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Are Safe Drivers Bonus Checks and Accident  Forgiveness a Myth or Reality?


Well they do exist (at a price), so they are not a myth. 

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably seen the Allstate commercials featuring Dennis Haysbert a few dozen times telling you that if you are insured with Allstate and you don't have any accidents that Allstate will send you a safe drivers bonus check and talking about accident forgiveness. When I was an Allstate agent not a week would go by without somebody calling or stopping by my office wondering why they never got a check from Allstate. Since you were probably sitting too far away from your TV to read the fine print, check out the screen-shot from the add. Maybe the fine print will be easier to read.

allstate safe drivers check

Now here are a few items that Allstate leaves out in their TV ads.

  • Not available to all customers. If you have been a loyal Allstate Insurance customer (over 10 years) you can't get this reward. it's only available on Allstate's new policies with Your Choice Auto (YCA, the name of the new plan which started in 2004). If you have an old policy this just isn't available.


  • You have to pay 15% more to get 5% back! Yes that's right your rate will be 15% higher than the standard rate and if you are claim free for 6 months you will get 5% of your paid premium back in a Safe Drivers Bonus Check. You will also get accident forgiveness for that same 15% increase in your rate. (so basically Allstate is selling you insurance...on your insurance)



  • Accident Forgiveness does not mean that your rate will not change because of an accident. Sure, the accident surcharge is waived, so you won't get an increase because of a surcharge, but you will lose some of the safe driving club discount which, nevertheless, looks like an increase in premium. Accident forgiveness sounds like you won't get charged more if you get in an accident. Sort of like pre-paying for the increase so you won't get an increase at accident time

Some other Car Insurance companies do offer similar packages, but you must pay extra to add these features.  


While looking at your homeowner’s insurance policy, you notice a particular coverage called “Other Structures.”   Several questions pop into your head. What is it?  What’s covered under this feature?  Am I paying extra for this?  Don't worry you are not alone. This is a very common question for a homeowner.

"Other Structures" is defined by the insurance industry as structures which are on the property that do not share a foundation with the home. 

It is safe to say that almost everyone needs Other Structures coverage. It’s also important to make sure you have enough coverage and to know what is covered and what is not covered.

"Other Structures" can include: 

  • Detached garages
  • Storage sheds
  • Barns
  • Guest houses
  • Pool houses
  • Gazebos
  • Fences
  • Driveways
  • Sidewalks
  • Patios
  • Swimming pools
  • Retaining walls

Most Illinois homeowners insurance companies provide this coverage, which is 10 percent of your dwelling coverage, at no charge. This automatic percentage is both a good and bad thing. The good part is that the policy recognizes that almost everyone needs at least some coverage for other structures, and therefore provides it to you automatically at no cost. The bad part is, because it is automatically provided, many people do not think about whether or not the coverage being provided is enough.

For example, if your home is insured for $100,000 and your policy is providing 10 percent of this coverage for other structures that gives you $10,000 automatically. This may sound like a lot of coverage to replace a garden shed; but it may not be enough to replace a swimming pool, a gazebo, or an extensive retaining wall structure. 

To be covered under the standard homeowner’s policy the structures must be used for personal use, not business. However, depending on who owns the business and what the business is, you may be able to endorse the coverage onto the homeowner policy. Otherwise, structures used for business need to be covered under a business insurance policy. Your insurance agent should be able to help you understand which structures are, or are not, covered. It’s not uncommon for there to be confusion in certain situations:

  • Storage sheds which are used to store the home's garden equipment would be covered. However, a storage shed used to store garden equipment for a landscaping business would not be covered under the homeowner's basic homeowner’s insurance policy.  
  • Barns to store supplies for animals would be covered; however, they would not be covered if the animals were kept for profit.  For example, horse trainers would need a business policy to cover them properly.

Additional coverage for Other Structures can be added for an additional charge. The cost to increase the coverage is usually $4 per $1,000 of coverage. It is good to note that while detached buildings can be covered at replacement cost (which will pay for the repair or replacement of the building without a deduction for depreciation), other structures which are not buildings are covered at Actual Cash Value (which depreciates the amount the carrier will pay out based upon the age and condition of the structure prior to the loss). These items would include fencing, driveways, and other man-made structures that are not buildings.  Also, detached buildings have to be insured to 80% of the replacement cost as of the date of loss to avoid a coinsurance penalty.

So the next time you are puttering around your yard, take stock of what you have on the land and contact your insurance agent to discuss these structures and whether or not you should increase your Other Structures coverage to be properly protected.

If your vehicle is stolen, your auto insurance will pay to replace the vehicle (if you have comprehensive coverage) but not personal possessions that you may have left in it.  Auto insurance is not intended to insure your personal property, its purpose is to protect you financially in case of an accident or to fix your car in the event of fire, theft, hail storm or some other cause of loss.

The comprehensive portion of your auto insurance is what pays for non-accident-related losses. Unfortunately, the coverage only extends to the vehicle itself and not its contents. If you leave personal property in your vehicle, such as a laptop, cell phone or even your wallet, you may be out of luck.   

There are a few things to consider when thinking about personal items in your vehicle and whether or not they would be covered in the event of a loss:

  • Are there items permanently affixed to your car such as an aftermarket stereo? Basically, if the item is portable or can be easily removed and put back in the car, it would not be considered "permanently attached”.
  • If it was attached to your car, did you purchase an endorsement or added coverage for the aftermarket or non-manufacturer equipment?  If you have added items to your car, like a new, more expensive stereo, you should consider adding a Custom Parts & Equipment (CPE) endorsement.

If you own or rent a home or apartment and carry homeowner's insurance or renter's insurance, it will cover your loss if you have proof you actually owned the lost items, usually in the form of a receipt. In such cases you should always file a police report and follow the proper procedures, and with any luck you can recoup your losses.

Unfortunately, most homeowner's policies have a higher deductible than a car insurance policy. So unless you are the victim of a significant theft amount, there is a good chance that the property stolen from your car won't meet the amount needed to file a claim.  Some auto insurance companies now offer endorsements that will give you a limited amount of coverage for your personal property which avoids your larger homeowner deductible and more importantly putting in a claim against your homeowner policy.

To summarize personal items in your vehicle and how your insurance company will likely handle that:

  • The best course of action is to avoid carrying valuable items in your vehicle at all, if possible.
  • If you permanently attach additional items to your vehicle, contact your insurance agent about adding a CPE endorsement. Your insurance company will likely ask for receipts to confirm the equipment or items so be sure to keep them.
  • Contact your homeowners insurance company to find out how they handle claims for personal items stolen out of your vehicle.

Being prepared and having good information can help you avoid unfortunate situations like personal items being stolen from your car.

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Rueck Insurance is your independent, one-stop insurance center for all your personal and business insurance needs in Illinois. Insurance shopping is easy when the Protection Team provides you with multiple quotes to choose from. You will always know you are getting the best coverage at the lowest possible price.

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Rueck Insurance is your independent, one-stop insurance center for all your personal and business insurance needs in Illinois.

702 Bloomington Rd#205
    Champaign, Illnois
(217) 355-9075

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