Things to Keep in Mind When Buying a Car

Buying a new car is an exciting time — but it can also be stressful. After all, you’re trying to get the best deal while also deciding on the make, model and features you need. It’s a big decision! 

Here at The Wurzel Insurance Agency, we can’t really help you become a master negotiator when it comes to buying a car. But we can give you some things to consider when you’re looking around the lot — and when you’re trying to answer the age-old question: New, or used? 

New cars

Ah, that new-car smell. It’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s one of the things people love most about climbing into a brand-new car. And while they make air fresheners that supposedly give you that same smell for your used car, it just doesn’t seem the same, does it? Still, there are other benefits to buying new — and, of course, there are drawbacks as well.

  • PRO — maintenance: Some manufacturers offer free scheduled maintenance for a set period of time after you buy the car, and you likely won’t need a new battery, tires, etc., for several years after your purchase.
  • PRO — peace of mind: Your new car may have a warranty for up to 10 years, and also is covered by “lemon laws” that could allow for a replacement or refund if the car has serious defects.
  • CON — cost: Depending on the make and model, buying a new car is almost always more expensive (at least in terms of the purchase price) than a used car.

It’s also worth noting that if you purchase a new car in its first model year (meaning it’s a new model for the automaker), there won’t be many user reviews available, and data on reliability and repairs will be limited. In addition, sometimes newly introduced cars have some kinks that generally are ironed out by the second and third model years. These aren’t necessarily serious issues, and the warranty should cover them, but in some instances, you and your car could be headed to the shop more than you’d like.

Used cars

Don’t care about the new-car smell? Looking to save some money on your purchase? Well, a used car might be right for you. There are many advantages to buying used, but you’ll want to be a little more careful. After all, it’s hard to know exactly how well the previous owner treated the car. But you can limit your risk with a little bit of work.

  • PRO — cost: New cars depreciate quickly after they’re purchased. By buying used, you’re letting someone else take that financial hit over the first few years of the life of the car.
  • PRO/CON — reliability: Buying a used car is less of a gamble than it used to be, particularly with the advent of “certified pre-owned” programs many automakers now offer. However, used cars generally don’t carry the same warranties as new cars, even though the original manufacturer’s warranty is usually transferrable to a second owner.
  • CON — maintenance: While a used car theoretically shouldn’t need more frequent maintenance than a new car, you’ll likely need to replace things like tires, headlights, etc., earlier. And scheduled maintenance probably isn’t covered by the automaker. 
  • PRO/CON — history: You’ll need to check the car’s title history to make sure it hasn’t been in a serious accident or salvaged. Ask the dealership to provide this information, usually from Carfax.

Of course, whichever car you purchase, the important thing is that it’s a good fit for you. Bear in mind that certain makes and models can result in higher insurance costs for you, so feel free to check in with us before you buy. 

Have fun shopping — and we’ll see you on the road!

Think Renter’s Insurance Is Only for Your Stuff? Think Again!

Clients often think they don’t need renter’s insurance — “Nothing I have is worth that much,” they’ll say, or “I don’t have a lot of stuff.”

That’s how most people think of renter’s coverage: protection for stuff, and nothing more. After all, it’s inexpensive, and it doesn’t even cover the structure itself. So how important can it be, especially if you don’t think you have anything valuable to protect?

Plenty important, because you have more to protect than you realize. Here are three key financial protections a renter’s policy provides:

Loss of use coverage. What would you do if a fire or other issue forced you out of your home? You’d have to find a temporary place to stay, maybe even for months — which might cost you more than your normal rent. “Loss of use” coverage helps pay for that and other additional expenses.

Personal liability protection. If someone trips and injures themselves in your unit, they could sue you. If your dog bites one of your guests, they might file suit, too. Yes, lawsuits happen — even among friends. Renters insurance can help cover legal expenses and even judgments against you. (Some dog breeds may disqualify you from coverage, so be sure to inform your agent of all dogs in the household.)

Personal property coverage. Wait, doesn’t this mean your stuff? Well, yes. But really, this coverage protects your finances. Even if you don’t think you have anything valuable, take a minute and mentally add up everything you own (note that if you do have any high-value items, such as jewelry or heirlooms, you may need additional coverage). Now imagine how much it would cost to replace it all. It’s probably a higher number than you thought — and that’s why renters insurance is so important.

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

5 Tips to Help Prevent Tree Trouble

Trees are pretty amazing. They produce oxygen. They serve as natural air conditioners, both by blocking sunlight and through evaporation. And they even absorb sounds, helping to keep things peaceful.

