Thinking about a side hustle? Check with your insurance agent


man working at home to illustrate a side hustle

Today, it seems like everybody’s got a side hustle, which is essentially just a fancy rebranding of what used to be called moonlighting. But today’s moonlighting often comes with a twist …. these gigs often involve using your personal car or home to generate extra income. Whether it’s driving for Lyft, dropping off packages for Amazon, delivering meals through DoorDash, renting your home through Airbnb or just taking advantage of a tourist influx during a big local event by renting out your home, five words of advice: check with your insurance agent.

If your goal is earning some extra cash, make sure you understand and are covered for potential risks. You might think you are covered by working for a third-party service, but if you injure yourself or someone else while working, if you damage or lose someone’s property or if you suffer a loss to your own property, you may be on your own. Here are just two examples:

Home rental – If you want to start renting out all or a portion of your home through a peer-to-peer rental service, what happens if a guest is injured on your property? Or if a guest burns the whole place down in a cooking fire, will your rental service cover your home replacement?

Some services, such as Airbnb and VRBO, offer programs such as host guarantees or host liability insurance. On first glance, these may look adequate – $1 million liability coverage should be enough, right? But like most things, you need to read the fine print because there are conditions, limitations and exclusions that could leave you exposed to serious loss. You also should not assume that your own homeowners policy will provide coverage in a home rental scenario. Insurance Information Institute says:

Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies are designed for personal risks, not commercial risks. Some insurers now offer a home-sharing liability insurance policy that can be purchased on a month-to-month basis, but there may be exclusions and limitations, so read the policy carefully. If you plan to rent out all or part of your home on a regular basis, many companies will consider this a business use and you may need to purchase a business policy—specifically either a hotel or a bed-and-breakfast policy.

Ridesharing – Check with the service you are contracting with about any coverage that they might offer – states are increasingly mandating that third-party services provide some coverage, but again – there could be conditions, limitations and exclusions that leave dangerous gaps in your coverage. And it’s a mistake to assume that your own personal auto insurance will cover you. Insurance Information Institute says:

Generally a standard personal auto policy will not provide coverage for ride-sharing. A standard personal auto insurance policy stops providing coverage from the moment a driver logs into a TNC ride-sharing app to the moment the customer has exited the car and the transaction is closed.

They also advise:

Prospective drivers should ask the TNC what level of coverage it provides. Drivers should also contact their own auto insurer to address gaps, if any, in their liability protection. It is also recommended that TNC drivers review a copy of their TNC’s insurance contracts so they know the exact terms and conditions of the coverage.

Learn more: Ride-sharing and insurance: Q&A

These are just two common examples of so-called side-hustles, but other income-generating activities might call for other types of coverage, such as product liability or home business coverage. Your agent can also help you assess the adequacy of coverage offered by a third-party.  If you are considering a side-hustle, give your independent insurance agent a call to talk things over.

Posted in Laws, Liability

Drunk Driving Simulator Show the Danger of Impaired Driving


drunk-driving-suit-largeHow impaired are you when driving under the influence? Ford’s Driving Skills For Life Program tested that theory out on teens using a drunk driving simulator suit that they developed to mimic the feeling and effects of inebriation. With weight pads, sound and goggles, they simulated the effects of drunkenness and had teens try driving while impaired.

“To impair coordination and balance, teens have a set of weights strapped to their body in different locations. For instance, one might be on the left ankle while others weight their shoulders and wrists down.

For a slower physical reaction time, trainers attach restrictive braces to both elbows and knees. Lastly and, perhaps, most challenging, the young participants don muffling headphones and vision-distorting goggles.”

This is a simulation, but the problem is real. While alcohol-related driving deaths have trended down since the 1990s, alcohol is still a factor in nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.

Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes — that’s one person every 50 minutes. These deaths have fallen by a third in the last three decades; however, drunk-driving crashes claim more than 10,000 lives per year.  – NHTSA

Your BAC (Blood Alcohol Count) is a measure of the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream. You can learn about your BAC and how to get a rough calculation of your BAC, and what level of drinking will lead to impairment for your weight/sex. There are also a variety of BAC gauging apps that you can get for your phone. Learn more about the effects: The 6 stages of getting drunk.

It’s very important to know your state laws and BAC limits: Find your state’s drunk driving laws

Most states have administrative license suspension (ALS) on the first offense. ALS allows law enforcement to confiscate a driver’s license for a period of time if he fails a chemical test.

DUI and Insurance

If you have a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) license suspension or a DUI-related accident, it will be reflected in your state driving record and you should expect it to have an impact on your insurance. As a “high risk driver,” your insurance company could cancel your policy or decide to drop you when it is up for renewal. At the very least, expect limited options and a huge hike in the price you pay to secure coverage. In some states, an insurance company may deny coverage of personal injuries or property damage related to a DUI-related accident.

A DUI conviction may also have a big effect on Life Insurance rates. Some companies may decline coverage entirely for a number of years after a conviction.

