Are American Cars Making a Comeback?

It’s been a rough decade for American cars. The “Big 3” automakers went from having 7 out of the 10 bestselling vehicles in 2003 … to the brink of ruin in 2008. A big factor is that Toyota stole their thunder, and much of their market share, with successful hybrids like the Prius. On top of that, high gas prices have taken a toll on American-made SUVs.

But this year, an exciting new car model is putting the shine back on the American-made moniker. Only it’s not built in Detroit — it’s built in California.

Will a Silicon Valley start-up put American cars back on top? Meet the Tesla Model S and discover why this homegrown sedan is such big news for the auto industry.

It’s making reviewers swoon

In January, Motor Trend named the Model S as its 2013 Car of the Year. This alone, while impressive, wouldn’t be earth-shattering for a domestic vehicle — the Chevy Volt won it in 2011, and the Ford Fusion in 2010. But then, last week, Consumer Reports (which has a reputation as a maverick among reviewers) announced that it had tested the Tesla and gave it 99 points out of 100. The only other car to receive this score was the Lexus LS in 2007.

It’s all-electric (but doesn’t drive that way)

The Tesla is the first all-electric vehicle to be fully designed and built in the U.S. in more than 10 years — and the first car without an internal combustion engine to ever win Car of the Year. That’s huge!

Not only can you plug it in to recharge it, but once it’s “fueled” up, it can go 200 miles on a single charge (compared to the 75-80 miles typical of most electric cars). Testers say it handles and accelerates like a sports car — Motor Trend called it one of the fastest American 4-doors ever built — all while achieving the equivalent of 74.5 mpg. You’ll definitely appreciate those savings after paying the $107K sticker price.

It’s from the Silicon Valley, not the Motor City

At Esurance, we know great ideas can come from anywhere. This one just happens to come from America’s capital of innovation and futuristic awesomeness (ok, I admit, as a San Franciscan I’m a little biased). Hailing from techville, it’s not surprising that the Model S has a giant touch screen in the center console that controls the navigation system, steering mode, suspension, and other functions. More functionality can be added just by updating the software.

Here’s another non-surprise: Google wants to partner with Tesla to build a driverless electric car.

A new era — or not?

America has always been a land of pioneers, inventors, and entrepreneurs, but Tesla’s Model S shows that Americans still know how to build beautiful, forward-thinking cars (and make a profit too).

What do you think? Does the Model S represent a new era of dominance for American cars, or will it go the way of the DeLorean? Leave your comments below.

Related links

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Driving Out of State: Does Your Car Insurance Travel with You?

Like license plates and recipes for that perfect BBQ, car insurance is different in every state. When you buy your policy, you must purchase at least the minimum coverage required in your area — and the protection you end up with can vary dramatically from the policies of friends or family who live elsewhere.

Now, we know what you might be asking: If auto coverage requirements vary across the nation, does this mean you‘re only safely insured when you drive in your state? It’s a natural concern and one many of our customers have voiced.

So let’s break out the road maps and trail mix, consult with our customer service reps, and give you a clear answer as to where, exactly, you can travel with your Esurance coverage.

Driving out of state

Where does my car insurance work?

If you were planning your big, cross-country road trip and starting to get nervous, relax! Esurance, like most car insurers, lets you drive and use your coverage in any U.S. state — even if we don’t offer policies there. (Bonus: you can also drive in Canada or Puerto Rico and still enjoy the peace of mind your policy brings.)

Generally, the only time your out-of-state car insurance would not work is if you were moving to a new state permanently. In that case, you’d have to purchase a policy from the new state so you could satisfy their coverage requirements.

Where does my car insurance NOT work?

If you’re cruising south of the border into Mexico, odds are your Esurance coverage won’t be valid. Instead, you’ll almost always need Mexican car insurance. Esurance doesn’t extend protection to other countries either (other than Canada). If you must drive on your voyage abroad, you can get insurance from the rental car shop where you pick up your wheels.

What if I have a car accident while driving out of state?

Again, Esurance has your back! If you have an accident in another state, your adjuster will compare your coverage limits with the minimum requirements in that state. And then you’ll be covered for whichever limit is higher.

Or, as another example, if your home state only makes you carry $10,000 in bodily injury coverage, but you cause an accident in a state that requires $15,000, we’d make up the $5,000 difference.

And if you have an accident in a state that requires a coverage for out-of-state drivers that your home state doesn’t offer, like personal injury protection (PIP), we’d provide you with that coverage just for the isolated incident (don’t worry, it wouldn’t be permanently added to your policy). On the flip side, if you carry PIP and have an accident in a state that doesn’t offer it, depending on the situation you could still have your PIP coverage for the claim.

Get coverage tips before you travel

For even more information on heading beyond your state’s borders, check out our helpful insights on driving abroad and Esurance coverage in Canada.

And spend a minute with our handy Coverage Counselor® to make sure you’ve got the best protection for your needs right now.

