Our Blog

Since 1956 United Insurance has provided insurance in Grand Rapids and neighboring communities.

Is Your Home Underinsured? | Michigan Home Insurance

posted Jun 15, 2018, 12:21 PM by Jason Grubbs

Did you know?
According to this CBS News report nearly 60% of homes are underinsured.

Underinsurance - Michigan Home Insurance
What does underinsurance mean?

Within every home insurance policy there are coverage limits reflecting the maximum amount the insurance company will pay - whether for the dwelling, other structures on the premises, or personal property.

Coverage limits may be found on a home insurance policy declarations page - the front page of the policy specifying the time period of coverage, who is covered, what is covered, coverage limits, and premiums.

This article focuses on dwelling coverage - the amount the insurance company would pay to rebuild your home and any attached structures.

The limit of dwelling coverage on your home insurance policy should correspond to the actual cost to rebuild your home using the same type and quality of construction materials.  Underinsurance would be a situation where the amount of dwelling coverage is less than it would actually cost to rebuild your home.

How does underinsurance happen?

When you initially purchase a home insurance policy your insurance agent should assist in calculating the cost to rebuild your home and, whenever possible, provide a policy insuring your house for this amount.

The replacement cost of any home will likely be different than the purchase price or market value, which reflects market factors including the age, condition, location, and overall desirability - to a buyer - of the home.  A capable insurance agent will calculate the cost to rebuild your home using information you provide about the square footage, features, and construction materials and may also review listing information, county records, and complete an on-site inspection.

After you purchase a home insurance policy the insurance company will typically increase the dwelling coverage each year based on regional increases in construction costs.  While these annual increases are intended to keep pace with building costs over time the results can vary resulting in your home potentially being underinsured (or even over-insured).  For this reason it's a good idea to review the cost to rebuild your home and your insurance coverage at least once every 3 years.

The more common way underinsurance situations happen is when homeowners make additions or improvements to their home and neglect to inform their insurance company.  It's a good idea anytime you're undertaking a sizeable renovation - whether upgrading a kitchen, finishing a basement, or adding other living space - to call your insurance agent.

How do I confirm how much it would cost to rebuild my home?

If you want to get a good idea of the cost to rebuild your home the Building-Cost.net website offers a free, online calculator that doesn't require providing an email or any other contact information, is easy to use, and takes less than 10 minutes to complete.  I tested the calculator with my own home and the results were within 1% of the valuation I calculated using advanced industry  replacement cost software programs.

Your insurance agent should also be able to review and update their replacement cost calculation then furnish you with a copy of their estimate.  You should review any replacement cost estimate to confirm the square footage and features are accurate, especially as some software programs make assumptions about features based on the age, style, and size of a home.

Why is properly insuring your home important?

It's important to make sure your home is properly insured so that, in the event of a total loss, you have adequate funds to rebuild your home using the same type and quality construction materials.  It would be quite distressing to discover, after suffering a catastrophic loss to your home, that your insurance coverage isn't enough to pay the full cost to rebuild!

Furthermore, within the terms and conditions of most home insurance policies there is usually a provision that penalizes you if, at the time of a loss, the amount of insurance is found to be less than 80% of the replacement cost.

Is there anything else I can do to make sure my home doesn't wind up being underinsured?

Yes! When you purchase a home insurance policy you may also be eligible to add Guaranteed Replacement Coverage to your policy.  This optional rider alleviates worry whether your home insurance is keeping pace with construction costs by transferring that burden to the insurance company.

With Guaranteed Replacement Coverage the insurance company agrees, providing the home is initially insured at 100% of the replacement cost, to pay the entire cost to rebuild - even if that cost exceeds the stated limit of coverage.  There is still a maximum payout, typically an additional 25% - 50%, above the stated dwelling coverage.  There is also customarily a provision requiring you notify the insurance company of any changes that increase the replacement cost of your home by more than 5%.