Posted in Uncategorized

In the market for a new car? Calculate the full costs


dealer lot of new cars

If you’re in the market for a new car over the coming year, there’s a lot more to think about in terms of cost than just the sticker price. If you aren’t figuring in the associated financing costs, taxes, insurance, depreciation, gas and maintenance, you are only getting a partial picture of the true cost to drive a car. According to AAA, the cost of car ownership in 2019 was $9,282 or $773.50 a month. That’s 5% more – or $433 – than the prior year.

One of the key culprits to the costs? Finance charges, which AAA says average about 40% of the total costs.

“A key contributor to the increase was a large jump in financing costs. Rising federal interest rates and higher vehicle prices fueled a spike in finance charges, which rose 24% in 2019 from $744 to $920. It comes as long-term loans are becoming more common. Such loans offer lower monthly payments, but they ultimately cost the consumer more, meaning car buyers are paying more, and longer, for vehicles that lose value the moment they’re sold.”

Although long-term loans might seem cheaper, AAA says that they are ultimately costing the consumer more. They estimate that, on average, every 12 months added to the life of a loan adds nearly $1,000 in total finance charges.

One other key expense factor is that as new cars come equipped with more technology to make driving safer and more convenient, maintenance and repair costs go up. Sophisticated sensor in bumpers mean that a simple fender bender can require a costly replacement and recalibration of sensors. See our prior post on high tech cars equaling high cost repairs.

Because cars can be such a big budget item, it can pay to do advance research to ensure you make the best purchase and consider other factors than just the sticker price. Here are some car-buying tools to help you anticipate and calculate the total cost of ownership of various makes and models.

Talk to your insurance agent!

One other source for keeping annual costs of a new car down is to talk over auto insurance options with your insurance agent.  Be sure you are taking advantage of any available discounts, such as discounts for safe drivers, low mileage, seniors, good students, and more. Plus, bundling your auto and homeowners policies with one insurer can yield discounts on both.

Wait for it …. This Could Save Your Life


This is a short post featuring a short, powerful video clip: Wait for it … this could save your life. We encourage you to watch it and share it – it’s just under 4 minutes. There’s a lot we could say about it, but we think it is more impactful to let the clip speak for itself.

Jacy Good, the young woman in the video who tells her story, is not an actress.  Here is more about how she became a passionate safety advocate.

Join 40 million other people: Take the It Can Wait pledge

Reminder: The new Massachusetts hands-free driving law is now in effect

Distracted driving – 5 seconds is all it takes

Posted in Safety

It’s time for the seasonal flu vaccine!


megaphone with the word "vaccine"

This year, it’s more important than ever that you get your flu vaccine early for seasonal influenza. With Covid-19 still active and a potential resurgence over the fall and winter, you need all the protection you can get. While the seasonal flu vaccine will not protect you from Covid-19, it will help ensure that hospitals and healthcare providers don’t get overwhelmed by a double whammy, or what some are calling a “twindemic.”

But making it a priority to get a flu vaccine isn’t simply to help preserve precious health care resources for others, it’s also good for protection you. Remember, the seasonal flu can be a killer, claiming thousands of lives each year. Also, health experts think that it is possible to contract seasonal influenza and Covid-19 at the same time, so you want to prevent your own personal “twindemic.” While a vaccine is not an ironclad guarantee that you won’t still get a seasonal bug, flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death. In other words, if you do get a flu, the vaccine will make your illness less severe, and make it less likely you’ll end up in the hospital. This is particularly important for high-risk people and people with underlying health conditions.

This year, health officials recommend getting your vaccines early, ideally in September or October before the flu season starts. But if you miss this time frame, should you still get vaccinated? Health officials say yes, up through January.

Here’s who the CDC recommends get vaccinated:

  • Everyone above the age of 6 months
  • Those who are at a high risk, such as adults over 65 years old and people with underlying medical conditions (cancer, heart disease, asthma – see more)
  • Pregnant women
  • Caretakers exposed to vulnerable groups
  • Healthcare workers and essential workers

Be aware that there are different vaccines recommended for different populations. There are special vaccines for young children, and higher dosage vaccines for adults 65 years old and older. This year, there is one vaccine for seniors that has been updated to protect against four strains of influenza, rather than three as in previous years.
Learn more about which vaccine is most appropriate for you at the CDC.

Where to get flu shots

In the past, many people got flu shots at work, but with the prevalence of remote work during the pandemic, most people will be on their own this year. There are many  places to get a shot, such as pharmacies, clinics and doctors’ offices – and some communities may even set up drive-through flu vaccine sites. Use the Vaccine Finder to find places near you based on the type of vaccine you need. Remember to check if  the facility is walk-in or by appointment and be sure to review any required Covid-19 health procedures and costs. If you have private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, you’ll probably only need to cover a copay, but if you don’t have insurance, shop around because prices can vary.

Here’s more info and more flu resources: