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The Perzel Agency.

Feb 19 – Top 10 Car Winterizing Tips

In this blog, we lay out the top 10 tips for getting your car through the winter and staying safe out there during tough road conditions. For the full article, click here.

WinterDriving

 

  1. Check Your Tire Pressure and Consider Snow Tires
  2. Check Your Battery
  3. Check Your Oil and Oil Viscosity
  4. Put in the Right Amount of Antifreeze
  5. Keep Your Fuel Tank Full
  6. Check Your Defrosting and Heating Units
  7. Replace Windshield Wipers and Wiper Fluid
  8. Check Your Car’s Belts and Hoses
  9. Make Sure Your 4-Wheel Drive Works
  10. Keep an Emergency Kit Inside Your Car

CONTACT: The Perzel Agency, 800-440-3480, http://www.PerzelAgency.com/

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Oct 16 – Checklist for Hiring A Contractor

Contractor Shaking Hands

By: Patti Orton Kuna

Concerns about questionable contractors are the number one reason consumers call the Better Business Bureau.

This statistic doesn’t surprise Phae Howard, executive director of the National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud.

“It’s easy money since most people don’t understand the language of home improvement,” says Howard, who recently published Don’t Even Think About Ripping Me Off!

Concerned about becoming a victim? Then keep these things in mind when it comes to hiring a contractor for your home improvement project.

Finding a contractor
• Check in with your local homebuilders’ association.
• Get referrals from friends, family and coworkers.
• Compile a list of reputable contractors before you need one. The stress of an emergency might impair your judgment.

How to vet a contractor
• See if the trade association(s) where he or she belongs stipulates a code of ethics, minimum hours of satisfactory work and trade exams.
• Check in with your state attorney general’s office and the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against the contractor.

Paperwork you need to see
• A copy of their contractor’s license
• Certificate of insurance for both general liability and workers’ compensation coverage
• A written warranty for the work they do
• A list of references from people who had similar projects done
• A detailed quote that itemizes material and labor
• A contract detailing the cost, work to be done, time schedules, guarantees, payment schedules and other expectations

Red flags
• Asks you to pay the entire balance up front
• Only accepts cash
• Avoids giving you a written contract
• Goes door-to-door
• Lists a P.O. Box instead of a street address
• Has a vehicle that doesn’t list the business name
• Offers to pay your insurance deductible

Be extra careful if:
• You have little to no experience hiring home contractors.
• A disability or injury prevents you from accessing areas of your home that a contractor claims are damaged.
• You’re not 100 percent clear about the contract wording.
• You tend to shy away from asking tough questions.

Finally, always let your Erie Insurance Agent know when you’re planning a home improvement project. If you don’t, you run the risk of coming up short if you have to rebuild after a total loss.

CONTACT: The Perzel Agency, 800-440-3480, http://www.PerzelAgency.com/

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Sep 04 – Top 10 Items For a Home Safety Kit

Home Safety Kit

Home safety kits

Services we  take for granted, such as running water, refrigeration and telephone service,  may be unavailable after a major disaster. Experts at ready.gov recommend  preparing to be self-sufficient for at least three days. Ready to get prepared?  Consider compiling your own home safety kit. You might want to include:

The Basics

  • Water,  one gallon per person, per day
  • Non-perishable  food
  • Battery-powered  or hand-cranked radio
  • Flashlight
  • Extra  batteries
  • First  aid kit
  • Cash  and change in a waterproof container
  • Whistle  to signal for help
  • Dust  mask to help filter contaminated air, and plastic sheeting and duct tape to  shelter-in-place (that means taking immediate shelter where you are– at home,  work, school or in between, usually for just a few hours)
  • Moist  towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench  or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual  can opener
  • Local  maps
  • Cell  phone with battery-powered or solar charger

The Extras

  • Prescription  medications and eyeglasses
  • Infant  formula and supplies
  • Personal  hygiene items
  • Pet  food and extra water
  • Important  family documents, such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank  account records, in a waterproof container
  • Emergency  reference material such as a first aid guide (FEMA offers many free  publications)
  • Sleeping  bag or warm blanket for each person
  • Complete  change of clothing for each person
  • Unscented  household bleach and medicine dropper (bleach is an effective disinfectant and  can also be used to treat drinking water)
  • Fire  extinguisher
  • Matches  in a waterproof container
  • Disposable  cups, plates, paper towels and utensils
  • Books,  games, puzzles or other activities for children

The Maybes

Is your area  prone to ice storms? Earthquakes? Floods? You may need particular tools or  equipment in those cases.