Even with those stipulations Guaranteed Replacement Coverage is a worthwhile option to significantly reduce the possibility of your home being underinsured.

Summer Toys & Insurance | Michigan Auto, Motorcycle, Recreational Vehicle Insurance

posted Jun 8, 2018, 1:14 PM by Jason Grubbs   [ updated Jun 8, 2018, 1:16 PM ]

Summer Toys - Michigan Insurance

With the arrival of the summer season it's an opportune time for a reminder:

If you're pulling toys out of storage for the season make sure they're properly insured

Many insurance companies offer storage options for vehicles that are only used seasonally - whether a summertime cruising vehicle, motorcycle, travel trailer, fifth wheel, or other recreational vehicle.

While a storage option (comprehensive only covering losses that may occur to an item in storage such as fire or theft) provides a way to reduce insurance costs during the offseason it also places a responsibility on you to notify your insurance agent or company to add appropriate coverage for those items to be back on the road when you're ready to take them out of storage.

This is such an easy thing to overlook we recommend placing a sticker on items in storage or with the keys that says:
"Call insurance agent before using!"

Do I need insurance for my boat? | Michigan Boat & Watercraft Insurance

posted May 22, 2018, 1:39 PM by Jason Grubbs   [ updated May 22, 2018, 1:41 PM ]

Grand Rapids Boat & Watercraft Insurance
With summer arriving soon many Michiganders are looking forward to enjoying warm days in and on the water.

Did you know? It's estimated between 35 - 50% of all boats are uninsured.  While the State of Michigan doesn't require you to have boat insurance that doesn't mean it's a good idea to go without this valuable coverage for your boat or personal watercraft.

A lot of people assume it's safe to go without insurance when they have an older boat or watercraft that may have a lower value. The decide insurance isn't worth the cost and bother based on the low value of their boat.
Boat insurance, it's important to note, protects a lot more than just the value of your boat.

What happens if you injure someone?
What if your boat sinks and you need to pay to have wreck removed?
What if you are responsible for a fuel spill?

A boat insurance policy will include liability protection in the event you are responsible for injuries, wreck removal or pollution.

Boat Wreck - Michigan Watercraft Insurance

MCCA Assessment increasing July 1, 2018 | Michigan Auto Insurance

posted Apr 17, 2018, 1:11 PM by Jason Grubbs   [ updated Apr 17, 2018, 2:15 PM ]

Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA)
announced the MCCA assessment for every insured vehicle in Michigan will be
$192.00 per vehicle effective July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019.

This represents an increase of $22.00 compared to the 2017-2018 assessment, a 13% increase.

In the State of Michigan, by state requirement, auto insurance provides unlimited coverage for medical expenses resulting from an auto accident.

In order to fund this level of coverage in 1978 the state legislature created the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association to provide funding for catastrophic claims.

If you suffer an auto-related injury your auto insurance company would be responsible for the first $555,000 of medical expenses covered by your policy.  Once medical expenses for a covered auto claim exceed that threshold amount your insurance company would continue to handle administration of the claim, but any dollars spent for medical benefits in excess of $555,000 would be reimbursed by the MCCA.

The increased MCCA assessment will be reflected on auto policies renewing on or after July 1, 2018.

Roadside Assistance - More than just Towing! | Michigan Auto Insurance

posted Mar 28, 2018, 12:18 PM by Jason Grubbs   [ updated Apr 3, 2018, 11:25 AM ]

Roadside Assistance - Michigan Auto Insurance

When I started in the insurance business, over 25 years ago, towing was an optional coverage on Michigan auto insurance policies that simply reimbursed you, up to a specified dollar amount, if your vehicle required the assistance of a tow truck.

Over the years most insurance companies have enhanced their towing coverage to become Roadside Assistance Programs extending benefits along with offering convenient options to arrange for services with the bill paid directly by the insurance company.

