4 Amazing Tips for Preparing Your Car for Winter

mother and child safely driving around in winter after she followed these tips for preparing your car for winter

Approximately 2,000 people die each year, and 135,000 are injured in the United States due to snow and ice on the roads. Driving under such conditions is dangerous, but unfortunately, drivers do not take the time to learn seasonal driving tips. This makes driving a vehicle a lot more difficult than usual. It is important to get the car ready with the best auto insurance and ideas to keep your expenses low. Here are great tips that will help you overcome cold weather challenges as you’re preparing your car for winter.

1. Check the tread and air pressure of the tires

During winter, the condition of your car’s tires is paramount to its performance. Proper air pressure helps the vehicle to roll and have adequate support at all times. The rubber must also have a healthy tread to keep enough traction on the ground. 

If you realize the footprints of your car tires have too much wear, replace them. It is also wise to buy all tires from one source to ensure the balance of your car and avoid accidents. Check the pressure of the tires frequently during winter; tires tend to lose pressure more easily if the temperature drops beyond zero.

2. Fill up the fuel tank

You cannot be too sure of accessing gas stations during winter. Some streets will probably be filled up with snow during winter, limiting the number of gas outlets you can access. Therefore, keep your fuel tank full at all times to avoid inconveniences. A full tank will also save you the time and effort of driving around looking for a gas station, further reducing the cost.

3. Use snow tires

Using regular tires during winter is not a good idea. The texture of snow, rock salt, and ice can take a toll on rubber, which will force you to spend more on tires due to wear and tear.

4. Make sure you have up-to-date insurance

To stay safe in winter driving conditions, have your car insured and protected from as many conditions as possible. Consult Vargas & Vargas Insurance for amazing deals that will keep you safe and at peace throughout the season.

Vargas & Vargas Insurance is one of the premier local independent insurance agencies in the area; we work for our clients and not the insurance company. We will customize your insurance coverage to your specific needs at the right price and are here to answer all your insurance questions. Contact us today to start preparing your car for winter and every other season.

How to Choose Your Car Insurance Deductible

Smiling couple in a new car

Your car insurance deductible plays a significant role in your price for auto insurance. But insurance is complicated, and many people don’t fully understand what a deductible is or why it matters.

Today we’ll explain car insurance deductibles with the first-time car owner in mind. Let’s get a few basic insurance concepts out of the way.

Massachusetts Car Insurance Basics

To register a car in Massachusetts, you must insure it with liability coverage. This protects other people — and their property — from damage you might cause by driving the vehicle.

But the state liability minimums don’t include any coverage for your property or your vehicle. For that protection, you will need “full coverage,” or a package that includes both comprehensive and collision coverages.

  • Collision coverage pays for damage to your vehicle in a crash.
  • Comprehensive coverage pays for things like vehicle theft.

When an accident does happen, your full coverage auto policy will help pay to repair the car. But you’ll be responsible for paying a deductible, too.

What Is a Car Insurance Deductible?

Deductibles are considered a type of co-insurance. They are a pre-set dollar amount that the car owner agrees to pay first, should an accident happen.

For instance, let’s imagine you have a $1,000 deductible on your auto insurance policy. During a brutal New England snowstorm, your vehicle slides on some black ice and crashes into a center divider on the highway. Thankfully, everyone is wearing a seatbelt. No one is injured, and no other cars are involved.

You take your car to the shop, and it will need about $5,000 of work. With a $1,000 deductible, it is your responsibility to pay the first $1,000. Your insurer pays the remaining $4,000. 

  • Deductible amounts can range anywhere from $50 to $5,000.
  • But $500 or $1,000 are probably the most common amounts. 

If you have a high deductible — like $5,000 — then you’ll have a lower monthly insurance payment. However, you must keep $5,000 on hand at all times to pay for repairs yourself. And don’t forget that your lienholder — the bank, if you make a car payment — might require a deductible of $1,000 or less on your insurance. 

