The first time you hand over a set of car keys to your teenager is a moment filled with pride, and maybe some mixed emotions. Are you ready to send them out into the world without you? Can you afford the bump in premiums to insure them? The unfortunate truth is that drivers ages 15 to 19 are the most likely to be involved in an auto accident, and as a result they’re a bit more expensive to insure.

While teens only make up 13% of licensed drivers, they account for one-quarter of all accidents, according to Parachute Canada. Driving is the most common way that teens get injured, and young drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than drivers ages 35-44.

Defining the risks

It may seem like stating the obvious, but teen drivers simply don’t have the same maturity or experience as older drivers do. While all new drivers have an increased risk of being involved in an auto accident, teens in particular are more likely to be affected by other major risk factors.

Statistically, they are more likely to be in an accident caused by distracted driving (for example, texting, eating or applying makeup while driving), speeding, alcohol or drugs. And they’re twice as likely to have an accident because they are overtired.

Counting the cost

Adding your teenager to your auto insurance policy will increase your premiums. Consider these factors when estimating the new cost.

  • Age — The younger the teen, the higher the premium. While it is possible to obtain a separate policy for older teens, most insurance companies will not offer insurance to younger teen drivers unless they are included on a parent’s policy. An individual needs to be at least 18 for a contract (including an insurance contract) to be binding, though some insurance companies also require drivers ages 18 to 21 to be covered under a parent’s policy.
  • Gender — Male drivers (teen or otherwise) are statistically more likely to be involved in an auto accident. As a result, male teenagers traditionally face the largest premium hike.
  • Type of vehicle — A vehicle with a good safety record and a less powerful engine will always be a better bet for a young driver.
  • Your province — Premium levels (and regulations) vary among provinces.


Reduce your costs

There are a few measures you can take to reduce premiums and risk for your teen driver.

Enroll your teen in an advanced or defensive driving course to improve their skills and prove to your insurance company that they are not a significant risk. You could also look into usage-based insurance programs, which monitor driving habits and then offer lower premiums to careful drivers. These apps work just as well for teen drivers and can also give you peace of mind that your child is not taking unnecessary risks when driving.

If your teen is in college, let your insurance company know when they will be away from home and therefore not using your car. This could have a dramatic effect on your premium rates.

While obtaining insurance for your teen driver may be expensive, there are ways to reduce the cost. Reach out to your insurance broker for details on available discounts and to learn about programs available for safe driver training.

A home purchase comes with excitement and quite a bit of stress until the long-awaited moment arrives: the closing. With the keys to your new home in hand, you pass the threshold into your future filled with friends, family, celebrations and many other memorable moments. You’ve surmounted all the hurdles.

Whether you had this experience years ago or just last week, after dozens of signatures and negotiations your homeowners insurance is probably not top of mind.

If you’ve been in your home for a few years without a coverage review, there’s a good chance that you’re underinsured. Even if you bought recently, you may have grabbed a homeowners policy without much thought just for the sake of closing. Now that you’re in your home and things are settling down, it’s a good time to make sure you have the coverage you need for the long haul.

Interpreting your policy

It’s hard to review a policy that tops 20 pages. Much of it reads like legalese, but it’s still important to understand. Here are a few areas to focus on when considering your homeowners coverage and limits.

Start with your declarations page

Your declarations page summarizes your homeowners coverage, and it appears on the first few pages before the contract language. The declarations (or “dec”) page lists your coverage types and limits (the maximum amount the insurance company will pay you in the event of a covered loss), such as:

  • Dwelling (coverage A) protects the structure, like your roof, flooring or other materials
  • Other structures (coverage B) protects things not attached to your home, like a fence or shed
  • Personal property (coverage C) protects your personal property and moveable things in your home, such as appliances, clothing, jewellery or electronics
  • Loss of use (coverage D) reimburses your expenses if you need to live elsewhere after a covered peril
  • Personal liability (coverage E) helps with property damage and bodily injury claims made by other people that you’re legally obligated to pay
  • Voluntary medical payments (coverage F) helps with medical expenses for bodily injury to other people that happened while on your property

You might have more (or less) coverage than appears on your declarations page, so make sure to review your policy with your insurance broker.

The lenders’ interests and your interests: a tale of two liabilities

Form your perspective, homeowners insurance is to protect you and your belongings and help you out in a disaster. A mortgage lender’s perspective is slightly different – they’re interested in protecting their original investment, which is the outstanding loan on your home. Unless you’re mortgage-free, your home is insured as required by your lender. But there’s a good chance that the level of protection you chose when you bought your house isn’t adequate for your liability risk exposure today.

Your home insurance should cater to the sweet spot that meets both interests:

  • Coverage to get your house structure rebuilt (so you resume payments to the lender or the lender receives total compensation for the loan and retains ownership)
  • Coverage to replace your belongings, reimburse you for housing during construction and get your home back to the way it was before the event

Homeowners insurance offers protection that goes beyond your home: it also covers your personal liability exposure. That alone might be worth a call to your insurance broker.

Replacement value is a must

You might think it’s enough to insure your home for market value (the cost people are willing to pay for your home), but the replacement value (the cost to rebuild from the ground up) of your home may far exceed its market value. Your home’s market value today could be quite different next year. And the cost of materials used to rebuild your house is likely to increase year over year.

While some homeowners policies include an inflation guard, not all do. And you could be stuck with the difference.

The purpose of insurance is to make you whole again or put you back in the same type of house you had before the loss. To protect your budget from risk liability exposure, you should itemize, evaluate and determine the value of your home upgrades, materials, personal property and contents.

You can get an idea of your liability by creating a home inventory. Make a note of the contents as well as the materials used to build your house. Consider upgrades, collectibles, construction materials, electronics, clothing, furniture and appliances.

Policy limits and catastrophic coverage: an example

Let’s say you have a $200,000 limit on your dwelling and a $100,000 limit for personal property. Your house catches fire and the blaze spreads to your custom detached garage. Everything is destroyed: The insurance company writes it off as a total loss.

Will $200,000 be enough to rebuild (using today’s prices for materials)?

Consider the total cost to rebuild your home (the roof, siding, lumber, nails, gutters, flashing, insulation, windows, deck, etc.). Then consider the internal workings of your house like the walls, crown molding, flooring, carpet, floorboards, paint, built-ins, heating and cooling system, boiler, generator, water heater, whole-house dehumidifier and water filtration system.

Now ask yourself again: Will $200,000 cover the cost to restore what you had (using today’s pricing for materials)?

When you reach your insurance policy limits, the money stops. You may have to forgo the custom reclaimed wood flooring or solar panels you had before the fire, just for the sake of getting a roof over your head. Either that or you’re paying out of pocket. And who wants to pay twice?

Other structures are subject to limits that equal 10% of your home’s total coverage. Will $20,000 cover the cost of your fully insulated two-car garage with a wood shop? You might be disappointed if you end up with a drafty single-car garage instead.

Top off your total loss with a list of items needed to replace everything in your home.

Will a $100,000 limit on personal property be enough to replace everything you own?

Consider rugs, drapes, furniture, clothing, electronics, jewellery, collectibles, artwork and appliances. A high-end kitchen could quickly deplete 30% of a $100,000 limit all by itself.

Replacement value reimburses the cost to replace without depreciation.

Actual cash value reimburses the cost to replace, minus depreciation.

Ask your insurance broker to help you decide on the reimbursement value and limits that are right for you.

Other ways to cover your homeowners risk liability gaps

Now that you’ve done your homeowners inventory, ask your insurance broker about ways you can close the liability gap and insure against loss. Here are some options to consider:

  • Additional living expenses coverage helps out if you’re forced to live somewhere else while your home is being rebuilt or rehabbed. Consider the cost to continue living in your area, especially if you have school-aged children.
  • Building ordinance or law protects you if a (covered) peril damages parts of your home and the city forces you to upgrade the entire house to code.
  • Riders or floaters cover specialty items like jewellery, computers and silverware.
  • Collectibles insurance covers high-ticket items like artwork, designer handbag stashes, antiques and other collectibles.
  • Other structures covers anything not attached to your house. Think about increasing this coverage if you’ve got some stylish outbuildings or elaborate fencing.
  • Personal liability usually covers up to $1,000,000, but you might want to go higher to protect yourself from footing the bill for a lengthy lawsuit.
  • Extended replacement cost is another way to handle inflation. You can increase your home’s replacement value by 10% (or more) over the guaranteed replacement cost to rebuild; this is especially useful if you’re faced with price gouging after a natural disaster.
  • Sewer backup covers you in case a sewer line or sump pump backs up.
  • Flood coverage is a separate line of insurance that you can buy. Floods can happen anywhere; most floods occur outside of identified flood plains (snow melts or flash rains, for example). Anyone can be vulnerable to this costly liability.
  • Earthquake coverage is available as a separate line of insurance. Earthquakes can occur anywhere, not just along fault lines. If an earth tremor structurally damages your house, your budget might get rocked, too.
  • Personal umbrella coverage kicks in when you hit the limit on your policy. If you have home and auto policies, an umbrella will open over either policy when it’s reached its limit.
  • Inflation guard increases your dwelling coverage limits to match inflation (usually 2% to 4%). The cost to rebuild can be shocking in an inflationary spiral. Check with your broker to see if it’s built in to your policy or if you have to add it.

Schedule a review with your insurance broker

Now that you’ve nailed down the jargon, you’re in the know. Reach out to your insurance broker and set some new coverage limits. Build your risk liability plan and seal the gaps with a strong home insurance foundation that protects you and your investment.

Majestic old trees are beautiful, but they can also be dangerous. Falling trees and tree limbs cause millions of dollars in property damage each year when they land on buildings or vehicles. If a fallen tree is large enough, it can destroy an entire home. And, sadly, people have been paralyzed or killed by falling trees.

While some tree hazards are unavoidable – such as a healthy tree being uprooted during a tornado – it’s your responsibility to keep an eye on the trees on your property and prune away diseased or dangerous branches. You should also have dead trees removed.

If tree neglect or poor maintenance results in property damage, your insurance won’t protect you.

Home damage

If a properly maintained tree or tree branch on your property hits your home or other insured structure, like a detached garage, your standard homeowners insurance policy will cover any damage to the structure and its contents.

Similarly, if one of your properly maintained trees or tree branches damages your neighbour’s property, they will file a claim with their own insurance company.

If your neighbour’s neglect or improper maintenance of their tree is responsible for damages to your property, your insurance company may turn to your neighbour’s insurance company and try to collect from them. This is called subrogation. If the process is successful, you may get your deductible back.

During a hurricane or windstorm, trees and branches can travel considerable distances and cause significant damage to property. In most cases, insurance companies don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out where the tree or branches originally came from. Property owners will file claims with their own insurance companies.

Your insurance broker can give you the specifics of whether your homeowners insurance policy includes coverage for fallen trees and the factors that influence coverage.

Vehicle damage

If a tree or branch smashes your vehicle and you’re the owner of both the fallen tree and the vehicle, your homeowners insurance policy likely won’t cover the damage to your car. The comprehensive coverage on your auto policy will help pay to repair or replace your vehicle.

If the tree that fell on your car belongs to a neighbour, you’d probably still rely on the comprehensive coverage in your auto insurance policy. However, your neighbour’s homeowners insurance policy may help cover the damage if you don’t have comprehensive coverage on your vehicle.

Regardless of whose tree it is, you are generally responsible for the cost of removing it in this situation.

Tree and debris removal

If a tree hits your home or another insured structure, your homeowners policy will generally cover the cost of removing the tree, up to about $500 to $1,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

If the downed tree doesn’t land on an insured structure, you generally have to pay out of pocket to get it removed. However, III says some insurance companies may pay for the cost of removing the downed tree if it’s blocking a driveway or a wheelchair ramp.

Lack of maintenance or negligence

To minimize the likelihood of tree damage, it’s important to maintain their health and properly prepare them for severe weather. Scheduling regular maintenance, inspections, pruning, trimming, and more allows your trees to be in the best and healthiest condition possible.

If your tree was rotting and read by to fall before the storm, your homeowners insurance likely won’t cover the damage caused to your home or any other structure.

Potential problems to watch for

If you see any of the following issues with your trees, take corrective action or consult a tree care professional.

  • Large cracks in tree trunk or limbs
  • Dead tree, or large dead branches
  • Tree leans significantly or otherwise appears unstable
  • Tree branches are close to roof or power lines (never try to cut branches close to power lines yourself; leave that to a professional)
  • Tree is decaying or hollowed out
  • Tree appears to have systemic disease

Healthy trees lower your risk

Tree maintenance or removal can be expensive, but it’s still cheaper (and safer) than dealing with the fallout from a tree that crashes onto your house or car.

If you have questions about your auto or homeowners coverage related to tree damage, contact your insurance broker at Ing and McKee Insurance to learn more.

A motor vehicle collision can be a stressful experience for everyone involved. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed and confused after a collision, but it is important that you stay calm.

There are a number of critical post-crash steps you need to keep in mind—steps that can help get your insurance in order or even save a life. Remember to do the following:

Step 1: Stop your vehicle. If you are involved in an accident and don’t stop, you may be subject to criminal prosecution.

