Winter Driving Tips



  1. Check your battery. When the temperature drops, so does battery power. It takes more power   to start your vehicle in cold weather than in warm.
  2. Make sure you have enough coolant in your vehicle. When coolant freezes it expands. If the coolant is low, it will expand and potentially damage your vehicle’s engine block beyond repair
  3. Be sure you have enough windshield wiper fluid and that you use “no-freeze” fluid. You can go through a lot of windshield wiper fluid quickly in a single snowstorm.
  4. Check your windshield wipers. Replace the blades if warn. Safe winter driving depends on maintaining the best visibility possible.
  5. Inspect your tires. Check the tire pressure & make sure each tire is filled to the vehicle manufacturer’s suggested PSI (pounds per square inch). This information is listed on the label inside the driver’s door. Keep a tire pressure gauge in your vehicle.


  1. Every vehicle handles differently especially when driving on wet, icy, or snow-covered roads. Drive slowly & increase your following distance enough so that you have plenty of time to stop.
  2. Know what kind of brakes your vehicle has & how to use them properly. If you have anti-lock brakes, apply firm pressure. If you do not have anti-lock brakes, pump the brakes gently.
  3. If you start sliding, stay calm & ease your foot off the gas & carefully steer the vehicle in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go. This procedure is known as “steering into the skid”, which will bring the back end of the vehicle in line with the front.
  4. Check the weather & road conditions before you leave. Plan to leave early if necessary & plan an alternative route, if necessary, to get to your destination safely.
  5. Carry items in your vehicle that you may need in an emergency – blankets, hats/gloves, water/food, snow shovel/broom.
  6. If you are stalled in your vehicle, stay with your car – don’t walk somewhere to try & get help. While in your vehicle, do not run it for a long period of time with the windows up to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. If you must run the vehicle, be sure the exhaust pipe is clear of any snow. Only run the vehicle long enough to get warm.

Remember, we are an independent, family owned, local agent who writes with several national carriers. We can service all of your insurance needs no matter where you are located - Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, Stevensville, New Buffalo, Hartford, Coloma, Watervliet, Berrien Springs, and many more! Call our office today to review your insurance!



Are you confident in your Commercial Insurance?

8 Steps to be Confident in Your Commercial Insurance

You work hard to grow your small business but it doesn’t feel small to you. To you, it’s your livelihood and your legacy. We get it. We know you work hard to build it, so it makes sense you want to protect it with the best commercial insurance.

So, how can you be sure that your commercial insurance policy is the best fit for your business? Here are eight steps you can take to feel like the confident and successful business owner you are.

  1. Meet with an expert – Your local, independent insurance agent

An independent insurance agent understands your business needs because they run a business too. One of the best things you can do is contact your local, independent insurance agent. The reason this is first on our list is because of all the advantages that working with an independent agent provides business owners. To name a few:

  • Local support from somebody you know. If you need to file a claim you will know whom to call. Not to mention, if you have questions about your policy you can call your agent rather than waiting on hold for what feels like forever.
  • Local-area expertise. They understand the insurance needs specific to your area because they live and work in your community.
  • Expert advice and guidance. An independent insurance agent will review your business’ operations to find you the best coverage.
  • Support your community. You are supporting a fellow local business when you work with an independent insurance agent.
  1. Evaluate all your business’ services

You’d be surprised how many business owners forget to consider all the services they offer when shopping for their insurance. For example, a restaurant that also has food trucks. While they may only use their food trucks for part of the year, it’s important that the trucks and equipment are properly insured. A policy that only accounts for their restaurant may not cover a claim for their food trucks. The restaurant and food trucks require unique coverages that need to be included in their policy.

 So, take the time to evaluate the services you offer. Nobody wants to file a claim and discover that their policy didn’t account for part of their business’ services. Talk it over with your independent agent. In some cases, your agent will be able to get your business’ services accounted for in the same policy.

