5 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Life Insurance

Life insurance is designed to provide some financial security to your loved ones after you’re gone. Depending on your situation, the money can help pay off debt, fund your spouse’s retirement or help your children pay for their education. There are several different types of policies to choose from. If you don’t know the facts, it could spell financial disaster for those you leave behind. When shopping for a policy, you’ll want to watch out for and avoid these major missteps.

1. Choosing the Wrong Type of Policy

There are two basic types of life insurance: term and permanent. Term policies pay out a specific death benefit and remain in place for a set period of time. Term life insurance can typically be purchased for a 5, 10, 15, 20 or 30-year term.

Permanent life insurance on the other hand stays in effect over the course of your life. Whole life, variable life and universal life are all types of permanent insurance. A whole life insurance policy allows you to build cash value that you can draw against later on. Universal and variable life policies are tied to different types of investment vehicles.

When deciding between permanent and term life insurance, you’ll need to assess what you really want from the policy. Then you can weigh those goals against the costs of each policy. For example, if something happens to your spouse and you only need enough to cover mortgage or credit card payments, a term policy may make the most sense. But maybe you’re looking for a policy that will allow you to earn some returns on your investment. If you don’t mind paying a little more, you may want to look into a permanent policy.

2. Underestimating Your Insurance Needs

In addition to choosing a policy type, you also have to decide how much of a death benefit you need. It’s probably best to avoid just picking a number out of thin air. If you don’t do your homework, you run the risk of selling your beneficiaries short later on.

You’ll want to consider several factors when calculating how much life insurance you need. These include your age, overall health, life expectancy, your income, your debts and your assets. If you’ve already built a sizable nest egg and you don’t have much debt, you may not need as much coverage. On the other hand, if you have young children and your spouse doesn’t work, you’ll need enough insurance to provide for them financially over the long-term.

You will also want to avoid underestimating the value of a non-working spouse. In the case of their death, you won’t need life insurance to replace lost income. However, that money can still help cover new expenses like child care or housekeeping help.

3. Not Comparing Rates

Like any other type of insurance, you’ll want to shop around to make sure you’re getting the best rate. Signing up for a life insurance policy without comparing rates for a few different companies could end up unnecessarily costing you money.

When you’re looking at multiple plans, you want to make sure you’re providing the same information to each insurer. You also want to review the different policies to look for any major differences in the coverage. This helps to ensure you’re getting the most accurate quotes.

4. Focusing on Price

In some cases, the cost of buying life insurance may be enough to scare you away. Or you could be tempted to reduce your coverage amount to score a lower premium. But life insurance is not something you can afford to skimp on.

Looking at your out-of-pocket costs is a more immediate concern. You’ll need to think about whether the money you save now is really worth the affect it could have on your family when you’re gone. If you’re finding that life insurance is too pricey, you may need to take a look at your budget. Try to see what you can cut back on before you opt for less coverage than you actually need.

5. Waiting Too Long To Buy

The sooner you buy life insurance, the better. Premiums will only increase as you get older. Even if you’re in relatively good health, you’ll still pay more for every year you put it off. Not only that but you also run the risk of developing a serious illness or disease which may result in much higher premiums or being denied coverage altogether.

Final Word

Once you decide on a life insurance policy, don’t make the mistake of sticking it in a drawer somewhere and forgetting it. You should take the time to review your policy regularly to make sure it still fits your needs. Knowing that you have the coverage you need can provide peace of mind, not only for yourself but those you love.

If you have any questions, consider talking to a financial advisor. Many financial advisors consider life insurance a crucial part of a financial plan and can guide you on what’s right for your situation. A matching tool like SmartAsset’s SmartAdvisor can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and goals. Then the program will narrow down your options from thousands of advisors to three fiduciaries who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.

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REBECCA LAKE Rebecca Lake has been writing about the nuts and bolts of personal finance for nearly a decade. She is an expert in investing, retirement and home buying topics. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post, Business Insider, CBS News, U.S. News & World Report and Investopedia. As a homeschooling mom of two, she’s always looking for ways to make the most of every dollar.

