4 Awesome Innovations: Detroit Auto Show Shines

Last Sunday, the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) wrapped up its most successful show in over a decade. For 2 weeks, more than 800,000 visitors (up from last year’s 770,932) flocked to Detroit’s Cobo Hall for the premier of space-age concept cars, industry-leading technologies, and 50 brand-new models.

The jump in attendance follows a triumphant 2013 for the auto industry in which over 15 million vehicles were sold — a true achievement especially for American carmakers who celebrated their highest sales in 6 years.

With sales rising and an economy on the mend, innovation was in the spotlight at the NAIAS. Here are 4 exciting advances that debuted at this year’s auto show.

4 awesome innovations from Detroit’s Auto Show

1. Aluminum: the lighter, more efficient metal

The Ford F-150 is the best-selling truck in the U.S. and it’s getting a major makeover in the 2015 model year. In addition to fancy upgrades like an 8-inch LCD screen and “next generation” EcoBoost engine, the F-150 will also drop up to 700 lbs thanks to a military-grade aluminum alloy body. While they haven’t ditched steel entirely (the frame of the truck is still made of steel), the switch to aluminum will allow the 2015 F-150 to receive better gas mileage (up to 30 mpg on the highway compared to the 2014 model’s measly 16 mpg) without sacrificing strength.

2. Integration with Google Glass

Although the safety debate around driving with Google Glass continues, Hyundai has forged ahead and integrated the technology with the 2015 Genesis. This spring, Glass users will be able connect to their Hyundai’s Glass Blue Link app in order to unlock and start the car, send addresses to the in-dash navigation system, find the closest gas station, and more — all from their Google Glass.

3. A breath of fresh air for drowsy drivers

Another exciting announcement from Hyundai could help keep drivers more alert behind the wheel. The 2015 Hyundai Genesis will be equipped with a carbon dioxide (CO2) monitor that, when activated, will circulate fresh air from outside in order to control the air quality. Hyundai engineers believe that the CO2 exhaled by passengers and drivers can result in slow reaction times and make drivers less alert. By bringing in fresh air when CO2 levels get too high (above 2500 parts per million to be exact), Hyundai hopes to increase both comfort and safety.

4. A superior all-season tire

While perhaps not as flashy as other announcements, Michelin’s new EverGrip all-season tires could make life a lot easier for drivers everywhere. Said to be a safe, year-round alternative to traditional tires, the Michelin Premier All-Season will decrease stopping distance and help prevent hydroplaning. The tire is also said to maintain better traction over time, stopping faster on wet roads than other brand-new tires, despite being worn.

More to come in 2014

The NAIAS is one of many auto shows on the calendar this year. Over the next few months there’ll be plenty of buzz in the auto industry as other cities showcase the latest and greatest vehicle technology and innovation. Be sure to stay tuned for exciting updates out of auto shows across the nation (including the largest show in the U.S. — the Chicago Auto Show).

And don’t forget — when it comes to innovative, reliable car insurance, we’ve got you covered. Get a quote and find what you could save today.

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5 Surprising Things Covered by Homeowners Insurance

Homeowners insurance protects your home and personal property — that’s a no-brainer. But did you know that even the most basic, no-frills policy can cover a plethora of other unexpected things?

Here are 5 things you might not know your homeowners policy covers.

1. Medical bills for guests injured in your home

Having enough space to invite guests over is one of the perks of homeownership. (No more crowding 10 people in your tiny apartment to eat off paper plates while standing in the kitchen.)

Of course, entertaining company can have its own pitfalls — like awkward conversation or your sister’s clumsy boyfriend slamming the garden gate on his hand. And though home insurance can’t help with uncomfortable situations, it can help with medical expenses if a guest gets hurt while hanging out at your place.

Here’s the best part: you can count on coverage whether you were responsible for the injury or not.

2. Charges from the fire department

It’s strange, but true: many fire departments actually charge you for responding to a call. For instance, the Minnetonka Fire Department in Minnesota charges $250 for responding to a fire alarm initiated by a monitoring company. It makes sense, but it doesn’t mean you want to pay for it.

Thankfully, most homeowners policies could cover those fees (up to a certain limit, of course).

3. Your trees, plants, and grass (plus your garden gnome)

If someone drives through your front lawn and damages your yard, your homeowners policy can help you replace your shady trees, pretty petunias, and lovely grass. Which is handy, considering the cost of plants and landscaping these days.

Keep in mind that there’s a limit (typically about $500 per item), but you can always increase the coverage amount to meet your needs.

4. Your college student’s property

If your dependent child is a full-time college student living on campus, their stuff’s covered by your homeowners insurance policy (since, technically, their stuff is also yours). So, if someone steals your daughter’s laptop or a fire damages your son’s dorm room, your home insurer should take care of it.

Just one caveat: if they live off campus in an apartment, they’ll need renters insurance since homeowners won’t cover their belongings in that case.

