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Friday, July 10, 2009

Before Your Move

Choosing Your Mover

You will have many choices of household goods movers. Since the prices and services offered vary from mover to mover, you may want to shop around before hiring a mover. Don't be afraid to ask questions, and make sure you get everything in writing, including the company's full name, physical address, and telephone number.You can also check the history of complaints, filed with TxDOT, on specific movers by using our Complaint Management System (CMS).

Under Texas law, anyone offering to perform a moving service for hire must be registered with TxDOT. To verify whether your mover is properly registered, check the status of the mover's motor carrier registration or contact TxDOT at (800) 299-1700 (select Option 3 from the automated menu). TxDOT can also provide you with a copy of a mover's annual report. You may also want to contact other sources such as the Better Business Bureau for information.

Proposal for Moving Services

Prior to loading, your mover must provide a written proposal describing the services to be performed, goods to be moved and what is being charged, as a binding or not-to-exceed fee. A binding proposal states the exact price of the move. A not-to-exceed proposal states the maximum price of the move, but allows the mover to charge less than the maximum.

Inform your mover of all items to be moved and services to be provided, such as stair carries, long carries and elevator use. Due to the additional labor required to provide these services, additional fees may be charged by your mover.

Your mover is responsible for providing you with a pamphlet entitled Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move in Texas prior to moving.


Your mover should prepare a descriptive inventory of the shipment. The inventory will list your goods and note their condition. The mover may charge a fee for this service only if you agree to the preparation of the inventory. Since inventories are often used during the claim process, inspect your shipment carefully before signing anything. Make sure all boxes and items are accounted for at delivery. If there is obvious loss or damage, note this on the inventory at delivery. If any items are damaged during the move, the inventory should be used to determine when the damage occurred. If you discover lost items or hidden damage after signing the inventory, you may still file a claim with the mover.

Moving Services Contract

Your mover is required by law to prepare a moving services contract, which may be a bill of lading, work ticket or other receipt. This contract lists important information about your move, including your name, the mover's name, and the mover's limitation of liability for loss or damage to your goods. The agreements on your written proposal provided by your mover become part of your contract. Be sure all agreements between you and your mover, including services to be provided at the destination, are written on the moving services contract. Do not rely on any verbal agreements. Make sure all documents offered by the mover for your signature are filled out as much as possible before you sign. Read the documents before you sign your name.

Protect Your Vehicle

It doesn't matter what kind of car you drive, all vehicles are a potential target of theft. Nearly 100,000 cars and trucks are stolen in the state of Texas each year, and thousands more are burglarized. Almost half of all vehicles stolen had the keys left inside.

The Ford F150 and Chevy pick up truck top the list of top 10 most stolen vehicles in Texas. Regardless of year, make or model, every vehicle is a potential target for theft and burglary, especially when the keys are left inside. Following these tips will help you hold on to your prized car or truck.

Tips to Protect Your Vehicle

Hide your valuables. Items in the open make your car a bigger target.
Take your keys and never leave a second set in your vehicle. Twenty percent of stolen vehicles had keys inside them, making the theft even easier.
Lock your car. Almost half of all vehicles stolen were left unlocked.
Park in well-lit or heavily-trafficked areas. Thieves do not like witnesses. Find an attended lot or garage if possible.
Give parking attendants the ignition key only. Keep your trunk and glove box locked at all times. If possible, get separate keys for the ignition and the trunk and glove box
Never leave your car running unattended. Cars are often stolen at convenience stores, gas stations or when an owner leaves the vehicle running to warm it up.
Install an anti-theft device. Many insurance companies may give you a discount for certain anti-theft devices. Check with your agent for details.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Allstate home insurance rates to jump 5.5 percent statewide

Allstate home insurance rates to jump 5.5 percent statewide
July 7, 2009, 3:05PM
(Embedded image moved to file: pic25584.gif)
Nearly half a million Allstate Texas Lloyds customers will see home
insurance rates go up a statewide average 5.5 percent starting in late

Texas homeowners living closer to the coast will see higher rate hikes.
Harris County rates, for instance, will jump and average 15.6 percent and
Galveston’s will rise an average 9 percent.

