2017 Top Auto Safety Picks from IIHS

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named 82 vehicles as 2017 Top Auto Safety Picks. Of those, 38 earned the Top Safety Pick+, which signifies that they earned good ratings in 5 crashworthiness tests, plus they earn an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

Criteria for all awards include both crash protection and crash prevention so new technologies play a big role in safety. Automatic emergency braking systems are a prerequisite for earning the Top Safety Pick designation so more and more automakers are adding automatic emergency braking as a standard feature in new cars. Research shows that front or rear crashes are cut in half with automatic braking. Another recent criteria that IIHS has factored in to its picks are headlight performance. They added this after observing a wide variance in the effectiveness of headlights.

You can see a full list of Top Safety Picks by year.  This year, the release notes some of the list’s top performers:

Toyota/Lexus leads manufacturers with nine 2017 Top Safety Pick+ winners, including the updated Toyota Corolla, while Honda and its Acura division pick up five Top Safety Pick+ awards.
Among 2017 models, only seven are available with good-rated headlights. They are the Chevrolet Volt small car, Honda Ridgeline pickup, Hyundai Elantra small car, Hyundai Santa Fe midsize SUV, Subaru Legacy midsize car, Toyota Prius v midsize car and Volvo XC60 midsize luxury SUV.

To evaluate a vehicle’s crashworthiness, IIHS conducts five crash tests: moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints & seats. At the link, you can learn more about these tests and see videos.

Here are additional resources from IIHS that are worth consulting before you buy your next car:

Confused? Learn auto insurance basics from these handy tools

Auto insurance can seem confusing – especially for first-time car owners. The first thing that you need to know about auto insurance is that every state has different laws about what is and what isn’t required. So you need to know your own state law. Find a link to your state’s insurance bureau using this map.

It’s not that hard to understand auto insurance basics, but sometimes TV or online ads oversimplify things and make it sound like you can just pay whatever you want or that the cheapest coverage is best. It’s really a balance – too much coverage and you are wasting money; not enough coverage, and you might find yourself in a financial fix should you have a bad accident. A lot of it depends on your personal situation.

Your local independent insurance agent would be happy to explain the ins and outs of auto insurance in your state and help you explore coverage options and any available discounts. But if you’re one of those people who likes to do research on your own first, we’ve found a few great tools to help you learn the basics of auto insurance from reliable and objective sources.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers a A Consumer’s Quick Guide to Auto Insurance, a pdf brochure that is quite good.

The next few tools are from the Insurance Information Institute (III) another good place to start your insurance research on auto or other types of insurance.

First, the handy Auto Insurance Jargon Buster, which explains potentially confusing insurance terminology.

Second is a short video auto insurance explainer:

Third, this infographic is a good reference. It talks about the different auto insurance coverage types. There are simple explanations for each, and at the end of each explanation, there is a line indicating whether the insurance is required or optional. You can click for a larger version.

auto insurance basics

Crime alert: more on card skimming fraud

card skimming fraud

Card skimming fraud is a type of fraud that uses devices to read your credit card and steal your pin or password. It’s a type of theft that frequently happens at ATM machines, but it also is common at gas stations and any place that you swipe the magnetic strip of a credit or debit card. The latest scene of the crime are self-checkout stations in supermarkets.

The problem is that data on your credit card is stored in magnetic strip on the back of your card and the magnetic strip is not encrypted. Cheap devices are readily available to scan that data. Devices used to be large and unwieldy, but have become increasingly smaller and cheaper. These devices can be cleverly disguised and affixed to retail outlets that read your cards. They can also be used anyplace your card is scanned.

To foil card skimming fraud, new cards contain chips with encrypted data so those cards are safer in theory. We say “in theory” because it’s an enormous undertaking for banks, gas stations and retailers to replace the card reader stations and convert to chip-enabled card readers, so many still rely on reading magnetic strips. As long as your credit cards have a magnetic strip, they are still insecure.

This ABC News video clip is about 8 minutes long  –  a good investment for a quick education about what skimming is, how to spot it and steps to take to prevent it.

Here are skimming fraud prevention tips we’ve gleaned from the experts over the years.

  • Use well lit, well-trafficked ATMS and gas stations with security cameras; go inside banks; be particularly careful at freestanding ATMs.
  • When using an ATM or paying at the gas pump, check for anything unusual and be alert for any devices that may be affixed. Look for anything that protrudes from or seems affixed to the machine, any color differences, any unusual stickers. Look for nearby mirrors, pamphlet holders, speakers, or devices that could house a camera.
  • Always cover the keypad with your hand to shield from any cameras that may be trying to record your PIN. It’s also a good idea to touch several keys with your fingers to thwart anyone trying to grab your pin via infrared heat detector readers.
  • Don’t let anyone “help you” at an ATM or credit card reader.
  • When paying at a restaurant or any retail outlet, don’t let anyone walk away with your card, have them read the card in your presence so that they don’t harvest your information with a small pocket-skimmer.
  • Check your bank account regularly to ensure funds have not been taken.
  • If you spot anything suspicious at an ATM or a  self-service gas or grocery kiosk, alert the business or the police right away.

A fresh look for 2017: Re-assess your insurance needs

financial planning

Insurance isn’t a once-and-done thing – it requires a periodic assessment of the changing circumstances in your life and a thoughtful evaluation of whether you should add  protection against any new risks. As you budget for the new year and prep for tax season, it’s the perfect timing to think about these things.

With the start of a new year and the emphasis on resolutions, there have been a few good articles on insurance that caught our attention. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners issued a handy Insurance Checklist for the New Year. It offers some considerations about common forms of insurance – life, home/rental, health, auto.

When new life events occur, you should review of insurance coverage. You may need to add a new type of coverage, you may want to raise or lower deductibles on an existing policy, or there may be opportunities for savings or discounts. Your independent insurance agent will be able to inform you about various coverage options – but can only advise you based upon what he or she knows.

Here’s a list of life events that should trigger a call to your independent insurance agent:

  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Birth or adoption of a child
  • Death of an immediate family member
  • Military deployment
  • Purchasing a new home, condo, or a second home
  • Home renovation
  • Adding buildings to your property
  • Renting out your home
  • Moving to a new geographic area
  • Renting an apartment
  • A teen child getting an auto license
  • Getting a new car
  • Joining a carpool
  • Acquiring expensive electronics, antiques, jewelry, furs, or specialty collections
  • Acquiring a recreational vehicle – boat, motorcycle, snowmobile
  • Getting a recreational drone
  • Changing jobs and job benefits
  • Retiring
  • Starting a small business
  • Joining the sharing economy, such as renting property through Airbnb or driving for Uber

Lacie Glover at Nerd Wallet, USA Today offers good risk limiting advice for us all with her 10 smart insurance resolutions for 2017.  We particularly like #1 – making an inventory – and #9 – informing beneficiaries about your policy. We’d go one step further and suggest that you look at any insurance policies and financial accounts and make sure your contact information and beneficiaries are updated. People often forget to keep those things up to date – unfortunate consequences can ensue: you might not intend to leave your home, your 401K or your life insurance to an ex-spouse, but it could happen if you forget to update your beneficiaries when circumstances change. See our best practices for updating your beneficiaries for insurance policies and retirement plans.