#DreamSmallBiz May 1-7, 2016

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small business ownersNext week, America will celebrate National Small Business Week – a time to recognize the contributions that small business owners make to our communities.

Since many of our independent agents are small business owners and are integral to our success, we are especially appreciative of their entrepreneurial spirit, hard work, and dedication to our local communities.

Small can be big. The American Dream was founded on the idea that if you work hard and persevere, you can be successful – something the “average Joe” could achieve. Even though times have changed and businesses now range from local shops to complex multinational corporations, this dream is still a part of the American ethos. The promise of self-made success is still as alive on Main Street as it is on Wall Street.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than half of Americans either work for or own a small business. Further, small businesses account for nearly two out of every three new jobs created each year. These numbers suggest that small businesses are a powerful economic player and regardless of size, can make a difference amid America’s vast economic landscape.

Small is local. Not only do small businesses provide jobs for the majority of the American workforce, they can offer something larger companies might otherwise not: a direct, tangible impact on the neighborhood.

When you shop at a small business, you help keep dollars local because the business owner is more likely to put that money back into the community. Not to mention, local businesses are more likely to employ people who actually live in the community, as opposed to outsourcing to faraway locations.

Small businesses also offer unique solutions to market competition.  Large companies are more immune to smaller market forces and aren’t nearly as dependent on one geographic area like small businesses are. Small business owners are especially compelled to keep local customers happy with quality products and services since the majority of their customers are likely to be people who actually live in that community. Thus, small business owners are constantly challenged to stay relevant, and innovative, and respond to their customers’ needs.

Support small. Next time you’re going out to dinner, consider skipping the chain restaurant and eating at the family-owned diner in town. Or instead of buying your groceries at the large supermarket, try picking up your produce at a local farmer’s market.

And if you’re looking for advice on auto insurance, consider talking to a local, independent agent.  Unlike a large national insurance company, independent agents can provide local knowledge, advice, and choices. Independent agents are small business owners who take the time to understand your needs and make coverage recommendations based on your unique situation. Rather than fitting you to an insurance product, an independent agent will fit an insurance product for you.

Spread the word. People trust you, so while shopping locally, remember to share your favorite experiences with others. If you’ve had a positive experience at a local restaurant or shop, let others know! These days, most small businesses have social media pages, which are great places to share your positive experiences and support your local businesses.

As consumers, we should all appreciate the resilience of Main Street business owners. Let’s show that appreciation by shopping locally – not just during National Small Business Week – but all year.

Headquartered in Boston,Plymouth Rock Assurance is a leading auto insurance carrier in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Personal auto and commercial auto policies in Massachusetts and Connecticut are underwritten by Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation. New Hampshire auto and home policies are underwritten by Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation. Each is a member of the Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in auto and homeowners insurance.

 

 

Spring Car Tune-up Made Easy

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Need to get your car ready for road trip season but don’t know where to start? Check out our helpful infographic that covers the basics on what to do to ensure your car runs smoothly during the warmer months.

Spring clean your car!

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April is National Car Care Month according to the Car Care Council.

Why? Because winter is officially over and after months of wear and tear on your car, it’s time to show your ride some love.car cleaning

From the inside out, here are some simple things you can do to get your car in shape for the spring:

Purge. Nothing says a “fresh start” to spring like purging your car of unneeded items. Remove anything you no longer need in your car. That ice scraper on the backseat? Store it in the garage. That second wardrobe of scarves, gloves, hats and other clothing you’ve accumulated throughout the winter? Pack them away. They’re with the rest of just a painful reminder of months past.

Vacuum your interior. Starting from the top and working your way down, vacuum all interior surfaces. Don’t forget to get underneath your floot mats – you’d be surprised by where dirt and salt can settle.

Spend time on your floor mats. Throughout the winter months, you’ve probably tracked all sorts of muck into your car, so give your floormats a good wash. If you have rubber mats, great. They won’t take long to clean. If they’re carpet, it’s worth taking a power-wash to them at least twice. If you don’t have a power-washer, consider using one at the self-service station at a local car wash.

Scrub the surfaces. Leather or cloth, it’s worth wiping down your seats. And while you’re at it, give the dashboard and the surface behind the backseat (if you’re in a sedan) a good wipe down.

