Bicycles Provide Major Benefits

Bicycles Provide Major BenefitsAs you know, Vargas and Vargas Insurance will be raffling off a “Street Cruiser” bicycle from Ashmont Cycles very soon. We’ve already shared with you some bike safety tips in our blog “Gear Up for Bicycle Safety”. We will be talking about bicycle gear is a soon to be published blog. Bicycles provide major benefits. In this blog, we want to focus on the benefits you can gain by using your bicycle.

Cycling is Good for Your Health

The first benefit is probably the most obvious: getting in the habit of using your bicycle can be a great form of exercise. Routine bike rides can provide copious health benefits, such as:

  • Increased metabolism
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Strengthened mental health
  • Decreased stress levels
  • Bolstered immune system
  • Enhanced stamina
  • Improved longevity
  • Toned and defined muscles

And if these health benefits aren’t enough, consider the calories burned: in an hour of cycling, you will burn 300 calories on average. This means that if you get in the habit of taking a 30 minute bike ride every day, you can lose 11 pounds in a year!

Remember, though, that you should always consult with your doctor before you start an exercise regimen. It is more than likely that regular bicycle rides will provide a great benefit to your health, but you should always check with a licensed professional first.

Bicycles Benefit the Environment

If you are a regular on this blog, you may remember an article posted at the end of April titled “Are You Green Enough?” in which we explained many ways that you can help the environment. One of these was to use alternative transportation when travelling. 

Riding a bicycle is an excellent example of alternative transportation. Forgoing the use of a car provides many environmental benefits, such as the fact that you don’t need to use gasoline or electricity. This means that biking reduces both air and water pollution. In fact, cycling creates no pollution at all!

Bicycles also reduce road wear – as you know, a bicycle weighs a lot less than a car, and therefore puts a lot less pressure on roads and sidewalks. This means that for every trip taken on a bike instead of in a car, taxpayers are paying less for road refurbishments.

In addition, you can fit over a dozen bicycles in the same space as a single car, thus helping with the current parking problem. Also, studies have shown that cycling can save you time in rush hour – instead of sitting in traffic, cruise by all those motorists on your bike!

Biking Increases Your Safety

There is one more huge benefit to jumping on your bike instead of into your car: you’ll be safer! One study from University College London states that young males age 17 to 20 who drove were at a five times greater risk than those who rode a bicycle. 

If you cycle with the right protective gear, you can help yourself avoid potential injury. And while you can never fully protect yourself against the occasional cut or scrape, you will be at less of a risk for serious injury if you opt to use a bicycle instead of a motor vehicle.

If you need to take a longer trip and opt to use your car, remember to watch out for cyclists. These ten rules may help you to coexist and share the road with bikers. 

Also, remember to stay tuned to the Vargas and Vargas Insurance Facebook page to learn more about our bike giveaway!

Photo credit: melgupta / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Top 5 Insurance Agencies in Dorchester

Top 5 Insurance Agencies in DorchesterHere at Vargas and Vargas Insurance, we have the opportunity to meet a lot of people in our wonderful community. If you like our Vargas and Vargas Insurance Facebook page, you can easily see that we are out and about in the Dorchester area all the time. We visit local businesses and attractions, attend and sponsor community events, and much more!

One of our favorite things to do around Dorchester is to meet local business owners, and this includes other independent insurance agents! Today, we would like to celebrate the wonderful insurance community we have in our area by presenting some of the best independent insurance providers in this area:

Walter Delaney Insurance Agency

This agency focuses on offering its clients personal and individual service. They employ only experienced professionals, and they won’t rest until your problems are solved. This agency has been proudly serving the Dorchester, MA area for over 50 years!

Ann M Foley Insurance Agency

Established in 1979, the Ann M Foley Insurance Agency specializes in home and auto insurance. They can offer you a free quote, and they even guarantee your satisfaction! They are a great option if you need home or car insurance at a reasonable rate.

Tran Insurance Agency

Located on Dorchester Avenue, Tran Insurance Agency is committed to providing its customers with top of the line service. It has been servicing the Dorchester area for many years, and ensures that its clients are equipped with quality insurance policies. 

