Monday, October 14, 2013

5 Tips To Reduce Your Auto Insurance Premium


Anyone who owns a car understands the pain of paying for auto insurance. If you are a safe driver, you will never be able to use something that you pay hundreds of dollars a year to use. Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce the amount that you pay each year for car insurance.

1) Improve Your Credit Score Research has shown that drivers who are not responsible with their money are often not responsible behind the wheel. In addition, drivers who have bad credit have a financial incentive to file fraudulent or shady claims in the hopes of getting a quick paycheck. If you have a questionable credit score, start taking steps to improve it as soon as possible.

2) Reduce The Amount Of Coverage You Have Your car insurance premium will drop if you reduce the amount and types of coverage that you have. For instance, you may not need collision or comprehensive insurance on a car that is more than a few years old or that you are no longer making payments on. By reducing your bodily injury coverage levels, you can see a significant savings each year.

3) Increase Your Deductible A deductible is the amount of money that you have to pay before your insurance policy kicks in. If you have a low deductible, you will have a higher premium. By increasing your deductible, you are taking on more of the risk if you get into an accident. Therefore, your premium will drop as a result. Policyholders should know that there is a separate deductible for damage to glass and damage to the body of your car. Typically, increasing the deductible for body damage lowers your premium more than increasing the deductible for glass damage.

4) Add Security Features To Your Car Adding security features to your car makes it less likely that someone will damage or steal your car. This reduces the risk of a policyholder filing a claim for lost or stolen property. In the event that your car is stolen and not recovered, your insurance company will give you a check equal to the current value of the car. Cars that have anti-lock brakes or airbags reduce the risk that you will get into an accident or suffer severe injuries in an accident.

5) Pay In Full Every Six Months The easiest way to lower your insurance premium is to pay in full every six months. When you pay in monthly installments, you are paying convenience fees as well as any fees to process a payment by phone or credit card. Paying your premium every six months as opposed to every month can save you up to 10 percent over the course of a year. Saving money on auto insurance doesn't have to be difficult. By improving your driver profile, adding security features to your car and paying in semi-annual installments, you can save a lot of money on something that you hope that you never have to use.

(Photo credit: Alan Cleaver)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Is A Ford Extended Warranty Better Than One From GM?

2008 Ford Taurus photographed in Gaithersburg,...

I previously talked about the benefits of a GMC warranty (all of a couple of blogs ago), but as a Ford owner as well, I thought it would be worth a bit of time to discuss the differences between the two plans and decide if one is worth more than the other.

First, Ford's extended warranty is officially a "service plan" and it goes by the name of Ford ESP (Extended Service Plan). I got mine online from and I got a MUCH better deal than I would have at the dealership. 

So, just a quick note, from my past experience NEVER buy an extended warranty at the dealership. They try to catch you at a moment of weakness and you don't have a chance to compare the price you can get anywhere else. Many of the dealerships have separate websites (like the one I purchased from) and you can get a substantially sweeter deal going this route. Trust me.

There are a few different options for your Ford ESP plan, the top notch plan is their Premium Care package, which works similarly to my GMC Warranty. So far, so good, as I've had a couple of repairs at the dealership and they've all fallen within the realm of my ESP coverage. For the most part I've found both warranties to work very similarly. On my Taurus, however, I did find the shopping process to be much easier. Namely because Ford does a VERY good job laying out what's covered and what isn't with each of their plans. As a fairly knowledgeable gear head, it's nice to be able to make an educated decision as to what components you want covered. If the car was a little older I may have dropped down to the Base care package. But for the time being I want things covered.

Anyhow, moral of the story is that GMC and Ford extended warranties have treated me well, so it may be a good option for you as well. But just be sure to shop around before you pull out your wallet!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Felony DUI Education Critical For Students

This picture was taken at the bi-yearly Every ...

For the past few prom seasons first responders in the United States have launched a program designed to increase awareness of drinking and driving among students by staging mock DUI demonstrations. Official see these demonstrations as increasingly critical to avoiding incidents during prom season. Demonstrations are designed to teach students the realities of felony DUI and the risks of drinking and driving.

These mock DUI demonstrations require the participation of police officers, firefighters, EMS personnel, tow truck companies, makeup artists, corners offices, and mortuaries. Both parent and student volunteers from local high schools also participate in the mock motor vehicle accidents. Students learn the effects of driving under the influence by viewing re-creations of severe automobile accidents.

Friends against Drunk Driving, also known as FADD, are a coalition of police departments, fire departments, ambulance services, as well as several other organizations. The group has been dedicated to the education of students about the perils of drunk driving and the dangers of felony DUI for over a decade. In 1989, the organization was founded by Orange County Fire Authority Paramedic Captain Steve Concialdi. Concialdi continues to embrace the importance of the program and confirms that students come back to him year after year to tell him that the program has greatly impacted their lives.