Learn More With Us

Vargas & Vargas Insurance is proud to be your local independent insurance agency. We work for our customers, not the insurance companies. Contact us today to customize your car insurance coverage and learn more about car insurance deductibles.

Car Insurance Terms, Part Two: Car Insurance Claims

family with a dog preparing for a fun drive

Understanding the basic language of your auto insurance policy is important. However, knowing your coverages and car insurance claims terminology is what really matters when your insurance suddenly becomes more than just another monthly bill. Learn more about these important terms:

Liability

Liability coverage has three distinct coverages under one heading. All of them protect the claimant in an accident. The first is the bodily injury liability per person. The amount of coverage shown is the maximum pay-out amount for injuries to any one claimant in an accident. 

Next is the bodily injury liability per accident. This amount is the maximum pay-out amount for bodily injury per accident, regardless of how many people receive injuries. 

Lastly, property damage liability is the maximum amount that will be paid out for damage to property (autos, buildings, etc.) per accident, regardless of how many vehicles you are held responsible for.

There is a maximum pay-out under your auto insurance. But you are still legally responsible for any remaining damages. That’s why it’s vitally important to discuss your coverage choices with your insurance agent. Maintaining state-required minimums does not release you from full responsibility to the claimant. 

Medical Payments

After car insurance claims, your policy may provide coverage for medical expenses to you and/or your passengers up to the limit listed. 

Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

PIP coverage provides a little more extensive coverage when you receive injuries in an auto accident. This includes elements such as lost wages and other damages, regardless of who is at fault in the accident. 

Comprehensive

Sometimes referred to as “other than collision,” this is for covered damage to your vehicle that is not the result of a collision. Some examples include fire, theft, vandalism, glass breakage, and animals. Coverage is subject to your deductible.

Collision

When your vehicle collides with another object, whether it’s a vehicle, building, pothole, or something else, the damage falls under your collision coverage. It is also subject to your deductible. Comprehensive and collision coverages are required when your vehicle has a lien or leaseholder. It protects their interest in the vehicle until it is paid off. 

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured motorist coverage protects you when your vehicle is struck by a vehicle that does not have enough coverage, has no coverage at all, or commits a hit-and-run. It may include coverage for bodily injury, property damage, or both. The coverage amount limits the amount paid. 

Additional Coverage Options

Insurers offer a variety of additional coverages for your convenience, including emergency road service and car rental reimbursement. 

Claim

A claim is when an insured or claimant believes an insurance company should reimburse him or her for damages resulting from an event. 

Claimant

An individual who makes car insurance claims against another party (or their insurance company) is a claimant. 

At-Fault/No-Fault

Some states require that fault be assigned in an accident and that the responsible individual be held accountable for the entirety of the accident’s damages. But other states are no-fault. That means each vehicle owner’s insurance takes care of damages for their insured, regardless of fault. Massachusetts is a no-fault state.

Subrogation

Even in an at-fault state, it is common for the insurance of the not-at-fault party to pay for damages upfront. Then repairs can happen quickly. The insurance company will then subrogate, or pursue, the responsible party or their insurance for reimbursement of paid-out expenses. 

See the first part of our series on car insurance terms for more helpful auto insurance explanations.

Vargas & Vargas Insurance understands that insurance terminology can be confusing. That’s why, as a premier local independent insurance agency, we strive to build the relationships necessary to customize your insurance coverage to your needs at the right price. Contact us today.

Car Insurance Terms, Part One: The Basics

woman driving in her car and smiling

The average U.S. driver spends 55 minutes per day behind the wheel of an automobile. With that kind of exposure, there’s a good chance you’ll need to utilize your auto insurance coverage at some point. However, waiting until you have a claim is not the best time to learn what common car insurance terms mean. By understanding your car insurance policy now, you can avoid coverage concerns when a claim arises. 