Boat Insurance and Safety

Keep your head above water—understand how to protect your seagoing vessel, yourself and your passengers

Boats afford recreation and adventure to their owners, but they come with risks, as well. Don’t let an accident or disaster sink you—understand how to insure your prized vessel.

Boat insurance basics

The size, type and value of the craft and the water in which you use it factor into what type of insurance you need and how much you will pay for insurance coverage. As with any insurance policy, make sure you understand exactly what perils are covered and what your policy limits are.

  • Small craft may be covered under your standard homeowners policy or renters insurance policy. Most insurers provide limited coverage for property damage for small boats such as canoes, small sailboats or small powerboats with less than 25 mile per hour horsepower. Coverage generally includes the boat, motor and trailer combined. Liability coverage is typically not included, but it can be added as an endorsement to a homeowners policy.
  • Larger and faster boats such as yachts require a separate insurance policy (as do personal watercraft such as jet skis).

Typical boat insurance policies cover physical damage to the boat itself. They also cover property damage, theft and medical payments, each with different deductibles. Your insurer may offer additional, optional coverage for trailers and boat accessories.

Boat insurance policies generally provide broader liability protection than a homeowners policy. However, depending on the assets that are at risk, boat owners may also consider purchasing an umbrella liability policy, which will provide additional protection for their boat, home and car.

Boat insurance coverage

Boat insurance is available in two types, each with different parameters and different premium costs.

  • Actual Cash Value policies pay for replacement costs less depreciation at the time of the loss. In the event of a total loss, used boat pricing guides and other resources are used to determine the vessel’s approximate market value. Partial losses are settled by taking the total cost of the repair less a percentage for depreciation.
  • Agreed Amount Value policies are based on a valuation of your vessel that you and your insurer have agreed upon; in event of a total loss you will be paid the “agreed amount.” Agreed Amount Value policies will also replace old items with new ones in the event of a partial loss, without any deduction for depreciation.

Here are some of the common and optional boat coverages. Make sure you understand what exactly your policy will pay for and what the limits are.

  • Physical loss or damage to the actual boat, including the hull, machinery, fittings, furnishings and permanently attached equipment. Physical damage exclusions might include normal wear and tear, damage from insects, mold, animals (such as sharks), zebra mussels, defective machinery or machinery damage.
  • Theft of the boat.
  • Bodily injury to persons other than the boat owner or his or her family.
  • Damage caused to someone else’s property.
  • Guest passenger liability—that is, any legal expenses incurred by someone using the boat with the owner’s permission.
  • Medical payments for injuries to the boat owner and other passengers.
  • Trailer or boat accessories.
  • Loss or theft of belongings may or may not be covered. Your homeowners policy may provide some coverage and boaters should specifically inquire about special equipment kept on the boat, such as fishing gear, to make sure it is covered.
  • Towing in the event of an accident.

Boat insurance discounts

If you’re thinking of obtaining boat insurance or changing insurers, inquire about discounts for the following:

  • Diesel powered craft, which are less hazardous than gasoline powered boats as they are less likely to explode
  • Coast Guard approved fire extinguishers
  • Ship-to-shore radios
  • Crew completion of boating and water safety education courses, such as those offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons, or the American Red Cross.
  • Multi-policies with the same insurer, such as a car, home or umbrella policy.
  • Two years of claims-free experience

Best practices for boat safety

There are thousands of recreational boating accidents per year, which can be costly in injuries and damages. Contributing factors to boating disasters include traveling too fast for water or weather conditions, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, failing to follow boating rules and regulations, carelessness and inexperience.

The best way to ensure your years of accident- and claims-free experience is to follow boating safety practices.

  • Properly equip your vessel with required navigation lights and with a whistle, horn or bell. Have on hand plenty life jackets and emergency safety devices such as a paddle or oars, a first-aid kit, a supply of fresh water, a tool kit and spare parts, a flashlight, flares and a radio. Carry one or more fire extinguishers, matched to the size and type of boat and keep them readily accessible and in condition for immediate use.
  • Before you sail or launch, check weather forecasts before heading out to ensure good boating conditions. Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return. Check engine, fuel, electrical and steering systems, especially for exhaust-system leaks.
  • When you have passengers and/or a load, pay attention when loading. Distribute the load evenly and don’t overload. In a small boat, warn passengers not to stand up or shift weight suddenly. Don’t permit riding on the bow, seatbacks or gunwales. Make sure that every person on board the boat gets and wears a life jacket.
  • Know and obey marine traffic laws; learn distress signals and other boating signals.
  • In shallow waters, keep an alert lookout for other watercraft, swimmers, floating debris and shallow waters.
  • Don’t operate the boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or allow anyone who might be impaired to operate the vessel


It’s Hurricane Season. Do You Need Flood Insurance?

