The Esurance Guide to Taking a Road Trip

 

The windows are down, the sunglasses are on, and the stereo’s playing just the right song. With spring break fast approaching, you’re probably feeling the urge for some good old-fashioned road adventures.

Whether you’re a seasoned road warrior or more of a long-distance dreamer, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to help you celebrate spring break with the greatest road trip ever.

Plotting the journey

On the road, robots are your friends. Once you’ve decided how many days you want your trip to last, there are excellent, free route planners online. Google Maps and navigation apps will help you plot your points of interest.

Getting lost has its own kind of romantic charm, but it’s the kind some drivers can do without. GPS navigation systems are more affordable now than ever before, and are invaluable on unfamiliar roads. An updated GPS will give you the freshest maps so that you can choose between scenic drives and highways. And as glorious as technologies are, don’t underestimate the value of packing an old-school road atlas.

While planning is wise, do it loosely. Understand that traffic happens, tires flatten, and turns are missed. Leaving plenty of time between destinations to explore new places and visit campy roadside attractions will help you embrace the journey rather than focus on the destination. As Lao Tsu once said, “A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”

Paying your way

Road trippers of yore enjoyed lower gas prices and fewer tolls. Road trips can be an economical alternative to other kinds of vacations, but the costs of driving long distances today can really start to add up. The route planners we mentioned earlier will note any tolls, and AAA has an easy fuel cost calculator that helps budget gas costs based on your particular car and driving route.

You can hash out the expenses with your passengers in advance to avoid potentially awkward situations during your trip. If you’re renting a car or Winnebago, or bunking together in hotels, factor in those costs as well.

Fueling up

Finding the least expensive gas is easier for modern commanders of the highway. Sites like Gasbuddy.com and fuel-finder apps will show you gas prices based on your location.

If your tank is full and your tummy isn’t, you’re going to have a problem. Instead of rest stops and fast food joints, try the cuisine that’s unique to where you are. What you eat is key to your cruising comfort, and it fuels the stories you’ll share about the trip later.

Fellow travelers

Next to the driver, the most important post on this voyage is the navigator. This shotgun-riding passenger has the best seat in the house, with the second-highest degree of responsibility. Anyone vying for this position should be willing to accept full control of route directing, GPS setting, phone answering, drink opening, button pressing, music managing, and anything else that eliminates driver distraction.

Remember, your fellow travelers are what will make or break a legendary road trip. You’re about to spend a lot of time in very close quarters together, so be sure the chemistry’s right.

Entertainment

Long car rides have long periods of down time, so keep the good times rolling with some music and car games.

You’ll want to spend some time building up the soundtrack to your ride and inviting your travel buddies to do the same. To get you started, we’ve compiled a driving playlist based on our fans’ and associates’ favorite driving ditties. Build off this list and add in a few comedy albums or audiobooks to keep everyone in high spirits:

  • Allman Brothers – Ramblin’ Man
  • Metallica – Turn the Page
  • Audioslave – I Am the Highway
  • Eve 6 – Open Road Song
  • Ray Charles – Hit the Road, Jack!
  • Willie Nelson – On the Road Again
  • Tom Petty – Free Fallin’
  • Charlie Ryan – Hot Rod Lincoln
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers – Road Trippin’
  • Ella Fitzgerald – One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)
  • Incubus – Drive
  • Bowling for Soup – I Gotchoo
  • AC/DC – Highway to Hell
  • Sammy Hagar – I Can’t Drive 55
  • Steppenwolf – Born to be Wild
  • Tom Cochrane – Life is a Highway
  • Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run
  • Black Crowes – Soul Singing
  • Fastball – The Way
  • A Tribe Called Quest – I Left My Wallet in El Segundo
  • Mike Doughty – American Car
  • Talking Heads – Road to Nowhere
  • Beatles – The Long and Winding Road
  • Tony Bennett – The Rules of the Road
  • Prince – Little Red Corvette

Emergency preparation

You’ll learn quickly that anything can happen on the open road. Before piling into the car, it’s wise to have a fresh oil change and car checkup done. When unavoidable surprises pop up, knowing how to change a tire or jump start a car can quickly make you a hero. Pack a well-stocked emergency kit complete with phone chargers and water, and have your roadside assistance and car and health insurance information easily accessible.

You’re ready to roll! Now we want to hear from you.

This guide can get your road trip started, but the specifics are entirely up to you. We’d love to hear about the awesomeness of your trip! Share your stories with us as well as your road trip nuggets of wisdom on our Facebook wall or on Twitter.

Happy road tripping!