  1. Factor in replacement cost to set your policy limits, rather than the market value of your business’ property

Many business owners buy insurance with limits that are the approximate market value of their business’ property. Remember, you are not insuring your building's market value. Instead, you want your insurance to cover the cost to rebuild your building after a covered loss. This is called replacement cost.

Replacement costs can be higher than the market value. So, it’s important to select a limit that will cover the replacement cost. Otherwise, you may be underinsured. Your local, independent insurance agent will be able to walk you through these limits or evaluate your current policy.

  1. Don’t forget liability coverage for your business

Liability coverage is crucial for businesses. Injuries and false advertising are just a couple situations in which your business will be grateful to have liability coverage. It’s hard to put a price tag on this because of how much these situations and legal proceedings can vary. So again, we recommend discussing your potential liability risks with your independent agent.

For contractors, your liability limits are often required by contract with set limits. However, it may be worthwhile to consider additional coverages like Voluntary Property Damage to Others and Errors & Omissions.

  1. Be aware of the environment that surrounds your business

Is your state prone to lawsuits? Does your area flood often? What kind of storms and big weather events come your way? Knowing the environment can help you objectively evaluate what additional coverages and limits may be best. 

  1. Consider cyber liability coverage even if you don’t sell your goods or services online

Generally, your commercial general liability policy will not cover a data breach. Even if your business doesn’t sell goods or services online, you have valuable personal information that hackers may want. Many network hacks start with some sort of phishing scam to infiltrate your network, often through your employees.  Imagine if a client's personal or financial information is stolen from your network – you may be responsible! Consider the cost of losing all the credit card numbers in your business’s database, not to mention the cost to your business’s reputation. Cyber liability insurance is a coverage you want to have before a data breach occurs. 

  1. Take advantage of multi-policy discounts

Most insurance companies offer a discount when you purchase more than one policy with them. For example, we offer multi-policy discounts for commercial policies and personal policies. Beyond the cost savings, a multi-policy discount streamlines your bills and renewals. Who doesn’t love a little more time in the day? It also helps you avoid gaps and overlaps that can happen when you have policies with multiple insurance companies.

  1. Check the financial stability of the insurance company

Your insurance policy is only as good as the insurance company behind it. You want a company that is established and will not go out of business after the next big storm. Financial rating services, like AM Best, evaluate and then rate insurance companies’ stability.

Maybe it is time to review your policy? Call our office to discuss your options. We can evaluate your current program, make coverage recommendations etc. This can be done electronically if you prefer given the current social climate.

We provide all types of insurance needs with numerous carriers in the Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, Coloma, Watervliet, Stevensville, Bridgman, and New Buffalo areas as well as many others in the tri-county area. We are always available to help!

*Shared from one of our company pages: Auto-Owners from their blog.

What is an umbrella policy?


Simply put, an Umbrella policy is a policy which provides additional liability insurance coverage above all of your other insurance policies.


Here are some examples of incidents that an Umbrella policy could cover if your homeowner’s insurance or your auto insurance wasn’t enough:

  1. Your dog runs out of the house and viciously attacks a neighbor who was going for a walk. Your neighbor sues you to cover the cost of her medical bills, lost wages & pain/suffering.
  2. Your child gets into a fight at school and punches another student, breaking their nose. The student’s parents sue you.
  3. You cause a 10-car accident and your auto insurance property damage coverage isn’t high enough to replace all 10 accident victim’s vehicles. Nor is your personal liability coverage high enough to pay for their medical bills.
  4. You send sandwiches to your child’s school for a field trip @ several students develop food poisoning and their parents sue you.
  5. Your child throws a party at your house while you’re gone. Someone brings alcohol to the party and one of the guests is arrested for driving under the influence on the way home. You can be sued.

As you see from these examples, the Umbrella policy would cover not just the policyholder, but also other members of the household.

