Boat Insurance: Like Sunscreen for Your Boat

Q: What’s the most common boat insurance claim?

A: Hitting a submerged object while cruising.

While nothing beats being out on the water with the sun and a sack full of sandwiches, it’s important to make sure your boat is covered should something unexpected happen. In fact, the second most common boat insurance claim is having your boat stolen while anchored, which goes to show that you can never be too careful.

Q: What’s the third most common boat insurance claim?

A: A collision with another boat while driving.

Clearly, it’s important to think about stuff like boat insurance before you load up the cooler, grab the towels, and set sail. But if you’re like most people, you think about insurance as little as possible, so you may have a question or 2.

We can help. Like a life raft on a sea of complex terms and phrases, Esurance answers your insurance questions in simple, easy-to-understand language. As insurance experts, we’ve compiled everything you might possibly need to know about boat insurance and set it afloat here in our boat insurance FAQs.

So take a look and make sure your boat insurance is ship-shape before you head out on the water. Oh, and don’t forget the sunscreen.

Related links

Get a boat insurance quote
The Love Boat, Season 1

3 Hot Tips for Keeping Your Car Cool

If you’ve ever had to park in the sun on a scorching summer afternoon, you’ve probably also dreaded getting back inside the hellishly hot vehicle. Keeping your car cool in the middle of August is never easy, but we’ve got some tips to help.

Research shows that a car’s interior temperature rises about 19º Fahrenheit in just 10 minutes. After an hour or 2, the interior can be 40º to 50º hotter(!) than the outside temperature. So if you’re parked in 100-degree heat, your car’s interior could reach 150º in just an hour, and the dashboard and seats could be as hot as an oven on low (about 200º, enough to bake cookies).

Why do car interiors get so hot?

Sunlight enters your car through its windows in the form of short-wave energy and is absorbed by the interior. The interior then radiates this energy back in the form of long-wave infrared radiation. And while sunlight can easily pass through glass, infrared light cannot escape through the windows. The trapped energy (heat) then causes your car’s interior temperature to rise. Thus, a parked car offers a great example of the greenhouse effect at work.

The science behind this proves the common-sense theory that shade — any kind of shade — is your best bet for keeping your car cool in the summer.

  • Park in the shade. Obvious, yes, but it works. By limiting the amount of direct sunlight your car gets, you’ll minimize the heat buildup inside. Plus, you’ll save your car’s interior from sun and heat damage.
  • Get shades for your car. Car shades will work in a pinch to keep your car cooler when you can’t find an inch of shade. According to a study by the Florida Energy Center, conventional car shades can reduce the interior temperature of a vehicle by 15º and the dashboard temp by 40º. And radiant barrier system car shades — the foil-faced, reflective kind — can cool your car even more because they actually reflect the sun’s heat instead of absorbing it.
  • Tint your windows. Because window tints either absorb or reflect UV light, they help keep your car cool (and your interior from fading). Just keep in mind that the laws regarding window tinting vary by state. Check with your local DMV before tinting your windows to make sure you’re complying with local safety laws.

Aside from these basic tricks, there aren’t any surefire high-tech ways to keep your car’s interior from baking. Aftermarket solar-powered fans and vents are available, but their effectiveness is hotly debated.

And, contrary to popular belief, research shows that “cracking” the windows does little to cool your car’s interior. Your car’s interior and exterior colors do the most to determine its interior temp.

Another cool tip for summer

At Esurance, we love helping you find ways to save. Before you hit the road this summer, make sure you’re equipped with Fuelcaster — the gas price predictor™. This website predicts whether gas prices are expected to rise or fall tomorrow. That way, you can decide if it’s better to fill up today or wait. If you need gas pronto, it can also help you navigate to the closest gas stations with the cheapest gas.

Do you have any other cool tips for summer? Share them in the comments below.

Related links

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Warning: Summer Is Car Theft Season

Gap Insurance Demystified

When it comes to buying a car, you have myriad options, from moon roofs to floor mats and everything in between. And your options don’t end on the showroom floor either. Once you’ve selected the perfect color, interior, and extras, you’ll have financing and warranty options to consider. And if that’s not enough to set your brain reeling, you’ll also have a choice on your gap insurance coverage.

Gap coverage? Though this type of insurance coverage could have a very big impact on your future finances, you may not know much about it. Not to worry. Though we can’t help you decide between cup holders and custom rims, we can help you to fully understand gap insurance.

The gist of gap insurance

Due to depreciation, you may owe more on your car than it’s worth, which we in the insurance world call being “upside down.” And it’s not a good place to be.

If you total your car or it’s stolen, your insurance company will pay you its current market value (which we call its actual cash value); let’s say $20,000 for example. Unfortunately, if you still owe $25,000 on the car and have a $500 deductible on comprehensive and collision coverage, that payout leaves $5,500 unaccounted for. Well, not unaccounted for, because it’s going to have to come out of your pocket.

Unless you have gap coverage. Never heard of it? No worries: You can learn everything you need to know about gap insurance (and auto loan/lease coverage) in our insight,
Gap insurance: what it is and why you (might) need it.

Are Electric Cars Safe?

Way back in 1977, Dr. William Haddon, the first president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), dreamed the future of electric cars.

“The promise must be that the socially responsible vehicle of tomorrow — whether powered by electricity, hybrid systems, conventional internal combustion engines, or diesel motors — will meet or exceed not only energy conservation and air pollution standards applicable to all vehicles in its class, but pre-crash, crash, and post-crash safety standards applicable to all such vehicles as well,” he said.

