5 Smart Places to Invest Your Tax Refund

They say “April showers bring May flowers,” but April also brings another dark cloud with it: tax season. Regardless of whether you owe money or expect a refund, there’s something innately stressful about the American tax season. (Fatal car accidents increase by 6 percent on tax day — is it stress? distraction? speeding to the post office at the eleventh hour? — researchers aren’t sure.)

Of course, for those who do get money back from Uncle Sam, the stress at least comes with a payout. But you still have to figure out what to do with that refund.

Since we’re not financial experts (car insurance is more our thing), we can’t offer any professional advice on what you should do with your refund. We can, however, give you a few worthwhile ideas to think about.

How Americans spend their tax refunds

The average tax refund is $3,000. Not too shabby. And with unemployment rates still high, many will welcome a little relief. In fact, in a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, over 80 percent of respondents reported they planned to use their tax return to pay down debt or put the money into savings — both excellent ideas.

Of course, a little splurge, if you can afford it, is nice too (nearly 12 percent of respondents claimed a vacation was in their future). But before you book your tickets to Hawaii, here are a few other ideas that will last longer than a tan (and won’t leave you burned).

1. Up your car insurance coverages

Car insurance company or not, we can’t help but espouse the value of having more coverage (especially considering the increase in car accidents on tax day). It does have value. Take uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, for example. Even though it’s usually required that drivers have car insurance, about one in 7 don’t. That could mean heavy costs for you, even if the accident isn’t your fault — totally uncool. What is cool? Being covered. And uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage will do just that.

Esurance has an online Coverage Counselor® tool to help you find the right levels of car insurance to fit your needs (and budget).

And since you’ll likely have refund money left over (upping your coverages generally doesn’t cost that much), consider paying your entire car insurance premium up front — Esurance offers a discount in most states if you do.

2. Invest in life insurance

Life insurance — even more than most forms of insurance — offers protection we hope you never need to use (at least not for a good long time). But the peace of mind is well worth the cost (which is generally minimal). What better way to protect your family than by providing them with the means to cover funeral expenses, future education, mortgage payments, and bills? And the earlier you buy life insurance, the lower your rates will be over time. So this year, consider investing just a little of your tax return into making sure your loved ones are covered.

3. Get renters insurance

Have you ever estimated how much all your stuff is worth? Go ahead. Start adding. Yep, it’s a lot. Now, ever thought about how you’d replace all that stuff if something were to happen to your place — like burglary, flood, or an uninvited visit from Mötley Crüe circa 1986? Is your brain reeling? Don’t worry. There’s a simple solution: renters insurance.

Renters insurance covers the stuff both in and out of your home (like a stolen bike or items taken from your car). It can even cover identity theft and living expenses if something happens to your place. Best of all, it doesn’t cost very much — on average, under a dollar a day. Meaning you’ll still have plenty of refund left to spend on that 52-inch plasma TV, which will, in turn, be covered by your brand-new renters insurance. See how that works?!

4. Get a tune-up

Sometimes you have to spend money to save money. If you haven’t taken your car in for a tune-up in a while, it might be a worthwhile investment for your tax refund. Think of it as a preventive checkup for your car. Keep it healthy now to avoid bigger issues down the road. Plus, a little upkeep — like aligning your tires, replacing worn brakes, and changing your oil regularly — can help you save money on gas.

5. Buy a fuel-efficient car

If you’ve been thinking about trading in that old clunker for a shiny new sumpin’ sumpin’, make sure it’s shiny, new, and fuel efficient. You’ll save money on gas (no small feat with today’s gas prices) and help the environment. Granted, most tax refunds won’t cover a whole car, but they might make a nice down payment, which could lower your monthly payments.

Whatever you decide to do with your refund, the most important thing is that it works for you. Just don’t hide it in your mattress — that’ll make it lumpy.

Related link

8 tips for donating your car (and getting a tax deduction)

Time to Insure Your Recreational Vehicles!

Spring’s an exciting time for everybody — but especially for those weekend warriors (such as yourself, perhaps?) who can’t wait to break out their recreational vehicles. But before the fun can begin, you’ve got to make sure your favorite toys of summer are shipshape. And a big part of that tune-up process should be making sure you’re properly insured.

You know Esurance as the smarter, easier choice for car insurance. But you may not know we can also help you get affordable, reliable coverage for recreational vehicles too. From rumbling, grumbling Harleys to palatial Class A motor homes, Esurance offers smart choices for all your grown-up toys.

And even if you’re already covered, now’s the perfect time to see if you can find a better rate.

Motorcycle insurance

You can get a quick, free quote on motorcycle coverage and customize your policy to meet your needs with options like:

  • 24/7 roadside assistance
  • Accessory coverage for custom electronics, sidecars, etc. of up to $30,000
  • Transport trailer coverage of up to $10,000

Get a motorcycle insurance quote today — or, if you’re in the process of researching your options, get your questions answered first. And, while you’re perusing our site, find out which states are the most (and least) motorcycle friendly.