The company has notified state regulators about its plans to impose the new
rates on policies that come up for renewal starting Aug. 27.

“We’re committed to ensuring both for our agencies and our consumers that
our rates are in fact competitive. It’s important to us that we do that in
a responsible manner and that means making sure we are not just offering
the right products for our consumers but that we are doing it at the right
price,” said Bill Mellander, an Allstate spokesman.

Allstate needs the recent increase because of climbing claims costs, he

For example, the costs of materials and labor for roof claims have
increased more than 60 percent over the last 18 to 24 months, he said.

Homeowners along the coast will get hit with bigger rate increases because
the company is paying more for reinsurance, coverage it buys to pay claims
during hurricanes and other catastrophes.

The rates also account for losses from Hurricane Ike, for which the company
paid out $666 million net of reinsurance.

Insurers use historical claims loss figures, among other factors, to
project the rates they will need to cover future payouts.

Regulators are reviewing the rates and can order refunds, plus interest, if
they deem the increase unjustified, said Jerry Hagins, a spokesman for the
Texas Department of Insurance.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

1 in 10 social security numbers guessed with public info

by Josh Smith
Jul 7th 2009 at 2:03PM Credit, Ripoffs and Scams, Fraud

We all know not to give out our Social Security number on social networking and other websites, but new research indicates that it is possible to determine one out of every ten social security numbers knowing only a place of birth and birthdate! In states with lower numbers of births the odds are even better.

Technology has made it cheaper and easier than ever for others to find out when you were born, but sadly it won't be to send you a present on Facebook. The study points out that birth information can be found on numerous social networking sites, or purchased cheaply, for "almost every adult in the United States".

Even worse, most credit card issuers will still process an application even though two digits of a Social Security number are wrong, as long as the birth information is correct. Hackers who know how to use this prediction method may succeed up to three out of ten times in guessing the Social Security number of people born in the 25 least populated states. The lax standards of the credit card companies makes their job even easier.

The study estimates that in a large-scale attack in a small state like West Virginia, criminals could, "harvest credentials at rates as high as 47 per minute, obtaining ~4,000 credentials within 2 h(ours) before his or her IPs are blacklisted." After being blacklisted, the attacker could simply rent another group of infected computers for as little as $1,000 and keep going.

The study also suggests that the ability to accurately predict the first five digits for six out of ten Social Security numbers could lead to new, more targeted email scams in which the scammer would include the first portion of the victim's social security number to gain trust and obtain more personal information.

Unfortunately this isn't any easy problem to fix; even if the government randomized all digits of new Social security numbers, as the authors suggest, it would still leave the rest of us with predictable and therefor vulnerable social security numbers. Yet another reason to check your free annual credit report regularly.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Farmers Insurance Offers Green Homeowners Product in Texas

Los Angeles-based The Farmers Insurance Group of Companies is offering a new eco-friendly product for its Texas customers wishing to 'go green". Called "Eco-Rebuild", the new endorsement will supplement the comapany's homeowners insurance by allowing customers to replace destroyed property in ways beneficial to the environment.

The "Eco-Rebuild" endorsement includes:
•$25,000 for extra costs incurred to rebuild or replace with "green" materials.
•If the house is an Energy Star Qualified Home, the endorsement will cover the cost of upgrading damaged property to meet new Energy Star requirements.
•Reimbursement for recycling debris rather than disposal.
•Reimbursement for extra costs incurred by using other means of power in the event of loss of alternative power generating equipment.

In addition to Texas, the product is already available in 28 other states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

For more information, visit

Hurricane Preparedness

Hurricanes are severe tropical storms that form in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Scientists can now predict hurricanes, but people who live in coastal communities should plan what they will do if they are told to evacuate.

