Buying a Car for Your Grad? 🚘 Here’s What to Keep in Mind

So, you’ve decided to reward your graduate with a car (or help him/her purchase one, at least). That’s great! Adding a car to the family can make life easier for everyone — as long as it’s the right car.

Now, how do you figure out which car is the right car? Whether you’re shopping for a new or used car, here are a few things we here at Sentinel Assurance Group would like you to consider.

Safety

It’s easy to find out which cars did well in crash tests (and which didn’t). Visit these sites for current and past ratings, and other useful tools:

Reliability and Usage

Sources such as Consumer Reports can give you a good idea of the experience other owners have had with the models you’re considering. Warranty coverage is included with new vehicles, of course, but also some used cars that have undergone a certification program. Depending on how your grad is going to use the car, you’ll want to look at mileage estimates and features such as all-wheel drive.

The Importance of an Inspection

Buying used? It’s crucial that you get an inspection from a trusted repair shop. Get as much history on the car as you can, from owner records to a report from Carfax or a similar service. And, if you feel the sellers aren’t being forthcoming, walk away. Don’t let their problems become your problems.

Cost of Ownership

Certain cars cost more to repair and maintain than others, and insurance costs can vary widely as well. We would be happy to help you determine the impact different models can have on the price of coverage. When you get further along in your search and have a few choices in mind, give us a call to get a few quotes!

When you find the right car, not only will your graduate be thrilled, you’ll look on with confidence – and pride – as your grad drives off toward the future.

Teen driving tips to keep prom and graduation safe

High school is full of defining moments for our Rosemount teens and two of the highlights for most are prom and graduation. Both Danielle & Amy have sons graduating this year, so this topic hits close to home!

However, this time of year often sees other, more tragic defining moments – serious car accidents involving teens who are distracted or even under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

At Sentinel Assurance Group, we want to help make this season one to celebrate for you and your teen. So, with the help of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, here are some tips that can keep your teen safe.

First, encourage your teen to follow these general safe-driving rules:

  • Absolutely no alcohol
  • Always use seat belts
  • No cell phone use (including texting) while driving
Rosemount High School Prom

Special circumstances

Of course, special events such as prom and graduation often present special circumstances. There may be dinner with dates before the dance, and parties before or after either event. It’s a good idea to discuss your expectations well before each event, putting some guidelines into place before your teen heads out for the night. Here are some ideas:

  • Make sure you know the itinerary of the evening, as well as who else will be with your teen. You should have contact information for everyone.
  • Have a way to contact your teen at all times. You may want to require them to check in with you once or twice over the course of the evening.
  • Set a curfew, whether they are coming back to your home or staying with a friend. If they are staying elsewhere, make sure the curfew will be enforced by a responsible adult.
  • Discuss with your teen how to handle difficult situations, such as facing pressure to drink, or accepting a ride with someone who shouldn’t be driving. It’s a good idea to provide your child with money for a taxi just in case.
  • Offer a “no-questions-asked” ride home, should they need one during the evening.

If you’re worried about your teen driving, consider alternate transportation. A car service or limousine will provide a responsible, experienced adult driver. You also will be able to limit changes to the itinerary and contact the driver.

Prom and graduation are special times in a teen’s life. And just a little common sense will go a long way toward making sure your young adult is around to enjoy the other milestones that are sure to come.

Create great fishing memories 🎣

No matter what season is winding down, the next season is just another reason to spend on the water in the boat with rod in hand. One of the best ways to enjoy boating and fishing in Minnesota is to share the fun with others – especially your kids or grandkids.

Amy & Danielle both LOVE to fish, here are a couple of pics from the trip we took up to Lake of the Woods last fall for some Walleye fishing!

While expert anglers tend to know the ropes of both boating and fishing on Minnesota lakes and rivers, there are still many mishaps that can occur if the excursion is not well-planned and strategically executed. This is especially crucial when you have little ones along for the ride.

The next time you’re gearing up to go after the ‘big one,’ make sure that it’s as enjoyable as you anticipate by considering the following guidelines.