These benefits, along with countless others, are great reasons to keep the trees on property in good shape. Looking for another? Unhealthy trees can actually pose great danger to your home and property, as well as to your family and other people.

With these tips from the National Arbor Day Foundation, you can help prevent tree trouble – and potentially save yourself from a home insurance claim:

  1. Inspect trees frequently. The size, color and condition of leaves, and overall leaf cover, are good indicators of a tree’s health. Cavities or disfiguration can be a warning sign, although they don’t always mean a tree is a hazard. Just keep a close eye on it. Dead branches are a big risk, because they can fall easily. Those that cross or rub can create weak spots. 
  2. Plant in an appropriate space. Putting in a tree that will grow to be large? Don’t put it near power or sewer lines, or close to your home. Avoid planting brittle trees – their limbs are weak and more likely to break and fall. Examples include Silver Maples and Willows.
  3. Prune correctly. Cut outside the branch collar, and prune regularly as trees age. Don’t allow a tree to be topped.
  4. Leave it to an expert. Once a year, have a qualified arborist thoroughly evaluate the trees on your property. An arborist can identify ones that need to come down immediately, as well as those to watch. In particular, trees that have been topped, or that have lost large limbs unexpectedly, could cause trouble. Taking down trees can be very dangerous, so leave it to a professional.
  5. Remember, you’re responsible. Property owners are generally responsible when their hazardous trees cause damage or injury to others. So keep your trees healthy, your space beautiful and your liability low!

When a tree does fall, you may or may not have coverage through your homeowner’s policy for any damage it may cause. If you’d like to discuss your coverage, please give us a call today. It may be a good time to think about adding extra liability coverage to your insurance portfolio with an umbrella policy.

A Few Tips for the College-Bound

College is expensive enough without the added cost of unexpected accidents or theft not covered by your insurance policy. If you have a student heading away to school, below are a few tips to help you get the most out of your coverage.

HOMEOWNERS (varies by state)

  • Personal Property:  Most homeowner’s policies will cover personal property for up to 10% of your total policy while your child is residing at school (a $100,000 policy equals $10,000 in coverage). Not all types of damage are covered, so read your policy carefully. Some items such as jewelry or expensive electronics require special coverage. Renters insurance is strongly recommended.
  • Liability Coverage: General damage to a dorm room or apartment is not usually covered.  
  • Documentation: Creating an inventory of the items your child is taking to school is a good idea. Use photographs and keep receipts.

AUTO (varies by state)

  • Car Stays Home: Keep your child listed on your auto policy if they will still drive your car while at home on school breaks.
  • Car at School: Make sure to notify us if your child will be taking a car away to school. In most cases, if the car is registered to you and listed on your policy, it will be covered.  
  • Driving a Friend’s Car: Students are generally covered if they are listed on their parent’s policy and are not regularly using the vehicle. The coverage would be secondary. The insurance for the friend’s vehicle would be the primary coverage.
  • Discounts: A full-time student meeting certain academic requirements can qualify for a good student discount. Distant student discounts may also be available. Drivers under 21 who have completed driver’s education may also get a discount.

Before your child leaves for school, give us a call. We can walk you through the steps to ensure you have the right coverage. We’re here to help! 

What to Know Before You Go Solar

Solar panels can be economically and environmentally sound, and they’re more accessible than ever. 

But is solar power right for you? Here are five things to think about before making the switch:

  1. The different options for installing a solar system. Oftentimes you don’t have to foot the full cost of going solar yourself. Instead, you may be able to lease a system from a company that installs and maintains it, or enter into an agreement where a third party actually owns the system and bills you (likely at a reduced rate) for electricity. Just keep in mind that installing and owning your own system may provide the best long-term return, and tax credits or rebates may help to lower upfront costs.
  2. Your current energy costs — and your future needs. Depending on your situation, you could have relatively low energy bills now and not be as motivated to pursue solar as someone with higher costs. But what does the future look like? If your family is growing, your energy costs are probably about to grow, too, and investing in solar might be worth your while.
  3. The power a system would generate. Have a reputable solar company measure the amount of sun your home gets, taking into account things such as shade, trees, etc., so you can make an informed decision about expected savings.
  4. What your homeowner’s policy says. With any improvement that increases the value of your home, you need to make sure your insurance policy reflects the change. Give us a call to see if your policy already covers solar panels. If it doesn’t, we can help you amend it.
  5. Your goals. Are you mainly looking to save money? Help the environment? Both? Knowing your goals will help you determine whether solar is the right choice for you, as well as which option makes the most sense. No matter what you choose, even considering solar means you’re thinking about energy a little differently. And that’s a good thing.