Step 1: Get A Kit / "To-Go Bag"

Get an Emergency Supply Kit,which includes items like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries. You may want to prepare a portable kit and keep it in your car. This kit should include:
Copies of prescription medications and medical supplies;
Bedding and clothing, including sleeping bags and pillows;
Bottled water, a battery-operated radio and extra batteries, a first aid kit, a flashlight;
Copies of important documents: driver’s license, Social Security card, proof of residence, insurance policies, wills, deeds, birth and marriage certificates, tax records, etc.
Make sure you have a “to-go bag” ready in case you need to evacuate, include:
Water and non-perishable food;
Battery operated radio and batteries so you can get important information from local officials;
First aid kit;
Important documents such as proof residence, pictures of your family including pets, insurance policies, and tax records;
Comfortable clothing and blankets;
Unique family needs such as prescription medications, pet supplies, infant supplies or any other unique need your family may have;

Step 2: Make a Plan
Prepare your family

Make a Family Emergency Plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency
Plan places where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood.
It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
You may also want to inquire about emergency plans at places where your family spends time: work, daycare and school. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one.
Plan to Evacuate
Identify ahead of time where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood.
Identify several places you could go in an emergency, a friend's home in another town, a motel or public shelter.
If you do not have a car, plan alternate means of evacuating.
If you have a car, keep a half tank of gas in it at all times in case you need to evacuate.
Take your Emergency Supply Kit.
Take your pets with you, but understand that only service animals may be permitted in public shelters. Plan how you will care for your pets in an emergency.
Take a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) class from your local Citizen Corps chapter. Keep your training current.

Step 3: Be Informed
Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify a hurricane.

A hurricane watch means a hurricane is possible in your area. Be prepared to evacuate. Monitor local radio and television news outlets or listen to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest developments.
A hurricane warning is when a hurricane is expected in your area. If local authorities advise you to evacuate, leave immediately.
Hurricanes are classified into five categories based on their wind speed, central pressure, and damage potential. Category Three and higher hurricanes are considered major hurricanes, though Categories One and Two are still extremely dangerous and warrant your full attention.
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale Scale Number (Category) Sustained Winds (MPH) Damage Storm Surge
1 74-95 Minimal: Unanchored mobile homes, vegetation and signs. 4-5 feet
2 96-110 Moderate: All mobile homes, roofs, small crafts, flooding. 6-8 feet
3 111-130 Extensive: Small buildings, low-lying roads cut off. 9-12 feet
4 131-155 Extreme: Roofs destroyed, trees down, roads cut off, mobile homes destroyed. Beach homes flooded. 13-18 feet
5 More than 155 Catastrophic: Most buildings destroyed. Vegetation destroyed. Major roads cut off. Homes flooded. Greater than 18 feet

Hurricanes can produce widespread torrential rains. Floods are the deadly and destructive result. Slow moving storms and tropical storms moving into mountainous regions tend to produce especially heavy rain. Excessive rain can trigger landslides or mud slides, especially in mountainous regions. Flash flooding can occur due to intense rainfall. Flooding on rivers and streams may persist for several days or more after the storm. Learn more about preparing your home or business for a possible flood by reviewing the Floods page.
Prepare Your Home

Cover all of your home's windows with pre-cut ply wood or hurricane shutters to protect your windows from high winds.
Plan to bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
Keep all trees and shrubs well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
Secure your home by closing shutters, and securing outdoor objects or bringing them inside.
Turn off utilities as instructed. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
Turn off propane tanks.
Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water.
Prepare Your Business

Plan to stay in business, talk to your employees, and protect your investment.

Carefully assess how your company functions, both internally and externally, to determine which staff, materials, procedures and equipment are absolutely necessary to keep the business operating.
Identify operations critical to survival and recovery.
Plan what you will do if your building, plant or store is not accessible.
Consider if you can run the business from a different location or from your home.
Develop relationships with other companies to use their facilities in case a disaster makes your location unusable.
Learn about programs, services, and resources at U.S. Small Business Administration.
Listen to Local Officials
Learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by your state and local government. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.

Federal and National Resources

Find additional information on how to plan and prepare for a hurricane by visiting the following resources:

Federal Emergency Management Agency
NOAA Watch
American Red Cross
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

6 top car insurance myths

By Kat Zeman,
Last updated March 1, 2009

Insurance policies can be complicated enough. Don’t let a flood of misinformation drown out the facts. Since confusion can be costly, is setting the record straight. Here are the most common car insurance myths debunked.