Start with these car insurance terms:

Declarations (Declarations Page)

This is the page of your policy that gives your basic identifying information. Examples of this information include the name and address of the insurance provider, to and from dates of coverage, basic coverages included in the policy, deductible amount, premium, and any lien or leaseholders. Your insurance identification cards provide the most basic information about your policy, but your declarations page goes a little more in-depth. 

Insurance Identification Card

Most insurance companies provide a paper, wallet-sized proof of coverage. This card shows the very basics of your policy to provide to law enforcement in the event of a traffic stop or accident. It is also very common for an electronic version of the identification card to be provided through a mobile app for even greater convenience. After all, the paper version has to be replaced with an updated version with each policy renewal. 

Insured/Insurer

The insured is the person coverage being provided for—generally, the owner of the auto. The insurer is the insurance company providing the coverage for your car. 

Lienholder/Leaseholder

The lienholder is the financial institution, or individual, who holds the title to your vehicle. They hold it until you pay the lien in full. The leaseholder serves the same role for a leased vehicle. Both of these parties hold a financial interest in your vehicle, so your policy will list them. 

Policy Period

This is the time period your auto is currently insured — usually semiannually, although some auto policy periods are for a year. Most auto policies renew automatically, provided you continue to pay the premium. 

Premium

The semi-annual or annual amount you pay for your auto insurance is the insurance premium. This premium can usually be divided into payments that are convenient for you, such as monthly, quarterly, or semi-annual payments. 

Deductible

The amount the insured is responsible for at the time of claim is called the deductible. When a claim is less than the deductible amount, the insurance will not make payment. If the claim is more than the deductible, the amount of the deductible is deducted from the total claim amount before the check is written. The deductible is never given to the insurance company by the insured. 

State-Required Minimums

Most states require a certain amount of auto insurance for drivers to maintain a vehicle tag and drive public roads legally. State-required minimums refer to the basic amount of coverage required by law in your state. It is important to note that abiding by state-required minimums for your insurance coverage does not relieve you of the legal obligation to pay for damages that exceed that coverage. So discuss your individual risk with your agent. Securing appropriate coverage in excess of the state-required minimums ensures compliance with state laws and prevents out-of-pocket costs in larger claims. 

Vargas & Vargas understands there is a lot more to choosing the right coverage than knowing car insurance terms. That’s why we are a premier local independent insurance agency. We work for you, not the insurance company. We are here to answer all of your questions and customize your coverage to your specific needs at the right price. Give us a call to discuss your coverage today. 

Winterize Your Auto and Auto Insurance With These Tips

mom and child smiling in a car while it's snowing

As winter continues, it’s important to prepare your car for the harsher conditions. At the same time, you want to make sure that your auto insurance policy provides you with sufficient coverage for the season. Here are some tips on how to winterize your auto — and your auto insurance.

Winterizing Your Automobile

  • Make sure your 4-wheel drive works if you have it.
  • Check your vehicle’s belts and hoses. Cold weather can cause them to weaken and even break, so you may want to take your car in for a tune-up ahead of time.
  • Change your windshield wipers.
  • Always keep your fuel tank full. A near-empty tank in extremely cold weather can result in severe damage to your car.
  • Top off your fluids (coolant, wiper fluid, and so forth).
  • Check your oil. If you need to give your car an oil change, make sure you use a product with the right viscosity (or thickness).
  • Check your car’s battery. The last thing you want is a dead battery in freezing temperatures.
  • Check your air filters, and replace them as needed.
  • Make sure your tires have enough air pressure. You’ll likely have to periodically check on this throughout the winter. Also, consider putting on snow tires if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow and ice during the cold season.

Winterizing Your Auto Insurance

It’s true that you can never foresee an auto accident or other winter-related damage. However, you can prepare. You may want to add collision coverage to your automobile insurance policy in the event that you slip or slide into something and damage your car that way. Also, comprehensive coverage will cover just about any other accident that causes damage to your car, such as a branch falling on your hood or damage from a snowbank.