Renewable power – it can help protect you from rising energy costs and even power outages, not to mention the good it does for the environment. Just be sure to consider your options and all the costs involved before making the leap.

Summers mean backyard grilling – safely!

Just like steaks, hamburgers and hot dogs, a sizzling grill is a symbol of summer — and grilling isn’t just about great food. Backyard cookouts often create treasured memories with friends and family.

Keep in mind, however, that when you grill, you’re playing with fire. Thousands of residents each year learn this the hard way, suffering damage to their homes or even serious injuries in grilling accidents.

There’s good news, though: You can prevent grilling accidents by taking some simple precautions. The tips below can help ensure you cook only your burgers – and not your house – the next time you fire up the grill.

TIPS FOR ALL GRILLS

Your grill, whether gas or charcoal, should be on a level surface outdoors, away from anything that could be ignited by flames (bushes, fences, or other flammable articles). 

NEVER use a grill indoors. Odorless carbon monoxide fumes are deadly.

Keep your grill clean and well-maintained. Check parts regularly to determine if replacements are needed.

Never leave a hot grill unattended or let children play near it.

CHARCOAL GRILL TIPS 

From Kingsford.com

  • Do not add lighter fluid directly to hot coals. The flame could travel up the stream of liquid and burn you.
  • Never use gasoline or kerosene to light a charcoal fire.
  • Use flame-retardant mitts and long-handled barbecue tongs, as coals can reach up to 1,000 degrees. 
  • To dispose of coals, allow the ashes to cool for at least 48 hours before disposal in a non-combustible container. If you cannot wait 48 hours, carefully place coals individually in a can of sand or bucket of water. 

GAS GRILL TIPS

From the National Fire Protection Association

Check your grill’s hoses for leaks before using it for the first time each year. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles. If you have a leak, and it will not stop after the grill and gas are turned off, call the fire department. If the leak stops when the grill and gas are turned off, have your grill serviced by a professional.

If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department, do not move the grill.

Do not keep a filled propane tank in a hot car or trunk. When getting containers refilled, make that your last stop before going home.

Store propane tanks in an upright position, and never indoors. The Wurzel Insurance Agency is here for you! Give us a call at (407) 977-5700 to speak with one of our experienced agents, or email us: hello@wurzelagency.com.

The Facts About Lightning

The next time you see or hear a thunderstorm, you might want to take a moment to review what you know about lightning safety. Strikes are most common during the summer thunderstorm season, but they can happen at any time of the year – especially here in Florida, the lightning capital of the United States. According to the Orlando Sentinel, lightning is the number one cause of weather-related deaths, and lightning storms happen an average of 100 days each year in Central Florida. 

Unfortunately, a lot of less-than-accurate ideas about lightning have found a place in the popular imagination over the years. Here’s a look at what we do know to be right about lightning.

Indoor Safety

• The safest place to be during a storm is typically indoors. It is vital to avoid anything that conducts electricity — metal, landline phones, appliances, wires, TV cables, and plumbing.

• Automobiles can be safe havens thanks to the metal frame that diverts the electrical charge. Don’t lean on the doors during a storm, however.

Outdoor Safety

• Don’t look for shelter under a tree. If lightning hits its branches, a “ground charge” could spread out in all directions.

• Don’t lie flat on the ground as this can make you even more vulnerable to a ground charge.

7 Tips to Help You Handle Rainy Days Behind the Wheel

Every Florida driver inevitably has to deal with rainy weather. 

With slick roads, flooded streets, and reduced visibility, not knowing how to drive in the rain can be a recipe for disaster. Be sure to follow these simple tips for safer rainy-day travels. 

  1. Stay visible. Turn on your headlights so you can see — and be seen — more easily. Headlights on, hazards off — it’s the law in Florida. 
  2. Be patient. Give yourself more time to get where you’re going, and give people more room. Increase your following distance two to three times.
  3. Expect slippery conditions. Rain often combines with oil and grease buildup to create slick roadways. Not to mention you can hydroplane — meaning your tires are riding on water instead of pavement — at speeds of as little as 35 mph. If it happens, slow down, gently apply your brakes, and keep steering straight ahead.
  4. Check your car’s systems. How are your wipers? Do your blades need to be replaced? What about your defroster? Driving in the rain is hard enough; don’t do it with fogged-up windows, too.
  5. Inspect your tires. Are they inflated properly? Do you have enough tread? Put an upside-down penny into the tread. If you can see Lincoln’s entire head, you probably need new tires.
  6. Never drive in flooded areas. In a flood, it won’t take much water to sweep you away, believe it or not — just 12 inches for a smaller car or 24 inches for almost any vehicle, according to the National Weather Service, which advises, “Turn around, don’t drown.”
  7. Get – or stay – off the road. When conditions are really bad, pull over and take a break. Or, if you can, just stay home. You’ll probably be happier to stay out of the weather, anyway! And you’re certainly likely to be safer.