Store your  household kit in a large, portable, watertight container (a large plastic  garbage can with a lid and wheels works well). Make sure it’s accessible, and  remember to maintain it, change out batteries periodically, make sure the  energy bars and peanut butter haven’t gone bad, and resist the temptation to  raid the spare cash.

Preparing for emergencies isn’t complicated; it  just takes a little planning and organization. Stop putting it off and put  together some supplies. Hopefully, you’ll never need them, but if you do,  you’ll be relieved you took the initiative.

CONTACT: The Perzel Agency, 800-440-3480, http://www.PerzelAgency.com/

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Aug 27 – Back To School Q&A

Return To College

Is your child among the 21.8 million students heading back to college any day now? If so, you’re probably busy helping them gather all the things they need for life away from home.

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

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

That’s a great question since most universities now require freshmen to have laptops. That, along with the fact that students also often bring along expensive items like bikes and TVs, means it can be pretty pricey to replace damaged or stolen items.

The good news is that most insurers’ homeowners policies are designed to cover your child if something is stolen or destroyed. At Erie Insurance, full-time students under the age of 24 are automatically covered under their parents’ policy. Part-time students and/or students who are 24 and older may need to take out a renters insurance policy to protect themselves and their belongings.

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

Your child’s personal property is generally covered under your homeowners policy if they’re away from home. However, when students choose to live in an apartment, they should consider purchasing a separate renters insurance policy. That’s because renters insurance often also provides for additional living expenses if an apartment becomes uninhabitable because of something like a fire. (It’s also worth reviewing some of the other reasons why renters insurance is worth considering.)

What steps can my child take to safeguard her belongings?

It’s a good idea to talk with your child about this since more than 20,400 burglaries were reported on U.S. campuses in 2012. In addition to taking personal safety precautions, your child will also want to keep these tips in mind:
•Always lock doors. Sounds obvious, but most dorm thefts occur during the day.
•Fireproof things. Don’t leave candles, cigarettes and grills—the most common causes of fires—untended. To be extra safe, consider flameless candles, indoor grills and simply kicking the habit.
•Engrave electronics. Engravings make it easier for police to track down stolen computers, televisions and iPods.
•Create a home inventory. It is much easier to submit a claim if you save all receipts from major purchases, make a detailed list of everything of value in your home, and photograph or videotape your possessions. To make the process a cinch, the Insurance Information Institute offers free online home inventory software at Know Your Stuff.
•Safeguard pricier items—or just leave them at home. Bikes, jewelry, watches and laptops are some of the biggest targets of theft. So be sure to lock them up or leave them at a trusted residence that doesn’t have a high level of foot traffic.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most insurers limit how much they will pay for theft of any one item (at Erie Insurance, the limit is $3,000). So, if a prized possession is worth more, make sure to take out an additional personal inland marine rider (also known as a “floater”) on the policy.

•Consider adding identity coverage to your policy. Young people are more likely to experience identity theft due to the extra time they log on the internet. (This is especially true if they use unsecured Wi-Fi.) Check with your insurer about adding this valuable coverage to your policy. (At Erie Insurance, it’s automatically included in many policies. Talk with an Erie Insurance Agent to learn more about identity recovery coverage.)

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

Because you’ll have one less driver living at home when your son or daughter goes off to college, your household might get a discount if the child doesn’t take the car to college.* If your child does take a set of wheels, review your coverage to make sure he or she is properly insured. (This is especially important if your child is attending school in another city or state.)

Are college kids eligible for any discounts?

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

*Discounts subject to eligibility and applicable rates and rules.

CONTACT: The Perzel Agency, 800-440-3480, http://www.PerzelAgency.com/

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Jul 23 – 4 Tips On Renting A Car

Fixing a Flat

4 Tips On Renting a Car : By Michael Perzel

 

1. NEVER accept a rental without doing an inspection. Point out ANY damages that you see, scratches or dents and have the representative sign off on it.

2. NEVER return a rental without having it inspected. Many rental car companies are now submitting claims to your insurance carrier stating that you “returned the vehicle damaged”. You cannot prove you did or did not so they usually win and the carrier pays the claim.

3. Make sure that your auto insurance policy covers rental vehicles. Speak to your agent.

4. Consider purchasing “Loss of Use” from the rental car company. Loss of use will cover you in case the vehicle is damaged while in your custody and the rental car company cannot rent it while it is being repaired.