5. Stuff in your fridge

I’ll let you in on a secret (okay, it’s more like inside expert knowledge): homeowners insurance can also cover all the goodies in your fridge. Say a big storm knocks out the power and everything in your fridge spoils. Well, don’t worry. Your homeowners coverage will likely step in to help.

Typically, coverage is capped at $500. But a deductible usually doesn’t apply — meaning you could replace your groceries without feeling the pinch in your wallet.

These unexpected coverages typically come standard on even the most basic policy. But if you go for the optional coverages, you can protect even more.

And hey, if you live in a state where Esurance offers homeowners insurance (Minnesota, for instance), get a free quote and see how we can help safeguard your home, cover your belongings, and protect your personal liability.

Related links

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7 Apartment-Hunting Tips to Help You Avoid a Mental Meltdown

As 2013 wound down, I prepared to move from Los Angeles to San Francisco. And then, as 2014 began, it became clear I might not live through the insanely stressful experience (or, at the very least, the anxiety would kill my appetite).

Having emerged battered but triumphant, I thought I’d offer this handy tutorial based on my relocation odyssey, a lasting record of apartment-hunting tips that — no matter what happened to me — could help others succeed.

7 apartment-hunting tips for your next move

1.  Consider an apartment-finding service

For the San Francisco move, I used an apartment-finding service. There were 2 reasons behind this decision:

  • Living in Los Angeles, I couldn’t be in the Bay Area regularly to scout apartments. I was coming up for one frenzied week of hunting and had to ensure I ended up with something.
  • Moving to San Francisco is, frankly speaking, nuts! I’d heard the horror stories: tenants who swarm on available units like ants to a syrup spill, signing leases before the kitchen paint is dry, selling off their firstborns in fiery bidding wars. And yes, it was nearly as bad as they said. But, in most major cities these days — with loads of competition and landlords who have the advantage — it helps to have someone on your side to provide the credibility that other applicants may not have.

2.  Take advantage of technology

If you’re doing all the legwork, apartment-hunting apps can be a huge help in a new city.

Take Lovely, for instance. This app (now available for Android as well as iPhone) not only alerts you when new places hit the market, but it also lets you specify your rental price, how many bedrooms you need, your desired neighborhood(s), and even allows you to apply online. Other options like Trulia and HotPads™ work similarly, giving you a more customized experience than you’d get with Craigslist alone. Even though I used an apartment-finding service, I still relied on apps to narrow my neighborhood choices.

Apps can help with other parts of your search too. While looking for your soon-to-be home, VRBO® can help you find a rental property to use instead of a pricey hotel, and tools like Uber or Lyft can often get you around the city cheaper (or at least friendlier) than a cab.

3. Don’t get WAY too excited over a shockingly affordable, amazing listing

It’s huge, in an excellent neighborhood, and way cheaper than all the others on the block?! Perfect! Well, until you learn that you have to wire $3,000 to Nigeria and they’ll send you the keys from there. Yep, it’s a scam — and, the way I look at it, simply a rite of passage. I apparently enjoyed it so much, I did it 3 more times. (Excuse me while I dropkick my keyboard.)

4. Prepare your credentials

In the glory days of apartment hunting, I imagine a firm handshake and a sixer of Michelob was all it took to earn a landlord’s trust. Today, however, they’re more careful.

The agency I used had me put together an application packet, complete with my credit report, proof of employment, letters from my current landlord and neighbors, and a thorough personal profile. I’d urge any renter to do the same — landlords were very impressed and several called me afterward to voice their appreciation. It’ll also help you get a jump on other applicants who don’t have their docs ready to go.

5. Keep your mind open (even if the floor plan isn’t)

That moment when your apartment-searching hopes meet cold, hard reality can be grim. The first place I saw, for example, charged $3,000 for about 400 square feet of space. After that, a different landlord asked for almost as much rent from my dog as he did me. Next was the fifth-floor walk-up with stairs too narrow to fit an Army cot, much less a queen-sized bed.

I knew moving to San Francisco would be tough, but this was demoralizing. Did I think about giving up, quitting my job, and raising alpacas on a remote New Zealand farm? Of course I did. But, I regained my composure and moved on to the next place. That’s all you can do. And if you keep an open mind and stay positive(ish), you’ll find something that suits your tastes, needs, and budget as I eventually did.

6. Avoid open houses if possible

Many landlords arrange open houses for available units since it’s the easiest way to get as many suitors as possible in today’s packed rental market. But open houses can (and in San Francisco, did) get very crowded, so it can be tough to make an impact.

You’re better off setting up private viewings if you can get them. This is one area where an apartment-finding service can really pay off. Mine was terrific at reaching out to landlords and coaxing them to show units individually. This gives you a leg up on competition, and, in my case, led directly to signing the lease.

Remember, even if a landlord isn’t advertising private showings, it never hurts to send an email and inquire anyway.

7. Bring your checkbook

When you find the right place, you know it. Don’t let it slip through your fingers while you’re waiting in line at the bank.