…and the exterior. By winter’s end, your car might be hiding under a blanket of dirt and salt. Whether you go the old soap in a bucket route or opt for a professional cleaning, the exterior of your car needs as much attention as the interior. Don’t forget to thoroughly clean your headlights, tail lights and mirrors.

Replace your wipers. Your wipers work hard throughout the winter. If the blades are worn,  it might be worth investing in a new set. While you’re at it, be sure to check the wiper fluid.

Check your tires. If you live in an area that suffers from long and snowy winters, you may have winter tires. Before it gets too warm, switch out the heavy duty tires for your all-season set since the former aren’t meant for hot temperatures – you’ll get more use out of them next winter that way. Be sure to give them a good scrub before storing.

Pro tip: You can check the tread by placing a penny between the tire’s rifts. If you can see the top of Honest Abe’s head, it might be time for a new set of tires.

It’s a good idea to schedule a routine tune-up with standard maintenance checks, including:

  • All fluids, including the engine oil, antifreeze/coolant, power steering, brake and transmission
  • Hoses and belts – make sure they’re in good shape
  • Battery
  • Brake system – these should be inspected by a professional during a standard oil change
  • Exhaust system – make sure there are no leaks
  • Heating, ventilating and AC system
  • Steering and suspension system

This year, spring into action and get your car running at peak performance. That way, you can enjoy the season with the full confidence that your car will get you to where you need to be.

Headquartered in Boston,Plymouth Rock Assurance is a leading auto insurance carrier in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Personal auto and commercial auto policies in Massachusetts and Connecticut are underwritten by Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation. New Hampshire auto and home policies are underwritten by Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation. Each is a member of the Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in auto and homeowners insurance.

 

 

How to Avoid Potholes this Spring

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Now that winter is officially behind us, you might notice large cracks and crevices in the road. These fissures, more commonly known as potholes, are a result of winter’s wear and tear.Pothole

If hit, potholes can be pretty damaging and can affect everything from your car’s tires, alignment, shocks and struts, suspension, steering, exhaust system and even its engine.

So while you’re out on the road enjoying the warmer, longer spring days, remember to be watchful of those pesky potholes.

Here are some ways you can safely avoid potholes or deal with an unavoidable collision:

  • Steer clear. This sounds obvious and is much easier said than done. But if you spot a pothole well in advance and can safely maneuver out of its way without affecting cars in adjacent lanes, that’s your best course of action. Beware that puddles could be masking potholes beneath, so approach them with caution.
  • Go slowly. By driving slowly and leaving ample space between you and the car in front, you can increase the likelihood of avoiding a pothole. You’ll have more time to spot a pothole and react.
  • Brake slowly. Sometimes it’s impossible to safely avoid a pothole and your first thought might be to brake abruptly upon impact. Instead, try braking slowly to minimize the risk of damage. And remember to keep two hands firmly on the wheel to maintain control.
  • Inspect after impact. If you’ve hit a particularly nasty pothole, it’s a good idea to safely pull over to inspect your car for possible damage. Even if you only notice something small, consider having a professional look at your car straightaway in order to avoid further, costly damage.

Reporting potholes is a collective effort. If you see a pothole, speak up! Let local officials know, to the best of your ability, the exact whereabouts of the pothole so they can address it quickly.

Some places make it easy to report a pothole. For example, the City of Boston and Manchester, NH, have mobile-friendly apps that residents can use to report potholes and other road conditions within the cities’ respective jurisdictions. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts allows drivers to report potholes on state roads by calling or sending an e-mail.  In Connecticut, you can report a state-road problem online. If it’s a local road, Connecticut officials encourage drivers to contact the appropriate town.

Need to report a claim? Plymouth Rock Assurance customers can easily and conveniently report their claim  online 24/7.

Headquartered in Boston,Plymouth Rock Assurance is a leading auto insurance carrier in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Personal auto and commercial auto policies in Massachusetts and Connecticut are underwritten by Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation. New Hampshire auto and home policies are underwritten by Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation. Each is a member of the Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in auto and homeowners insurance.

Anti-Idling Laws

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Have you ever seen a car or truck idling as a plume of smoke emanates from the exhaust pipe? As that stream of smoke lingers and eventually disappears into the air, do you wonder if the driver is considering the impact of that added pollution?

car exhaust pipe

Chances are, the driver isn’t.