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we can help you winterize your auto insurance so that it works best for you. We are one of the premier local independent insurance agencies, and we truly work for our clients, not ourselves. Our team of friendly experts would be happy to answer all of your insurance questions. Contact us today.

Insurance To-Dos After Your Child Moves Out

So your child is moving out. They are either going to college and getting an off-campus apartment, going out on their own for a job, or starting some other adventure. This brings with it a whole string of emotions from happy to sad and anxious to ecstatic. After the tears, it’s time to think about some next steps for when you are starting to downsize your life. 

Adult Son Moving Out Of Parent's Home

Home Insurance

On your checklist of to-dos, you will want to check on your home policy after your child has moved. There are a few different things to check. For example, you will want to see if you can change your own policy to be lower now that there are not as many belongings in the home. You may also want to see if your homeowner’s policy will cover your child if they are still in college (which may be the case if they are in the dorms). Alternatively, you may be able to get a discount by getting a renter’s policy through the same company. 

In any case, now may be a good time to let your child know that a renter’s policy will help them with liability concerns. It will also protect the belongings that are inside their apartment.  

Car Insurance

The other thing that your child will need to take charge of will be their own car insurance policy. This is especially nice as newer drivers tend to require more expensive policies. If they are moving far away without a car, you may be able to put the car they used in your own name without listing them as a driver on the policy any longer. Alternatively, if they are moving and taking their car, they can go ahead and get their own policy. You will no longer need to be responsible for it and can see about downsizing your coverage.  

Vargas & Vargas Insurance is the premier local independent insurance agency — we work for our clients and not the insurance company. We will customize your insurance coverage to your specific needs at the right price as you downsize. Contact us today for answers to all of your insurance questions.

Do You Need Car Insurance If You Aren’t Driving Your Car?

In these times, most of us have experienced extreme upheaval when it comes to our routines. That may include working from home. You may be ordering groceries or take-out to be delivered instead of going out. This means that our cars remained parked. As a result, many car owners are starting to wonder if they should even have car insurance during these times.

man next to his car on his driveway

The short answer is, yes! Let’s explore why.

It’s Better to Maintain Coverage Than Have On-and-Off Coverage

Unless your car is completely out of commission — as in, it’s been totaled and is no longer drivable — you should keep insurance on it. The reason why is relatively simple: if you can still drive it, at some time, you probably will. That means there is always that chance that something could happen. 

Another reason is that if you cancel your car insurance, and then you end up needing it again, you will be labeled as high-risk to the underwriters. This means you may have a hard time obtaining car insurance, or you will end up paying more. So, it’s cheaper and safer to maintain insurance. 

Options for Stored Cars

If your car is locked away in a storage facility and you are definitely not going to be driving it anytime soon, meaning it will not be anywhere near any public road, you may be able to drop the coverage to comprehensive insurance only. This type of insurance protects the car from anything except a collision with another vehicle. For this reason, comprehensive insurance is sometimes referred to as “car storage insurance.”

How to Save on Car Insurance

Essentially, you do need to have insurance on your car (even if you aren’t driving that much). However, if you are concerned about the cost of premiums, it is always worth looking into different kinds of insurance and ways that you can save. Liability insurance is something that you have to have if your car is registered. But you may be able to take other kinds of coverage off of your car if you feel that you are not driving it enough to warrant having full coverage. 

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we’re here to help answer your insurance questions and make sure you have the coverage you need. Contact us today to get in touch with a local representative.