The Atlantic hurricane season is here, and with it the threat of storm-related flooding. So homeowners may want to buy flood insurance, if they don’t already have coverage.

Hurricane season runs from June through November. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has forecast a “near- or above-normal” hurricane season this year, with one to four “major” hurricanes expected.

Standard homeowner policies typically don’t cover damage from floodwaters resulting from rising tides, flash floods or overflowing streams. To get flood coverage, you’ll need to buy a separate flood policy. (Homeowner policies often cover hurricane damage from wind and rain, but you may have to pay more out of pocket, especially in coastal states.)

Most flood insurance is sold through the National Flood Insurance Program, which is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and covers about five million policyholders. A few private companies also sell coverage.

The government-run flood program is in need of an overhaul to make coverage more accessible and to put the program on firmer financial footing in the wake of big storm losses in recent years.

Congress has postponed debate on reforms, however, voting instead to keep the current program going through the end of July. Lawmakers must act by then to revamp it or extend it yet again.

Both insurance officials and consumer advocates recommend that homeowners not let the political debate over renewal of the flood program delay their purchase of coverage. New policies come with a 30-day waiting period before taking effect, so it makes sense to buy as soon as possible, given the heightened risk of flooding during hurricane season.

“We absolutely recommend that anyone with a home to protect should get a quote and, if you can afford it, buy it,” said Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, an insurance advocacy group.

Recent floods, like last year’s catastrophe from Hurricane Harvey in Houston, have shown that too many homes needing coverage don’t have it, said David Maurstad, deputy associate administrator for insurance and mitigation at FEMA and chief executive of the flood program. The possibility of a lapse in the flood program, he said, shouldn’t make consumers delay buying insurance that “they probably needed for some time.”

Meanwhile, she said, homeowners should consider buying flood protection even if they are not in an area traditionally considered to be high risk. In recent years, she noted, areas that had not previously experienced problems have flooded.

The national flood program says 20 percent of claims are paid in areas considered low risk.

“Where it can rain,” Mr. Maurstad said, “it can flood.”

Cost of coverage varies, but the average annual federal flood premium for 2018 increased by 8 percent to $935, according to FEMA. Mr. Maurstad noted that policies for homes in low-risk areas cost around $500. Premiums in high-risk areas, however, can run to four or five figures, Ms. Bach noted.

Here are some questions and answers about flood insurance:

What does a federal flood policy cover?

National Flood Insurance Program policies cover up to $250,000 in damage to the home’s structure, and $100,000 for its contents. (Extra coverage may be bought from private insurers.) But federal policies generally don’t cover living expenses, like the cost of temporary housing.

How can I keep my flood insurance premium affordable?

Homeowners in high-risk areas who take steps to protect their properties, such as by elevating mechanical systems or even the entire home, can see as much as a 60 percent reduction in premiums, according to FEMA. The agency offers grants to help cover the cost of elevating homes, but the process can take time. So interested consumers should apply sooner rather than later, Ms. Bach said. “Be patient.”

Other suggestions for reducing flood insurance costs are available on FEMA’s website.

What happens if Congress doesn’t vote on the flood program by the new deadline?

The program would still process and pay claims on existing policies, he said, “as long as funds are available.”

A FEMA spokesman, Michael Hart, said the flood program currently has $5.5 billion available to pay claims, not including nearly $10 billion more in borrowing authority that would be unavailable during a lapse in authorization.

A lapse would also curtail the program’s capacity to borrow money, according to the Congressional Research Service. So Congress might have to approve extra funds or increase the program’s borrowing limit, to make sure that claims are paid.

notice on FEMA’s website says a lapse is “unlikely,” and states that “FEMA and Congress have never failed to honor the flood insurance contracts in place.”