According to Captain Concialdi, "These are realistic accidents that change the lives of everybody. We are showing them reality. We bring in a mom halfway into the program. She's distraught and every student can relate to if their mom showed up on an accident like that."

Many high school students confirm that the accident re-creations hit home with the students in a way that impacts their behavior on prom night. In Orange County, Fire Authority Battalion 5 Chaplain, Jeff Hetschel, reports that the program has been, incredibly effective. He also reported that over the last five years, DUI incidents among teenage drivers have decreased dramatically.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Getting Started With Direct Mail Marketing

Contrary to popular belief, direct mail marketing is still a highly effective platform of advertising, especially when it is well strategized and executed properly. Recently I had the chance to speak with the professionals at Ritter's Communications and Printing in Miami and they gave me some pointers on how to best leverage direct mail for a law firm or other small business. Direct mail marketing allows businesses and organizations to communicate straight to current and potential customers, and provides the company with measurable responses.

Whether you’re a small business owner, or a larger company looking for a different platform in which to reach out to your customers, we’ve put together a guide to help you understand the ins and outs of direct mail and give you the information necessary to create a successful marketing campaign.

The first step in your journey is to set objectives and plan your approach. These steps will help you to determine whether direct mail is the best platform for your campaign. You also need to determine what you want the campaign to achieve. Do you want to create/raise brand awareness? Or do you want to market a specific sale/promotion?

Next, you will need to determine your target audience.  Answering a couple of questions will help you determine the correct audience to target with your campaign. These questions include: Who is your buyer? What is their age? What is their marital status? Where do they live? Where do they work? What is their level of education? You also want to answer questions about their buying habits. Do they shop online or in-store? When do they buy? How often do they buy?

If you plan to use an in-house database for contact prospects, make sure the list is more than names and addresses. You want to report each prospect's transactions, interactions and responses. Gathering information and researching specific patterns will help you to segment your target audience even more. Surveying these segments through phone interviews or online surveys will help you to learn about specific interests, tastes and experiences.

If you use a rented list or purchase a list from a broker, make sure that it is compliant with the Data Protection Act. Often, lists acquired from brokers are segmented quite a bit, speeding up the process of determining your target audiences.

Now, you need to set a budget. The cost of your direct mail campaign will vary, depending on a number of factors; the number of people that you intend to reach, whether you will use an in-house database of addresses or if you need to purchase a list from a broker, whether or not you will have an in-house team produce the creative, size, shape and quality of the piece, and how personalized it will be. You also need to consider postage costs, and other expenses such as labor, etc.

Next, you will need to produce your direct mail copy. Make sure that your copy includes a strong message and a call to action.  High quality direct mail is packed with relevant information that is strongly written and 100% accurate. Be sure to proofread for grammatical/spelling errors and typos. You also want to entice the customer with an irresistible deal or a call to action. NEVER forget this step! Clearly state to the customer: what they should do(call, register, order, visit, etc) why they should, how they can and by when.

After you’ve created your copy, you should test your campaign on approximately 10% of your overall intended distribution list. The result of responses will help you to determine if are targeting the correct audience.  Changes can be made to your campaign or target demographic to better customize your plan.

The final step in this beginning process is to execute your campaign and track your results. One of the biggest benefits of direct mail is that you can easily measure the effectiveness of your campaign. Mailings that include an offer are especially easy to measure because response rates can be directly tracked through purchases or redemptions of an offer.

Other tips:
-Integrate your entire business strategy into your piece by reinforcing other print or media campaigns.
-Ensure brand cohesion by making sure all elements (logo, colors, etc) are the same each time it is printed and sent out.
-Find a steady frequency. Direct mail campaigns will not be successful if the audience only receives a piece from you once, or if they receive multiple mailings at an inconsistent rate.
-Follow up with your customers. Drive them to other platforms, such as websites, blogs or social media channels and keep them engaged.
-Address price concerns by offering an “opt-out” option.

It is up to your business to create exciting and engaging material, but these steps and tips offer you a strong framework for building and executing a successful direct mail marketing campaign.  Good luck!

Monday, May 13, 2013

What Do I Get with a GMC Extended Warranty?

2007-2010 GMC Sierra photographed in Kirkland,...
A GMC extended warranty may be the best choice for your vehicle. There are pluses and minuses to the warranty. Some things are covered while some are not. In order to ensure that everything remains covered, you need to keep up with recommended maintenance for your car or truck. The GMC extended warranty covers a lot of the basic automotive repairs that your car or truck will need. It is considered to be a service contract and it covers primarily the essentials. For many people, purchasing an extended warranty for their vehicle provides them with peace of mind.

You can get a GMC extended warranty for both new and used cars and trucks. The warranty covers parts and the labor costs associated with fixing them. It also covers towing in certain situations if your vehicle breaks down on the road.