Stay Current on Massachusetts RMV Extensions and Reduced Insurance Rates

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every industry, and new changes continue to roll out. Drivers and car-related industries have experienced some unique challenges. What should you do if your vehicle registration is due? In Massachusetts, the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) renewal deadlines are extended. Also, many car insurance companies are giving back money to their customers.

women standing by her car at home

Registration and Renewal Extensions

The shutdown, phased reopening, and social distancing measures are necessary to ensure public safety and health during the COVID-19 crisis. But because of the changes and importance of staying home, the Massachusetts RMV has posted COVID-19 changes and updates regarding important registration and renewal dates. Driver’s license and permit renewals, which were due in March and April, were initially allotted a 60-day extension. However, the RMV has updated the timeline, with March-June renewal dates now extended until July 30, 2020. Plate registration and inspection sticker renewals that were initially due by May 31, 2020, are extended until July 31, 2020.

Customers are encouraged to use the RMV online services whenever possible. Residents who require in-person assistance at an RMV service center must reserve an appointment ahead of time. Reservations can be scheduled by phone or online.

Reduced Car Insurance Rates

The various social distancing measures have caused many people to spend more time at home. As people are commuting less, many auto insurance companies have stepped forward to offer reduced rates for customers. Many national and local insurance providers — including Allstate, Progressive, Geico, Plymouth Rock, Arbella Insurance, Vermont Mutual, MAPFRE, and many others — are participating in relief options for premiums during the current pandemic. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the auto and insurance industries continue to provide customers with valuable updates and changes to accommodate customer needs during this challenging time. Contact us today to stay on top of your coverage needs and adapt to ongoing changes. Vargas & Vargas Insurance can help you stay informed on how COVID-19 is impacting vehicle registrations and auto insurance policies.

These Auto Insurance Companies Are Giving Money Back During COVID-19

couple looking at reduced insurance premiums during shelter-in-place orders

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 global pandemic has caused immense strain — physically, mentally, and financially. While the uncertainty of the coming months continues to weigh heavily on everyone’s minds, more and more stories are coming to light every day about individuals and corporations trying to do what they can to help. The insurance industry is among them. Several companies have implemented plans in recent days that will attempt to lessen the monetary burden their customers are facing for car insurance and other policies. Wondering if your company is one of them? Check out the list below. 

Farmers

Customers with Farmers or 21st Century-branded policies will see a 25% reduction on their premium for the month of April. The discount will be applied as a credit to next month’s billing statement. If you paid your premium in full, it will be issued as a check or direct deposit to the account on file. The reduction is being applied automatically and requires no action on your part. 

State Farm

State Farm policyholders will be apportioned part of a $2 billion dividend from the company. While exact percentages for individual customers will vary by state, policyholders will be credited a percentage of their premium from March 20 through May 1. The company estimates that the average will be about 25% of the premium for that time frame, and customers don’t need to take action to receive the credit. 

Progressive

Policies active with Progressive at the end of April or May will receive a 20% premium credit. The company will notify its policyholders when the credit will appear, and it will be automatically credited toward the balance of their next bill. If you’ve paid your policy in full, then either a check will be issued, or the amount will be deposited into the payment account on file.  

Allstate and Esurance

Through the months of April and May, Allstate and their family company Esurance are offering customers a 15% refund based on their premiums for those months. The money will be directly deposited into whatever account their latest payment was made (or credited to their account) – so no action is required by customers to receive the money. The company is also offering payment relief plans upon request, extended coverage for personal vehicles in certain commercial capacities, and the ability to sign up for free identity theft coverage through 2020. 

Nationwide

For policies active as of March 31, 2020, Nationwide will be offering policyholders a one-time premium refund of $50. When you’ll see the money will vary by state regulatory approval. The company is also offering the ability to suspend some cancellations, defer payments for certain policies, and waive some late fees in certain circumstances due to COVID-19 related hardships. While no action is required for the premium refund, you’ll need to reach out to a representative for additional considerations.

USAA

Every member with USAA who has an auto policy in effect as of March 31, 2020, will receive a 20% credit on two months of premiums without needing to contact the company. Extended coverage, policy leniency, and special payment arrangements are also available upon request. 