Myth: Red cars are the most expensive to insure

Fact: Red will not cost you more green. Roughly 25 percent of drivers surveyed by Progressive Insurance believe that the color of their car is a factor in determining their insurance rate — especially if the car is red. But the belief that drivers of red cars pay higher car insurance premiums is a myth. Insurance companies will likely not even ask the color of your car when they’re calculating your quote.

"The idea that the color of a car enters into what you’re going to pay for insurance is a myth that’s been around for a long time," says Jeff McCollum, spokesperson for State Farm Insurance. "I wouldn’t be surprised if it came from the fact that people with red sports cars have the image of being wild and reckless, but it certainly isn’t based on any type of reality."

Insurers are interested in the year, make, model, body type, engine size and age of your vehicle. The color may be important to you, but it really doesn’t matter to your insurance company.

Myth: Thieves prefer to steal new cars

Fact: It’s the other way around. Statistics show that thieves actually prefer to steal older cars. According to a 2008 National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) report, the top 10 most-stolen vehicles reported in 2007 were the ‘95 Honda Civic, ‘91 Honda Accord, ‘89 Toyota Camry, ‘97 Ford F-150 pickup, ‘94 Chevrolet C/K 1500 pickup, ‘94 Acura Integra, ‘04 Dodge Ram pickup, ‘94 Nissan Sentra, ‘88 Toyota pickup and ‘07 Toyota Corolla.

"The reason we see so many older vehicles on the list is because they are easier to steal," says Frank Scafidi, spokesperson for the National NICB. "Also, people are keeping their cars longer (in the faltering economy). That creates a good market for used parts. A lot of times, when they are stolen, they don’t make it back on the street intact."

If you have an older vehicle and have dropped comprehensive coverage to save money, you are not covered for theft and do not qualify for rental car coverage. NICB’s report reveals that thieves have different preferences from state to state. Crooks in California and Florida prefer imports like Hondas and Toyotas. Texas crooks select pickup trucks. Criminals in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan have a thing for domestics (Dodges and Fords).

Myth: My insurance will cover me if my car is stolen, vandalized or damaged from hail or fire.

Fact: Unless you have comprehensive coverage, you are not covered for any of these things. A bare-bones policy in most states only requires you to buy liability coverage. This pays only for damage you cause to others. You need to purchase both collision and comprehensive coverage in order to fully protect your vehicle from all types of damage situations.

Comprehensive coverage covers pays for damages to your car that are not the result of a car accident. That includes theft, vandalism, hail, fires and accidents involving animals. Collision coverage pays for damage to your vehicle from a car accident.

Myth: If my car is totaled, my insurance will pay off what I owe on my loan or lease.

Fact: When your car is totaled, your policy does not promise to pay off what you owe. It will pay you the actual cash value of your car, minus your deductible. Actual cash value is the amount your car was worth before the accident, factoring in depreciation. You are still responsible for any amount outstanding on the loan or car lease.

The only way to cover the difference between the car's cash value and the amount you owe on a loan is to purchase gap insurance. Available to cover both auto leases and loans, gap insurance covers you if your car is totaled before you’ve paid off the loan, or before the lease term expires. Here’s how to save yourself some grief: buy gap coverage.

Your insurer will decide if your car is "totaled." Generally a total loss is declared when the repair costs exceed a certain threshold of the car’s value, generally 70 percent. At that point, the insurance company will tow the car to the salvage yard and offer you the actual cash value of your car.

Myth: My insurance company will pay for a rental car if my car is stolen or damaged in an accident.

Fact: Even if you have comprehensive and collision coverage, it may not include a rental car. Rental car reimbursement is not automatically included in most car insurance policies, but you can add it at an affordable cost. According to the Insurance Information Institute, rental reimbursement coverage is available for $1 to $2 a month with most insurers.

Even if you have this coverage, it won’t necessarily last until your stolen car is recovered or your damaged car is fixed. There’s a limit on how much your insurance company will reimburse you per day, plus a cap for a maximum amount per accident. For example, GEICO charges $20 per year for a maximum $750 in rental reimbursement, with no deductible to pay. In this case, GEICO would reimburse you up to $25 per day but no more than $750 per accident.

Myth: Drivers of sports cars get more tickets and thus pay higher insurance premiums.