Only if weather permits. Check the weather forecast in detail, using your favorite app, before you head out onto the water. In many climates, weather can change quickly and drastically, ushering in unexpected storms that could scare your children and put you all in harm’s way

Dress yourself – and your little ones – for the adventure. Though it may seem obvious, it can get slippery out on the boat or the dock! Ensure stable footing for all by making sure you and your kids are wearing shoes that grip boat floors and slick rocks and docks.

Make safety a game. It’s important to be equipped with everything you need for safety and protection – from flashlights and sunscreen to plenty of water and life preservers – but you can also make it fun for the kids. For example, make them the keepers of the radio or the person who makes sure everyone is wearing a hat or sunglasses for protection from the sun.

Be hyper-vigilant about dangerous items. The sport of fishing is accompanied by some sharp items – hooks and knives to name just two. Make sure you have these items in a locked tackle box to ensure no one accidentally gets hurt.

Follow boating rules. Make sure your boat is in good standing by adhering to all the laws of the lough. To find these, research the body of water you’re going to be fishing on before you head out.

At Sentinel Assurance Group, we hope your family fishing outings become lifetime memories!

10 Tips to Get You Ready for Boating Season 🚤

Spring is here in Minnesota (well, sort of!), and summer is right around the corner. It’s time to think about getting your boat out on the water.

Actually, first things first: It’s time to think about getting your boat ready to get out on the water. From the engine and propeller down to your trailer, a little preparation as you get your boat out of winter storage can help you start off the season right — and get the most out of your time on board.

Here are 10 tips from Discover Boating to get you started:

  1. Check your safety gear. Do you have enough life jackets? Are they in good shape? What about onboard fire extinguishers? Are your navigation lights working?
  2. Consider adding safety items. Should disaster strike, an emergency position indicating radio beacon can help rescuers find you and your boat. And, if you have an enclosed space on the boat, you should have a carbon-monoxide detector.
  3. Examine your fuel system. Any leaks or damage should be addressed immediately.
  4. Look at all belts, hoses and cables. Those that appear brittle or cracked most likely need to be replaced.
  5. Check fluid levels, such as engine oil. Change or add as needed.Have your battery and electrical system checked. Look for corrosion on your electrical connections.
  6. Make sure your propeller isn’t banged up. Dings and distortion can cause vibration, as well as damage your drive train.
  7. Look at the hull for blisters and cracks. Repair or patch damage, and make sure to use an environmentally safe solution when washing the exterior and interior.
  8. Don’t forget the trailer. Treat your trailer with as much care as you show your boat. Inspect the hubs occasionally, and check your lights before every trip. If you go boating in salt water, give the trailer a very good rinse afterward.
  9. Don’t forget insurance, either! It’s a good idea to check your coverage as you head into boating season, too. Just give us a call here at Sentinel Assurance Group, and we can help you with a quick insurance review.

There’s nothing quite like a sunny – and safe – day on our local lakes and rivers in Minnesota. We’ll see you out there!

Get ready for boat season

College Graduation Insurance Tips

Protect your college grad with the right insurance

College graduation is an exciting time for students and their parents alike. And, while it’s easy to be immersed in graduation parties and focused on first-job jitters, it’s a time of major transitions and big decisions, and it’s essential to prepare graduates for what comes next.

One area new college graduates need to address is insurance. As insurance professionals at Sentinel Assurance Group, we know insurance can be a confusing topic. We also know that seemingly small missed details can result in very large losses. We want to ensure your college graduate is protected before heading out into the real world, so we have compiled the following pointers.