Roadside Assistance typically covers:
Dead Battery
Changing a Tire
Lock Out Service
Emergency Fuel & Fluid Delivery
Minor Mechanical Assistance

The way it works is simple: When you include roadside assistance coverage on your Michigan auto insurance policy the insurance company provides you with an emergency roadside assistance phone number or a Smartphone app to access services available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you ever need roadside assistance you call or use the app and a representative will assist you dispatching a local service provider.  Once service has been completed you simply sign and the bill is taken care of directly by the insurance company - saving you the time and hassle of arranging service directly, paying out of pocket, and waiting to be reimbursed.

If you happen to arrange service on your own you can still submit a receipt for reimbursement of any covered expenses.

Emergency Roadside Assistance Phone Numbers

Fremont Insurance: 1-800-550-0325

Hagerty Insurance: 1-888-445-8103

Progressive Insurance: 1-800-776-2778

Safeco Insurance: 1-877-762-3101

Adding or Removing Young Drivers from your Car Insurance | Michigan Auto Insurance

posted Mar 7, 2018, 8:49 AM by Jason Grubbs   [ updated Mar 7, 2018, 8:50 AM ]

Young Driver - Michigan Auto Insurance
One of the areas of Michigan auto insurance where I most frequently encounter misinformation and mistakes is insuring young drivers.

As a starting point, let's address when a new teenage driver should be added to your auto insurance policy:
Whenever a teenager is preparing to begin driving you should always inform your insurance agent and confirm when the driver needs to be officially added to your policy.
Underwriting rules vary between insurance companies: Some insurers require new drivers be added to your policy as soon as they obtain a permit and begin driving while other insurers will automatically extend coverage while a teen is training and will only require they be added to your policy once they have obtained their Level 2 Michigan Graduated License.

When you add a newly licensed driver the insurance company will need to know:
  • The driver's full name, date of birth, and drivers' license number
  • What vehicle they will be driving
  • Whether they qualify for a good student discount
When to add a newly licensed driver is relatively easy; what proves more confusing is when to remove a young driver from an auto policy.  The two most common mistakes being:
  1. Prematurely removing a driver from a car insurance policy
  2. Keeping a driver on an auto policy who is no longer eligible for coverage
The first mistake results from misidentifying when a young driver is no longer a household member.  As long as the family's address is a young driver's legal residence they need to be listed on the family auto insurance policy.

There may be scenarios when the rate for a young driver may be discounted (away at school without a vehicle), when they may not be rated (have their own vehicle and insurance), or when they may be excluded from the family policy (typically reserved for poor driving record situations), however as long as a young driver remains a member of the household they need to be accounted for as they remain a potential risk for a claim.

For this reason you'll often find when you request a young driver be removed from your auto policy the insurance company may request information about the driver's new address and/or insurance.  The insurance company isn't being nosy; they are simply protecting themselves as it isn't uncommon for people, whether mistakenly or intentionally, to try to remove a young driver from an auto policy who still needs to be insured.

The second mistake is the most problematic: Keeping a young driver, who is no longer eligible, on an auto policy.

The reality is when a young driver moves out of their parent's home they are usually faced with higher insurance costs - they are likely to lose multi-car, multi-policy, and good credit score discounts they benefited from while on their parents policy.

Faced with this situation many people mistakenly act as though their auto insurance policy is similar to a shared family cell phone plan or Amazon Prime membership and leave the young driver on their policy and neglect to inform their insurance agent the young driver has moved out of the family home.

This is a potentially dangerous insurance mistake.

Every Michigan auto insurance policy includes definitions, terms, and conditions (that most people don't bother to read).  Within this fine print the insurance company clearly defines who they are insuring and, almost universally, that definition includes verbiage specifying covered family members must reside in the same household.