Fact: That’s not necessarily the case. According to a study released in 2009 by Quality Planning Corp., leading the pack with the most violations are drivers of the Hummer H2/H3. Hummer drivers have almost five times the number of violations compared to the average. Drivers of three different Scion models (tC, XB Station, XA) also made the Top 10 list. Others on the list include drivers of two models of the Mercedes-Benz (CLK63 AMG, CLS63 AMG), two Toyotas (Solara, Matrix) and the Subaru Outback Station Wagon and Audi A4.

At the other end of the spectrum, the study also includes a "well-behaved vehicle list." Topping that list are drivers of the Jaguar XJ, followed by the Chevrolet Suburban, Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet C/K-3500/2500, Buick Park Avenue, Mazda6, Buick Rainier, Oldsmobile Silhouette, Buick Lucerne and GMC Sierra C1500 pickup truck.

While insurers don’t base their rates on this particular study, the type of car you drive and your driving history factor into how much you will pay for car insurance. Here's how your car drives your insurance premium.

The most and least expensive 2009 vehicles to insure

The most and least expensive 2009 vehicles to insure
By Amy Danise,
Last updated May 28, 2009

2009 Nissan GT-R, "supercar"

The Nissan GT-R has been gobbling up industry awards: It garnered Automobile Magazine's "2009 Automobile of the Year" award, Motor Trend's 2009 "Car of the Year" and Kelley Blue Book's "Best Resale Value Award" for the high-performance car category.

Nissan calls the GT-R a "multi performance supercar" that is meant to deliver fantasy driving to the Everyman (defined by Nissan as "anyone, anytime, anywhere"). It logged the fastest-ever laptime for a mass-produced car on the Nurburgring Circuit, a dangerous racetrack in Germany. Nissan says the GT-R can run continuously at 300 km/hr. ("or more"!) on the autobahn — that's about 186 mph. Thankfully, speeds like that won't stop you from chatting with your passengers; Nissan says even at top speed, "the driver is seated stably enough to allow conversation with the person in the passenger seat to flow."

The 20 most expensive
2009 vehicles to insure

Rank Average
premium Vehicle Class
1 $2,533 Nissan GT-R Sports car
2 $2,446 Dodge Viper Sports car
3 $2,236 BMW M6 Sports car
4 $2,186 Ford Shelby GT500 Sports car
5 $2,088 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Large SUV
6 $2,071 Audi S8 Large passenger car
7 $2,020 BMW M5 Sports car
8 $1,912 Hummer H2 Large SUV
9 $1,881 Lexus IS F Sports car
10 $1,819 Porsche 911 Sports car
11 $1,762 Chevrolet Cobalt SS Sports car
12 $1,717 Jaguar XK Series Sports car
13 $1,714 BMW M3 Sports car
14 $1,694 Cadillac XLR Sports car
15 $1,637 Audi R8 Sports car
16 $1,603 Land Rover Range Rover Large SUV
17 $1,592 Cadillac Escalade EXT Truck
18 $1,587 Honda S2000 Sports car
19 $1,584 BMW X6 Large SUV
20 $1,577 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Large passenger car
Source: research.
Averages based on a 40-year-old male driver who commutes 12 miles to work, with policy limits of 100/300/50 ($100,000 for injury liability for one person, $300,000 for all injuries and $50,000 for property damage in an accident) and a $500 deductible on collision and comprehensive. Policy includes uninsured motorist coverage. Rates were averaged across multiple ZIP codes and insurance companies. Average rates are for comparative purposes; your rate will depend on your personal factors.

The Nissan GT-R, which starts at MSRP $76,840, is a 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged 24-valve V6 with 485 horsepower. (By comparison, the Honda Accord Coupe EX-L V6 has 271 horsepower.)

If you have a GT-R supercar, you're surely the envy of your neighbors.

But they won't be jealous if they see your car insurance bill. The 2009 Nissan GT-R also garners the highest insurance rate of any 2009 vehicle.

Where are the Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Bentleys?

Not enough quoting data was available to calculate averages for exotic and luxury sports cars, so they are not included in the rankings. compiled average car insurance rates for almost 300 model year 2009 vehicles. Sports cars dominate the "most expensive" list, with the GT-R driving away with the top bill. (See sidebar at left.)

