It's no great secret that across the nation, insurance premiums are on the rise. Over the past five years, the cost of insuring a home against fire and other casualty has crept up about 10 percent a year -- every year. Health insurance increases, while they've been muted of late, still rose 4 percent this year.
But if you think those hikes are steep, get a load of this next one.
Congratulations! You're a Father! (Now Open Your Wallet)
Kids are expensive. If you're a parent, you know this already. If you're a parent of a kid who hasn't turned 16 just yet, you're on track to get another lesson in how expensive they can be. Because once your offspring passes the driver's test and receive a license to drive from the state, he's going to need to be insured -- and that will cost you an extra $2,000 a year, on average.
(By the way, if your kid is getting her driver's license, your wallet won't take quite as big a hit, girls being 25 percent less expensive to insure than boys on average. But it'll still be some serious coin.)
%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driving is a risky activity for teens. The are more prone to get into accidents -- about four times as likely as older, more experienced drivers, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And traffic accidents are the leading causes of death for Americans ages 16 to 19.
Between lives lost and property destroyed, this all makes insurance companies very wary of insuring teen drivers. And when they do agree to insure a teen, they make you pay through the nose.
According to a recent report posted on Bankrate.com's (RATE) InsuranceQuotes.com, across both genders, all age categories, and all 50 states, parents pay an average 84 percent more for their car insurance after adding a teen to their policy.
Stay Between the (State) Lines
Think that's bad? It might get worse.
Unless you're fortunate enough to live in a state like North Carolina or Hawaii, where legislators have passed laws that ban setting insurance rates based on factors such as age or gender, your rates may rise by more than the average 84 percent.
How much more? Take a look at the top 10 states hiking rates on teenage drivers by 100 percent and higher:
New Hampshire: 100.56 percent
Louisiana: 100.58 percent
Arizona: 103.65 percent
Washington: 104.66 percent
Maine: 105.23 percent
Idaho: 106.74 percent
Alabama: 110.61 percent
Wyoming: 112.11 percent
Utah: 114.62 percent
Arkansas: 116.34 percent
That's right. Put a teenage driver on your policy in any one of these states, and you can expect to see your insurance cost for the whole family more than double.
The news is even worse for parents in Louisiana. Although its teen drivers bring "only" the ninth highest rate hikes with them when they join a policy, Louisiana car insurance in general is already the most expensive in the land -- averaging $2,699 annually for a single male driver, according to Insure.com. Add a kid to that policy, and you'll be shelling out upwards of $5,400 a year.
What's to Be Done?
Is there any way to beat the system, and avoid these hikes? Not entirely, no.
Sure, you could move to Hawaii, where insurance rates rise least. Then again, Hawaii also has the honor of hosting the nation's most expensive housing market -- so you'll end up seriously out of pocket, one way or the other. On the other hand, North Carolinian insurance rates don't rise so much when you put a teen on your policy. That market might be worth a look, if you're willing to move to save money.
Patience Is a Virtue... That Pays
One solution suggests itself from InsuranceQuotes.com's offhand observation that certain teens cost more to insure than others.
In particular, if you put a kid on your policy as soon as he hits 16, well, new 16-year-old drivers tend to double an insurance bill no matter where they live, averaging 99 percent rate hikes.
But premiums tend to rise less when teens wait a bit before trying to drive. 17-year-olds joining their parents' policies average a 90 percent increase. 18-year-olds cost 82 percent more. By the time Junior is age 19 and ready for college, the rate hike is "only" 65 percent.
Meanwhile, the standard caveats still apply: No one's forcing you to accept "average" rate hikes, so now that you know the "average" scenario, shop around to see if someone will offer you a better deal. Ask if taking (and passing) a safe driver course might reduce your teen's rate. And of course, since we're talking student-age kids here, make sure to inquire about discounts for good students. Whether or not it makes sense, insurance companies -- like grandparents -- often favor kids who bring home A's.
Your Insurance Doesn't Cover That: Hidden Dangers in the Fine Print
Want to Pay Twice as Much for Your Car Insurance? Have a Kid
When buying homeowners insurance, be sure that you're buying enough coverage to rebuild your home, if necessary. Don't look at market prices for homes, but rather at the replacement cost for your home, which would include removing what's left of your home, buying new building materials, and labor. "Guaranteed replacement" policies should cover the whole cost, while "replacement cost" coverage often covers less than the full amount. Check your policy to see what kind you have, and be sure that your home's value isn't being understated.