Geico

 A 15% renewal discount is being offered by Geico for auto, motorcycle, and RV policies set to renew between April 8 and October 7, 2020, for 6-month policies and between April 8 and April 7, 2021, for 12-month policies. The credit is also being extended to new business policies written between April 8 and October 7, 2020.

No action is required on the customer’s end; the discount will be credited automatically upon renewal. Cancellations due to nonpayment have also been paused through at least April 30, 2020, for all states, while some states may get longer windows. You can see if your state has a longer grace period here.  

Liberty Mutual

Liberty Mutual customers with personal auto insurance policies will receive a 15% refund on two months of premiums, based on the premium amount as of April 7, 2020. The refund will be automatically deposited into the account used to make your last payment or by check. When the funds will arrive is subject to individual state regulations, but customers do not have to take any action to receive their money. 

Vargas and Vargas Insurance is here to help you. As local independent insurance agents, we represent many local insurance companies that are also offering to lessen the burden when it comes to your automobile insurance premiums. Contact us with your insurance questions or to get a quote. We’re available during business hours at 617-298-0655, or you can reach out through text and online. We take pride in helping you with all of your coverage needs and look forward to taking care of you today.

What Should You Do If Your Car Insurance Gets Canceled?

Car insurance is something that we have to have if we legally want to be able to drive our automobile. However, we have all been in situations where we forget to pay for it. Car insurance is something we know we need, but it often falls through the cracks. We either have it or we don’t, but most people generally don’t think about it. 

man smiling and driving a sedan
Talk to your insurance company about your options instead of letting your car insurance lapse.

Did you forget it, or were you out of town and fail to see the “due by” notices? Maybe you moved, and the notice got lost in a moving box. Either way, it can be a frustrating mess. But don’t just let your coverage lapse. Here’s what you can do instead.

The Right Way to Handle Car Insurance Cancellations

In Massachusetts, a car insurance provider has the right to cancel your car insurance for lack of payment. However, they will send you a warning ahead of cancellation. Insurance providers are obligated to give you a notice 20 days in advance of the cancellation. 

This means if you fail to pay by December 1, they can send out a notice giving you until the 21st of December. Failure to pay by the 21st will mean that your policy ends and you are no longer covered. 

If you are unable to pay and wish to avoid cancellation, there are a few things you can do. They include:

  • Contacting your insurance provider
  • Asking for a negotiation to keep your policy active
  • Providing proof of why you lapsed in payment (for example, in the event of a hospital stay or a family emergency)

Often, if you talk to your insurance representative, you can get your coverage reinstated if you show good cause. Otherwise, you can appeal through the Board of Appeals

What If I Want to Just Cancel My Policy?

Once you receive a cancellation notice, it can be tempting to just let it happen and search for new coverage. But you should never allow your policy to lapse. There’s a right way and a wrong way to cancel a policy that you no longer want. 

  • The Right Way: If you want to improve your coverage by switching to a new company or policy, you are legally able to do it. There may be a penalty for canceling mid-policy, but it is still better to avoid the company canceling. Contact your insurance provider and explain to them why you want to cancel and ask about the penalty cost for doing so. You can also choose to cancel as your policy ends, especially if you are just changing companies. 
  • The Wrong Way: Simply allowing your insurance company to cancel your policy may come with some pretty nasty consequences. Your insurance providers are obligated to tell the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) if your policy lapses, which could result in you losing your license. If you are caught driving without insurance coverage, you could face fines and more. It is topped off by the fact that a lapse will impact your credit rating

Plan Before You Cancel

Canceling a policy should never be done without thought. If you are switching companies, look at your current provider’s penalties for canceling an existing policy. You may also consider having your new insurance company talk to your current provider to resolve the issue. This will prevent cancellation penalties and ensure a gap-free transition.

If you are considering changing your insurance policy, Vargas & Vargas Insurance is here to help. You can contact us or request a free quote.