What is idling?

In the simplest terms, an engine that is burning fuel without performing work is idling. That fuel is burned, released into the air, and contributes to atmospheric pollution. The thing is though, we often idle our vehicles without thinking much of it. From sitting in traffic to stopping at a red light, there are many times when we’re stationary in our vehicles with the engine still on.

Therefore, it’s important to differentiate between necessary idling – like stopping at a red light – and unnecessary idling – like letting your engine warm up, which, according to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, is actually ineffective.

Why should we care?

For starters, every gallon of gas burned releases about 20 lbs. of carbon dioxide into the air, which is a major greenhouse gas. With all the smog cities and towns already release into the air, the last thing our blue sky needs is added, unnecessary pollution

Not to mention, idling is ultimately a waste of money. For every hour a car spends idling, it burns about 1/5 of a gallon of gasoline. That might not seem like a lot at first, but if you’re constantly letting your engine idle, it can add up. And since idling your engine actually uses more fuel than turning it off and on, you might look at idling a bit differently.

The Department of Energy has a tool that lets you calculate how much money you could be saving by idling less. It asks you to input information like how many gallons per hour your car burns when idling (there’s a table if you’re unsure!) and how much an oil change costs – all information that’ll help determine how much you could be saving.

And if saving the environment and money isn’t convincing enough, consider your health. The pollutants released from an idling engine have been linked to some pretty serious illnesses like cancer, asthma, heart disease and chronic bronchitis, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.

What states are doing

If you’re a Plymouth Rock Assurance customer, give your lawmakers a thumbs up. Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Hampshire all have laws intended to restrict the amount of time you can idle your car:

  • In Massachusetts, you can only unnecessarily idle your car for five minutes. After five minutes, it’s illegal to keep your engine running. This law doesn’t apply to situations where a running engine is necessary – like a delivery vehicle or if a car being serviced needs the engine to be on.
  • New Jersey. Drivers in New Jersey may idle for up to three minutes, with exceptions made for special circumstances, like when operating vehicles that require engine power to accomplish their primary task or for repairs,
  • Connecticut prohibits vehicles of all kinds from unnecessary idling for more than three minutes. However, Connecticut also has various exceptions, like if it’s below 20 degrees, to operate other equipment, or to do maintenance.
  • New Hampshire. New Hampshire limits the amount of time you can idle your car based on the outside temperature. If it’s above 32 degrees, the maximum allowed idle time is five minutes. When it’s between -10 degrees and 32 degrees, you can run your engine for 15 minutes. When it’s below -10 degrees, there’s no limit. Like the other states, NH has exemptions to allow idling when running the engine is necessary to operate other equipment.

The point

Next time you think about running out to your car to “warm up the engine” while you finish getting ready for work in the morning, consider the following: when your car idles, it’s hurting the environment, it’s wasting your money, it’s releasing fumes harmful to your health, and, ultimately, it could be illegal. So you might want to keep your engine turned off until you’re ready to drive.

MBTA to End Late-Night Service

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If you’re among the Night Owls who have been taking advantage of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) late night service, you’ll want to make alternate travel plans to get home this weekend.

Rider waiting for MBTA late-night service

The MBTA, one of the largest public transit systems in the US, recently announced it will be ending its late night Friday and Saturday service. This decision was reached unanimously by its board members at the end of February.

What you need to know

According to the MBTA, the last late-night trains will depart downtown Boston stations at approximately 2 a.m. on Saturday, March 19, 2016. This applies to all all T lines, including Red, Orange, Green, Blue, and Silver Line 1, and some key bus routes.

Once the late-night service officially ends, the T will resume its normal 12:30 a.m. closing time.

Check out the MBTA’s website for more specifics.

Background

The MBTA’s late-night service started in 2014 as a pilot program and extended the T’s closing time from 12:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings. One of its original goals was to offer Boston accessible late-night public transportation that, as Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh said, “[creates] the kind of safe and vibrant late-night culture that’s expected of a world class city.”

The 2014 pilot wasn’t Boston’s first foray into the late-night scene. From 2001 until 2005, the MBTA operated its night owl service, which gave Boston riders extended service hours. Night owl service ended after five years when the cost couldn’t justify the program.

What now?