Share your own apartment-hunting tips

Turns out, I survived moving to San Francisco (and have trimmed the night terrors to a manageable 4 times per week!).

Have any apartment-searching tips or horror stories? Share them below.

Related links

You worked hard to find your pad. Now protect it with renters insurance.
Apartments aren’t the only options for renters. Here’s why renting a house can be a great choice.
Learn how this writer survived an even bigger move (from Chicago to Los Angeles).

5 Safety Tips for Running in the Dark

There are few things that make me happier than lacing up my kicks and hitting the pavement for a nice long run. But, with fewer hours of daylight during the winter months, it can be tough to get the miles in before the sun goes down.

And because I refuse to run over 3 miles on a treadmill for fear I’ll keel over from sheer boredom, I’ve grown fairly comfortable with running at night. Of course, running in the dark is not without its risks, but I’ve found ways to safely coexist with drivers on their evening commutes.

5 tips to keep you safe while running after sundown

1.  Stick with what you know

Dodging people on a sidewalk can be a bit tedious, but if you’re running in the early morning or evening, it’s best to stick to well-populated, well-lit routes that you already know. I’m loyal to the downtown waterfront for post-work runs because there’s lots of light and plenty of great people-watching. Just remember that things tend to look a bit different in the dark, so save the unfamiliar routes for daytime.

2.  Share your plan

Whenever you head out on a run (especially if you’re flying solo and it’s dark out), it’s important to let someone else know your plans. I always give my boyfriend a general idea of where I’ll be running, and in case I get hurt (or more likely, totally lost), I keep my drivers license and cell phone in my pocket. If you want extra protection, carry a compact pepper spray keychain, which is lightweight enough not to slow you down.

3.  Stand out

Look, I get it, black is flattering. And while I’m happy to rock all-black everything, it’s not a good idea when running after dark. Get some gear that’s bright, reflective, and can be seen from space. Want to go the extra mile (heh)? Wear a headlamp to light your way and help drivers spot you sooner.

4.  Skip the Jock Jams

Exercising is great for guilty-pleasure playlists (I jam almost exclusively to my girl, Queen Bey), but if you’re running without daylight, it’s safest to ditch the headphones and pay extra attention to your surroundings. And if you don’t like making an 8-mile trek without your tunes? Find a buddy! Not only is there safety in numbers, but running with a friend is the best way to ease headphone withdrawal.

5.  Travel against traffic

It’s always best to stick to the sidewalk, but in some places, it’s possible to find yourself suddenly jogging on the shoulder of the road. Keep your eye on oncoming cars by running against the flow of traffic until you find the next sidewalk.

Share your safety tips for running in the dark

At Esurance, we believe in making the roads safe for cars, runners, pedestrians, and cyclists alike. Whether you’re a driver, motorcyclist, renter, or homeowner, we want to help protect you wherever you are.

What rules do you follow when your workout takes you into the night? Share them below to help us spread the word and keep everyone safe out on the road.

Related Links

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Will Driving With Google Glass Be Outlawed in Your State?

Ever since we first heard about Google Glass, we here at Esurance have been debating whether it would create a driving distraction. Now, it seems lawmakers are having the same debate. In October 2013, Glass Explorer Cecilia Abadie was cited in San Diego for wearing Google Glass while driving — she’s thought to be the first person ticketed for this activity, which the California Highway Patrol officer equated with driving while watching TV or a video.

Last week, Abadie was found not guilty since there’s no proof that her device was in use while she was driving. But the question of whether Google Glass is distracting (assuming it’s on) remains. Legislators in 3 states — Delaware, New Jersey, and West Virginia— clearly think it is, and they’ve introduced bills that make driving with Google Glass illegal.

Is outlawing Google Glass while driving fair or even enforceable?

Proponents of Google Glass argue that it can be used in ways that actually help drivers, such as providing hands-free GPS directions. Although California recently passed a law against using GPS on a handheld smartphone, hands-free use of phones is still allowed.

Even if using GPS on Google Glass is deemed acceptable because it’s hands-free, there’s no way for police to know if a person wearing Glass is getting directions, watching a video, or reading a text. As we’ve seen, it’s currently impossible for them to know if the device is in operation at all. Police in New York, for example, are now using SUVs to spot texting drivers (most drivers hold their phone near their lap while texting, so the SUV’s height lets cops see down into cars). But Glass users will be much harder to catch.

Two ways of looking at Glass

When Abadie was cited in October, the CHP had stated, “anything that takes a driver’s attention from the road is dangerous.” On one hand, we agree since cognitive distraction can be just as dangerous as visual and manual distraction. There’s also concern about whether Glass interferes with a driver’s peripheral vision.

But, at the same time, we’re all about technology and believe in the power of innovation to assist drivers. So where do we go from here?

This debate is sure to grow more heated when Google releases its Glass device to the public later this year. What’s your opinion? Should using Glass while driving be banned? Or does it fall under the description of hands-free? Share your comments below.

Related links

The great Google Glass debate
What’s a Glass Explorer?