Sinkhole Coverage – What you need to know

 Florida has more sinkholes than any other state in the nation. Because of this Florida made some changes to its laws regarding sinkhole coverage on homeowners insurance policies. Florida law now requires insurers to cover “catastrophic ground cover collapse”. This now means that damage caused by a sinkhole may not be covered under your home insurance policy. That’s because the law defines catastrophic ground cover collapse differently from sinkholes.

According to the FL Dept of Financial Services, “Florida law defines a sinkhole as “a land form created by subsidence of soil, sediment, or rock as underlying strata are dissolved by groundwater. A sinkhole may form by collapse into subterranean voids created by dissolution (the dissolving) of limestone or dolostone or by the subsidence as these strata are dissolved.”

“Catastrophic ground cover collapse” is defined as “geological activity that results in all of the following: 1). The abrupt collapse of the ground cover; 2). A depression in the ground cover clearly visible to the naked eye; 3). Structural damage to the building including the foundation; and 4). The insured structure being condemned and ordered to be vacated by the government agency authorized by law to issue such an order for that structure.”

“This means that if your home is damaged by sinkhole activity, but does not meet all four criteria for catastrophic ground cover collapse – for instance, you may have foundation cracks, but the home is still livable – your insurance may not pay for the damage if you do not have sinkhole coverage.

All insurance companies licensed to do business must offer sinkhole coverage, usually as an addendum or rider to an existing policy, and for an additional premium charge. However, insurance companies may require an inspection before extending coverage. If sinkhole activity is present on the property or within a certain distance of the property to be insured, the insurance company may decline coverage.”

Because of these changes it’s important to find out what is covered under your policy. If you are not sure if you have sinkhole coverage or catastrophic ground cover collapse coverage contact one of our agents today for a full policy review.

For more information on Sinkholes and Catastrophic Ground Collapse please visit the Florida Department of Financial Services website.

Commercial Insurance 101

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If you own a business, it’s important to match the insurance you carry to the company you keep. Doing so can save you time and money down the road. 

Commercial auto insurance can be especially important, so if you’re not sure what kind of commercial auto coverage you need, you may want to talk with an independent agent who specializes in that particular area. Independent agents work with you to put together a package that provides the protection that’s right for your business. 
“Anyone who owns a business with a commercial automobile needs to have coverage that is appropriate for the industry and the size of the business,” says Brett Stalnaker of The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies. “An independent agent who specializes in commercial auto cover-age can provide business owners with the kind of advice they need to make the right choice.” 

Here are some tips to help you find a commercial auto insurance agent: 

• Get objective advice. There are different types of insurance agents. A captive agent represents only one insurance company. Independent agents represent a number of different insurance companies. Independent agents tend to be more flexible, because they can offer coverage options from various companies, increasing your odds of getting the combination of cover-ages, price and service that fits your business needs. 

• Visit the Web site of a larger insurance company. Web sites such as can provide you with coverage option information and a way to find an agent in your neighborhood. 

• Seek referrals. These can come from professional organizations or other contacts such as other business owners. Chances are, other business owners in your industry can recommend an agent that they’ve worked with. 

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to business-related insurance. A business that you start in the dining room or garage with just one vehicle can grow to the point where several vehicles are added and you move to commercial property. As your business evolves, your protection needs will most likely change, too. Be sure to check in with your agent periodically to reassess your commercial auto policy. 

Click here to learn more or to start your search for commercial insurance.

Tips For Protecting Boats And Motorcycles

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Tips For Protecting Boats And Motorcycles 

Before you take your motorcycle on the road or put your boat on the water, it may pay to be certain your insurance is ship-shape. 

Motorcycles and boats are often significant investments, and the right insurance policy can help protect them. Here are a few tips, courtesy of Patrons Insurance.

Evaluate your specific needs. Insuring a boat or a motorcycle is different than insuring your car or home. A specialized motorcycle policy, for instance, can provide coverage for custom paint jobs and aftermarket equipment that might not be covered if the bike were just added to a generic auto policy. 