  • Review your family’s current insurance. The first step when considering insurance for your new graduate is evaluating the coverage you currently have.  Make an appointment with your agent, who can advise on whether it’s appropriate given the pending changes, and whether it will cover your son or daughter.
  • Know the law. Most states require drivers to have auto insurance, and most of those have minimum policy limit requirements. Research the law in your son or daughter’s state, or consult with your agent, to make sure they are covered adequately.
  • Read your lease. Many apartment, condominium and home rental properties require tenants to maintain a certain level of renter’s insurance, which covers the contents of the home in the event of a robbery, fire, or other loss. Make sure you know the terms of your son or daughter’s new lease, and insure them accordingly.
  • Don’t end up liable. Any home renter or owner is exposed to liability risk. To ensure there is adequate coverage in the event someone gets injured on your son or daughter’s property, speak with your agent about liability insurance.
  • Don’t gamble! Never go without. It’s simple: your son or daughter should always have insurance in place. Be sure to discuss with your agent what types they need.
  • Know your company benefits. Many college graduates move straight into the workforce, and most companies have benefits. Study the company’s human resources handbook to learn what benefits are available, when they go into effect, and what their limitations are.

We at Sentinel Assurance Group congratulate you on the graduation of your student!  Please contact us with any questions, or to request a review of your family’s insurance portfolio.

Do You Have Enough Coverage to Rebuild Your Home?

When it comes to your Homeowners Insurance, the Dwelling Coverage amount is intended to cover what it would cost to rebuild your home. This is something that is updated annually at your insurance renewal based on many factors (cost of labor, materials to name a few) and we have seen a larger increase of this coverage over the last couple of years due to inflation.

Selecting the proper amount of coverage is the single most important decision you can make with your Homeowners policy. Without it, you may not have enough coverage to rebuild after a total loss. This is called “insurance to value.” Below are some explanations and tips to help you make the right choices for your needs — and remember, if you need help, we’re just a phone call away and are happy to help determine if you have enough coverage on your current policy, even if you aren’t a customer of ours!

What is insurance to value?

Insurance to value is the relationship between the amount of coverage selected (typically listed as “Coverage A” or “Dwelling Coverage” on your policy declarations page) and the amount required to rebuild your home.  Insuring your home for anything less than 100% insurance to value could mean you wouldn’t have enough coverage to replace your home in the event of a total loss

Why is the cost to rebuild different from the market value?

A home’s market value reflects current economic conditions, taxes, school districts, the value of the land and location, and other factors unrelated to construction cost.  The cost to rebuild your home is based only on the cost of materials and labor in your area.  It is important that you insure your home based on its reconstruction cost, NOT its current market value

Why is reconstruction more expensive than new construction?

New-home builders typically build many homes at once, and solicit bids from various sub-contractors to receive the best pricing. Their business model is based on economies of scale. For example, they may purchase 20 bathtubs at once, securing a lower unit cost. These economies of scale don’t exist when building a single home.

How can I make sure I have the correct amount of insurance?

Work with us or your agent to provide detailed information at time of purchase to be sure that you receive a thorough and accurate quote.

Ask us about additional coverage options that may be available.

Review your insurance to value calculation on a regular basis with your agent.

Tell your agent about any changes or improvements that you make to your home.

Avoiding Frozen Pipes 🥶

Don’t Let the Cold Get to Your Pipes This Winter

It’s hard to think of a worse start to a winter day in Minnesota than turning on the faucet and … nothing. Maybe there’s a trickle of water, but it’s clear you have a frozen pipe. So, what now? Here are some smart tips to help you prevent or address what could easily become a very messy and expensive situation:

  • See to your outdoor water lines: Before cold weather arrives, drain water sprinkler and swimming pool supply lines, and remove, drain and store outdoor hoses. If possible, close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs, and open the outside hose bibs for draining. Keep them open so any remaining water can expand without breaking the pipe. If you can’t shut off the water from the inside, pick up some foam faucet covers.
  • Keep your home warm: Maintain an interior temperature of at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit, even when you’re sleeping or not at home. Seal any drafts and leave interior doors open to help keep an even temperature from room to room.
  • Tend to those pipes: Leave the cabinet doors open in the kitchen and bathroom so your pipes aren’t shut off from the warm air. You can also insulate your pipes with sleeves, heat tape or heat cable. Insulation is especially important in unheated areas, such as your attic, basement, garage or crawl space, and for pipes running along exterior walls. During severe cold spells, you may want to leave all faucets, both hot and cold, running at a slight trickle.
  • Call in a professional: Frozen water in your pipes can cause them to burst, meaning you’ll have a mess on your hands once that water unthaws. So, act quickly to shut off your main water supply, and call in a licensed plumber to see to the situation.