For example: The vehicle’s damage takes 2 weeks to repair. The Rental Co. can rent the car for $100 a day. Their claim is they are losing $1400 while being repaired. Your auto policy may not cover their “Loss of Use” and you will be charged $1400.

 

ALWAYS speak with your insurance agent before getting a rental vehicle.
Stay Safe out there!

CONTACT: The Perzel Agency, 800-440-3480, http://www.PerzelAgency.com/

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Jul 9 – 6 Tips For Driver Safety

Distracted Driver

Deter Distraction

Phones away, eyes on the road !                   

By Rachel Adelson 

We know it’s dangerous. But we still do it –  talk, text and read while on the road. Here are a few ways to curb ourselves,  safely.

Distracted Driving and Insurance Rates

In the interest of public safety, an increasing  number of states are passing laws to curb distracted driving. Fines accompany  violations, but the risks of distracted driving have other potential  financial consequences.

“If there’s evidence down the road that certain  vehicles, such as those with personal electronic devices built in, have higher  rates of losses, the cost to insure those models could go up,” says Doug Smith,  ERIE’s senior vice president of Personal Lines. “On the other side, technology  that improves safety can help lower rates for vehicle models—if it lessens the  number and severity of crashes.”

“Our goal is to make people aware of  opportunities for safer driving and also threats that can cause injury and  result in claims,” he says. “At the end of the day it’s the safety of people  who share the road that matters most.”

Lock  your device in the glove compartment. Why fight temptation?

Make  a statement. Avoid responding to incoming calls or messages;  let them go to voice mail while driving.

Record  an outgoing cell message: “I’m driving now and can’t answer.  Please hang up if you’re driving or leave a message if you’re not.”

Don’t  talk to risky drivers. Ask callers if they are driving. Say:  “Please call back later.” Hang up. Text messages are tricky: If they are  obviously sent from the road, ignore them and (later) tell that driver to stop.  Social disapproval is a good way to encourage others not to text  while driving.

Pull  over. If you must talk, or must use a device that  requires your visual attention, pull off the road. If you’re on the highway and  must place a call or send a text message, or look at something inside the car  for more than a couple of seconds, get off at the nearest exit. Weigh the risk  of not calling (or doing the task) versus the risk of losing control and  endangering others on the road or in your car.

Never,  ever, text while driving, period.

Curb  your teen’s temptation. Younger, less experienced drivers  already have the highest crash rates, yet they are more likely to carry mobile  devices into the car and send texts from them. They often receive their devices  as gifts. If they have a device, discuss their use the way you would any other  critical safety issue. Set limits and be a model of responsible driving. Here’s  why it’s more difficult for them to pay attention at that age.

CONTACT: The Perzel Agency, 800-440-3480, http://www.PerzelAgency.com/

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Jul 1- 6 Tips to Throw a Summer Party on a Budget

barbacue grill

When you see hot dogs and hamburgers go on sale, buy them! Even if you’re not planning a party, you can store them in the freezer for the day you do entertain.

By Jim Wang June 27, 2014 | 8:31 a.m. EDT + More

Who doesn’t love a good summer party? Whether it’s Memorial Day in May, Independence Day in July or the unofficial end of summer party during Labor Day weekend in September – summer is prime time for parties.

As a host, there can be a lot of pressure to throw a fun party, and that often pushes people to spend a lot just to keep up with the last fun party they attended. The reality is that you can throw an entertaining party with all of your friends without spending a lot – if you’re smart about it.

1. Set a budget.

Set a budget of how much you want to spend on a party. The simple act of setting a budget, and sticking to it, will force you to make trade-offs and avoid feeling like you should offer the finest food and drinks. Without a number in your head, you’ll also be tempted to just buy more. And more. And more.

2. Use invitation tools.

An accurate guest count means fewer leftovers and less wasted food – both of which are enemies of the budget-conscious host. Why buy food for 30 when you will only have 20 people attending?

Send electronic invitations out early so your guests can respond quickly. You can also send a reminder the week of your party to get the answer of any stragglers who haven’t yet replied.

3. Take advantage of your guests’ generosity.

When you invite your friends over for a party, what’s the first thing they ask?

“What should I bring?” Take advantage of it!

By planning your menu far in advance, you can take advantage of your friends’ generosity to help supplement your menu. Ask your guests to bring side dishes and desserts because they often take the most time to prepare and, if they must be chilled, would take up valuable space in your refrigerator.

4. Keep the food simple.

Try to avoid dishes with a lot of ingredients or require a lot of preparation time. Fewer ingredients means fewer items to buy, and simplicity means you can spend more time with your friends, rather than spending time making them food.

