurance!  Recently, however, I have been reading many stories about individuals that either have only the minimum auto coverage limits, or forego auto insurance entirely.  Reasons vary from the slow economic recovery to increasing auto insurance rates, but whatever the reason, the number of uninsured drivers is climbing. Here is one such story that caught my eye.  Though this is from Dayton Ohio, you could insert your town name and the story wouldn’t change.

Even if that driver in the lane next to you DOES have insurance, however, there is no telling if they have ENOUGH insurance! Do you know how low the New York State’s mandatory limits are?  Mandated liability insurance limits are $25,000/person, $50,000/accident.  Limits for death are $50,000/person, $100,000/accident!  Property damage?  $10,000!!!

Cars are more valuable than ever, and humans are more litigious than ever. These limits will not protect you if you cause an accident, but they will also not care for you if you are involved in an accident caused by others with bad insurance!

What Is a Person To Do?

Two things, both accomplished by calling your insurance expert…

First, make sure you have a good uninsured/underinsured limit. This coverage is the one you need for those occasions where the other driver doesn’t have insurance, or has extremely low coverage limits. Although this is a required coverage in New York, the mandated limits are too low to truly protect you. Talk to your insurance professional to find out if your limits for this essential coverage are high enough.

Second, do you have a lot to protect outside of your car? Do you have an expensive home, vacation home, jewelry, kids with college funds, stock portfolios? If the answers are YES, than the rules are different for you.  You should have an umbrella policy to protect you in the case of a lawsuit or high cost claim.

Do you have an umbrella policy? Yes?  GOOD! But that auto policy better be $500,000 combined single limit, or you may have a large shortfall when that unthinkable auto claim occurs. Most umbrella policies require underlying insurance to be at least $500,000 before the umbrella coverage kicks in. This is one very good reason to keep all of your insurance with one insurance expert – the more you have to protect, the more you need a synergy amongst all of your policies.

Auto Insurance is expensive, especially in the tri-state region. Rates in New York City are especially high, and New Jersey is known for their high rates as well.  The risks to you, your family, and your personal wealth is real, though, and skimping on this essential coverage simply doesn’t make sense.  Give us a call, we are happy to check your policy to see if you are protected from this, and other risks you face each day.

New York Auto Insurance Rates – Something to Think About

by P. Andersen, 10/1/14


Reading the Chappaqua Daily Voice, this story jumped onto our radar.  It isn’t surprising that auto insurance is expensive in our region, but the story made us think about the auto market in general here in New York.

Something that you will hear a lot is that auto insurance has become “commoditized”.  When competitors offer a product with no discernable differences, price becomes the only factor that matters.  The commodity concept is what Geico focuses on  – how much you can save?  The study that is referenced, which can be found here on the ValuePenguin website, points out the expense associated with auto insurance in the region, but fails on a few other fronts.  When all you talk about is price, you lose sight of the bigger picture of risk, protection, and security for you and your family.

Auto Insurance is an Important Insurance Policy!

First of all, I want to mention that this study uses some very low insurance coverage numbers.  If you live in Chappaqua (or Armonk, or Harrison, or Greenwich, or Scarsdale), you likely have more to protect than those low limits allow.  You have more to risk, and far more to lose with low limit insurance – and the study actually INCREASES the numbers from what New York requires!  Hello, maybe it is time to talk Uninsured/Underinsured insurance coverage?  Next weeks blog, read it here next Wednesday!  For now, just know you NEED IT!

You will hear me often talk about the professional guidance Levitt-Fuirst offers our clients, and how this professional knowledge is essential to making good insurance decisions.  This is also true with the supposed commodity personal auto insurance.  For a well-off family, the auto insurance you carry could be a huge benefit – or problem – when a big auto claim hits.  Having an insurance expert explain the coverage options to you, and make recommendations to you based on your particulars, might mean the difference between being covered for a major claim and suffering a large out of pocket expense.

Let’s look at some examples… 

Some vehicles are unique, and their value is higher than what you would expect for the make and model.  Under these circumstances, you should be directed toward agreed value coverage.  Blue Book values are the standard basis for insurance reimbursement, but a standard blue book value coverage could cost you when your unique auto’s value far eclipses the blue book.  Perhaps you read about this concept in our Antique Auto blog? 