It took 22 years for the U.S. to see one half of that dream fulfilled: Honda released the nation’s first mass-produced gasoline-electric hybrid in 1999. The Honda Insight achieved record-breaking fuel economy (70 mpg highway!) and extremely low emissions. And, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it performed fairly well in terms of safety, earning 4 out of 5 stars for driver and front passenger safety.

But IIHS safety standards have grown far more stringent these days, demanding an even higher level of crashworthiness — including improved requirements for rear crashworthiness, rollover resistance, and a requirement for electronic stability control (ESC) — to garner their coveted Top Safety Picks listing.

Thankfully, hybrid and electric car manufacturers have delivered, thus fulfilling the other half of Dr. Haddon’s dream.

While today’s revamped Insights didn’t make the Top Safety Picks for 2011, 7 hybrids — plus the electric Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF — did.

The fuel-efficiency debate

Auto manufacturers, fuel efficiency experts, and safety gurus have long been engaged in a 3-way debate about the right way to make cars more fuel efficient. For a time the argument centered on a single solution: Make cars smaller and lighter. However, as safety experts pointed out, smaller and lighter cars are generally less safe than their bigger, heavier counterparts. (It’s just Newton’s laws of motion at work.)

Congress inadvertently sparked the debate in 1975 with the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program. Driven by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ (OPEC) oil embargo, Congress sought to lessen our dependence on foreign oil (and, as a bonus, improve air quality) by demanding increased fuel efficiency from U.S. automakers.

Automakers responded by creating smaller, lighter vehicles, which improved fuel efficiency by enabling the engine to do less work — and by using sales of these smaller cars to offset their gas-guzzling fellows.

The impact on safety proved staggering. According to a joint study by Harvard University and the Brookings Institution, this downsizing of vehicles contributed to a 14- to 27-percent increase in fatality risk to passengers.

Two years after Congress initiated the CAFE program, Dr. Haddon issued his call for vehicles that solved the fuel efficiency problem while maintaining safety standards — and now, in 2011, we’re finally seeing his call answered.

Vehicle safety, now electric

The Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt debuted in 2011. And aside from offering fantastically green ways to get around, they also offer outstanding safety.

So what makes the new breed of plug-in electrics so safe? Well, 3 things really.

First, carmakers have really refined vehicle designs in recent years, learning new and better ways to account for the dynamics of crashes. Now certain areas of cars crumple like aluminum cans to channel impact energy around and away from passengers, limiting the intrusion of parts into the passenger cabin. EVs benefit from these design innovations just like any other model.

Second, these green cars also have the whole panoply of familiar safety features, from electronic stability control to antilock brakes, advanced air bag systems to good-ole-fashioned seat belts.

Finally, the very equipment required to keep these electric cars going adds a final boost to their safety: weight. Though they’re both classed as small cars, the batteries they pack add significant pounds, bringing their total weight closer to that of mid-sized and even larger models. Those extra pounds give them a serious safety advantage over other small cars.

And as the cherry on top of the safety cake, as EVs and hybrids become safer and safer to drive, they also become more and more affordable to insure. Just a few years ago, it proved challenging to insure a hybrid or electric car at all, but today many insurance companies, yours truly included, offer increasingly competitive rates on EV insurance and hybrid insurance.

So if you’re looking for a safe car that comes in shades of green — the money-saving and eco-friendly kind, that is — you now have electric choices. And there’s reason to expect even more, as the IIHS will soon begin tests of more electric roadsters, including the Wheego LiFe 2-seater and Mitsubishi i-MiEV minicar.

Already have an electric car?

Get an insurance quote for your Volt or LEAF

The Greenest Gas-Powered Cars

Since the Honda Insight debuted in 1999 as the first hybrid vehicle sold in America, cars have zoomed forward in terms of eco-friendliness and fuel efficiency. Today, drivers have an entire fleet of green car choices ranging from biofuels and EVs to hybrids and gas-sipping vehicles.

Though hybrids and EVs offer superb gas mileage and little-to-no emissions, they tend to cost more to buy and insure. For instance, the Chevrolet Volt costs a cool $40,280 while the Hyundai Sonata hybrid costs $25,795 (its non-hybrid counterpart costs $19,395).

For those of us who are budget- and eco-conscious, conventional cars may provide the most attractive options. But where to begin?

To help you figure it all out, here are 3 tips on how to choose the greenest gas-powered cars.

Check the stats

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Green Vehicle Guide makes it easy to measure the eco factor of the model you have in mind. Using their online guide, you can check out its emissions (air pollution and greenhouse gases) and fuel-efficiencies of most vehicles from the last 11 years. And you can compare up to 3 vehicles side by side.

Considering a car that’s more than a decade old? You can check out the emissions data through the EPA’s Certified Test Result Report and find its fuel economy on fueleconomy.gov.

Look for green car manufacturing practices

While fuel-economy and emissions are 2 key factors in determining greenness, how a car is made influences its eco-friendliness as well. No one expects you to trace the origin of the car you have in mind back to its manufacturing plant (honest), but if you’re buying a brand new car, it never hurts to ask. In case you’re curious, GM, Subaru, and Ford have all implemented green manufacturing measures.

Once you’re ready to close the deal, check to see if the car you want uses any eco-friendly materials like soy-foam seats, hemp-based products, or parts made from recycled goods.

Think safety

Of course, no matter how green a vehicle might be, if it isn’t crashworthy, it probably isn’t your best bet. So check out the car’s crash test rating and its safety features before you buy. Check back next week for our post on the safest electric cars.

Related resources

Learn why hybrids cost more to insure
Check out Kelley Blue Book’s greenest cars of 2011
See the first-ever Green Car Olympics
Our list of Top 10 Green Cars