Next, offer a few meat selections but supplement with a cornucopia of side dishes, fruit and vegetables. On a price per pound basis, meat is often the most expensive, so turn to other items to bring the price per person down.

Many in season fruits and vegetables are delicious on the grill and very affordable. Roast some corn, which is not only delicious but cheap at the height of its season.

If you aren’t a master of the grill and prefer to work indoors, consider dishes with pasta, rice or potatoes. There are a million salad recipes you can make using any of those ingredients, and they are often cheap.

5. Stockpile during sales.

Hot dogs and hamburgers seem to always be on sale at the grocery store – until the week of your party. Stock up on favorites whenever they go on sale, and remember to pull them out of the freezer a day before your cookout.

Fortunately, many grillable meats freeze well as long as you seal them to protect against freezer burn. Hot dogs, ground beef and chicken make up the triumvirate of inexpensive meats, and each one holds up well in the freezer.

6. Skip disposables as much as possible.

Paper plates, plastic utensils and other disposables make cleaning up a lot faster, but they cost more than washing your own dishes. Use as many regular plates and utensils as you can, and supplement with disposable items. You’ll be helping your wallet and the environment at the same time.

With these tips, you can have a great time hosting a summer party without feeling like you need to take out a mortgage just to pay for it.

CONTACT: The Perzel Agency, 800-440-3480, http://www.PerzelAgency.com/

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Jun 24 – To buy or lease your Auto?

auto w family

For motorists in the market for a new set of wheels, that is the question. Here are things to consider before going either route.

By: Jennifer Kubiak

Deciding to invest in a new set of wheels is just the beginning of a long string of choices. Should you lease or buy? If buy, new or used?  What about the interior: fabric or leather?

While we can’t speak to your upholstery preferences, we can offer tips that will save you time, money and stress. (We also have a few helpful ideas about car insurance, too!)

Lease or buy?

Although the decision to buy or lease comes down to money for most people, Ron Montoya, consumer advice editor at edmunds.com, advises auto owners to look beyond the dollar amount.  “It depends on your lifestyle, how you treat your car and how long you plan to keep it,” he says.

Buying may be the perennially popular choice, but leasing continues to gain traction. (Right now, a quarter of all drivers are going this route.)

Typically, leasing is a good option if you:

  • Don’t want to worry about repairs—if they happen, the warranty usually covers them.
  • Consistently drive an average number of miles per year (between 10,000 and 12,000).
  • Have a stable income and don’t mind payments with no set end date.

Also consider these pros and cons of leasing:

Leasing  

Pros

Cons

  • Less or even no money down and lower monthly   payments.
  • A new car every few years.
  • Low to no maintenance costs.
  • Resale value doesn’t matter.
  • A tax deduction for small businesses.
  • May require a higher credit score.
  • May contain hidden monthly costs like taxes or   fees when you turn the car in.
  • Mileage cap (and penalties if you’re over the limit).
  • If you decide to buy the car, it’s more   expensive at the end of the lease than if you bought it outright.

If leasing seems like the choice for you, also keep in mind the following:

  • Although most leases allow 12,000 miles per year, many now offer as little as 10,000.  Make sure you know exactly how many miles you can drive as penalties can run upwards of 15 cents per mile. Yikes!
  • Lease companies offer several time periods in which to pay your lease.  According to edmunds.com, a three-year lease is often best since most manufacturers’ warranties cover at least that long.
  • Some manufacturers will offer incentives on cars that aren’t selling well, so make sure to ask your car dealer about them.
  • You pay taxes and fees monthly on a lease versus initially when buying, so make sure you get the actual monthly payment with taxes and fees before making any decisions.

If buying is more your style, you’re in good company. “Ownership is in our nature,” says Dave Freeman, vice president of personal lines underwriting at ERIE. “Americans want to be able to say ‘I own it’ rather than ‘I’m borrowing it.’”

Buying is typically a good idea if you:

  • Are okay with driving your car well after it is paid off.
  • Drive more than 12,000 miles per year.
  • Want to recoup some of the money when you sell.

Also consider these pros and cons of buying:

Buying  

Pros

Cons

  • It’s all yours.
  • The payments stop once the car is paid off.
  • You’ll avoid the extra charges that can come with leasing.

 

  • More money due at signing and higher monthly   costs.
  • Repair and maintenance expenses.
  • Depreciation incurred if you plan to resell   the car when it is paid off.