Kim Hazelbaker, senior vice president of the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), says he'd be happy to drive any of the cars that top the "most expensive to insure" list.

"These are high-performance versions of vehicles that are already not underpowered, like the M5," Hazelbaker says. "I’m assuming that most of the people who buy these are going to stick their foot in it. That means insurance losses will be higher."

Cars shoot to the top of the "most expensive to insure" list because their drivers have submitted frequent and expensive car insurance claims. On the other hand, when a car model attracts experienced drivers who don't crash often, all drivers of that model benefit.

When a vehicle is in its first model year in the U.S., like the 2009 GT-R, with no claims history, the collision and comprehensive insurance rate is based primarily on MSRP.

"They look at the sale price of the vehicle and that’s what they start at," explains Don Griffin, vice president of personal lines for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, a trade group. "Then rates are adjusted up or down based on loss history over time."

The average car insurance premiums for almost 300 vehicles are available on MSN Money.
What's your opinion of the rankings? Tell us about it in the blog.

Rates for high-performance vehicles could get special attention. Griffin says, "Depending on the company, they look at horsepower-to-weight ratio, or sometimes the 0-60 mph times. They use that to determine whether it’s a high-performance or mid-performance vehicle" and adjust the insurance rate accordingly. Griffin estimates it's going to take three to five years for insurers to have enough claims data on the GT-R to make a reliable adjustment, in part because relatively few will be sold.

In most cases, liability premiums aren't affected by car choice. But in the case of high-performance sports cars, drivers could be charged higher liability rates because insurers expect that they chose their cars for speed and intend to use them that way. Drivers of vehicles like the Hummer also could get higher liability rates because their vehicles inflict more damage.

The 20 least expensive
2009 vehicles to insure

Rank Average
premium Vehicle Class
1 $832 Hyundai Santa Fe Midsize SUV
2 $840 Kia Sportage Small SUV
3 $848 Hyundai Entourage Minivan
4 $857 Kia Sedona Minivan
5 $870 Kia Rio5 Small wagon
6 $871 Honda Odyssey Minivan
7 $881 Smart Fortwo Small passenger car
8 $911 Saturn VUE SUV
9 $913 Mazda Tribute SUV
10 $915 Chrysler Town & Country Minivan
11 $921 Scion xB Small wagon
12 $929 Mazda Mazda5 Minivan
13 $936 Volkswagen Passat Passenger car
14 $939 Jeep Wrangler SUV
15 $951 Honda Accord Passenger car
16 $954 Suzuki Forenza Passenger car
17 $955 Lincoln Town Car Passenger car
18 $957 Mazda Truck Pickup
19 $959 Chevrolet Impala Passenger car
20 $960 Dodge Grand Caravan Minivan
Source: research.
Averages based on a 40-year-old male driver who commutes 12 miles to work, with policy limits of 100/300/50 ($100,000 for injury liability for one person, $300,000 for all injuries and $50,000 for property damage in an accident) and a $500 deductible on collision and comprehensive. Policy includes uninsured motorist coverage. Rates were averaged across multiple ZIP codes and insurance companies. Average rates are for comparative purposes; your rate will depend on your personal factors.

To compare rates, used a driver profile of a 40-year-old single male who drives 12 miles to work. We averaged rates across multiple ZIP codes and insurance companies. Your own rate will depend on your driving history, age, location and other factors.

If you're a young male driver with a less-than-spotless driving record and you buy a Nissan GT-R, you have a potent mix of high-risk factors that will send your premium through the roof. For example, a 25-year-old GT-R driver in Pasadena, Calif., who rear-ended someone last year and got a speeding ticket two years ago, would pay about $5,892 per year for an Allstate policy with limits of 100/300/50, including collision and comprehensive coverage.

The Cadillac Escalade, also among the most expensive to insure, isn't famous for speed — it's famous for being stolen frequently. It's always topping HLDI's theft-losses list.

But maybe you don't need to feel like you're driving on the autobahn. If that's the case, you have lots of good choices at the bottom of the insurance price list (see sidebar), whether you want to drive a passenger car, minivan or SUV.

Low rates tend to reflect a vehicle's safety, which is why larger cars and minivans dominate the least-expensive list.