ATV insurance

Did you know ATV insurance through Esurance can cover vehicles with 3, 4, 6, or 8 wheels? And that while your homeowners insurance might cover your ATV even when you’re off your own property, some states require ATV insurance when riding on state-owned land?

Why risk it when ATV insurance is so affordable? For answers to any questions you may have, check out our ATV FAQs.

RV/travel trailer insurance

RVs and travel trailers encompass a wide variety of great getaway vehicles (in the vacation sense). From massive motor homes with slide-out bedrooms to diminutive pop-ups that make standard tents look downright primitive, Esurance can help you cover your home on the road. Even if you’re a full-timer (that is, you live in your RV).

Grab your free quote online today. Or check out our FAQs on RV insurance and travel trailer insurance to make sure you know exactly what your options are.

Boat/PWC insurance

The quintessential toys of summer, boats and PWCs (that’s personal watercraft, by the way) let you enjoy all the speed and power of motorcycles and ATVs and take advantage of cool waters too. And their respective insurance coverages offer some equally flexible options, with some add-ons covering all the shiny toys you bring along in your boat — from digital SLRs to deep-sea fishing equipment.

Learn more about all the options boat insurance and PWC coverage provide. Or cut to the chase and get a fast, free quote online.

Summer fun + peace of mind = fun²

As you break out your grown-up toys in anticipation of sizzling summer fun, just remember to ensure you have the coverage you need to back up the fun with sweet, sweet peace of mind.

Related links

Check out these PWC safety tips
Discover 2 of the most common boat insurance claims
Learn how you, as a car driver, can help keep motorcycle riders safe

Esurance & the Golden State Warriors Team Up for Green Mob Event

At Esurance, we love public transportation. For one thing, it reduces accident risk (a win for drivers and car insurance companies alike). But even more near and dear to our hearts is the positive impact it has on the environment. After all, fewer cars on the road means less CO2 in the air. And that means everyone can breathe a little easier.

The Green Mob takes over commuter train

But we don’t just talk the talk. We also walk the walk. So on Thursday, March 29, 2012, volunteers from our San Francisco headquarters walked right on over to the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station to give unsuspecting passers-by a little surprise: pre-loaded commuter cards!

Our associates had a little (if you call 6′9″ little) help from the Golden State Warriors, as players Dorell Wright, Dominic McGuire, Richard Jefferson, head coach Mark Jackson, and Warriors staff joined in the second annual Green Mob commuter event — a way to raise awareness and get people excited about public transportation.

Before meeting our volunteers in downtown San Francisco, the Green Mob first flooded the Downtown Berkeley BART station. As they rode the train west to San Francisco’s Embarcadero station, the group (carefully) walked through each car passing out pre-loaded commuter cards and t-shirts to riders.

And it was clearly a success. After commuters got over the initial shock of being bombarded by some really tall men and some really eager (albeit shorter) Esurance associates in green, they were more than happy to get a free ride (and a signed t-shirt).

Esurance associates also had a blast (and not just because we got out of the office for an hour). Interacting with our fellow Bay Area commuters and hanging out with basketball players gave us a sense of both community and awesomeness. Esurance has sponsored the Golden State Warriors since 2008, and periodically sponsors Green Mob events, which always center on environmental and community causes — like public transportation.

Why Esurance loves public transportation

The 2009 U.S. census reported that only 5 percent of the population takes public transportation. That’s a pretty paltry number, but we hope events like the Green Mob will help get more people on board. If helping the environment and lowering your risk of accident aren’t enough motivation, here are a few more reasons why we recommend public transportation:

  • You save money on gas
  • You reduce wear and tear on your car
  • You have lots of time to read (and with the invention of the e-reader, you no longer have to be self-conscious about your choice of reading material)
  • You can talk, text, apply your makeup, and do all the other distracting things you can’t do while you drive
  • You get to people watch (which is definitely a source of entertainment in the Bay Area)

5 ways to drive less and save more

Sure, public transportation isn’t an option for everyone, so here are a few other gas-saving, environment-protecting ideas:

  1. Carpool. Many cities offer rideshare opportunities. But if yours doesn’t, start asking around at work. You may just find that the new guy in IT lives in your neighborhood.
  2. Bike or walk. Obviously, the ability to do these things varies depending on where you live. But with the warmer months approaching, now’s a great time to get some fresh air and exercise.
  3. Map your errands. Before setting off on your weekend errands, make a list of where you need to go and map out the most efficient route.
  4. Order online. From clothes to groceries, almost everything is available online these days. And often sites offer free (or cheap) shipping. (And who doesn’t like getting a package in the mail?)
  5. Work from home. As our society becomes increasingly global, working from home is becoming a more mainstream option. Ask your boss if it’s a viable option for you.

What does your community do to promote green causes? Let us know on our Facebook page. Maybe we’ll use your ideas for our next Green Mob event!

Now on Esurance Mobile: The Cupcake Button

Have you ever been on a long road trip, or just wandering through an unfamiliar town, and had a sudden and overwhelming craving for red velvet cupcakes piled high with sweet, sweet cream cheese frosting?