If you’re still on board to buy, keep this information in mind:

  • Make sure you know the total cost of the car, not just the monthly payment. “Ask your dealer for the out the door price,” Montoya advises. “That number includes the payment, taxes and any other fees associated with the purchase.”
  • Negotiate before you discuss financing.  In some cases, dealerships will offer a different price if they assume you’re financing through them.
  • Ask about financing options. Dealerships often offer their own financing, so they may steer you in that direction. Just keep in mind that local credit unions and banks can offer competitive rates.

 

CONTACT: The Perzel Agency, 800-440-3480, http://www.PerzelAgency.com/

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Jun 11 – Lessons From Superstorm Sandy 8 Steps Every Homeowner Should Take

Damaged Roof

Superstorm Sandy shattered lives and damaged property. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your property against the damaging effects of wind and water. By taking these steps now, you stand the best chance of getting your life back in order after a disaster. Learn eight important lessons for getting through severe weather.

Lessons from Superstorm Sandy: Steps Every Homeowner Should Take

Superstorm Sandy was a powerful storm that packed some memorable lessons. The wind and water damage hit the East Coast the hardest, but the remnants of the fall storm stretched as far north as eastern Canada.

The property damage and losses from the superstorm are estimated to be in the billions for the Northeast region of the U.S.

To protect yourself and your property from severe weather, review these important steps, recommended by consumer safety advocates, the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS).

1. Check your home insurance coverage – Be sure you have the right kind and amount of insurance, enough to rebuild your home and replace your belongings. It’s always best to review your coverage with your insurance agent every year.

2. Get flood coverage – You may also want to consider flood insurance, which is not covered under a standard homeowners policy. It is important to purchase flood coverage well in advance of a storm because there is a 30-day waiting period. Erie Insurance offers flood insurance coverage through American Bankers.

3. Beware of contractor fraud – Dishonest drifters often go door-to-door, especially after disasters, to try to convince you that need a new roof, even if your roof is not damaged at all. Read more about the scams on the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud’s website. If you need a suggestion about who to hire, contact your local ERIE Agent or claims adjuster.

4. Inspect your roof – Keeping wind and water out of your home is critical. Make sure the roof covering is well adhered and there are no missing pieces. Secure roof shingles and seal any openings, cracks and holes. Refer to the IBHS roof inspection checklist for help.

5. Check your basement – In the basement, IBHS recommends using water resistant paint on the interior basement walls, sump pumps and other methods that can prevent flood damage to your home and belongings. Sump pumps are most often used in cases where the house’s basement is below the water table level and in places where flooding is common. If you have a sump pump, use a battery backup system in the event that the power goes out during a storm. You may also want to consider adding sewer and drain backup coverage to your homeowners policy. It covers a loss caused by water or sewage that backs up through sewers or drains or overflows from a sump pump.

6. Prune the trees – Good pruning can prevent damage to your home in extreme weather conditions. If a tree hits a home or other insured structure such as a detached garage, most homeowner policies will provide coverage for damage to the structure and contents inside it. Some insurance policies also provide coverage for the cost of removing the tree. However, coverage is often limited to trees that fall because of a windstorm, hail, weight or ice, snow or sleet. It does not cover dead or diseased trees.

7. Create a home inventory – An up-to-date home inventory will speed up the claims process by substantiating losses. It can also help you determine how much insurance to purchase. To make the process easier, I.I.I. offers free web-based software at http://www.knowyourstuff.org and Erie Insurance has a home inventory form that you can print out and fill in.

8. Have an evacuation plan – Decide where you will go and how you will get there and have more than one option. Keep a map, phone numbers and addresses handy. Think about what you’ll need to take with you ? items like medicines, important documents, clothing and food ? and have them ready to go.

The I.I.I. recommends practicing your evacuation plan by doing a 10-minute challenge – giving yourself just 10 minutes to pack up and get out.

By taking these steps now, you stand the best chance of getting your life back in order after a disaster. More storm preparation information is available on iii.org or the Institute for Business and Home Safety’s Web site, disastersafety.org.

CONTACT: The Perzel Agency, 800-440-3480, http://www.PerzelAgency.com/

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Recent PostsTop 10 Car Winterizing Tips

Checklist for Hiring A Contractor

Top 10 Items For A Home Safety Kit

Back To School Q&A

4 Tips On Renting A Car

6 Tips For Driver Safety

6 tips to throw a Summer Party on a Budget

To buy or lease your Auto?

Lessons From Superstorm Sandy

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