2009 Smart Fortwo

The Smart Fortwo defies conventional wisdom by appearing among the "least expensive to insure." This tiny two-passenger coupe, made by Mercedes-Benz, is the smallest car available and pops along with 71 horsepower, achieving 33 mpg in the city.

You'd think the Fortwo would be easily totaled in any crash, resulting in high insurance losses. But Hazelbaker notes that the Fortwo "has very low collision losses. They’ve done something no one else is doing: They are shipping body panels for repair pre-painted. So Joe’s Body Shop just has to bolt them on." Mercedes has packed it with safety equipment like side airbags and stability and traction control. In addition, an older demographic is attracted to the Fortwo, and experienced drivers incur lower insurance losses, which holds down premiums tied to the vehicle.

2009 Hyundai Santa Fe

The 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe is the least expensive vehicle to insure. This SUV starts at MSRP $21,695. According to HLDI data, the Santa Fe is "substantially better than average" for comprehensive insurance losses (including theft) and "better than average" for collision and personal injury protection insurance losses.

Most Popular Hybrids on MSN

By Staff of MSN Autos

Over the past year, Toyota's robust sales have made it a contender for the title of world's largest automaker, and in the process the Japan-based company has also become the leader in gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle sales. With hybrid versions of passenger cars, SUVs and luxury cars, Toyota's dominance is evident on MSN Autos' list of top 10 hybrids in the third quarter of 2008.

Hybrid vehicles in this list combine a gasoline engine and an electric motor to improve fuel economy, reduce emissions and, depending on the system, increase performance.

Led by the best-selling Prius in first place, five of the 10 spots are held by Toyota-made hybrids, including two from Lexus — the RX 400h SUV and the luxurious LS 600h hybrid sedan.

Including the aforementioned Lexus RX, there are four SUVs on this list of hybrids, including the most popular hybrid SUV, the Ford Escape Hybrid. Taking the fourth spot on the list, the Escape Hybrid is currently the most fuel-efficient production SUV in America. The Escape’s sibling — the Mercury Mariner Hybrid — was the eighth most popular hybrid on MSN.

With the discontinuation of the Accord Hybrid, Honda offers one hybrid model — the Civic Hybrid. For this quarter the Civic Hybrid placed second, just behind the Toyota Prius.

Chevrolet’s first hybrid sedan — the Malibu Hybrid — takes the ninth position on the list.

View Pictures: Popular Hybrids

The list of the top 10 hybrid vehicles on MSN Autos is based on total visits to the site's vehicle research pages during the third quarter of 2008. Here is the complete list:

1. Toyota Prius
Click to enlarge picture

Toyota Prius

The Prius was the first mass-produced gasoline-electric hybrid when it went on sale in Japan in 1997. Since that time the Prius has become the best-selling hybrid vehicle in the U.S. and the world. The current-generation Prius debuted in the fall of 2003 as the first Toyota product to use Hybrid Synergy Drive, Toyota’s third-generation gas-electric hybrid powertrain technology. Classified by the EPA as the most fuel-efficient car in America, the 2008 Prius is rated at 48/45 (city/hwy) mpg.

2. Honda Civic Hybrid
Click to enlarge picture

Honda Civic Hybrid

When it comes to looks, there isn't much of a difference between the Civic Hybrid and the regular Civic sedan. Aside from the shiny chrome-looking bar on the grille of the Civic, round dish-like wheels on the Civic Hybrid and hybrid badging, the two look almost identical. Where the Civic Hybrid shines is in fuel economy, with the 1.3-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine teamed with a 20-horsepower electric motor to provide a combined 110 horsepower. With an EPA rating of 40/45 mpg, the Civic Hybrid is one of the most fuel-efficient cars in America.

Compare pricing and features: Civic Hybrid vs. Civic

3. Toyota Camry Hybrid
Click to enlarge picture

Toyota Camry Hybrid

One of the most popular family cars on the road today, the Camry was given a hybrid powertrain for the 2007 model year. It looks and drives like the gas-powered version and fits just as many passengers. The main difference is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine combined with a 105-kilowatt electric power system to give the Camry Hybrid a total of 187 horsepower. EPA fuel economy estimates for 2008 are 33/34 mpg, which gives the midsize sedan a range of nearly 600 miles. Consumers may also find the hybrid to be quieter than the standard Camry — it is equipped with a special acoustic-dampening windshield to absorb road noise.