With a little extra care, you can help keep your car on the road and your rainy day blues to a minimum even while traveling in wet conditions. And, as always, if something does go wrong, we’re here to help guide you through it. 

Let’s Keep Our Florida Lawns (and Ourselves) Safe

For many of our Florida neighbors, summer means more than sunshine and vacations. It also means working in the yard — often with tools that can be dangerous if not used properly.

Each year about 400,000 people are treated for injuries from lawn and garden tools, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Don’t let your landscaping efforts land you in the hospital! Follow these handy safety tips.

Tool safety tips from the CPSC:

  • Dress appropriately. To protect yourself from debris when using lawn tools, wear eye protection, long pants, long-sleeved shirts, close-fitting clothes and no jewelry. Sturdy shoes are recommended, and ear plugs may be appropriate depending on how loud your device is.
  • Before starting, remove objects from your work area that could cause injury or damage, such as sticks, glass, or stones.
  • Keep children indoors and supervised at all times when any outdoor power equipment is being used. Never let a child ride or operate a garden tractor or riding mower, even if the child is supervised. And never assume children will remain where you last saw them.
    Use extreme caution when backing up or approaching corners, shrubs, and trees.
  • Teenagers using power equipment should always be supervised by an adult.
  • Handle gasoline carefully. Never fill tanks while machinery is on or when equipment is still hot. Of course, you should never smoke or use any type of flame around gasoline or any gasoline-powered equipment.
  • Do not work with electric power tools in wet or damp conditions. For protection against electrocution, use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).
  • Be sure that extension cords are in good condition, are rated for outdoor use, and are the proper gauge for the electrical current capacity of the tool.

Lawn Chemical Safety Tips from Texas A&M University

  • If you use chemicals to control weeds or pests in your lawn, read the product label carefully so you understand the potential effects on humans, animals and the environment. Follow all instructions.
  • Keep children and animals away from the application area, and protect your skin, eyes, and nose during and after application.
  • Remember, use only the recommended amount. Using more of the chemical will not do a better job.
  • Ask yourself if you truly need to use a general pesticide. Is there a product that will specifically treat only the problem you need to solve?

From all of us at The Wurzel Insurance Agency, here’s to keeping both you and your lawn healthy and safe this summer!

Spring cleaning tips from The Wurzel Insurance Agency

Spring is a time for new beginnings, so cleaning and organization around the house are top-rated this time of year. 

If you’re ready to tackle that monumental chore, knowing as spring cleaning, read on for some helpful information! (And if you’re so tidy and organized throughout the year that spring cleaning isn’t a big chore for you, well done! We might be a little jealous!) 

Take it one room at a time. Deciding to clean or organize your entire home can quickly become overwhelming. If you focus on just one area or room, then move to another only when you’re finished, you’ll likely work more efficiently.

Follow the six-month rule. Generally, if you haven’t used something in six months (except seasonal items), it’s a good idea to consider throwing it away, recycling it, or donating it. 

Don’t forget the kitchen. Just like other rooms, your kitchen likely stores items that haven’t been used in some time — and this includes food in the refrigerator or freezer. Give those appliances a thorough cleaning, get rid of expired foods, and donate unexpired foods you won’t be eating.

Set yourself up for success. Paper clutter is something we all could probably cut back on pretty quickly. Setting up a few recycling bins throughout the house gives you a convenient alternative to setting that old magazine or paperwork down somewhere and watching the pile grow.

Make some money! The spring-cleaning garage sale is a tradition for many homeowners and can be a great way to bring in some extra income. Talk about a win-win situation — you get rid of stuff you don’t need, and someone pays you for it!

Stay safe. When you’re cleaning or maintaining your home, be mindful of the physical risks involved. Lift with your leg muscles, not your back. Avoid prolonged repetitive motions. Use ladders, lawnmowers, and other dangerous tools with caution.

Happy spring, and happy cleaning!