There are specific parts to your GMC car or truck that are covered by the extended warranty. If you have a mechanical problem with one of these parts, you can have it repaired at any GMC dealership across the country. The four covered components are the engine, the transmission and the transaxle, the front/rear-wheel-drive assemblies, and the fuel system. You can also purchase a separate extension that covers corrosion to the vehicle. If you live near a body of water, this is a good idea. Rust and corrosion are more than just unsightly annoyances, they can actually wear away at your vehicle’s body and cause stability problems.

In addition to repairing these systems and covering the cost of labor, there are benefits to getting a GMC extended warranty for your car and truck. The warranty comes with roadside assistance that is available to you 24 hours a day.

Not everything is covered in the GMC extended warranty. The extended warranty only covers basic wear and tear on the systems. Repairs to the various parts are not covered by damaged caused if the vehicle has been in an accident. Also, the car or truck must be properly maintained. Failure to properly maintain the vehicle voids the warranty. Also, if you use any aftermarket products on the car, the warranty will become void as well. Don’t install anything new on the vehicle or alter the engine components in anyway if you want to remain covered. To remain in good standing, make sure you following all the recommendation maintenance guides, such as routine oil changes. Tire and wheels are not covered.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Understanding Steel Economies

English: Steel wire rope of the the German col...
Steel wire rope
Steel is often seen as a dying industry in the United States. What was once the center of the world for steel production, many countries like China and India are taking over a large percentage of the production. With internal natural resources at their disposal, and new facilities to manufacture steel in large quantities, they have been giving the United States a run for their money in recent years. Here's a few reasons why the steel industry is very much alive and well in the United States today.

National Infrastructure

The real estate markets have been heavily down over the last few years, which has had a negative impact on the global steel industry, however there are many signs that this trend is turning. The national government has acknowledged that many of the US infrastructures, like roads and bridges, are in serious need of renovations and need supplies of materials, including steel, to be carried out.

Specialized Steel Suppliers

Chinese and India steel is being made in large quantities, however there is still great concern of the quality of the products that come out of the nations, which have much more relaxed laws and fewer quality checks than steel from the United States and other North American and European countries. Other steel distributors like Capital Steel & Wire, which manufactures steel wire and steel bar products, make very specific steel products that are needed in smaller quantities and at more precise requirements. These high quality and higher margin steel products have been in high demand in the United States from all ranges of industries, and these companies have been working hard to meet those demands.

Efficient Manufacturing

Many steel suppliers and distributors in the United States are making technology advancements on many of their manufacturing processes, making steel of higher quality at lower costs. This is great news for an industry that has seen diminishing returns lately, and shows signs that US steel can hold its ground with any other market in the world.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Understanding Your Car Insurance

A car crash on Jagtvej in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Do you feel like pulling out your hair when it comes to car insurance? If so, then settle back and let us clear-up some of the definitions and details you will encounter when it's time to buy or renew your car insurance policy.

Do You Really Need Car Insurance?
The answer to this question is a legal one - not all states require a driver to have car insurance, but those that don't require a driver to provide a financial responsibility bond in place of insurance. So either way you must show financial responsibility in some form or fashion. This leads us to the next question: How much insurance is needed?

Full Coverage: If you buy a new car and you have a loan on it, then your bank will require that you have full coverage. This means you have liability plus collision/comprehensive coverage on the vehicle. Once your loan is paid off, then you have the option to drop the collision/comprehensive coverage.

Limited Coverage: A used car sometimes has less value compared to the cost of collision insurance, and in these cases the owner may elect to drop the coverage on the car. What's left is the liability coverage.


Collision Insurance: If you're involved in an accident, then collision insurance will cover the damages. You'll have to choose the deductible amount; this can vary from as low as $100.00 up to $1000.00. This is the amount you will pay before the insurance starts paying.

Comprehensive Insurance: This part of the insurance plan is generally combined with the collision policy. This insurance generally covers: fire, theft, vandalism, natural disasters, and falling objects.

Liability: If you choose not to cover your car, then most states still require that you maintain a liability policy for your car. Liability covers: personal injury (you, passengers, other parties), property damage, and medical payments. The amount of coverage will depend on how much of your personal assets you want to protect. Lawyers for the opposing team are known to go after your personal assets if your liability insurance doesn't fully cover damage to their client.

No Fault Insurance: It's hard to collect damages from someone who doesn't have insurance. This is why no fault insurance is offered. Not all states require a driver to carry no fault, but many drivers elect to buy it anyway. In the case the other driver does not have insurance, then your insurance company will pay for your damages from the accident - no matter who's fault it is.

Personal Injury Insurance: Some states, not all, offer this coverage. This coverage will reimburse your loss of income, medical expenses, and other covered expenses resulting from an accident.

Gap Insurance: When you drive a new car off the lot you immediately have depreciation. Gap insurance takes care of this, you can consider it "supplemental insurance" in case your car is totaled in an accident. Having gap insurance alleviates the headaches and disputes if your car is deemed totaled.

Working with a car insurance agent you trust is the key to buying the type of insurance you need. You may not need all of the options we discussed above; your agent will help you put together an insurance policy that fits your specific needs.