Related links

Tips for getting better gas mileage on your next road trip
Our top 5 road trip reading picks

How to Get Safety Discounts on Car Insurance

For those of us who can remember standing on the front seat of a Buick Special while mom drove to the market, or cruising around in a Plymouth convertible with no seat belts, modern safety equipment may seem a touch extreme. But with roughly 246 million cars on the road these days (and distracted driving on the rise), it’s clear that a lackadaisical approach to vehicle safety will no longer do. These days, stock safety devices are becoming increasingly common, and in many states, they can also earn drivers discounts on car insurance.

And as cars become more futuristic, more and more car manufacturers are pushing the envelope on safety features. Older items — like seat belts and airbags — are now standard on new cars, and newer, stronger features are constantly being tested.

Safety device discounts on car insurance

Stock safety devices are becoming increasingly common, and in many states, they can also earn drivers discounts on car insurance. Many car insurance companies — Esurance included — offer built-in discounts if your vehicle features automatic seat belts, airbags, and similar safety equipment. And if you’ve added safety features to your car, you may be able to select more safety equipment-related discounts.

Some good examples of safety equipment include:

  • Seat belts — It’s hard to believe that the first mandatory seat belt law in the nation passed in New York just 27 years ago. Nowadays, seat belts are an absolute minimum when it comes to safety, and not wearing one could cost you a chunk of change if you’re pulled over.
  • Airbags — While airbags started to become more commonplace in the late 1980s, driver and passenger airbags have only been mandatory since 1998 (or 1999 for trucks).
  • Head restraints — It may seem like a no-brainer these days, but remember when mom could reach over the seat and wipe your nose? Quality head restraints can prevent whiplash, and are mostly standard in modern cars.

Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) discount

Like seat belts and head restraints, it’s easy to take anti-lock brakes for granted. And though they’ve been on the scene since 1978, they’re still not standard on all vehicles. They’re often available as an optional extra, however, and could be worth the investment.

Anti-Theft discount

You might also qualify for discounts on your car insurance if your car’s equipped with an anti-theft device like LoJack®, Teletrac, or OnStar.

To find out if you have certain devices or features, check your user’s manual, or contact a nearby dealer.

Discounts by state

Please note (and this is important): All car insurance discounts vary by state. Visit our discount page to find out which discounts Esurance offers in your hometown, or check with your insurer to see what they have available.

Additional resources

How to differentiate anti-theft systems
More info on Esurance discounts
State-specific insurance info

How to Find a Reputable Repair Shop

Our partners at CARSTAR offer high-quality, reliable repair service in 30 states and 10 Canadian provinces. We asked them if they could provide some insider insight into what makes a great repair shop, and they gave us the following 5 tips for finding a reputable repair facility.

Spare yourself a headache

“It’s all about doing your research, making sure they are well-trained, certified and financially solid, and confirming all of the details of the repair process in writing,” says Dan Bailey, president and COO of CARSTAR. “Just doing some homework in advance can save a lot of headaches and money in the long run.”

Ask your insurance company for advice

If you skip tip 1, go directly to your insurance company. Esurance, for example, offers an E-star® locator that makes it easy to find an approved facility in your neck of the woods. Choosing a shop that your insurer recommends gives them leverage to assist you should an issue arise during the process or after the repairs are complete. In the case of E-star shops, it also means a lifetime guarantee on your repairs.

Choose an established shop

Always beware of fly-by-night operators trying to make a quick buck off of weather events like hail storms or tornadoes. If a shop’s set up in a tent or temporary location, don’t trust it with your vehicle. Make sure their technicians are I-CAR trained and find out if the shop belongs to any business or trade associations.

See for yourself

Visit the body shop and survey the location. If the lobby, customer areas, and repair bays are clean and well-organized, it’s more likely the business is well run. We also recommend you talk with the staff — it doesn’t take long to determine if they will treat you with respect and honesty.

Get it in writing

Once you feel comfortable with a repair shop, be sure to get the following in writing before repairs begin:

  • A detailed description of the parts to be replaced and whether they are OEM, new or refurbished, and in what condition the car will be returned to you.
  • An exact timeline of when the work will be done and the job completed (Keep in mind, that if additional damage is found, the completion date could change.)
  • Detailed payment terms and methods, including down payment, final payment, and costs for any follow-up work.
  • The terms of the warranty. Reputable repair facilities will offer a warranty of some sort for the work they complete. Make sure the terms are clearly explained and set down on paper.

It’s also a good idea to ask the store manager for regular updates on the job, and require approval for any work done outside the original estimate. (With RepairView™ from Esurance, you’ll receive daily photos, online or on your smartphone, of your repairs in progress.)

“Taking your car to a body shop doesn’t have to be an intimidating or frightening process,” Bailey said. “A good auto body repair center is your partner in repairing your car and returning you to the road safely. You want to make sure you do your research to find a partner that truly fits your repair needs.”

For information on CARSTAR Auto Body Repair Experts and store locations visit www.CARSTAR.com.