Some people are more likely to need an Umbrella policy than others. If you engage in some activity that puts you at a greater risk of incurring excess liability, you’re an even better candidate for an Umbrella policy. Personal liability risk factors can include owning property & renting it out, employing household staff, having a trampoline, pool or hot tub, hosting large parties and being a well-known public figure.

Basically, the more likely you are to be sued, the more strongly you should consider purchasing Umbrella insurance, but anyone can be at risk. Wouldn’t you sleep better at night knowing you’re protected by an Umbrella policy!

We service all of Southwest Michigan areas such as Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, Coloma, Watervliet, New Buffalo, Baroda, Bridgman, Stevensville, Berrien Springs, Hagar Shore etc. Wherever you are, call our office!

Giving Thanks in 2020

The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are always a special time for many of us. Giving thanks for our family and friends, and being thankful for quite simply our lives. Our life is a gift. I am thankful for my family and my life, especially during a tumultuous 2020 that has caused havoc for everyone. I hope and pray that you are healthy, happy, and that 2021 will be a much better year for all of us.

If you do happen to enjoy outdoor winter activities this year, please be mindful that with the snow and ice also comes risk. Risk of damage, or risk of injury/death. Let me explain. Some of you will enjoy snowmobiling this year. Make sure your winter toys are insured for physical damage and liability coverage. With these fun fast machines also comes the risk of damage and injury to you or others. By ensuring you have adequate coverage, you can go out and have fun and know that you’re protected should an accident happen.

Outdoor winter activities that you may enjoy such as snowmobiling, skiing, ice fishing, hiking, or just going for a walk can bring injuries none of us want: slip and falls, broken bones, fractures, or worse. What does this mean? This means obviously be careful! Secondly, make sure that you have adequate insurance protection. What kind of insurance? Well, if you have an accident (or sickness) and cannot work, you should have Disability Income protection that pays a portion of your lost earnings if you’re sick or injured during recuperation until you can return to work. When this happens your paycheck stops; make sure you have insurance that helps your finances during a time of healing. Another area of protection you should have is Life insurance. When we lose a loved one in our family that is a primary support giver or wage earner, not only do we lose that loved one but also their support and financial income stream that the family depends on to live and continue on the family lifestyle. This can be answered by Life insurance! Make sure you have a proper policy in place to respond when this occurs. I would be happy to discuss with you your available options as well as give you a no-obligation review of your current program. Please make sure you are covered. Your family depends on you today; make sure they can depend on you after your passing.

So today I ask that you give thanks for your family, your health, and your life. Pray that 2021 will be better for ALL of us. I am optimistic that it will be. I ask that you make sure you are careful during this upcoming Winter season, and to enjoy all the outdoor beauty Michigan has to offer. Make sure your toys are insured to prevent problems should an accident and/or injury occurs. Make sure you are insured if you are sick/injured or pass away; your family depends on you every day. I will be happy to talk to you about these matters of concern and show you how insurance can help during your time of need. Feel free to reach out to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

We service all of Southwest Lower Michigan in areas such as Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, Stevensville, Coloma, Watervliet, Bridgman, New Buffalo, Baroda and Berrien Springs for example!

Happy Holidays!

Cory Flaugh

What is an Independent Agent? Auto-Owners can answer that

You need insurance. We all do. In some cases it's required by law, in others it's required by the unwritten code of being a responsible adult that owns things. So, what’s the best way to buy it?

Online or with an agent?

What kind of agent – independent or captive?

Oh, and what does this all mean?

We think life is complicated enough; your insurance doesn’t have to be.

What is an independent insurance agent?

An independent insurance agent is a trained and licensed professional that tailors programs to meet their customer’s specific needs. They can do this because they work with many insurance carriers, rather than just one. They are locally based and operate out of their own local insurance agency.

This may surprise some people, but an independent agent is a small-business owner. Agents are not an employee of the insurance companies whose products they offer.  The insurance agency is often run by a few agents and administrative staff members. Oftentimes it's family owned. Another misconception is that they sell their own insurance products. They do not. Instead, they work on behalf of their customers to obtain policies from insurance companies.