While some organizations, like the Federal Transit Administration, are critical of the decision to end Boston’s public transportation late night-service, supporters and critics alike will need to plan their weekend night travel arrangements accordingly after Saturday morning, March 19.

Whether you decide to catch the last train home at 12:30 a.m., grab a taxi or a rideshare, or take advantage of our Get Home Safe® benefit if you are a Plymouth Rock customer, we want everyone to get home safely.

Headquartered in Boston, Plymouth Rock Assurance is a leading auto insurance carrier in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Personal auto and commercial auto policies in Massachusetts and Connecticut are underwritten by Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation. New Hampshire auto and home policies are underwritten by Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation. Each is a member of the Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in auto and homeowners insurance.

Sleep Awareness Week Tips

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Groggy. Cloudy. Foggy. Worn out. Drained. Drowsy. Tired.

There’s countless ways to describe your exhaustion after a restless night. But it only takes one day of feeling like this to realize the importance of getting a good night’s sleep.

Feeling exhausted. Top view of young man sleeping while sitting at his working place

There’s no better time to make sleep a priority than during Sleep Awareness Week. Each year for one week in March (this year it’s March 6 – 13) the National Sleep Foundation promotes the health benefits of resting well.

There’s many advantages to a good night’s sleep, some obvious ones include being more alert, making fewer mistakes, learning easier and better health

But one benefit you might not immediately think of is increased safety behind the wheel. Lack of sleep can lead to lower reaction times and microsleep – those brief moments of sleep that happen when you’re awake, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Even though you may not recognize the term, you may be familiar with microsleep. The NIH poses this scenario to describe the phenomenon: “…have you ever driven somewhere and then not remembered part of the trip? If so, you may have experienced microsleep.” We can’t control microsleep and are often times unaware of its happening.

The NIH also estimates that about 100,000 car accidents are linked to driver sleepiness each year.

With an average of 273 car accidents per day caused in some way by drivers’ lack of sleep, it’s crucial you take steps towards resting well. The National Sleep Foundation offers some advice:

  • Keep your room between 60 and 67 degrees
  • Avoid taking naps, especially in the afternoon
  • Commit to a sleep schedule – try getting to bed and waking up at the same time each morning, even on weekends

Even if you’re already making sleep a priority, sometimes life happens and your sleep schedule is interrupted. If you have an auto policy from Plymouth Rock Assurance and ever find yourself in a situation where it’d be unsafe to drive because you’re too tired, take advantage of the Get Home Safe® program. Submit your receipt and we’ll pick up your one-way cab or rideshare trip home, up to $50.

Headquartered in Boston, Plymouth Rock Assurance is a leading auto insurance carrier in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Personal auto and commercial auto policies in Massachusetts and Connecticut are underwritten by Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation. New Hampshire auto and home policies are underwritten by Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation. Each is a member of the Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in auto and homeowners insurance.

 

Pet safety tips

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At Plymouth Rock, we’re interested in protecting every member of your family – including your pets! Whether it’s at home or on the go, we want to make sure they’re every bit as safe as you are.

Traveling in the car

If your pet is traveling in the car with you, it’s important you’ve properly secured your furry friend. For dogs, this means some sort of harness system, like a secured crate, or a seatbelt. Cats should ride in carriers. It’s important not to let your pet roam freely in the car as it could be a distraction for the driver.

Speaking of freely, The Humane Society advises against letting your pet stick its head out the window.

Boating with your pettuukka in a life vest

The days of summer might seem far off right now, but it’s never too late to talk about boating safety with your pets. Although dogs are inherently good swimmers, consider getting your pet a life jacket. He may not like it, but you’ll be glad he’s wearing one in the unfortunate event he goes overboard and needs to be rescued.

Microchip your pet

Let’s hope it doesn’t happen, but pets sometimes go missing and you’ll want them to Get Home Safe®. With a microchip, you’ll have a better chance of getting your pet back home. Microchips carry a unique ID number, which pet recovery services use to retrieve contact information. So, it’s vital that you keep your contact information up-to-date.