Step 2: Call the authorities if any of the following scenarios occur:

  • You or someone else is injured
  • You suspect one of the other drivers may be guilty of a Criminal Code offence (such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol)
  • There is significant damage to property or the vehicles
  • Any of the vehicles involved in the crash are not drivable
  • You suspect you are the victim of a staged accident

Step 3: Follow the instructions given to you by the emergency operator. Police or emergency personnel will arrive as soon as possible. Do not try to move anyone injured in the accident, as you may aggravate their injuries.

Step 4: If it is safe to do so, get out of your car. If you have access to a digital camera or cellphone, take pictures of the scene.

Step 5: When it is safe, move your vehicle to the side of the road and out of traffic. If your vehicle cannot be driven, turn on your hazard lights or use cones, warning triangles or flares, as appropriate.

Step 6: Use the attached form to record as much information about the accident as possible.

Step 7: Call Ing & McKee Insurance Ltd as soon as possible after the accident. Inform your broker of what happed and ask for next steps.

Remember, as difficult as it may seem, it is important that you remain claim. Refrain from arguing with other drivers and passengers. What’s more, do not voluntarily assume liability or take responsibility, sign statements regarding fault or promise to pay for damage at the scene of the accident.

If you feel overwhelmed and you might forget one of the steps, use the four step photo rule. Take a picture of the car, the other operators licence, full registration (unfold it completely)  and insurance.

See below for a PDF checklist and accident form.

Motor Vehicle Accident Reporting Form

Just as COVID-19 restrictions lifted, fuel prices jumped and dashed any hope of speeding away from it all.

Here are some tips from Natural Resources Canada to help tame your gas usage while still fuelling your road warrior spirit:
  • Slow down. Most vehicles are most fuel-efficient when traveling between 50 and 80 km per hour. Driving at 120 km per hour instead of at 100 on a 25-km trip will only save you 2 minutes but cost you 20% more. Keep your pace slow and steady.
  • Stop driving aggressively. Besides creating a calmer commute, reducing aggressive driving is friendly on your wallet. Avoid hard stops, quick starts and other aggressive habits — they can reduce gas consumption by 10% to 40%.
  • Remove rooftop boxes and racks when not in use. The aerodynamic drag created by bulky top-mounted carriers can reduce your fuel efficiency by nearly 20%. Try rear-mounted carriers when you need the storage. They only reduce efficiency by around 5%.
  • Lose excess weight. Fuel efficiency is reduced by at least 1% for every 100 pounds (45 kilos). The lighter the vehicle, the better the fuel efficiency.
  • Avoid idling. Idling for more than a couple of minutes is a climate-unfriendly gas waster, and it’s tough on your engine. Even if you’re idling to warm up a vehicle in cold weather, many manufacturers recommend driving off — gently — after about 30 seconds because the engine will warm faster. (And if you’re idling your car on the street, you’re a target for thieves.)
  • Batch your errands. Save money by combining trips, reducing the number of times you start and stop your vehicle and traveling outside of peak traffic hours. Several short trips on a cold engine can use twice as much fuel as a multipurpose trip covering the same distance.
  • Plan your route. Check your GPS for the most fuel-efficient route.
  • Use cruise control. When you’re driving long distances, set your cruise control. But don’t use cruise control in bad weather (rain, fog, snow or sleet); instead, reduce your speed to suit the conditions.
  • Maintain proper tire pressure. Improper tire pressure can reduce your fuel efficiency by up to 2% and create a driving hazard. Use the tire pressure listed in the owner’s manual or the driver’s side door jamb. Do not use the tire pressure listed on the tire.
  • Repair engine problems. Follow your manufacturer’s scheduled maintenance routine and repair problems as they arise.
  • Use the manufacturer’s recommended motor oil. The wrong oil grade can reduce mpg by 2%. Ask your mechanic if they use energy-conserving oil (a rating listed on the bottle label), which contains friction-reducing additives for more efficient engine lubrication.
  • Reduce air conditioning use. A cold cabin temperature could reduce your mpg by up to 25%. For city driving, keep your windows down and the air conditioning off. On the highway, keep your windows up and the air conditioning on. If you can’t go without air conditioning, set the cabin temperature a little warmer to reduce your use. Check your vehicle owner’s manual for other air conditioning tips.
In addition to driving techniques, try these cost-saving strategies:
  • Enroll in cash back or discount offers. Some credit cards offer preferred vendor discounts or rotating cash back offers. Gas stations and grocery stores also have savings programs.
  • Use fuel apps. Map and fuel apps provide information on gas station locations, pricing and economy tips. Comparison shop your nearby stations and plan your route to the best deals.
Even when gas prices are low, saving fuel is a good habit to get into, both for the planet and your wallet!
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