If a significant loss occurs, such as a totaled vehicle or serious injury accident, you can be assured the insurance company will carefully review all details pertaining to any claim.  If the driver involved was no longer a member of the household - whether they have a different address on their driver's license, rent or own a separate residence, changed titling for a car, and/or have gotten married - the insurance company is likely to deny coverage.  In the event of a significant loss a denied claim could amount to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The important takeaway being whenever you're faced with a changing situation involving drivers in your household you should always call your insurance agent, inform them, and make certain your insurance is properly updated.

What does Comprehensive Car Insurance cover? | Michigan Auto Insurance

posted Feb 20, 2018, 9:01 AM by Jason Grubbs   [ updated Feb 20, 2018, 9:02 AM ]

When people say they either want or are required to carry "full coverage" on their Michigan auto insurance policy they are referring to insuring their car for physical damage.

Physical damage is optional car insurance and is comprised of two coverage options: Comprehensive & Collision.
These two types of coverage are commonly confused - both insure your car, but cover different types of damage.

Comprehensive coverage, sometimes referred to as "Other Than Collision", insures your vehicle for damages other than a collision with another car or object.
Michigan Auto Insurance Graphic

Comprehensive coverage includes:

  • Theft
  • Fire
  • Vandalism
  • Weather-related damage (hail, wind, flooding)
  • Falling objects
  • Hitting a deer or other animal
  • Glass breakage

How much Water Backup Coverage do I need? | Michigan Home, Condo Insurance

posted Feb 14, 2018, 1:00 PM by Jason Grubbs   [ updated Feb 14, 2018, 1:02 PM ]

Water Backup - Michigan Home, Condo Insurance
Did you know?

Damages resulting from water backing up through a sump pump, sewer, or drain are not covered by a typical Michigan home or condo insurance policy.

Insurance companies offer water backup coverage, but it's an optional coverage you add on to your policy - either as a standalone rider or, in some instances, a limited amount of coverage may be included as part of a package of additional coverage benefits.

While coverage isn't automatically included water backups are one of the most common types of losses that Michigan home and condo owners experience.

One of the reasons Michigan homeowners frequently suffer water backup losses is many home and condos have basements below ground level that are more likely to experience this type of damage.  These homes often rely on sump pumps to divert water runoff, whether from heavy rains or snowmelt, away from the house.

The problem is things can, and often do, go wrong - the volume of water can overwhelm the system, a power outage or mechanical failure can result in a pump failing, blockages when a service line is clogged or frozen - any number of situations can result in water backing up into a home potentially causing thousands of dollars of damages.

Recognizing the frequency of these types of losses many insurance agents include a level of water backup coverage whenever they're quoting or writing a home or condo insurance policy.  At our agency, unless a home or condo owner specifies otherwise, we include at least $5,000 of water backup coverage with every policy.

The dilemma is even $5,000 may not be enough for many homeowners.  A water backup that results in even a few inches of standing water in a finished room or basement can add up to significant expenses between the cost of removing the water, cleaning up, and repairing or replacing damaged flooring, walls, appliances, furnishings, and personal belongings.

The cost to add or increase water backup coverage is modest - $5,000 of coverage will cost about $60 annually with the cost per thousand dollars of coverage decreasing at higher coverage limits.

If a water backup in your home or condo could cause significant damage you would be well advised to confirm your current coverage and make any adjustments needed to adequately protect your home.

Conveniently request a quote online
Click below to get started

What is Uninsured & Underinsured Liability coverage? | Michigan Auto Insurance

posted Feb 6, 2018, 1:43 PM by Jason Grubbs   [ updated Feb 6, 2018, 1:45 PM ]

Michigan Auto Insurance Policy
Within every Michigan auto insurance policy there is a portion of the policy that responds if you, as either the driver or owner of a vehicle, are responsible for injuring someone else.  This is known as Bodily Injury Liability coverage.

This part of auto insurance is pretty widely understood: It's a significant portion of the state-mandated coverage required for every vehicle in order to be legal to operate on Michigan roadways.