Similarly, a specialized boat policy could cover things like the cost to replace lost or damaged fishing gear and costly services such as emergency on-water towing and fuel-spill cleanup. You probably wouldn’t get this coverage by adding a boat to a homeowner’s policy. 

Consult with an independent agency – like Patrons Insurance. Unlike “captive” agents who represent only one company, independent insurance agents and brokers are licensed insurance professionals who represent several companies. They can offer you a variety of coverages, review and evaluate your policies, suggest new coverage options that meet your changing needs and answer your questions. 

“An independent insurance agent or broker can make sure you have the specialized coverage you need to protect your boat or bike,” said Jim Lloyd, of the Progressive Group of Insurance Companies. “Some insurance companies provide only bare-bones protection for your boat or motorcycle by simply adding it onto your existing auto or homeowner’s policy, but independent agents and brokers can review and evaluate your needs to help match you with the company that will provide you with the combination of specialized coverage, service and price that’s best for you.” 

Click here to learn more about Boat Insurance and Motorcycle insurance.

Get ready for bike season in five simple steps

Get ready for bike season in five simple steps  

There’s nothing like cruising down the open road on your motorcycle – the wind in your hair and a few bugs in your teeth. 

Before you hit the highways and byways this season, make sure your insurance policy is up to speed so that you and your bike are protected. 
Here are a few tips from the experts at Progressive: 

1. Make sure your insurance policy is still in force. Some companies have a winter layaway period when some coverages are restricted. Check with your insurance company to see if you have any type of limited coverage. 

2. Update your policy. Let your insurance company know about any changes like additional riders, a new address or customized parts. A quick call to your independent agent can secure coverage that meets your needs. 

3. Cover customized parts. Parts such as chrome plating, a new paint job, saddlebags or special rims usually increase the value of your bike. If you’ve added custom parts or equipment, make sure they’re protected. 

4. If you don’t need it, drop it. If you own an older bike, check its value. Don’t pay for coverage that you don’t need. Consider dropping collision coverage if the premium equals 10 percent of the bike’s market value. Understand, however, that you won’t be covered if your bike overturns or collides with another object. 

5. Shop around. Prices can vary from company to company, so shop around. Another tip: If you purchase comprehensive and collision coverage, consider raising your deductibles. This can lower the cost of your physical damage coverage.

Seven Commercial Auto Insurance Myths Debunked

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Your vehicles are the backbone that keeps your business up and running. But when it comes to the insurance for those vehicles, there may be some misconceptions floating around out there. For example, you might have been told that it’s okay to cancel your vehicle insurance in the off-season, or that all of your drivers are automatically covered by your policy.

To help you get to the facts about commercial auto insurance, we’ve collected some of the more widely-held misconceptions and uncovered the truth about them–along with some tips on how to make sure you have the right coverages for your business. 

1. Myth: It’s cheaper to cancel your insurance if you have a seasonal business.

Fact: Not necessarily. If you cancel your insurance policy, your stored vehicles won’t be protected. A Comprehensive-only policy provides coverage for a business that doesn’t need liability coverage during certain months, but needs basic protection against incidents, such as vandalism, theft, falling tree branches, hail, etc. This is ideal for vehicles that sit for long periods during off-season.

Plus, a Comprehensive-only policy provides continuous insurance which may save you money in the long-run. If you drop your insurance completely, you may pay significantly more to purchase a new policy when your peak season rolls around because most insurance companies ask for proof of continuous coverage to get you the best rate. 

2. Myth: All commercial auto insurance companies use their own claims adjusters.

Fact: Most companies use part-time or contract adjusters to handle commercial vehicle claims, which can slow down the time it takes to get your vehicle back on the road and in business. Progressive handles 100 percent of its commercial vehicle insurance claims with its own staff of in-house commercial insurance experts, making sure claims are processed faster than other insurers that outsource this work.

3. Myth:  You must pay your insurance premium in full up-front.

Fact:  This isn’t always the case.  Some insurance companies offer payment plans that allow your insurance premium to be paid in installments, with very little initial payment.  Keep in mind that you might qualify for a discount if you pay your policy premium in full up-front; however, your carrier or agent may also have other bill plan options available to help you manage your cash flow. Progressive, for example, offers several bill plans, including low initial payments and no interest financing 

4. Myth:  Your employees are covered when they drive your business vehicles. 

Fact: Some vehicle insurance companies will only extend coverage to drivers who are specifically named on the policy.  Make sure your insurer allows “permissive use,” which means that all of your drivers are covered as long as they have your permission to operate the vehicle.