Savin Jones Insurance Agency & Saraf Insurance Agency

These sister agencies were founded in 1996 with the goal of offering Dorchester residents innovative insurance solutions. They operate under the belief that buying insurance should be a fast, easy, and efficient process. 

Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency

Don’t forget about your favorite local insurance provider! As said earlier, the Vargas and Vargas Insurance staff has been a linchpin in the Dorchester area for many years, and we focus ourselves on community enrichment, as well as providing our customers with quality insurance.

So, now you know! If you are looking for an insurance quote (for either personal or business insurance), you have lots of options in our area. Any and all of these agencies would be more than happy to help you find the right policy for you.

And remember, purchasing from an independent insurance agency has serious benefits! If you want to find out more about the benefits of purchasing policies through an independent insurance agent, just call Vargas and Vargas Insurance at 877-550-0025! 

Photo credit: StockMonkeys.com / Foter.com / CC BY

How Do You Celebrate Memorial Day?

How Do You Celebrate Memorial Day?On the last Monday of May each year, Americans celebrate Memorial Day. It is a day of remembering and honoring those military personnel that have given their lives in the service of our country. The holiday’s origin dates back to 1868, just after the Civil War, where soldiers were remembered on Declaration Day. The first large observance of this holiday was at Arlington National Cemetery. The holiday’s name was officially changed to ‘Memorial Day’ in 1967, and the holiday is observed by the US Government and most US businesses.

There are many traditional ways to observe Memorial Day. One of the most well-known is displaying the US Flag. On Memorial Day, it is customary to raise the flag fully before then lowering it to half mast. At noon, the flag is raised to its full height once more. According to The Memorial Day Wikipedia Article, “The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country. At noon their memory is raised by the living; who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.” It is also a tradition to adorn the graves of deceased military members with American Flags or flowers. 

Another popular celebration in honor of late military personnel is the Memorial Day Parade. This event traditionally features marching bands and service men and women. If you’re interested in attending your community’s Memorial Day Parade, check out the list of events on bostoncentral.com.

Some military museums also offer families a great opportunity to spend the long weekend learning about our great country. For example, the USS Constitution Museum is having their annual Memorial Day Family Weekend. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts is celebrating the holiday by offering free admission for the full long weekend.

In Washington DC, they celebrate with an annual Memorial Day Concert, live from the lawn of the Capitol Building. This year’s event will take place at 8pm on Sunday May 26th, and will be available to watch on PBS nationwide.

Even if you choose to spend your long weekend at a barbecue, make a point to spend at least a little bit of your time contemplating the meaning of the holiday – all those brave service-people who lost their lives in service to our country. 

Photo credit: jnn1776 / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Gear Up For Bicycle Safety

Gear Up For Bicycle SafetyNow that the weather has finally warmed up, it’s time to take advantage of our beautiful community! One great way to experience nature and get some exercise is to break out your bicycle. You can ride around your neighborhood, take a trip to a local park, or even get in the habit of taking your bike to work.

No matter where you decide to go, make sure that you gear up for bicycle safety.

Wear The Right Safety Gear

The first rule of bike safety is always the same – never ride your bike without the proper safety gear. Don’t leave home without these pieces of equipment:

  • Your helmet.
  • Bright or reflective clothing. 
  • A bike bell and front and rear bike lights.
  • Gloves and sunglasses.
  • A cell phone (preferably one with GPS).
  • Identification and some money for emergencies.

If you ensure that you have all these things with you when you use your bicycle, you will reduce your risk of injury, and you will be ready for any situation that may present itself.

Make Sure That Your Route Is ‘Bike-able’

When you consider taking a ride, you should first ask yourself these four questions to assess the safety of your intended path:

  1. Is there room for you to bike? A path, sidewalk, bicycle lane, or wide road shoulder provides bicyclists a safe place to ride.
  2. How is the condition of the road? A road with an uneven surface, excessive potholes, debris, rumble strips, or broken pavement can be an unsafe place to take a bicycle.
  3. Is it easy to use your bike? Routes that have lots of hills, or where you ride by unleashed dogs or unsupervised children can be dangerous.
  4. Is your destination bike friendly? Only bike somewhere if there is a safe place to leave your bike when you arrive. Also, make sure that there is an easy way to get yourself and your bike home if there is an emergency or you cannot ride, such as a bike-friendly bus or train.