Compare pricing and features: Camry Hybrid vs. Camry

4. Ford Escape Hybrid
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Ford Escape Hybrid

To give it more of a "Ford Tough" appearance, both the Escape and Escape Hybrid were redesigned with a more rugged look for 2008 to closely resemble the Ford Explorer and Expedition SUVs. Still considered a crossover, the Escape Hybrid is available in front- or four-wheel drive. The 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine is carried over from the previous generation, but the software control system has been improved for a better transition between gasoline and electric operation. A number of updates have been made to reduce noise, vibration and harshness levels for the interior. The Escape Hybrid is the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market today, with a rating of 31/34 mpg (front-wheel drive).

Compare pricing and features: Escape Hybrid vs. Escape

5. Nissan Altima Hybrid
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Nissan Altima Hybrid

The Nissan Altima has been quite a success since it replaced the Stanza about 15 years ago. With the rising popularity and demand for gas-electric hybrids, it was only a matter of time before one joined the Altima lineup. The Altima Hybrid became available in 2007, but for only eight states: California, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Oregon, Rhode Island, Maine, and New Jersey. The Nissan Altima Hybrid is geared for performance, but still gets respectable fuel economy at 35/33 mpg.

The Deadliest Days for Car Crashes

By Kat Zeman,

There's one reason not to cheer for Independence Day: It's one of the deadliest holiday for alcohol-related car crashes. Statistics gathered over the past 25 years show that, on average, nearly 51 percent of all deadly traffic crashes on July 4 are related to alcohol -- although that percentage varies from year to year.

The deadliest days
Holiday Fatalities
Fourth of July
(July 4) 200 deaths
(44 percent alcohol related)
Labor Day
(Sept. 1-3) 519 deaths
(40 percent alcohol related)
New Year's
(Dec. 30 -Jan. 1) 391 deaths
(40 percent alcohol related)
Memorial Day
(May 26-28) 491 deaths
(38 percent alcohol related)
(Dec. 22-25) 468 deaths
(36 percent alcohol related)
(Nov. 22-25) 548 dead
(35 percent alcohol related)
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2007 data

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been tracking car crash statistics for a quarter of a century. Holidays that sometimes rival the Fourth of July for fatalities include New Year's Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Eric Bolton, spokesperson for NHTSA, says that when people think of a deadly holiday "the intuitive thought would be New Year's Day." However, that association may be precisely why people stay off the roads on New Year's than they do on July 4, he says. (While the New Year's statistics are totaled over three days, the Fourth of July stats are for one day.)
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• 6 Top Car Insurance Myths Two years ago, 200 people reportedly died in car accidents on July 4. Out of that total, 44 percent died as a result of alcohol-impaired driving. By comparison, 391 people died that same year during a three-day period surrounding New Year's Day (NHTSA judges the length of a holiday based on which day of the week it falls). In that case, 40 percent were alcohol-related.
No matter what day it is, most crash fatalities occur on two-lane roads. Weekends are more dangerous than weekdays and more people die while driving in rain compared to snow or sleet. December, January and February are generally the most dangerous months for car fatalities.
NHTSA's 2007 annual report (2008 statistics will be released this fall) also states that the most dangerous time to drive is between midnight to 3 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. In addition, half of all fatal crashes that year occurred at speeds of 55 mph or more.

Farmers Purchases 21st Century

LOS ANGELES, CA—(July 1, 2009) - The Farmers Insurance Group of Companies® announced today that it has completed the acquisition of 100 percent of AIG’s U.S. Personal Auto Group, which includes 21st Century Insurance. In addition to 21 st Century Insurance, the acquisition includes the former AIG Direct business and Agency Auto business. The purchase price amounts to approximately $1.9 billion.

Under the agreement, AIG’s U.S. personal auto insurance business is being sold to Farmers Group, Inc., a Los Angeles-based subsidiary of Zurich Financial Services Group. Farmers Group, Inc. will sell the underlying insurance entities