Now, it's important to point out that every insurance agency you see is not an independent agency. There are also captive/exclusive agencies that operate differently.

What's the difference between independent insurance agents and other insurance agents?

The main difference is that independent insurance agents offer more choices than captive/exclusive insurance agents. Captive/exclusive agents offer only one insurance company's products. This means they can only place your policy with that one company.  Independent agents, on the other hand, have options. They can place your policy with one of the several insurance companies they work with to make sure your unique needs are met.

Summary: Independent insurance agents help you find a policy with one of the several insurance companies they work with at their agency. Other, captive or exclusive, insurance agents can help you find a policy with the one insurance company they work with at their agency.


So, what’s the best way to buy insurance? If you ask us, an independent insurance agent!

At Auto-Owners, we are committed to offering our insurance products solely through independent agents because of the many advantages they offer you.

What advantages? Glad you asked.

1. Your local independent agency is your one-stop shop for all types of insurance. Since independent agents offer a variety of insurance products from several insurance companies, you are more likely to be able to handle all of your insurance needs in one place rather than trying to coordinate with businesses all over town. Most independent agencies offer life, home, car and business insurance. This means you may only need one point of contact for all your policies.

2. Local support from somebody you know. Many customers share stories about their independent agent being the first one on the scene after losing their home to a storm or fire. Agents take their job seriously, especially when their customers experience a loss. They know you personally and are ready to help when you need it most. For many agents, this is why they became insurance agents - to help people during hard times.

3. You can have the same point of contact even if you want to switch insurance providers. Let’s say you are interested in changing your insurance. When you have an independent agent, you don’t have to go back to the drawing board. Instead, you can call the same agency and they can help coordinate the switch. This means you can often stay with your same agent even if you switch insurance providers. This way you can continue to work with the person you’ve built a relationship with and who knows your needs.


4. Your independent agent knows your community, because it’s their community too. Independent agents live and work in your community, maybe even in your neighborhood. This means they personally understand the insurance needs specific to your area. This is extremely valuable since insurance requirements vary from state to state. Your local, independent agent can offer you more personalized guidance than a 1-800 number or website can.

5. Expert advice means you'll have confidence and peace of mind. Do you really want a flashy website form and an automated formula to be what stands between you and financial distress in the event of a claim? With an independent agent, you will receive expert guidance from their experience. And, if you need to file a claim you will know whom to call. Not to mention, if you have questions about your policy you can call your agent. This beats waiting on hold for what feels like forever just to get a simple question answered.

6. You get insurance that fits your needs rather than a one-size-fits-all policy. When you call or visit an independent insurance agent, they will work with you to review several options for your insurance. This allows them to focus on finding a policy that fits your needs rather than fitting your needs into what one insurance company offers.

7. Working with a local, independent agent means you are supporting a local business. Most independent agencies are locally owned. Many agencies are owned and operated by a family from your community. So, when you call the agency to find your policy or inquire about a potential claim you are likely calling a familiar area code rather than a 1-800 number.

 What about all those cheap and easy options I see online?

We’re not going to pretend there isn’t an option to buy insurance online, directly from other insurance companies. Because, well, there is. They like to tote that insurance can be cheap and easy. They say you can get a quote fast and get the cheapest coverage.

But, let’s take a second and ask ourselves if “cheap and easy” is how we want to describe one of the most important financial decisions we make in our adult lives? Does cheap and easy give you confidence?

Alternatively, would you find confidence in the fact that a licensed professional that knows your name has your back? The expert that you know personally did a thorough review with you when you purchased your policy. They looked it over, they know the companies and put your assets with the company they know from experience provides the coverage you need.

We are your independent agent! We service clients for home, auto, life and business insurance all thoughout Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties in towns just like yours whether it is Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, Stevensville, Coloma, Watervliet, Bridgman, Baroda, New Buffalo etc. Just give us a call and see what the Independent Agent can do for you!

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