If your route passes these 4 tests, then it is a good route to take. If not, you may want to consider a different path, or a different mode of transportation.

Keep Your Bike Properly Maintained

Also make sure that you occasionally check your bicycle to make sure that it is safe to ride. Here’s a quick checklist of what you need to do:

  • Check that your seat, handlebars, and wheels aren’t loose.
  • Regularly check your chain and oil.
  • Test your brakes to make sure that they work properly and don’t stick.
  • Examine your tires to make sure that their pressure is at the recommended level.

If you have any questions about bike safety or maintenance, remember to call or drop in on our friends over at Ashmont Cycles in Dorchester. They can answer all of your bike-related questions!

And remember, Vargas and Vargas Insurance will be raffling off a “Street Cruiser” bike from Ashmont Cycles at the opening of the Dorchester Farmer’s Markey on Friday, June 21st, so don’t miss out! Stay tuned to the Vargas & Vargas Insurance Agency Facebook Page for more information.

Photo credit: Michael Bentley / Foter.com / CC BY

Going on a Road Trip this Memorial Day?

Memorial Day Road Trip.jpgIt’s that time of year again! As the end of May quickly approaches, many Americans are figuring out how to spend the first weekend of summer. Many will decide to hit the open road with their family or friends. If this applies to you, check out these road trip safety tips and tricks from Vargas and Vargas Insurance!

Check your car before you leave.

Every successful trip takes at least a little bit of preparation. Invest a little time and money checking out your car before you embark. Pay special attention to your fluid levels, and don’t forget to fill up your tires. Making sure that your tire’s air pressure is at its optimum can save gas, and can help you to avoid a blowout. And don’t forget about your spare! 

Have a backup map or atlas.

There’s no doubt about it – GPS has changed the way that Americans hit the road. The ability to change your route on a whim (and without having to unfold and refold a dozen different maps) is a great addition to any road trip. 

If you have used GPS before, though, you know that it can sometimes leave you high and dry. Sometimes it can’t seem to find the right satellites, other times your device doesn’t charge correctly. There are a million ways that technology like this can fail. So, before you find yourself stuck in Bent Fork, Tennessee without a clue where to go. Bring along a back up GPS system – a good old fashioned atlas or a set of Google Maps directions.

Plan your meals ahead, and pack plenty of snacks for the mean time.

When you are driving, don’t fill up on snacks from convenience stores! Pack yourself lots of healthy snacks and drinks in a cooler before you leave, and use a service like roadfood.com to find great local places for meals. After all, you’re on a road trip to make memories, so why not try to absorb as much local flavor as possible?

Don’t waste your money refueling.

Did you know that your car looses fuel efficiency for every pound it carries? If you want to save a little cash, make sure that you take all the extra weight out of your car before you leave. Just to be clear, though, this does not include your spare tire or your emergency kit!

Also, when you do need to fill up, get the most bang for your buck by stopping at the fueling stations with the best price per gallon. It’s true – those service stations with pumps located at rest stops are very handy, but they are likely to include a convenience surcharge in their fuel price. Instead, try using your smartphone to locate a fueling station. Apps like SmartFuel for iPhone and GasBuddy for iPhone and Android will help you locate the cheapest fuel around using your phone’s GPS.

Obey traffic laws for each state you pass through.

We know that you are familiar with the driving laws in Massachusetts, but what about the other states you will be passing through? Do they allow handheld or hands free cell phone use? What about right turns on red?  Before you leave on your Memorial Day trip, make sure that you are aware of the laws. And remember, ignorance of the rules is no excuse!

Know what to do if your car breaks down.

As the saying goes, “Plan for the worst and hope for the best.” Before you leave, make sure that you know what to do if a car emergency occurs. For example, iPhone users can download the Breakdown Lane app to find a mechanic in the area. A similar app called AA Breakdown is available for Android users.

And remember, Vargas and Vargas Insurance representatives are available if you have questions concerning your auto insurance coverage. If you’re thinking of letting a friend drive your car (or vice versa), call us at 877-550-0025 to ensure that you will still be covered in case of an accident. So, be safe, and have a GREAT Memorial Day weekend!