5 Zen Road Trip Tips

Ahhh, summer. With Memorial Day behind us and 3 glorious months of sunshine and barbecue ahead of us, we can’t help but daydream about vacation. Sure, you could fly off to some exotic locale. Or, you could pack up the car and let the spirit of the road lead you on an adventure.

There are a variety of road-tripping styles:

  • There’s the family road trip … in which Mom has eyes in the back of her head, Dad curses at the driver who won’t pick a speed, and nobody is quite sure if they are there yet.
  • There’s the buddy road trip … in which fast food is supersized, you share driving shifts, and nobody can agree on which Beatle or Godfather or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle was the most crucial.
  • There’s the Point-A-to-Point-B road trip … in which you’ve done this route a million times so let’s get it over with, meals are Gatorade and Combos, and the left lane is your only lane.

And while all of life’s road trips have their charms, there’s one that’s a bit rarer, more elusive than the others: the Zen road trip, where your mind is emptied, inner peace is restored, and the world’s mysteries (or at least your smartphone’s directions) all become crystal clear.

Never been on that road trip before? Don’t worry. In keeping with the spirit of our Buddhist guide to decreasing road rage, here’s are some road trip tips to find your Zen driving path.

Zen road trip tips

1. Go alone

Disconnecting from others can be difficult these days, which is what makes the open road so alluring, particularly because the very texting, tweeting, and chatting that permeate most of your life are actually detrimental — and illegal — behind the wheel. It seems a road trip is one of our last great excuses for a bit of isolation.

Riding alone isn’t useful simply because it’s novel, however. There are real Zen benefits (Zenefits?) behind it too. A recent Harvard study found that solitude helps people relax, form sharper memories, and think creatively. In other words, it’s exactly what your beat-poet soul craves on a journey like this.

2. Don’t be afraid to get lost

Remember the days when we’d drive off without a smartphone or GPS or MapQuest printout, when we had nothing but a destination and vague notion of “head thataway”? Ok, me neither, but I bet they were oddly special — and others agree.

Psychology Today says there’s real spiritual pleasure in going somewhere new and even getting lost. When we don’t recognize where we are, we submerge ourselves in our surroundings and take stock of the moment. In essence, by getting disoriented, we become connected, stimulated, and, surprisingly, better navigators.

3. Listen to the road, not the radio

Honestly, an entirely silent road trip would be brutal. Music just makes driving better in many cases. But it might be a refreshing change of pace to go a few extended stretches without the tunes, podcast, or audiobook. Instead, open a window and simply take in the whooshing of the air and vibration of the tires. Even if you have other passengers, you might find that collectively sharing the silence — again, just for a little while — might offer a sense of camaraderie.

4. Admire your surroundings

It’s oh so easy, especially if you’re on a painfully familiar drive, to ignore your surroundings and basically space out until the trip is done. But just because the route is the same doesn’t mean the landscape is. There’s a reason we glorify things like Route 66, Easy Rider, and the very idea of the American journey.

5. Be thankful

In true Buddhist fashion, finding your Zen on the open road only comes once you learn to cherish everything the open road is providing — even if it’s bad. After all, what better way to take the stress out of driving than by changing the very way you perceive that stress?

So, road construction causing delays? Thanks, potholes, for giving the road more character. Rain coming down? Thanks, clouds, for giving my wipers something to do. Gas station hot dog not agreeing with you? Thanks, nitrates, for keeping over-the-counter antacid companies in business.

There. See how easy that was? You’re probably feeling more Zen already (or is that the hot dog again?).

5 Tried-and-True Car Games

Summer road trips without car games? Talk about a long weekend.

We all know long car rides can be a drag. If you’re on the road for more than a couple hours at a time and there are other people with you, you’ll inevitably have to come up with some kind of activity to keep your minds from decomposing — especially if there are kids in the picture.

Reading might not be an option since it tends to make some people carsick. And unless everyone (driver excluded) has their own devices and headphones, listening to music requires all the passengers to agree on the playlist. Not an easy feat considering some parents prefer not to listen to rap or pop music for hours on end and kids won’t always appreciate classic rock or oldies.

As you’ll quickly discover, selecting the right game to play isn’t easy in the cramped confines of a car. “I Spy,” for example, isn’t especially great for fast highway travel. (“I spy something green and … behind us. Yep, it’s gone.”)

If you’re heading out on the road with the family, we know you’ll want to keep them occupied. So, to save you the trouble of trial and error, here are a few tried-and-true car games.

The License Plate Game

This car game is very simple and could potentially go on for years. Keep a list of all 50 states and check each one off as you spot a license plate from that state.

If you really like the idea, you can also shoot for international license plates. It’s not uncommon in America to spot plates from Mexico or Canada, and both of those countries have a variety of plates for different states and provinces.

The Alphabet Car Game

If the License Plate Game is a little slow-paced for your taste, maybe you’d prefer the Alphabet Game. (Clever titles, I know.) Start out looking for a word that begins with the letter A (“Alameda St. Exit 3 mi.”), then a word that starts with B (“Barbershop”), then C, D, and so forth until you complete the alphabet.

This can be played individually, cooperatively, or competitively. You’ll usually find that most of the action revolves around a few key letters. J is a tough one, and X is almost impossible. But you’ll drive past a Claim Jumper or Xerox Repair Center eventually — just make sure you’re the first to spot it!

20 Questions — a car game classic

You’re probably already familiar with this one. It’s my personal favorite because it will usually evolve in different ways with different groups of people.

One person comes up with an animal, vegetable, or mineral, and the rest of the car takes turns asking yes-or-no questions. If the askers can’t figure it out in 20 tries, the person who selected the answer wins. It’s as simple as that.

That’s just how I learned to play, though. There are lots of variations, so make sure to agree on the rules beforehand.

Unleash your creativity and invent your own car games

Sometimes the best games are the ones that you come up with yourself. Maybe you can assign points for spotting certain things: 10 points for a red van, 50 points for an airplane, 100 points for a UFO.

Other options include card games that don’t require table space, taking turns adding lines to a story that you make up as you go, and discussing supersymmetric string theory. Be creative and the miles will fly by.

Plugging in on the road

Some parents may hesitate to let their kids “plug in” on the road — chances are their eyes are glued to a screen enough as it is. Plus, if you don’t already own a portable game system, these aren’t exactly cheap. Newer setups, such as the PlayStation Vita or the upcoming Nvidia Shield, will run you upwards of $250.

Portable games are an option for long trips if you’re in need of some quiet time. A single game can last anywhere from 5 to 100 hours (not on a single charge, obviously), and many of them have connectivity options for online play or local multiplayer. Some games on the iPhone® or Android™ platforms (Angry Birds, Minecraft) also offer hours of child-friendly gameplay.

If you’re setting out on a lengthy road trip, eventually boredom will begin to creep up on you. But with these suggestions, you’ll be prepared for the miles ahead and able to keep you and your family relatively sane until you’ve reached your destination.

Fuelcaster® gives road trips a modern makeover

One more thing about lengthy summer road trips. 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 whether 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. Pretty cool, right?

Supporting Veterans on Memorial Day (and Every Day)

Our vets deserve our support — not just on Memorial Day, but every day.

Last year, we introduced our Esurance Veterans Engagement Team and Supporters (EVETS) as a way of supporting veterans in the workplace. EVETS is an employee resource group designed to foster business development and serve as a valuable support mechanism for veterans and their families. It also creates career opportunities and acknowledges the distinct challenges that veterans often face in the workplace.

Supporting veterans in the workplace

According to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, there are roughly 21 million veterans in the U.S. — that’s a large (and often underserved) population of job seekers and workers. But, due to the inherent stresses of serving in the military, especially on active duty, it’s often difficult for vets to transition from military jobs to office jobs.

Through EVETS, we hope to ease this transition by offering career development opportunities along with a supportive and inclusive environment. Additionally, EVETS offers Esurance associates who are current or former military personnel (or who are spouses, siblings, or supporters of veterans) a forum to share their common interest in topics relating to veterans. It’s our way of honoring and appreciating all the brave men and women who’ve served our country.

Partnerships to benefit veterans

Esurance makes a point to include and support veterans in our partnerships with several organizations. Since 2008, for example, our partnership with Recycled Rides has helped repair and refurbish totaled vehicles for families in need. In that time, we’ve donated 7 vehicles to veterans or veterans’ organizations.

Another recent partnership with Caliber Collision allowed us to assist Melanie Morales, a U.S. Navy veteran who served from 2004–2008. Since her discharge from the Navy, adapting to civilian life has been a struggle for Melanie. Despite on-the-job training and experience in medical administration for the Navy — including a year at a U.S. facility in Japan — finding steady employment back home was much more difficult than she anticipated.

With the help of U.S. VETS, Melanie received certification as a nurse’s aide and found a job at a local hospital. Public transportation isn’t a safe or convenient option for Melanie, who works the graveyard shift and has a 6-year-old son, but by teaming up with Caliber Collision and their repair team, Esurance was able to donate a refurbished 2004 Dodge Avenger to her. This “recycled ride” will serve as another milestone in her journey towards independence and financial stability.

Thanking vets and all our armed forces

While we work hard every day to appreciate our veteran heroes, on Memorial Day more than ever we extend our gratitude to all the brave men and women who have served our country … those who have returned and those who have not.

Learn more about veteran challenges in the workplace and find out what you can do to help using these resources:

U.S. VETS United States Veterans Initiative

Diversity Inc. Veterans in the Workplace: Help Them Make the Transition

Hire Heroes USA Creating Job Opportunities for US Military Veterans and their Spouses