Help Japan: Earthquake and Tsunami Relief

Japan’s massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami have claimed countless lives and forced millions to manage without food, water, or heat in near-freezing temperatures. Hundreds of aftershocks have hit the country, followed by more tsunamis. Now the Japanese face the added threat of radiation exposure from the severely damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.

Though we may be on the other side of the world, most of us still feel the effects of this tragedy. Whether you’ve been directly or indirectly affected, here are a few useful resources for coping with the stress.

  • For those with family or friends in Japan, ICRC Family Links Network and Google’s Person Finder can help locate missing loved ones.
  • For parents with children who have heightened feelings of concern and fear around the events, FEMA offers tips on Helping Children Cope with Disaster.
  • Even if you’re not directly affected by the disaster, it’s not uncommon to experience stress and anxiety, and HealthCentral offers these suggestions for taking care of yourself.

According to the Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI), if you’d like to help the rescue and relief efforts, it’s better to donate rather than volunteer. Consider having a bake sale or yard sale to collect donations, and if you have children, plan something they can participate in as well. Before you donate, check with your employer to see if they have a matching gift program, which can multiply the impact of your dollars.

Below is a partial list of reputable organizations that are helping the relief effort in the wake of the Japan earthquake.

Save the Children: Emergency Relief for Japan Quake
Toll free: 800-728-3843
Text JAPAN or 20222 to donate

The American Red Cross: Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Relief
To help Japan, text REDCROSS or 90999 to make $10 donation

Salvation Army
Toll free: 800-SAL-ARMY
Text QUAKE or 80888 to donate $10

International Medical Corps
Text MED or 80888 to donate $10

Global Giving
Text JAPAN or 50555 to donate $10

World Vision
Toll free: 888-56-CHILD
Text 4JAPAN to 20222 to donate $10

Car Insurance So Green the Leprechauns Can’t See Us

Since the mid-18th century, it’s been an odd American tradition to pinch anyone not wearing green on St. Patty’s Day. Presumably, this stems from the old Irish belief that leprechauns, who pinch anyone they can see, can’t actually see you if you’re wearing green. So in theory, we pinch to warn and remind each other about the leprechauns (but more likely we do it because it’s fun).

Here at Esurance, however, we always have our green on — so to speak — and not just to avoid a little pinch either. As a green car insurance company, we’ve been committed to conscientious business practices from the get-go. And more than a decade later, we’re still at it.

What does it mean to be a green car insurance company? To us, it means offsetting electricity use in our offices, using hybrid claims vehicles, forming eco sponsorships, planting trees, printing double-sided, implementing office recycling programs, and much more. In celebration of dear ol’ St. Patrick, we thought we’d share a few of our green “stripes.”

Tree plantings (well, duh)

In 2005, we began planting trees in and around our associates’ communities to compensate for the paper that’s inevitably used in day-to-day office life. Since then, we’ve partnered with numerous green orgs to plant more than 92,000.

In addition to all their other cool benefits, trees can be a plus from a business perspective as well. Recent studies indicate that trees enhance traffic safety by making a street look narrower, which helps to slow drivers down. Reduced speed, especially in residential areas, means fewer accidents. And that means better auto insurance rates for our customers.

So why not plant a whole bunch?

Green repair shops

All of our E-star-affiliated auto repair facilities are EPA/OSHA certified. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have long maintained strict pollution-prevention and worker-safety regulations for auto repair shops.

Tons of carbon offsets (literally)

We work with NativeEnergy to offset 100 percent of the electricity used in our offices as well as the carbon emissions from our fleet of hybrids. We currently do this as a supporter of the Laurelbrook Farm Compost Project. Our support of this family-owned Connecticut farm helps provide vital funding for more efficient and reliable separation technology that will avoid methane production. This project is estimated to prevent more than 15,000 tons of greenhouse gas pollution over the next 10 years.

Save a Windshield, Plant a Tree

In 2009, in a partnership with HSG, we launched the Save a Windshield, Plant a Tree program to plant one tree for every windshield claim that results in repair instead of replacement.

Not only does this help keep old windshields (25 lbs each) out of landfills, it also saves energy: Producing one ton of glass requires 15.2 million BTUs. So far more than 12,546 customers have opted to have their windshields repaired instead of replaced and consequently have (or will soon have) a tree planted in their name.

Through these initiatives and many more, we’re working daily to be a green car insurance company. So if you’re an Esurance customer and forgot to wear green today, don’t sweat it…tell any would-be pinchers you’ve got green car insurance. And if you’re not an Esurance customer (and not a leprechaun), get a free, online, totally green car insurance quote.

And no matter where you are, have a Happy St. Patty’s Day!

Additional resources

Learn more about our green partners
Check out our recent green events