Photo credit: davecito / Foter.com / CC BY

Prepare Your Boat for Fun in the Sun

Prepare Your Boat for Fun in the Sun - Boat with tarp and trailer.jpgIt’s finally that time of year – the sun is shining, the weather is warming up and the water is calling for you. If you’re thinking about going out on the water for the first time this year, make sure that you prepare your boat for fun in the sun by following these correct procedures for its first journey of 2013.

Inspect your Vessel from Stem to Stern

The first thing you should do when you begin this process is to perform a thorough inspection of your boat. Check the hull for blisters and chips. Inspect propellers for dings or distortions. Clean your boat, polishing any metal or teak that needs a shine, and be sure that your boat is watertight. Also check the interior of your boat and clean off any mold or mildew that may have formed over the winter.

Check your Engine

If you didn’t change your oil when you stored your boat for winter, now is the time to take care of it. Also, you may want to check your spark plugs and fuel lines. Have your boat’s owner’s manual handy when performing this type of maintenance.

Evaluate and Refresh your Fluids

When you change your boat’s oil, also ensure that the other fluids in your boat are cared for. Flush your cooling system and check your battery fluids. Now is also the perfect time to give everything a good and thorough greasing.

Test your Battery

Nothing ruins a boat trip quite like a dead battery. Keep your battery charged, and take this opportunity to check your battery and make sure that it has a good charge. If your battery is more than three years old, you may want to think about replacing it altogether.

Assess your Accessories

Don’t forget about your boat’s accessories! Check your life vests and other safety equipment, including the expiration date on your flares and fire extinguisher. Also, inspect your anchor and its rope, as well as your on-board first aid kit and GPS. 

Your boat’s trailer is also an important thing to inspect before you take to the water. Take a few minutes to check for any bends or cracks, and check out the springs and suspension as well. This type of preventative trailer maintenance can save you a lot of hassle in the long run. Remember, you don’t want to end up on the side of the road with a broken down trailer! 

Remember to take a look at your boat’s most important accessory – your watercraft insurance! This policy can provide many types of coverage against losses, such as medical payments coverage, physical damage coverage, and liability coverage. 

Here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance, we want to you to be able relax and enjoy your time on the water, so before you hit the road with your boat in tow, hit up one of our agents at 877-550-0025 to review your boat insurance policy. The call will only take a few minutes of your time, and will allow you the peace of mind on the water that nothing else can.

Photo credit: Derek Purdy / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Why You Need an Annual Home Insurance Review

Why You Need an Annual Home Insurance ReviewMost people think that insurance is something that you can purchase and forget about, but that is not entirely true. Your insurance policies are what protect you and your family from uncertainty and financial pitfalls. They are an important part of your life, and as such, they occasionally require some maintenance.

There are two very important tasks that you should perform annually to make sure that your home insurance policy is always in tip-top shape: perform a home inventory, and review your coverage with your insurance agent.

If you subscribe to our blog, you already know the importance of keeping a home inventory. This document or spreadsheet serves as the official record of your possessions. Once you have your inventory set up, it is easy to review and update it every year. If you ever need to make an insurance claim, this document will make it quick and easy to report your losses to your insurance provider.

The second piece of housekeeping that needs to be done every year is a chat with your insurance agent. Your agent will review your current policy, making sure that you still have all the coverage you require. This is also a good time to tell your agent about any large purchases or renovations that you have made so that they can be noted in your policy.

Taking a few minutes every year to do these simple tasks is the only way to ensure that your insurance policy stays current, and skipping these steps could be disastrous.

Take, for example, this story from NBC 7 of San Diego: Dieter Merkle was evacuated from his home due to an approaching wildfire, but it wasn’t until after the fire was put out that his true debacle started. Merkle spent a year rebuilding his home and replacing his lost possessions. 

What he didn’t realize before the fire burned down his home was that his insurance policy wasn’t sufficient – and it didn’t cover all of his losses. His art collection, along with all of his books, weren’t protected, and he wasn’t able to receive an insurance payout to replace them. The only reason that he was able to replace his grand piano was because a relative had a photograph in which you could see the instrument.