Also, did you know that you can stipulate that only OEM parts are used in the repair of your vehicle?  Private Label parts may not have the same high standards as the parts that were used to build your car originally, and could impact the quality of the vehicle after repair.  Diminished quality means diminished value of the vehicle after repair as well…

What about rental insurance?  When does it kick in, how long does it last, how much comes out of your pocket?  Rental cars are expensive; a few weeks of a car being in the shop could cover several years of the savings garnered by not having this coverage (or having a poor version, with economy cars and 1 week limits).

Umbrella Requirements?


Or the big one – do you have enough auto insurance to reach your umbrella coverage?  Umbrella policies often stipulate that the underlying auto policy have limits as high as $500,000 in order for a claim to be covered – that low limit policy that saved you a few hundred dollars may cost you $400,000 during a lawsuit!

Commodity?  No, I don’t see auto insurance as a commodity.  I see it as any other essential coverage, and the more you have to lose, the more you have to think about what the policy protects you from.  This doesn’t always mean excessively high premiums either – a lot has to do with you and your driving record, the people in your household, the other policies you have with the particular carrier.  The simple fact is, you should talk to us.  We are your trusted advisor for a reason…

Your New College Student: Insurance Questions and Answers

by P. Andersen, 9/13/14


Here I sit, on the tarmac in Houston, Texas, almost to my Dallas destination. I am heading to the first game of the year for my college team, the reigning national champion Florida State Seminoles. Whenever I go see a college game, I think about those college years long long ago with a mix of yearning and wonder – such an amazing time. At this moment, I am also thinking about the insurance implications of sending that 18 year old me to college – the auto insurance and health insurance questions, primarily. I thought, as I dream of a repeat national title season, that maybe explaining what you need to know would be a good idea, since many of you are watching your kids exit for college too…

Auto Insurance:


Let’s start with your auto coverage. If you are sending your child to a school located over 100 miles away, and they are not bringing a car, those years of high rates with your youthful driver may well be at an end! With your son or daughter at college, your insurance will usually be based only on the drivers living full time in your household. This is not a hard and fast rule, and each carrier is different, so call us to discuss your auto policy specifically to see if this rate drop applies to your situation.

Sending your child to school with a car, or to a school within 100 miles of your home? Well, no real news here – the car and child stay on your policy, or they will have to get their own policy. This I where good grades and defensive driver classes will help save you money.

Health Insurance:

Now, about that health insurance… First and foremost, health insurance is so very important to your college bound child. When at school, they will have all the risks they face at home and then some. Being confident that he or she is covered is essential to your emotional wellbeing, and the new health insurance rules will help you with that. One of the big benefits of the new healthcare legislation is the ability to have your children covered on your health insurance policy until they are 26, and your employer may have purchased a rider that will extend that to the age of 29. This is not dependent on your child being in college, but is for any child that would otherwise be uncovered.

For your college bound child, there are often insurance plans offered to university students at a reasonable rate, and you may be able to receive financial aid to attain it. You can weigh the costs of the college plans vs. the cost of keeping your child on your policy, giving you the potential to save some money while still being secure in the safety of your son or daughter.

So, you see, there are benefits to your son or daughter heading off to school (besides turning that disaster area of a child’s bedroom into your office/gym/evil mastermind headquarters). There is potential auto insurance savings, and the peace of mind that even far from home, your son or daughter will have the benefits of health insurance coverage.

Now, if you don’t mind, I have a football game to prepare for, a tailgate to attend, and a first step to the next national title. Jerry Jones has been kind enough to offer his stadium for the noble cause.


Well, my team won a close game against the feisty Oklahoma State Cowboys, who apparently did not get the memo that FSU is exceptional. The trip was an amazing one, however, and Dallas proved to be a truly enjoyable city. On game day, the college students were uncountable, and my hope is that your kids can experience all the amazing things college has to offer, including the camaraderie and solidarity of a school team to root for. While doing so, may the never need the health insurance you are certain to get for them, and may this life changing time be the first step in their happy, healthy, prosperous lives.