6 Tips to Help You Survive a Renovation

There are great reasons to undergo a home renovation: to fix or update an aging (but still solid) home, to make room for new family members, or simply to build a relaxing space for watching football or playing Scrabble®.

But it can be difficult to remember these benefits when you’re staring down the barrel of a huge, expensive, and invasive process during which millions of decisions will need to be made — by you.

Luckily, we’ve compiled 6 tips to help you make it through your next renovation with your head on straight.

1. Plan, plan, and then plan some more

Your home most likely has a foundation, and for a very good reason: when Mother Nature gets angry, your home stays in one piece.

Think of your renovation in the same way. If you don’t create a solid base by planning, the project may begin to fall apart when stress and challenges arise. You’ll want to make as many decisions as possible before construction begins. Some of the most important decisions are as follows:

Choosing the right team

The contractors, electricians, and plumbers you hire will spend lots of time in your home during renovation — so make sure you actually like them. You need to be able to trust that they’ll do their jobs and respect your property. Contractor interviews are important and should be treated as such. Good contractors will have good client references. These can be a great way to get perspective on work habits, efficiency, credibility, and work quality. If they don’t offer references, ask!

Managing expectations

If you successfully manage your expectations up front, the number of frustrating surprises will be minimal.

Be realistic with your budget, and understand that there are usually additional costs added during the process. Also, don’t be too optimistic with your timeline. Ask the contractor for the worst-case scenario completion date, and plan for that. That way, if it’s finished before then, you’ll be ecstatic.

Living at home or not

Should you stay or should you go? It’ll be different for every renovation, but it’s easiest to plan ahead instead of fleeing last minute. And if you have young children or a medical condition, there may be specific times you’ll want to be out of the house (like when they’re refinishing floors, painting, or demolishing).

Making interior design choices

Try your best to decide on designs before the renovation starts. That way, you won’t be making hundreds of specific decisions on the fly — a method that may result in regret.

2. Pack like a pro

Nobody likes having to do the same thing twice. If you’re going to take the time to wash and clean your belongings before stowing, pack them well. If you don’t, dust will invade and you’ll most likely have to rewash everything. Here are a few tips for packing your prized possessions:

  • Use air bubble packaging or newspaper, a cheaper alternative for not-so-fragile things, to protect your belongings before boxing them up.
  • Pack like you’re trying to beat your high score in Tetris® and label your boxes. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to dig through every sealed box because I didn’t label them.
  • Set a 35-pound maximum weight limit for each box to make moving easier. Use your bathroom scale, or if you don’t have one, your best judgment — if it feels too heavy to lift, it probably is.
  • Store your framed artwork and mirrors in an upright position.

Weed out unnecessary items

Deciding what to keep and what to pitch can be difficult, but there’s no better time for cleaning out than while you’re packing up. And doing so will help make your new living space less cluttered.

3. Stay the course

If you want to finish on schedule and within budget, don’t stray from your original plan. Avoid additional changes like moving outlet locations, adjusting wall color, or changing backsplash tile once you’ve begun. These tend to add up during a project, delaying completion by weeks and adding hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars to your total cost. And making last-minute decisions is one of the most stressful aspects of home renovation, especially if you’re not the only one making decisions.

4. Keep things tidy

Right from the start, work with your contractor’s team to keep your home as clean as possible. For example, if you know they’ll be sanding, make sure they cover any furniture within dust’s range. While some days might still be messy, this’ll help to reduce your stress due to mess.

5. Trust your instincts

This applies to all aspects of your renovation. Whether your gut’s telling you that the sage green tapestries don’t work or that the contractor you’re interviewing can’t be trusted, it’s probably right.

6. Enjoy the process

It may seem challenging and exhausting at times (maybe more often than not), but remember that your renovation is an opportunity to showcase your creativity and personalize the place you call home. And if you do it right, you’ll be left with a beautiful space to live in. So put a smile on your face, and make the best of the situation.

Don’t forget to enjoy the results

Once you’ve finished, it’s time to celebrate and relax. Invite some friends over for a game night, or host a dinner party for your coworkers — whatever you do, enjoy your new space!

Protect your beautiful new space

Make sure your amazing new space (and even some of your stuff) is covered with homeowners insurance. Not sure where to start? Head over to esurance.com to do everything from learning how homeowners insurance works to easily getting a quote!

Valet Parking Confessions: What Happens After You Hand Over the Keys

You’ll have to valet.

Oh what powerful, divisive words these can be. For some, they signal civility and convenience. While for others, they’re a white-knuckled harbinger of highway robbery.

Some time ago, for reasons both practical (money to live) and personal (free pleated trousers!), I assumed the coveted role of valet parker at a downtown Chicago hotel.

I’ve seen all types of situations in my time parking cars … and all types of valets.

And you may wonder: What really goes on after you leave your keys with these perfect strangers?

In the Esurance spirit of making you more informed about your insurance and beyond, it’s time I reveal the valet parking secrets only your dashboard hula dancer was ever meant to know.

1. That knob with all the numbers … we don’t always know what that is

While I myself enjoy driving a stick shift, a shocking number of my fellow valets didn’t. Or to be more precise, despite being paid professionally to drive, they didn’t know how. More alarming still — many waited until after taking the wheel before they’d admit it!

Just imagine getting a frantic call on the walkie that goes something like, “I just stalled that silver Porsche for the ninth time in rush-hour traffic … help!” Now imagine the look on the car owners’ faces as they stood next to me overhearing everything. My memory’s a bit hazy, but here’s a rough idea.

Lesson to learn: You’d like to assume all valets know how to drive your stick shift. Don’t assume that. Ask and make sure.

2. We want to return your car in 5 minutes, but can’t always find it

“About 5 minutes” is what you’ll likely hear as you hand over your ticket. And these aren’t empty words. Valets, from my experience, are well-intentioned. We want to retrieve your car in 5 minutes. Nay, we dream of retrieving your car in 5 minutes. Sorry to say, we may not retrieve your car in 5 minutes.

Now, the reason for delay is less sinister than you think. It’s not like there’s a group of us sitting around the garage on lawn chairs, portable TV hooked to your battery, pot of fondue simmering on your trunk. Rather, we probably just can’t find the dang thing.

Our hotel, for instance, used several huge public garages — we’re talking 10-story, 3-wing behemoths — and the only thing letting us know where to find your needle of a vehicle in these haystacks of concrete was a hand-scribbled, chicken-scratch note on its key tag.

Lesson to learn: Ask for your car 10 minutes sooner than your instincts tell you. And get your kids started on calligraphy early.

3. Things in your car could get touched

In my experience, sadly, there were a select few attendants who didn’t hesitate when it came to familiarizing themselves with guests’ cars. Hair ok? Move the mirror to check. Cool sound system? Jack up the volume and test it. Need a pen? Rifle through the glove box to find one.

The list could go on … but do you really want it to?

Lesson to learn: Don’t leave your toothbrush in your car.

4. Parking’s a nightmare (even for us)

You’d expect most valet mishaps to happen on the street as we whisk your car through traffic. But most of our (very few) accidents actually happened in our parking lots.

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, most valets don’t take chances on the street — while, again, they may have trouble getting your stick shift into first gear, they won’t ever push it into fifth either. You probably clicked here hoping for more salacious dirt than that, but the sad, boring truth is that valets aren’t the daredevils you might imagine. (I know, I’m just as unhappy to write that as you are to read it.) Inside a parking lot, however, little mistakes tend to come out. And not just for valets, but all drivers. In the U.S., roughly 1 in 5 accidents occurs in parking lots.

The second hurdle is the madcap nature of valet lots. Our garages, for instance, were shared with several valet companies. This meant a lot of frenzied drivers trying to share space on slick, twisting ramps that weren’t meant to be shared. Furthermore, the style in which our cars were parked (stacked in rows, always backed in) seemed to beg for dents and dings.

Lesson to learn: When shopping for a new car, think twice before turning down the rearview camera option. We’d sure appreciate it.

5. Money can’t buy you love … unless it’s a valet’s love

Those who haven’t worked in the service industry may fail to grasp the power of a well-placed tip. Well here it is, plain and simple: we can be bought!

Nothing too ridiculous (or illegal, of course). Just service that goes the extra mile. Say you want to leave the car for a few minutes, but don’t dare let anyone else handle your baby. Twenty bucks might buy you a space right by the entrance. Need something retrieved from your car? A 5-spot might make the difference between getting it in 3 minutes instead of 30.

Lesson to learn: C’mon, daddy needs a new pair of shoes!


Looking for more inside info? Get the inside scoop from the cops with 4 common ways to get pulled over.

Esurance Launches Car Insurance in Alberta, Canada

As a company that started out West during the dot-com boom, Esurance has since explored east and south, offering its innovative products and services from one corner of the continental US to the other. In fact, Esurance car insurance is now available in 43 states. And we have a suite of additional insurance products including homeowners, renters, and motorcycle. (See which products are available in your state.)

And with so much of this growth happening in just the past few years, you might think that our expansion was about to taper off or reach a plateau. Not so!

From the get-go, Esurance has been all about pushing boundaries. Whether that’s meant innovating a traditional industry by moving it online or rethinking the claims process with cool, you-focused technology, when it comes to insurance, we’re always looking for new horizons.

So here is yet another horizon and another boundary to push as we introduce our signature auto insurance north across the 49th parallel.

That’s right. Esurance is now available in Alberta, Canada!

Esurance launches car insurance in Alberta

Fueled (literally) by their rich oil and gas industry, Alberta is often referred to as the “Texas of Canada.” It’s a big landscape, with rolling foothills, the Rocky Mountains, the largest rodeo in the world (the Calgary Stampede) and the West Edmonton Mall —a giant plaza where you can shop and waterslide (yes, waterslide) at the same time.

The traditional view of Alberta is oil fields, cowboys, and the Edmonton Oilers’ 1980s Stanley Cup dynasty under the helm of The Great One. But there’s much more to Alberta, from a growing urban and multicultural population and a more diversified economy, to Calgary’s continued fame as the Cleanest City in the World. Albertans have lots to be happy about — and Esurance is beyond happy to introduce our innovative brand of car insurance to our friends here in the north.

What does Canadian car insurance look like?

West, east, south — and now Canada — car insurance from Esurance is built to be reliable and affordable while remaining sleek, savvy, and, of course, modern. Alberta consumers have access to many of the same great features that we offer in the US and our main focus will continue to be improving the entire insurance experience from end to end.

From day one, we’re offering Alberta consumers a smart choice in car insurance with cool tools like Coverage Counsellor® and great discounts like Multi-Vehicle and Driver Training. We’re also thrilled to introduce Alberta consumers to the ease and convenience of shopping and buying car insurance online. Canadians use the internet at a higher rate than any other country, and so it makes sense they’ll appreciate the many perks that come along with insurance for the modern world®.

What’s next on the horizon for Esurance?

Who knows what the future holds? But one thing’s for sure … Esurance will continue pushing the insurance industry forward in every way we can. We’ll continue dreaming up new tools and creating new benefits, all with the aim of making insurance smarter and more in step with the tech-driven, quick-paced, ever-changing modern world.

We’re excited to continue to grow into new markets and introduce our insurance products (all of which we’re extremely proud of) to new consumers.

Learn more about Esurance Canada.

Insurance Defined: Actual Cash Value

Overheard at dinner the other night. (No, I wasn’t eavesdropping. Their voices carried … I swear!)

Diner 1: The 2015 model just came out. Practically everything I complain about in my car has been fixed.

Diner 2: So trade in your car.

Diner 1: I can’t. It’s depreciated too much for a straight trade.

Diner 2: Kind of makes you hope for a car accident, right?

I think he was kidding. I hope he was kidding. Because, aside from the joke being in poor form, that’s just not how it works.

If your car’s totaled, most car insurance companies reimburse you for the actual cash value of your car, not the replacement cost. Let’s review the difference.

Actual cash value vs. replacement cost

Actual cash value (or ACV) is calculated by determining an item’s original value minus the amount it has depreciated after you bought it (more on this later). Replacement cost, on the other hand, is the amount of money necessary to replace damaged, destroyed, or stolen property with a new item.

We’ll use an example scenario* to help explain the difference. Imagine you buy a car for $25,000. You drive it without incident for 5 years when suddenly bam! A disoriented deer runs out into traffic and into your path. Don’t worry, you and the deer are okay. Unfortunately, your car is totaled.

You file a claim with your insurance company and are relieved to learn that deer run-ins fall under comprehensive coverage. That coverage, however, will pay for the car you have now, not the car you had 5 years ago. And after 5 years of standard wear and tear alone, your car’s probably worth around $9,000.

How actual cash value is determined

Of course, all cars lose value as they age, but not all cars age equally. If your car is totaled, the insurance company considers the condition the car was in just before the accident, including mileage, option packages, and overall physical condition (think peeling paint, torn seats, rust … anything that’s not a direct result of the accident).

In some cases, you may be reimbursed for things like title fees, registration fees, and sales tax. But this varies by situation and state, so it’s best to get the details from your insurer. Once your insurance company determines a settlement amount, they’ll subtract your deductible before paying out your claim. (That’s why it often pays to choose lower deductibles if you can afford to.)

But what if your car’s leased or financed? Sometimes what you owe on the lease is more than the car’s ACV. Good thing there’s a coverage for that!

Loan/lease coverage

Let’s go back to your shiny, new $25,000 car. This time, rather than buying it outright, you decide to lease it. You put $1,000 down, leaving you with $24,000 to pay off.

Several months later, that same distracted deer (it must be mating season) dashes onto the highway and totals your car.

Your car insurance company will pay the actual cash value of your car, which has a new value after standard wear and tear depreciation of $20,000. That’s a nice chunk of change under normal circumstances, except, according to your last loan statement, you still owe $23,000 on your car! That leaves $3,000 — plus your $500 deductible — for you to cover out of pocket.

Loan/lease gap helps cover some of the difference between what you owe on your car and what your car insurance covers. It’s common for insurance companies to cover 90 percent of the difference. If you’re an Esurance policyholder and you purchase this coverage, it’ll pay up to 25 percent of the car’s ACV.** In the scenario above, 25 percent of $20,000 is $5,000 (but, of course, you’d receive only $3,000 since that’s what you owe).
Gap coverage doesn’t include expenses like unpaid finance charges or excess mileage charges, but it can help rescue you from dipping into that vacation fund to cover the rest of your lease.

If you’re considering adding this coverage to your car insurance policy, check your loan agreement first. Many finance companies automatically include it as part of your lease contract, which means you may already be covered.

And once you’re no longer “upside down” on your lease, meaning you no longer owe more than the car is worth, you can reconsider whether you need loan/lease gap coverage at all. If you’re unsure, just ask your insurer.

Coverage for your new (or older) car

Whew! With all that said, insurance can help you get back on the road quickly when the unexpected happens. Whether you’ve just bought a new car or are tooling around in a hand-me-down, make sure you’re covered for damage and liability with insurance you can count on.

For more confusing insurance terms made simple, check out the Esurance Glossary.  You can also read up on loan/lease gap insurance and physical damage coverage.

Find out your car’s value by visiting Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds.com.

*The numbers used in the blog are estimates for illustrative purposes and not based on any one or aggregated incidents.

**Not available in all states.

The 8 Coolest Presidential Cars in U.S. History

In honor of Presidents’ Day, and with party preferences aside, here’s a list of the coolest presidential cars in U.S. history.

Timeline of the 8 coolest presidential cars

1. William Howard Taft (1909–1913): Baker Electric

The Taft administration was the first to officially substitute cars for carriages at the White House. Considered to be the very first electric car, the 1912 Baker Electric was battery-powered and didn’t require a hand crank (which was uncommon at the time). Way to be tech-savvy, Taft!

The electric car’s still relevant today. About 100 years later, when he was sworn into office, President Barack Obama was riding around in a Ford Escape Hybrid. And although it’s since been sold, he’s mentioned future plans to buy a plug-in Chevrolet Volt.

Related: Here are 5 reasons to go hybrid.

2. Woodrow Wilson (1913–1921): Pierce Arrow limousine

The 1919 Pierce Arrow limo escorted Wilson around on official West Wing business until he left office. Wilson was so fond of it that his friends purchased it for him as a gift at the end of his term. Today, the limo’s engine has been restored to working condition and lives out its legacy at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library Museum in Staunton, Virginia.

3. Harry S. Truman (1945–1953): Ford Super Deluxe Tudor

Truman’s 1946 Ford Super Deluxe Tudor was the first car Ford manufactured post–World War II. During the war, the manufacturing of new cars essentially stopped. Instead, major car companies like Chrysler and General Motors focused on wartime production, assembling parts for tanks, airplanes, and guns. Only 139 cars were manufactured during the entire war. So getting that first car postwar, like being named president, was kind of a big deal.

Related: What would former presidents have picked to drive in today’s world?

4. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953–1961): electric Rauch and Lang

One of the most notable achievements of Eisenhower’s presidency was signing the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which created 41,000 miles of roadway to connect the nation. So you can thank Eisenhower for that spring break road trip to Florida.

Being so focused on automotive efforts, it’s no surprise that Eisenhower had several cars. But the coolest was an electric 1914 Rauch and Lang. He drove this model around while campaigning in 1952.

5. John F. Kennedy (19611963): Ford Thunderbird convertible

Kennedy’s 1961 Ford Thunderbird combined all things cool. This model, known as a “bullet bird” because of its pointed design, debuted in 1961. So Kennedy had the latest and greatest. Fifty of these cars were showcased during his inaugural parade. And as an additional honor that year, this model served as the pace car at the fiftieth anniversary of the Indianapolis 500.

6. Lyndon B. Johnson (1963–1969): Amphicar

As another vehicle enthusiast, Johnson enjoyed a variety of car models including a 1915 fire truck and a 1910 Model T that was a gift from Henry Ford. The most covetable car was a blue lagoon-colored and white-upholstered Amphicar. German-made and sold from 1962 to 1967, the Amphicar is the only mass-produced vehicle that operates on land and water. When hosting guests at his ranch in Stonewall, Texas, Johnson used to trick passengers that the brakes had given out and the car was sliding into the lake.

Related: A love of history and cars collide at these 6 auto museums.

7. Ronald Reagan (1981–1989): Jeeps

Former on-screen cowboy Ronald Reagan escaped the pressures of Washington by driving Jeeps at his ranch out West. The first Jeep, a gift from his wife Nancy, was a blue 1983 CJ-8 Scrambler. Kept in very pretty condition, this one was strictly used to escort guests around the property. The second one, a red 1962 CJ-6, did more heavy lifting on the ranch and endured significant wear and tear.

Do these Jeeps represent a diverse but united America, from the polished business professional (CJ-8) to the rugged, hardworking laborer (CJ-6)? Maybe. Maybe not. But it’s a theory. (Go with it … it’s Presidents’ Day.)

8. William J. Clinton (1993–2001): Ford Mustang convertible

Before taking that Oval Office oath, Clinton said the hardest thing to leave behind was his 1967 Mustang convertible. In 1994, he became the only recent president to take the wheel (with Secret Service riding shotgun) when he was allowed to drive it a few hundred yards during an anniversary celebration for Ford Mustang. Today, the car lives on at the Museum of Automobiles in Morrilton, Arkansas.