Much of Mr. Merkle’s stress could have easily been avoided if he had performed his yearly insurance maintenance. He was able to recover the money for his piano because of a photo. If he had taken the time to complete a home inventory before the fire, he may have been able to recoup money for more of his lost possessions.

Furthermore, if he had allowed an insurance agent to review his home insurance policy, it would have been clearly evident that his home did not have sufficient coverage. A few minutes of his time could have ensured that he had the protection he needed to replace both his books and his art collection.

Don’t allow the same thing to happen to you: call 877-550-0025 and review your home insurance policy with a Vargas and Vargas Insurance representative. We can answer all of your questions about home inventory, and we’ll help you make sure that your home and all of your possessions are fully covered in case of a disaster. 

Photo credit: photosteve101 / Foter.com / CC BY

Car Seat Safety for MA Drivers

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Did you know that car accidents are the number one cause of death in children 1 to 12 years old? Here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance, we want to help you be safe on the road. It is extremely important to do everything you can to keep your child safe in the car as well, and one of the best ways to do this is with the proper car seat.

There are many different types of car seats for children. The one you need depends on the age, weight, and height of your children. Here is an approximate guide of the type of car seat your child needs, based on their age, according to safecar.gov:

  • Under 1 year: Rear facing car seat
  • 1 – 3 years: Forward facing car seat with harness
  • 4-7 years: Booster Seat
  • 8-12 years: Shoulder belt

More exact laws are based on the state in which you drive (Massachusetts laws can be found here). You should also note that it is recommended to keep your child in each of the above stages as long as possible. Wait until they have met the weight and height restrictions of your seat before you move on to the next stage. Also, the backseat is the safest place for a child, so make sure that they ride there until at least age 12.

In addition to ensuring that your child is riding in the correct safety equipment, follow these safety tips for paramount protection:

  • Pad the sides of your rear facing seat to make sure that your infant does not slouch. You can use towels or blankets, even diapers will work in a pinch!
  • Rear facing seats should be reclined at a 45° angle. Follow manufacturer’s directions to ensure the correct angle is achieved.
  • Install your car seat’s top tether strap according to instructions. If your car seat did not come with a tether strap, see if the car seat manufacturer provides one.
  • Do not use a car seat that has been involved in an accident. Even if you can’t see any damage, the structure of the seat may have been weakened. Don’t risk it – invest in a new seat for your little one.
  • You can’t be sure that you’ve installed a car seat correctly if you don’t follow the installation instructions. Also double check to make sure that all the required parts are included in the packaging.

For more information about child safety seats and restraints, check out the website for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They have an abundance of car safety resources for parents, or anyone that transports children.

There is one more thing that you can do for your children when they are in the car: have a top of the line auto insurance policy.  This will ensure that your little ones, as well as all the rest of your loved ones, are taken care of in the event of an accident. 

Make sure that you have enough coverage – it only takes a few minutes of your time, and it could make all the difference if you are ever involved in a crash. All you have to do is call! Call our great staff at Vargas & Vargas Insurance at 877-550-0025.

Title Insurance Protects Your Ownership Rights

Title Insurance.jpgWhen purchasing a home, you receive a title document. The title states that you are the owner of the property, and that you retain the rights to the property. While there aren’t typically issues relating to the true owner of a piece of land, questions do sometimes arise.

In some cases, a lawsuit may arise concerning the property’s true owner. There are many scenarios that can cause this quarrel to occur, including:

  • Federal or state liens on the property.
  • Unpaid homeowner’s association dues.
  • Utility easements.
  • Mechanic’s liens.
  • Unnamed heirs to the property.
  • “Wild deeds” that were never recorded.

In fact, this list is only a small portion of the full list of reasons why a title of ownership may be contested. It’s easy to think that none of these affect your property, but it is impossible to know for sure.

While you can never be certain of the fact that you are the sole title holder for your property, there is a way to protect yourself with an insurance policy. This policy is called “Title Insurance,” and it comes in two distinct forms.