Finally, be sure to touch base with us at Sentinel Assurance Group to check whether you’re covered for the damage a frozen pipe may cause. We’re happy to answer all of your policy questions this winter, and beyond.

Rosemount MN Homeowners insurance

How Efficiently (or inefficiently) do you use your heat? 🔥

Many homeowners in the Twin Cities see their energy bills each winter and think, “How can I be spending this much when the house isn’t even that warm?”

To get an answer to that question, you should start with some other questions that will help determine just how efficiently you’re heating your home.

  • Where is the warm air going? If you’ve got a leaky house, you’re costing yourself money, plain and simple. Heat ends up escaping and cold air keeps flowing in, which means you either turn up the thermostat or just shiver in your living room. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends getting an energy audit so you can find and seal the gaps.
  • When is the heat on? Are you keeping the house at the same temperature all day and night? Even when you’re or sleeping or at work? There’s no reason to, and programmable thermostats mean you can still have a warm house when you wake up and when you get home.
  • How often do I use space heaters? If you find that you’re using space heaters to supplement your main heating system, you could be masking a bigger problem — and actually increasing your energy costs. Addressing underlying issues, such as a furnace that isn’t working well, can be more cost-effective in the long run.
  • Am I maintaining my system? A lot of homeowners simply forget to do things such as changing their air filter regularly or getting periodic examinations of their furnace. These routine tasks can not only prevent more costly problems down the road, they can help you more effectively heat your home right now.
  • Is my fireplace hurting more than it’s helping? It could be, if you always leave the damper open even when you don’t have a fire going. And, if you have the damper closed, a leak can make it yet another place where warm air gets out and cold air seeps in. Check the seal around your damper, and consider using a chimney balloon when you aren’t using the fireplace.

Taking some time to answer these questions can increase your efficiency, decrease your bills and perhaps even prompt another, more pleasant question this winter: “Is it too warm in here?”

Winter Tire Tips

Do You Need Winter Tires?

You know it’s coming. Snow and slush. Freezing rain. Maybe even black ice.

But do you know if your tires are ready for all of that?

When driving in Minnesota in the wintertime, your tires just might be the most important safety feature on your car. The right ones can get you to your destination safely. The wrong ones? Well, just look over in the ditch during the next storm.

So how do you figure out what’s best for your vehicle? Here are five things to know about winter tires:

1. Winter tires really are different than regular tires.

Winter tires have deeper tread, along with siping (slits in the tread blocks). This increases the number of edges that touch the road, resulting in better traction and handling. They also stay softer than other tires do in cold weather, thanks to special rubber compounds designed specifically for winter use. That helps increase traction as well.

2. If your area regularly drops below 45 degrees, you probably need winter tires.

Winter tires don’t just perform better in snow and ice. They are better for cold weather in general. So if you get some chilly days where you live, consider a set – a full set. Installing just two winter tires can cause handling problems.

3. There are two main categories.

Studless snow and ice tires are designed for extreme conditions. They are better in deep snow than performance winter tires, which are for light snow and ice. What about studded tires? Well, they give you great traction on ice but also damage roads. And some experts say chains do just as well.

4. You still need to check the pressure — once a week.

If your tires are under-inflated, they are at risk of failing. In winter, if they’re overinflated, your traction will be significantly reduced.

5. You still need to check the tread, too.

An inexpensive tool found at auto-parts stores can be used for this, or you can use a penny. Stick the coin into the groove of the tire, with Lincoln’s head down. Is some of his hair hidden? Good. Can you see all of Abe’s hair? It’s time for new tires. Right now.

We here at Sentinel Assurance Group know that nobody wants to spend too much time thinking about tires. The good news is you don’t have to. Just a little bit of preparation, along with some routine maintenance, will keep you driving in the Twin Cities all winter long.