Have help numbers handy

Injuries happen. You’ll want to be prepared for if and when your pet needs help. Locate these numbers, store them in your phone and post them on your refrigerator so you can use them at a moment’s notice:

  • Local vet
  • After-hours vet for emergencies
  • Pet poison control

Watch what they eat

Dogs will eat just about anything, including many things that are poisonous to them. While some may seem obvious, like chocolate, there are common foods that you might not know are harmful to your pet. For example, avocados, grapes and raisins, onions, garlic and alcohol are all dangerous for dogs. Bottom line: check if you’re unsure.

Headquartered in Boston, Plymouth Rock Assurance is a leading auto insurance carrier in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Personal auto and commercial auto policies in Massachusetts and Connecticut are underwritten by Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation. New Hampshire auto and home policies are underwritten by Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation. Each is a member of the Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in auto and homeowners insurance.

What your car’s VIN means

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When you renew your car registration or purchase auto insurance, you’re probably asked for your VIN. It can be a struggle to write down or remember this long, cumbersome number. This number isn’t devised simply to frustrate you. Those numbers and letters actually mean something. We’ve put together some basic information to help you understand what car VINs mean.

Deciphering the VIN

BLOG_VIN-INFOVIN stands for Vehicle Identification Number. In reality, the VIN is more than just a random set of digits. It can help you identify the manufacturer of the car, what size the engine is and other important details. The VIN is used for obtaining insurance, selling the vehicle and for determining if a car has been recalled or requires certain types of maintenance.

The Basics

The VIN was first used in 1954 and was given a standardized format in 1981. Today’s VIN is a 17-digit letter and number combination. It does not use the letters I, O or Q (to avoid confusion with the digits 0 and 1).

Translating a VIN

From the year 1981 on, the first three digits of the VIN are identifying codes for manufacturers. This portion of the code allows you to determine in what country a car was produced. The next six digits are the vehicle descriptor section. These numbers give necessary information about the vehicle. The final eight digits are the vehicle identifier selection – including model year, plant code and production number. Putting all of this information together creates a unique VIN for each car. No two cars have the same number.

Why your VIN matters

By following up on its unique VIN, it’s easy for you to track your car’s history – which is important for sales and insurance purpose. So, next time you’re asked for your VIN number, try not to be too frustrated by having to recite the 17-digit number. This number helps you, the government, and your insurer make sure every detail of your car is properly documented and recorded.

Headquartered in Boston, Plymouth Rock Assurance is a leading auto insurance carrier in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Personal auto and commercial auto policies in Massachusetts and Connecticut are underwritten by Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation. New Hampshire auto and home policies are underwritten by Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation. Each is a member of the Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in auto and homeowners insurance.

What to look for when the temp drops

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With the mercury dipping well below freezing as this winter’s coldest temperatures move in, New England residents should be aware of the increased risk for ice dams and frozen pipes.cold-weather-ahead

The frigid temperature and the accumulation of snow on roofs is the perfect environment for ice dams to form, so watch for early warning signs as ice dams can be troublesome and costly if not treated properly.

What to look for:

  • Icicles hanging from your roof or gutters
  • Ice sitting on top of gutters, at the edge of your roof, or along your home’s siding
  • Ice or water inside or around your windows
  • If you suspect an ice dam is beginning to form or already has, call a professional to remove it immediately.

While there are long term measures you can take to prevent frozen pipes in your home, like having proper insulation and sealing any cracks or gaps in your siding or foundation, there are a few small, but helpful, things you should do during extreme cold spells:

  • Bump your thermostat up to 68 degrees or higher at night to keep the temperature in the exterior walls above freezing
  • Open cabinets to allow warm airflow to plumbing located next to exterior walls (or interior walls adjacent to unheated spaces, like a garage)
  • Let cold water drip from the faucet to reduce pressure on the pipes even if the water freezes
  • If you suspect a frozen pipe in your home, shut off the main water supply and call a licensed plumber right away. We recommend you avoid thawing a frozen pipe yourself – improper technique could cause the pipe to burst, leading to costly damages to your home.

Need to report a claim? We’re here for you. Get in touch online or by calling Plymouth Rock at (844) 346-1225.

Stay safe and warm this weekend!

Headquartered in Boston, Plymouth Rock Assurance is a leading auto insurance carrier in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Personal auto and commercial auto policies in Massachusetts and Connecticut are underwritten by Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation. New Hampshire auto and home policies are underwritten by Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation. Each is a member of the Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in auto and homeowners insurance.