5. Myth: It’s cheaper to buy all of your business insurance products from the same company.

Fact: You need a wide range of coverages to protect your business, from commercial auto insurance and general liability to workers’ compensation. While it might be easier to buy all of these products from the same company, you could save big bucks by buying your policies from separate providers. Shop around to find the best deal, or ask your local agent for quotes from several different companies. 

6. Myth: All insurance companies offer 24/7 service.

Fact: Many insurance companies are only available during regular office hours, which can make filing a claim, adding a vehicle to your policy, and paying bills inconvenient. Before you buy, check with your insurance company to make sure they’re available when you need them.

7. Myth or Fact
Wonder if one of your perceptions about vehicle insurance is myth or fact? Talk to a local agent.  They can provide answers and help you determine which coverages are right for your business.

A trip in an RV shouldn’t ruin your marriage … or your day

Mistakes happen, especially when you’re somewhere unfamiliar, but the results of a recent survey may still surprise you.

The survey found that among RVers, a spouse is more likely to be accidentally left behind than the dog.

A leading RV insurer, The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, surveyed more than 1,000 RVers countrywide to uncover amusing mishaps they’ve experienced while traveling.

The survey found that the most common blunders made while traveling are:
•driving away with the steps extended;
•backing into something;
•misjudging overhead or side clearance space;
•not connecting taillights correctly; and
•running out of gas.

The survey found that 53 percent of RVers spend a month or more each year traveling the open road, and 42 percent travel more than 500 miles per trip.

Traveling the open road in an RV can be a great adventure, but sometimes it gets a little bumpy. That’s why RVers were also asked about their insurance. When mishaps happen, you want to get back on the road fast—ideally with all of your passengers on board.

Only 28 percent bought a stand-alone insurance policy with specialized RV coverages. In fact, 54 percent simply added their RV to their auto policy, and 14 percent didn’t buy any RV insurance.

Although mishaps can sometimes be funny, they can also lead to costly damages. Simply adding your RV to your auto policy can leave you woefully underprotected. It’s important to know what coverages are available to adequately protect yourself and your vehicle.

“There are huge differences in coverage and services from companies that specialize in RV insurance,” says Cathy Pelfrey, RV product manager at Progressive. “Check with your local independent insurance agent or do research online so that you buy the policy and coverages that are right for you.”

For more information on specialized RV coverages, contact us today!

Boat insurance myths

Boat insurance myths 

You don’t believe in the Loch Ness Monster. You don’t believe your friend caught Jaws fishing off the Florida coast. So why do most boaters believe boat insurance covers them wherever they go? 

Progressive surveyed more than 1,000 boat owners. It uncovered a few insurance myths floating around. Here’s a sample of the findings and the facts behind each: 

Myth: Everyone pays more for insurance because of the hurricanes from a couple of years ago. 
Reality: Even though it’s believed by 74 percent of respondents, it isn’t true. Boat insurers generally price policies based on claims in each state. For example, Ohio customers won’t pay more for insurance because of hurricanes in Florida. 

Myth: Boat insurance covers me anywhere I decide to go boating. 
Reality: Seventy-six percent of respondents believed this one. The reality is some insurers only provide coverage where the boat is used most. Insurers may limit coverage to 100 nautical miles of your home port. Progressive provides coverage virtually anywhere you decide to go in the continental U.S. and Canada. 

Myth: I’ll get a better insurance rate if I buy from the same company that insures my home or car. 
Reality: Buying more than one product from the same insurance company doesn’t mean you get the best rate – even though 45 percent of respondents thought so. Boaters can save by shopping around and combining specialized policies from different companies. 

“It’s important to understand what’s available,” said Dominic Mediate of Progressive. “You want to be properly protected in case your boat is stolen, you get into an accident or contents are damaged. We’re separating fact from fiction so boaters can make the best insurance decisions possible.” 

For more information about boat insurance, contact us today!