Lender’s Policy

This policy, as the title suggests, is only issued to mortgage lenders. It is intended to protect the lender in the case that the property in question:

  • Has a defective or unmarketable title.
  • Is subject to title defects or liens.
  • Cannot legally be accessed.
  • Cannot have a lien.
  • Is already subject to a mechanic’s lien.

In most cases, a lender’s policy will be required when you obtain a mortgage (just like they require that you have a home insurance policy). While your lender can require that you purchase a lender’s title insurance policy, they cannot legally require you to purchase from a specific insurance provider, as stated in the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).

Take this as an opportunity to do your homework. Find an insurance provider that can offer you the protection you require at a price that fits your wallet.

Owner’s Policy

When your property is no longer covered by a lender’s policy (a lender’s policy is only valid while the property is under a mortgage) you should make sure that you are still protected by a title insurance policy. In this case, you will want to have an owner’s policy.

This policy will provide you with the protection you need, including coverage for any and all legal battles regarding your property’s title, and compensation for any financial losses related to those battles. Typically, the financial compensation that the policy will provide is capped at the value of the property, but this can be changed as a part of the insurance policy.

An owner’s policy is typically broken down into two types of costs: premiums and service fees. Just as with any type of insurance policy, a premium will cover the perpetual costs associated with the policy, and generally vary. In addition, you will be responsible for covering the cost of underwriting the policy and performing a title search. These costs are bundled and charged to you as a one-time “service fee.”

If you have questions about title insurance, or want to find a policy that will fit your needs, call 877-550-0025 and speak to a Vargas and Vargas Insurance representative! 

Photo credit: TheTruthAbout / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Eliminate PMI and Lower Your Mortgage Payment

PMI - Option 1.jpgIn the US, homes are typically financed with either a 15 or a 30 year mortgage. A mortgage allows homeowners to pay off their residence over a period of time, instead of having to pay potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars up front. 

When purchasing a home, some people cannot afford to put down 20% of the purchase price. When that is the case, Private Mortgage Insurance (also known as PMI) is often taken out on the loan in order to protect against default. The amount you will pay monthly for PMI depends on three main factors:

  • The total value of the home you are purchasing.
  • The amount you are borrowing in your mortgage.
  • Your credit score.

When everything is computed, PMI can add $100 or more to your monthly mortgage payment. While the protection provided by Private Mortgage Insurance is invaluable at the onset of your mortgage, you can typically eliminate the extra cost a little ways into the life of your loan. This is typically done one of four ways:

Pay off more than 20% of your mortgage

Private Mortgage Insurance is only necessary if you owe more than 80% of your home’s value. As you make payments (and therefore have paid off more and more of your home) you should naturally reach the point where you have paid off more than 20% of your mortgage. At this point, call your lender and verify that your PMI charge has been removed.

Reappraise your home

If you have spent money upgrading your home, or if you pay a high interest rate on your mortgage, you may benefit from having your home reappraised. If your appraiser determines that your home’s value has increased, it may push you over the 20% hurdle that is key when it comes to eliminating your Private Mortgage Insurance payment.

This method does not come without risk, though. You will have to pay for your home’s appraisal, and that will typically cost anywhere from $200 to $500 (or more, depending on the value of your home).

Lender Paid Mortgage Insurance

Some mortgage lenders will allow you to use an alternative to PMI. It is called “Lender Paid Mortgage Insurance,” and, as the name indicates, it is mortgage insurance that is covered by your mortgage provider instead of by you.

You may ask: what’s the catch? In the situation that you opt for Lender Paid Mortgage Insurance, your lender will require you to pay a higher rate of interest on your mortgage for the life of the loan. While this can sometimes result in a higher tax deduction, it is normally impossible to cancel. Typically, this route is only recommended if you have a short term loan, or if you plan to move or refinance within 10 years. 

It is also important to remember that Private Mortgage Insurance only protects you from default on your mortgage. This policy is completely separate from your home insurance policy, which protects your home from many types of perils. 

Typically, mortgage lenders will require that you purchase a home insurance policy as a part of their financing agreement. If you don’t know where to start, talk to a representative from Vargas and Vargas Insurance. You can get on the road to peak home protection, just by calling us at 877-550-0025.

Photo credit: lumaxart / Foter.com / CC BY-SA