Insurance Checkups

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Many of us consider our preps – from spare boots and cold-weather gear to our backup tools and alternatives for lighting and cooking, and most especially our pantries – to be a tangible form of insurance.

They are, absolutely and without a doubt.

However, we also need regular insurance. The type where we gamble so much per month/half against the likelihood of something bad happening, and a company somewhere pockets years of our quiet, peaceful existence until it’s time to wrangle over a payout.

(I actually have a really lovely insurance agency that does not make me jump through hoops and responds quickly. Others, however, have horror stories on all kinds of fronts.)

We need conventional insurance because stuff does happen, all the time.

Exactly what kind of insurances, and how much, is situationally dependent. The down and dirty rule is that we either keep enough in savings to pay for replacements or losses ourselves if and when things happen, or we get insurance, with deductibles we can and will maintain in savings or on a card.

Be sure the household has enough life/disability insurance.

This one catches people ALL THE TIME, peeps!

We not only want to cover each individual’s financial contributions, but also the cost of services provided by them.

Those services can be anything – child care, grocery cost reductions courtesy of gardening, hunting, fishing, tax filing and budgeting, inputs to and from livestock they managed, vehicle and property maintenance, lawn care, animal care, security, even cleaning, cooking, and laundry.

Documentation is highly encouraged for ease and full payouts.
Especially once we get into the “do you cover” areas below, documentation is regularly helpful if not absolutely necessary… which makes total sense and is lovely of my agency to warn me about. Repeatedly. Every Single Checkup.

Ensure your property is actually covered.

According to Balsiger Insurance, many general auto and property policies DO NOT automatically cover:

  • Flood damage (internal or external sources)
  • Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Bushfire/wildfire
  • Mudslides
  • Hail, ice/snow load damage

  • Full vehicle replacement (versus totaling out at Blue Book value)
  • Pools & related equipment/structures*

*Items: Coverage is even less likely if these items are undeclared prior to the claim, or if they were not included in the assessed value of the property.

  • Sheds, barns & outbuildings*
  • Tractors, mowers, lawn-tree care equipment*
  • Aftermarket vehicle add-ons (camper shells, tow hitches, KC light bars, roll bars, extended fuel tanks, full-size spares, full-size spare tires, oil pan guards, beefier bumpers, equipment & fuel can racks)*

 

  • Tow-behind trailers
  • Solar panels/roofs with solar panels
  • Towing vehicles stuck in mud at home residences (but they’ll fetch you out of a ditch or give you a jump 50 miles away from it…?)
  • Multi-location towing (from wreck/fail site to one mechanic then another, or home then to a mechanic – I love my insurance company more and more)
  • Falling tree/limb cleanup when no property is damaged

  • Falling tree/limb damages to fences, carports, & sheds*
  • Lawn, tree, shrub & garden bed replacement/repair (like, if somebody uninsured leaves the road and clips them, or a roof blows off and squashes them)
  • Animal damage to structures (bees/ants in walls, squirrels eating attics/wires, deer ripping row covers, groundhogs digging under patios/driveways, cattle running through gates/fences)

In many cases, we can get additional coverage for those items and circumstances, a separate policy for them, or a different agency may cover them.

Electronics and appliances are usually special cases.

If a bearing went in the washer and it quaked enough to shimmy the toaster oven out of its cubby and rattle the laptop off the adjoining counter, usually that’s not covered.

Likewise for losing our balance painting and knocking the TV off the wall/stand, a dog or toddler launching into/onto a laptop, sneezing and impaling/head butting the TV, or stubbing a toe and dropping a tablet.  

*Those items can usually be insured against “FML” moments separately, by either homeowner add-ons or other companies, but be sure of the fine print.

Decks, docks, balconies, carports & porches are sometimes special, too.

It’s not universal, but sometimes they’re only covered if something else happens – the house burned and the porch went with it, versus a tornado tossed something that only messed up the balcony.

We also might end up covering it if our boat sinks and the weight snaps a piling and the deck falls apart (but the boat might be covered by other policies).

If they are eligible for coverage, we need to make sure their value is included in our total property estimates.

Some possessions require notifying the insurance agency that we have them to gain coverage or full coverage.

Common ones are:

  • Precious metals (any format), cash
  • High-value items (welding rigs, working livestock, LGD animals, compressors, generators, table saws, livestock tack & care supplies, reloading equipment, etc.)

  • Collections (coins and specialty bills, airguns, antique tools, books)
  • Firearms & airguns
  • Ammunition
  • “Excessive” numbers (7 TVs & 11 laptops for 2-4 people, 400-1200 canning jars – it’s highly subjective between companies and agents, so ask)

In some cases, there are limits to the coverage of those items if they were previously undeclared.

My agency doesn’t care how many guns or PMs I have or how/where I keep them. However, they do require me to provide the value amounts for each. It doesn’t change the price of my premiums, but if I don’t tell them, I can only claim a certain dollar amount, regardless of the total amount of my claim.

(I do have to itemize claims, and will need documentation of each of those items and their cash worth if I ever have to file a claim for them. Until then, my insurance doesn’t care if $5K is covering two stupidly expensive rifles or 3,000 economical rimfires.)  

With excessive numbers, high-value items, and collections, there are exceptions so we may end up shopping around, but commonly all we have to do is tell our companies so we can adjust our policies (and, again, have documentation of value).

That value may either be specially noted as part of the total possession value, or be add-ons to a policy.

Cash usually has a cap limit unless we specify otherwise, and they are going to want proof.

Some won’t cover pantry and freezer contents at all.

Others are willing to if we explain that we maintain real goods in lieu of savings, or are homesteaders and produce our groceries for the full year in 3-7 months and store it. Again, keep recent pictures as proof.

Double check your auto theft/damage policy.

One, we want to make sure the stuff in our vehicles are covered, and that we have the right amount of coverage for the items in there.

*That includes things we’re transporting, even infrequently, like tack to an event or other property, guns and gear for training and competition, tools, and sports equipment.

Two, some agencies won’t cover those “maybe, maybe not” items listed above, or will cap how much they’ll cover even if total claimed is under our total coverage amount – or will cap high-value or specific types of items if we didn’t tell them they’re there before a claim.

For instance, even if my coverage is $3K and I’m only claiming $1,500 total, some insurance agencies will apparently only pay $250-$500 for the $700 gun I didn’t tell them I keep in there, or will only cover $100 of the $250 in cash I keep locked in the glove box or center console.

However, some of them would have covered full value if they knew about the gun, or had been warned I carry cash.

 (I am increasingly in love with my agency and may not even bother price checking others at the next checkup.)

We have to know what’s actually covered, so we have to ask ahead of time.

Don’t forget documentation.

Take pictures of things like foods, garden beds, or valuable trees that aren’t covered by ag insurance every six months when you update info binders and check smoke detectors, ideally with something that can be used to prove it’s a recent photo. For other valuables, a one-time image is sufficient.

If you don’t have cloud storage from your anti-virus service, there are some free and inexpensive drop box options. We can also keep a USB drive or external hard drive in bank safety deposit boxes, work lockers, or a friend or family member’s home.

As a last resort, make a dummy email (or use the one you use for missing/lost posters and-or other important information) to send the pics to so they’re available off the web if something happens to your home.  

(To save time/email space, consider putting pics into Word or PowerPoint documents and sending those.)

Tally numbers and call your agent.

We don’t want to out ourselves, but there are reasonable, “normal” things many, many, many non-preppers own. Make sure they’re covered so we can actually replace them in case of theft or damage, and that we have the right coverage (or insurance agency) for the risks common to our lives and areas.

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