What can be a little confusing to most folks are two separate, but related coverage options commonly included with Michigan auto insurance policy: Uninsured & Underinsured Motorist Liability coverage.  On the declarations pages (the pages summarizing an individual's auto policy) these coverage options may be displayed as "uninsured/underinsured" or even simply UM/UIM.

While Bodily Injury Liability protects you in the event you are legally responsible for injuries to someone else, Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Liability protects you if you are injured and the at-fault party either doesn't have any auto insurance whatsoever or has an auto policy, but doesn't have sufficient coverage to pay for your damages.

An example may help illustrate both possible situations:

A driver is texting, runs a red light, and crashes into your vehicle causing you to suffer serious injuries.  Based on the extent of your injuries you may be legally entitled to recover damages from that driver.

Now, imagine the driver that hit you had no insurance (according to a recent WZZM13 report 1 in 5 Michigan drivers are uninsured).  The likelihood is an uninsured driver also wouldn't have sufficient cash or assets to pay for your damages.  You would still be able to collect from your own auto insurance policy (up to your coverage limit) under Uninsured Motorist Liability coverage.

In that same scenario, let's imagine the driver who hit you had insurance, but the limit of their coverage wasn't enough to pay for your damages (the most common Bodily Injury Liability coverage limit I encounter when reviewing prospective client's insurance policies is a woefully inadequate $100,000 per person).  The damages you are legally entitled to recover may be considerably more than the at-fault driver's insurance coverage - you would be able to collect the difference from your own insurance policy (again, up to your coverage limit) under the Underinsured Motorist Liability coverage.

One tremendous advantage of Uninsured & Underinsured Motorist Liability coverage is a judgment against the at-fault party is not required to establish the level of your damages and collect from your auto insurance policy.  Your insurance company will work with you to determine the extent of your damages and can then, in turn, pursue the other driver to get paid back (known as subrogation).

Did you know?
We offer convenient, online auto insurance quotes

Does my auto insurance cover damage caused by potholes? | Michigan Auto Insurance

posted Jan 11, 2018, 8:56 AM by Jason Grubbs   [ updated Jan 11, 2018, 10:53 AM ]

Auto Insurance - Pothole Damage
The freezing and thawing cycle of Michigan winters are notorious for leaving roadways throughout the area ravaged by potholes.  These potholes are often the culprit for vehicle damages including tires, rims, suspension - in some instances even damages to the body of your car.

A question that naturally arises when a motorist suffers the misfortune of striking a pothole or other debris in the roadway is whether their Michigan auto insurance policy covers this type of damage.

The good news is hitting a pothole or other debris in the roadway would be covered providing your auto policy includes collision coverage the vehicle involved.

The bad news, according to his MLive article, is the majority of insurance companies consider these types of incidents at-fault accidents.  This means your collision deductible would apply and filing a claim would affect your future rates and, potentially, your eligibility for insurance.  Depending on the extent of damages it may not be in your best interest to turn in a claim in this situation.

Insurance companies that consider hitting a pothole or other debris in a roadway an at-fault accident reason a person driving safely and maintaining proper distance between vehicles should be able to see and avoid road hazards.

In my opinion, that reasoning is flawed: A person can be driving perfectly safely and still encounter a pothole or other hazard in the roadway that they are unable to avoid.  In some instances a pothole filled with snow or water may not even be visibly discernible as a hazard before a driver encounters it.

Fortunately, some insurance companies differentiate themselves by providing a more common sense interpretation for these types of occurrences.  Our premier company, Fremont Insurance, states: "We hold to the principle that if an insured strikes an object in the roadway that they wouldn't reasonably expect to be in the road (excluding animals)* it is considered a not-at-fault collision loss."

If you've received a disheartening response to a potential claim inquiry from your insurance company it may be worthwhile to reconsider whether your insurance policy is providing the best value for your premium dollars.

* Striking an animal in a roadway would be covered under the comprehensive coverage portion of an auto policy.

1-10 of 77