Also, know that in standard homeowners policies, many kinds of damage are typically excluded, such as that from earthquakes, floods, nuclear attacks. These days, mold damage is often excluded, too. If you're worried about any excluded risks, talk to your insurer. You can probably expand your coverage, for a price. You may also get it elsewhere, such as from the FEMA-administered National Flood Insurance Program, or the California Earthquake Authority.
You may know that dental or vision-related expenses are not covered by your health care insurance, but that's probably not all. Pre-existing conditions have long been excluded by many insurers, though President Obama's health care reform act is addressing that. A nose job or other cosmetic surgery, for example, is most likely excluded, too, no matter how much of an emergency you think your double chin is.
Your policy may also not cover ambulance services, maternity care, prosthetics, kidney dialysis, organ transplants, diabetes management, emergency-room visits, mental-health care, and care you receive outside the United States -- or any of a number of other expenses. Don't be overly alarmed -- policies vary widely, and you may be covered for many of the above costs, at least to some degree. Just be sure to find out what is and isn't covered, and when shopping for a policy, seek out the one that fits your needs and pocketbook best.
The main reason to get renters insurance is because many possible losses renters face are excluded from their landlords' insurance policies. If a roof leak destroys much of your collection of first-edition books, your landlord's insurance will likely fix the roof and any damage to your apartment's floor, but your book loss will probably be excluded. Thus, it's smart to get renters insurance, which is often rather inexpensive, as well.
When shopping for such policies, be sure you know whether losses will be insured for their replacement cost or their current, depreciated value. (The former is, of course, preferable.) Renters policies can include or exclude coverage if a guest is injured on your premises. If you'd like that coverage, ask for it. Know that in many renters policies, damage due to natural disasters or structural damage to the building may not be covered, too. If you're worried about those issues, including burst pipes, ask about it. You may need to add a rider to your policy.
There are coverage holes with car insurance, too. At a basic level, while most drivers carry liability coverage, many don't carry collision coverage, which will address damage to your car. Omitting it can make sense if you're driving a clunker that you'd just replace after an accident, but crunch some numbers before passing it up.
There are some tricky little car-insurance details, too. For example, a stolen car may not be covered if you left it running with the doors unlocked. Damage due to hitting an animal such as a deer, or damage from a lightning strike, tornado, or flood, may also be excluded or limited. Medical bills may also be off-limits unless you have medical coverage, and valuables stolen out of your car are also often excluded. (They may be covered via your homeowners policy, though.)
A key thing to understand about life insurance is that not everyone needs it. If no one is depending on your income, then sad though your demise will be, you need not protect against anyone's financial loss from it. But many people do have dependents, in the form of children, spouses, and even parents or others. So know that with life insurance, you may not be covered if the death is a suicide, if it happens as part of war-time combat or during the commission of a felony, or if it's due to a private-aircraft accident. (Deaths tied to commercial flights are typically covered.)
Also, if you regularly engage in dangerous activities such as car-racing, hang-gliding, or extreme mountain-climbing, a related death may not be covered -- unless you pay a premium for a rider to your policy. Lying on your insurance paperwork can also lead to a denied claim.
If you're an investor and you've got much of your retirement security resting on an account at a brokerage, you can take comfort that you're probably protected by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation. It's a bit like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which covers bank accounts, but it may not provide all the protection you expect it to. The SIPC protects the cash and securities such as stocks and bonds that you may have in your brokerage account -- in the event that the brokerage runs into deep trouble or fails, or if a broker steals your assets. It does not cover losses that occur if your stock or bond loses money or a company in which you're invested goes out of business.
Even FDIC protection has limits. It typically covers assets in bank accounts up to $250,000 for each person's accounts at each bank in each account ownership category. So if you have $350,000 in savings accounts at one bank, you may not be fully covered and you might want to divide the sum between two banks.
You're smart to look into insurance for all kinds of needs -- and smarter still to read the big and small print to be sure you understand what is and isn't covered. In many cases, you can add the extra protections you seek. That might come at a cost, but it might be worth it, too.
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Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned.