What to Ask When Choosing a Home Warranty

There are a number of things to know about before getting your first Home Warranty Plan. Here are 10 questions to ask yourself and the provider when comparing your options.

Purchasing a home warranty to cover your major appliances and system components (refrigerator, dishwasher, garage door entry system, HVAC unit, etc.) can be tricky. You have to balance consideration of each warranty's options, premiums, deductibles, terms, and conditions. At the end of the day, what you really want is some assurance that, in times of need, you and your family will remain safe, comfortable and suffer the least amount of inconvenience.

What should you look for in a home warranty? There is no simple answer, and there is no one-size-fits-all home warranty solution. As with all your other investments, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to enter negotiations as well-prepared as possible. So we’ve assembled this checklist of questions to ask before you commit to a home warranty agreement to help you better understand your needs, your expectations, your reservations, and your own attitudes towards what makes a house a home.

1. How much wear and tear do your appliances already have?

Appliances exist for one reason: to make our lives easier and that means taking on the dirty work (literally, in the case of a dishwasher or washing machine). Some of us use them harder than others and age can add up over the years, but as long as you use your appliances according to manufacturer's instructions, a home warranty can help you keep your machines running without worrying about unexpected repair or replacement costs. Should your appliance's or system's major components break down due to your normal use, a home warranty can be there to help cover the costs to get back in working condition.

2. Do you plan on upgrading or replacing your appliances any time soon, even though they are still functioning?

New appliances and systems come with manufacturer's warranties which are great protection, however, they run out and are unit specific. A home warranty can provide more of an umbrella of protection for your home to cover multiple appliances and systems. Plus, some companies, CoverageInsure, for example, provide programs such as the Appliance Discount Program that can save you money on the purchase of brand new, brand-name appliances.

3. Are you aware of any pre-existing conditions or problems with your appliances that have gone unaddressed?

Home warranty companies want to help you keep your home in working order but there may be some limitations when it comes to addressing certain pre-existing conditions. Check with your potential provider.

4. Are there any essential components on your appliances (e.g., your refrigerator’s ice-maker; your HVAC system’s ductwork) that may not be covered by a particular warranty?

Today's appliances are amazingly complex machines with evolving pieces and parts. However, they still basically rely upon essential core parts to perform their necessary duties. Those components are what require protection and often can be most expensive to repair. Your home warranty should cover these core components.

5. How does a particular warranty complement or supplement your existing homeowner's insurance policy?

Home insurance is great protection for your home for what MIGHT happen (fire, flood, natural disaster, etc.). However, what about protection for things that WILL happen? For example, your air conditioner condenser finally giving out or your clothes dryer refusing to dry your clothes. Having a home warranty plan to work side-by-side with your home insurance can greatly help your home remain a comfortable and happy place.

6. Will a specific home warranty policy help you pay for routine preventative maintenance of your major appliances?

A home warranty may not cover your routine preventative maintenance, however, they may penalize you for NOT taking that action. American Home Shield will not do that. We understand you're busy and that time gets away from you. That's why we can help cover you when your major system and appliance components break down from normal use.

7. Will a specific home warranty policy help you to pay for significant cosmetic damage to your major appliances?

Home warranties are designed to cover parts and components that are designed to wear down from normal wear and tear. If that normal use causes cosmetic damage, you should be covered. However, if an overly excited family member causes damage to your dishwasher door, for example, you will not be covered.

8. Are any repairs, services or appliances too minor (e.g. your microwave oven) to be covered by a specific warranty?

It all depends on your provider and your contract. An CoverageInsure Home Warranty Plan, for example, covers every part of your refrigerator. Other companies may exclude coverage for a dozen or more parts. 

9. What is the upper limit for repairs and replacement that the warranty will cover?

This depends on your prospective provider, but AHS offers some of the most competitive levels of coverage. In some cases, CoverageInsure provides twice or even five times as much in terms of replacement coverage.

10. When can you make a claim with your prospective warranty provider?

You may currently have appliances in need of repair. Most companies may make you wait 30-60 days before you are able to submit a service request. 

So, which home warranty combines the best reputation, the greatest expertise, and the most satisfactory customer service?

That warranty is the one that can be of the most benefit to you when the time comes for you to maximize your home’s equity. And American Home Shield is confident that the home warranties we offer are world-class in that regard. As the home warranty industry creator and leader, we are proud to offer the best, most comprehensive and award-winning home warranty plans. Learn more about CoverageInsure Home Warranty Plans and get a quote today.

Umbrella Insurance for a Very Rainy Day

Many consumers are not aware of the benefits provided by an umbrella policy and many may not even be aware of the existence of such a policy. Others might just view it as an “upsell” offered by insurance companies and agents hoping to make some extra income. However, the policy actually offers significant benefit to individuals and, according to the Insurance Journal, the state of Maryland’s Insurance Administration has issued a consumer advisory explaining the policy’s benefits. If you don’t currently have an umbrella policy, you’ll want to read on to understand better what it can do for you and your family.

In your standard home insurance policy, there’s a limit of liability for personal liability claims. The usual coverage that’s automatically provided is generally $100,000. However, given today’s litigious society and the cost of medical care, a claim can easily exceed that amount. If you are a homeowner, your assets, including your house, can be attached in the event of a judgment against you. This is where an umbrella policy can really help out.

The personal umbrella policy is given its name because it acts as an umbrella over more than just your personal liability policy. Most people who have umbrellas use the policy as extra protection for both their personal liability and automobile liability coverages. For example, if you have a $1 million umbrella policy, it will provide the $1 million in protection if either your personal liability or auto liability policy limits were exhausted.

Keep in mind that this is a liability policy and not a property policy. Therefore, even though your home insurance policy has two main types of coverage, the umbrella only applies to the personal liability portion of the coverage. As an example, if you have not insured your home for the proper amount and have a large claim, the umbrella policy will not provide you with any benefit. On the other hand, if someone is injured on your property and sues you, the umbrella policy will be prepared to step in if your home insurance policy’s personal liability limit is exhausted.

It’s common for people to consider the umbrella policy as an optional item and not necessary. Even if they are aware of the existence of umbrellas, many people choose not to purchase them, thinking that a very large loss will never happen to them. Unfortunately, when something unforeseen actually happens, it’ll be too late to purchase the coverage. Umbrellas are generally inexpensive when viewed in relation to how much coverage they provide. That low premium is a good sign of the relative infrequency of loss contemplated by the insurance companies in underwriting the policies. However, just because everyone thinks it’s rare for a loss to occur doesn’t mean they don’t believe it will never occur.

You should also keep in mind that there might be some ways to save on insurance premiums by purchasing an umbrella policy. Because many insurance companies offer a multi-policy discount, you might find that it’ll defray the cost quite a bit. When I first started purchasing an umbrella policy, the discount I received from adding it to my existing home and auto policies with the same insurer almost covered the entire cost of the umbrella! Given its low cost and potentially great benefit, you should really invest in an umbrella policy.

When Should Parents Consider Child and Car Safety?

  

If someone asked us when parents should consider and begin to practice child safety as it relates to cars, we’d answer that these things should start before their child is even born.

This may sound strange, but as any mother will tell you, the impact from a child begins months before birth. Thus, our answer to the previous question. Since mothers are carrying unborn children for the gestation period, child safety is impacted by the mother’s safety.

While expectant mothers are undergoing physical changes to their bodies, such as the expansion in their abdomens and widening of their hips in the first trimester — changes that continue for all 40 weeks they’ll carry their child — we suggest the same for them as we would any other driver. Wearing their seat belts.

We’ve heard the myth that seat belts endanger the lives of the unborn, but it’s just that — a myth, as long as seat belts are worn properly. That means expectant mothers should wear their seat belts, with the lap belt should be across her hips and below her belly, and the shoulder belt should be across her chest, between the breasts.

Car Seat Installation

With the new arrival of a bundle of joy, we shift from the safety of the mother to the child itself. It may be easy to think that installing a car seat is a simple matter. Put the child seat in the car, insert child, and we’re done, right?

Not so fast. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) says 75% of car seats are installed and/or used incorrectly. Fortunately, many hospitals have Child Passenger Safety (SPC) Technicians who can help parents of newborns properly install and secure their car seats.

But what do you do if you’re on your own? While the documentation and instructions included with the child seat is a good start, we think the NHTSA’s free child safety seat inspection centersare also worth the few minutes of time they’ll take to visit. These government-funded centers are based throughout the nation, and they’ll help to ensure a child seat is installed correctly, preferably using the LATCH system.

LATCH, or the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children system, has been standard equipment on every car sold in the United States since 2002. All child seats produced since that time are also LATCH compliant. The system employs different sets ofÿanchors to be used with child restraints.

However, if you don’t have access to these resources then you’re left to install it yourself. With all the latches and straps installation may seem complicated. But don’t worry; we’ve got you covered below.

Installation for Infants

The primary role of a car seat for infants is to protect the head and neck, which are the most vulnerable to long-term complications in the event of a collision. There are two types of car seats for infants: rear-facing, infant-only; and convertible seats. Rear-facing, infant-only care seats are ideal for newborns but they become obsolete once the child grows to more than 20 pounds. When you’re installing your little one’s car seat we suggest you follow the steps outlined in the manufacturer’s instruction manual. However, here are some general tips that will help you properly secure your newborn. If you’re more of a visual learner you can watch installation videos provided by the NHTSA.

  • If you can move the car seat more than an inch then the straps aren’t tight enough. To get them tight enough we suggest you find a way to put your weight into the car seat and then pull the straps as hard as you can. It’s important that the seat moves as little as possible while you’re in transit.
  • Ensure the carrier straps are tight and the harness clip is even with your baby’s shoulders or armpits and the straps are in the slot that lines up close to the infant’s shoulders.
  • If your baby has some extra space in the seat you can place rolled receiving blankets or towels on each side to keep him or her from wobbling. Avoid placing anything under the harness straps.
  • Locking clips are necessary for some vehicles made before 1997. This is necessary because these vehicles don’t have seat belts that lock when the brakes are slammed, so the clip keeps belt from slipping if an accident occurs.
  • Your baby’s head should be at least two inches below the top of the safety seat and make sure the seat is set at a 30 to 45-degree angle.
  • You can see more tips at DMV.org or Kids Health.

Convertible seats, the alternative to rear-facing, infant-only seats, are designed so that they can be used by infants after they’re heavier than 20 pounds. When the baby reaches that weight the seat can be turned to face forward and it’s secured with three types of harnesses: T-shield, tray shield, and five-point. All of these types meet required safety standards, but the five-point harness is regarded as the best option since it can be tightened to fit snugly and it doesn’t get in the way of the baby’s head. When installing a convertible seat you should make sure all straps are as tight as possible to prevent it from wobbling.

Ages One to Three

While infants should always be placed in rear-facing car seats, once a child has reached at least one year of age and weighs at least 20 pounds they can utilize forward-facing child safety seats installed in the rear of the car. That being said, they’re safer in a rear-facing seat, so keep them in one for as long as possible.Forward-facing seats, like the ones that come before, should be installed using LATCH rather than seat belts, if possible. Here are some other tips:

  • If you’re installing a forward-facing seat make sure it’s set directly against the back and bottom of the car seat. When you’re installing the seat make sure to put weight on the seat to push it back as far as possible so the straps will be as tight as they can be.
  • Make sure the seat can’t move side to side or tip forward more than an inch. If it does then unbuckle it and try again.
  • If your car was made before 1996 then you’ll probably need to buy a locking clip to prevent the lap and shoulder seat belts from slipping.
  • Make sure the straps lie flat and tug on them to make sure they’re secure once your baby is fastened into the seat.
  • If you can pinch any of the harness material between your fingers then it’s too loose and needs to be adjusted.

Ages Four to Seven

There are no rear-facing car seats available for this age group, and we don’t know of any children of this age group that would be content to sit facing the rear of the car. So, once a child reaches age four, you’ll have no choice but to move to a forward-facing seat.

Keep a child in this age range in their child seat until they outgrow either the height or weight limits specified by the seat manufacturer. Once this happens, it’s time to switch to a booster seat.

Ages Eight to Twelve

Once a child reaches eight years of age or is at least 4’9” tall, they should be placed in booster seats. Most booster seats simply elevate the child’s seating position and enable them to use the standard seat belts on a car. LATCH is not required nor should it be used with booster seats.

At some point during this period, you’ll likely transition the child from booster seat to just using the standard seat belt of the automobile with no otherÿencumbrances. Make sure they’re wearing the belt properly, with the lap portionÿacross their upper thighs and the shoulder portion across their chest.

Other Considerations

We’ve heard lots of chatter regarding the so-called “combination seats.” These seats are marketed as being able to go from a rear facing infant seat to a forward facing toddler seat and then finally to a booster seat for older children. A testing study performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found significant problems with these combination seats.

Children should always ride in the back seat of a car, if possible, no matter if they’re in a car seat, a booster seat, or if they’re old enough to wear seat belts.ÿAll modern cars now have both driver side and passenger side front airbags, which are designed for full-sized adults. Airbags can injure or kill a child, and the back seat is simply the safest place in the car.

Finally, don’t assume that just because your child isn’t in a car that all auto-related dangers areÿabated. Child pedestrians are killed at a greater rate than any other age group. In fact, male children, aged 5 to 9 years old, are the largest group of pedestrians killed every year. Children can still fall victim to an automobile by darting into a road without looking or by playing on a street.