Or desperately needed a little caffeine to keep weary eyes open for the home stretch?

Or maybe behind the wheel of a Tesla Roadster watching the battery’s power gauge drift dangerously toward the red?

Well, good news for all you hungry, weary, running-on-empty warriors of the road. With Esurance Mobile (our smartphone app) installed on your Android™ or iPhone, you can find what you’re looking for in seconds — from cupcakes to coffee to charging stations.

Esurance Mobile: now with more awesome

If you’re already an Esurance Mobile user, you know we built our smartphone app to make managing your car insurance policy and payments that much easier. And with features that allow you to access your proof of insurance, file a claim, call a tow truck, view pictures of your car’s repairs, and check your payment schedule, it just gets easier all the time.

But while car insurance made easy is great, cupcake-finding made easy (by a car insurance app) is … well, sort of fantastic.

That’s why we decided to build a new feature that lets you quickly and easily find just about anything you might need, from a tasty (cream-cheese-laden) midnight snack haven to the nearest biodiesel station.

All without leaving the app.

If you already have Esurance Mobile, make sure it’s up-to-date, then open the app and hit the “nearby shops & services” button on the home screen.

Here’s everything Esurance Mobile can now help you track down.

Fuel up or recharge

  • Gas stations
  • Biodiesel stations
  • Electric charging stations

Repair, service, or tow

  • Tow trucks
  • Auto parts shops
  • Oil change shops
  • Car washes
  • Car dealerships

Park or get a ride

  • Taxis
  • Rental cars
  • Parking
  • Car share

Feed a craving

  • Coffee
  • Pizza
  • Burgers
  • Chinese food
  • Ice cream
  • Cupcakes

Just tell it what you’re looking for and get a map or list of nearby locations, with directions just a tap or 2 away.

Easy.

Don’t have Esurance Mobile yet?

If you haven’t discovered the life-simplifying joys of on-the-go policy management with Esurance Mobile yet, it’s easy (and free) to get.

For Android, just check it out on Google Play. If you’re an iPhone user, head to the App Store.

What feature are you hungry for?

We’re always looking to make Esurance Mobile smarter and easier to use. So let us know what fantastic feature you’d like to see us build out next. We’re listening!

Related links

Can your smartphone count as proof of insurance?
Esurance Mobile: accident and emergency services

Esurance Poems of the Road Contest:
Calling All Wordsmiths and Wanderers

The winners of the 2012 Esurance Poems of the Road Contest have been announced. Check them out!

As an innovator in the car insurance arena, Esurance has always valued vision and creativity. That’s why, in honor of National Poetry Month (April, in case you haven’t marked your calendar), we’re holding the Esurance Poems of the Road Contest.

Esurance Poems of the Road Contest details

From April 3 through April 30, we invite poets, car enthusiasts, and anyone with extra time on their hands to wax poetic about the road for a chance to win $2,000 and eternal glory on the Esurance blog. All you have to do is submit your original poem to us.

Ballad or sonnet, limerick or haiku, rhyming or not, we want to hear your poems about the ecstasies (and agonies) of being on the road. Poems must be original, 14 lines or fewer, and should feature the word “road” in the title or body. Upload your poem and see other submissions on our Facebook tab … and be sure to tell your friends to vote for you.

Our judges know something about car talk

Submissions will be judged based on equal parts creativity/originality, content, imagery, and audience votes on Facebook. (Voting will be open until May 7, so get your entries in early for a shot at more votes!)

Once we’ve narrowed the entries down to 3 finalists, Tom and Ray Magliozzi of NPR’s
Car Talk
will determine who comes in first, second, and third place. After all, who better to judge a poetry contest about the road than the automotive experts who brought us
Learn More Better English
?

If you’ve never heard Car Talk, you’re missing out. Ray and Tom Magliozzi, also known as Click and Clack, are not only expert mechanics, they’re also a hoot to listen to. You can be sure they’ll bring their unique brand of wit to the judging process.

Esurance Poems of the Road Contest prizes

In addition to literary fame on the Esurance blog, our winning poets will receive:

  • $2,000 (grand prize)
  • $1,000 (second place)
  • $500 (third place)

Not too shabby, eh?

Share your lyrical musings

Most of us have a complicated relationship with driving — nostalgia for our first car, frustration over rush hour, longing for the open road — and how better to explore those feelings than by taking pen to paper? So get those creative juices flowing. We eagerly await your submissions!

Enter your poem now.

The fine print

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. Contest begins at 10:00 a.m. PT on 4/3/12. Submissions accepted through 11:59 p.m. PT on 4/30/12. Open to legal residents of any 1 of the 50 US or DC who are at least 18 & age of majority. Valid Facebook account required. Void where prohibited. ARV of all prizes: $3,500. Prize details may vary. Sponsor: Esurance Insurance Services, Inc., 650 Davis St., San Francisco, CA 94111.

Related link

Check out Tom and Ray on Car Talk