SEATTLE – The results are in, and a majority of drivers in Washington and Oregon could do better when taking a recent insurance pop quiz.
Case in point: about one in three Northwest drivers think that driving a red car, among other behaviors, will cost them more in insurance premiums.
Not true, says PEMCO Insurance, the Northwest’s largest locally based insurance company.
The PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll asked drivers in Washington and Oregon several insurance-related questions with seemingly simple answers, but in fact revealed some common fallacies among Northwest drivers.
“Insurance typically isn’t a common topic of conversation, and we’ve found several areas where drivers could use some ‘Insurance 101,’” said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg.
From vehicle color to gender discounts to accident liability, PEMCO wants to dispel these myths so that drivers and homeowners better understand their insurance coverage.
Myth #1: Red vehicles cost more to insure.
About one in three Northwest drivers think that a red car costs more to insure than a car of any other color, a common misperception among drivers, according to Osterberg.
“In fact, our agents don’t even ask the color of a vehicle when writing a new policy, so the notion that red cars speed more often and cost their drivers higher premiums is an urban legend,” said Osterberg.
Myth #2: Men always pay more for car insurance.
About half of the drivers in Washington and Oregon incorrectly think that insurance rates for men, given the same age and driving experience as female counterparts, will cost more than for women.
Gender does not affect rates across all ages. However, many male teen drivers pay more than teen females. According to PEMCO, driver accident history shows that teenage males are statistically a higher risk than teenage females, so males tend to pay higher rates.
Myth #3: If you cause an accident while driving a vehicle that you’ve borrowed, your insurance pays for the damages, not the car owner’s insurance.
In Washington, the vehicle owner’s insurance usually pays for an at-fault accident caused by a driver other than the owner. Hence the saying, “Insurance follows the car, not the driver.” However, a review of both policies is sometimes necessary to determine who’s responsible for paying for the damage.
“About three-quarters of Washington drivers are unaware that usually the car owner’s insurance is responsible for damages,” Osterberg said. Interestingly, though, the poll shows that younger drivers in Washington are more likely to understand the car’s owner assumes some liability as well.
“Fortunately, when more than one policy applies to a loss, the insurance companies work out who pays,” he added.
Myth #4: Personal property left inside a vehicle is covered by the vehicle’s auto insurance policy.
About two-thirds of drivers in Washington and Oregon don’t know that their personal belongings aren’t covered by their auto policy.
“Luckily, many personal items, such as electronics, are covered by a homeowners or renters insurance policy if they’re stolen from your car,” said Osterberg. “You should keep your valuables locked up and out of sight, but if they’re taken, you probably have coverage subject to a deductible if you have a homeowners or renters policy.”
Myth #5: Any wood is safe to burn indoors, as long as it lights.
About one-third of respondents don’t know the potential danger of burning unseasoned “green” firewood in a fireplace or wood stove.
“Green” wood is still moist inside because it was cut too recently to dry sufficiently. It doesn’t burn as hot as seasoned wood and emits contaminated smoke that leaves creosote inside the chimney. Creosote is flammable, and as it condenses and builds up your chimney becomes a fire hazard.
“Creosote poses a real risk if it’s left untreated,” Osterberg said. “It causes chimney fires. We often see them in the fall, the first time a homeowner lights a fire after summer. The simplest way to prevent creosote buildup is to burn only seasoned, dry wood.
“Even if you burn only dry wood, PEMCO recommends hiring a professional chimney sweep periodically to remove creosote,” Osterberg added.
Myth #6: If your neighbor’s tree falls on your house, your neighbor pays for the damage.
Unless the neighbor was negligent (aware that his or her tree was diseased or cracked, for example), your own insurance pays for repairs.
“About half of those polled in Washington and Oregon weren’t aware that if a tree falls on their property, it’s most likely their own responsibility,” Osterberg said. “Homeowners can protect themselves from negligence by paying close attention to the health of their trees. Obviously, don’t ignore leaning or dead trees. If in doubt, hire a professional arborist.”
PEMCO offers Northwest residents helpful resources to ensure safety around the home and on the road. To learn more, visit PEMCO online at www.pemco.com.
To learn more about the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll and to view a summary of the results, visit www.pemco.com/poll, where the public is invited to participate in an informal version of the poll to see how their own responses compare with those collected by FBK Research of Seattle in April 2012 and July 2012.
About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington and Oregon drivers several questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 629 respondents in Washington and 400 respondents in the Portland, Ore., metro area, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.0 percent in Washington and 5.0 percent in Oregon at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study were conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than plus or minus the stated error range.
About PEMCO Insurance
PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, and umbrella insurance to Northwest residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold by community agents throughout the region and through PEMCO offices. For more information, visit www.pemco.com.