Tri-County Agency

When you work with Tri-County Agency, you’ll experience the superior service and attention to detail that you can only find with an independent insurance agency.


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Teen Driver? Top Tips to Save Money on Your Car Insurance

Thousands of new teen drivers will be getting behind the wheel to head back to school this fall, and that means plenty of parents will be experiencing that odd mix of pride and fear that goes hand-in-hand with turning over the car keys to their “babies.” It also means their car insurance rates will be going up, sometimes considerably. Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to keep the cost of those premiums as low as possible:

  • First, once your teen completes his or her driver’s ed program, forward the proof of completion to your insurer. Lots of companies offer discounts for completing driver’s ed in school or through private companies.
  • Second, make sure your child takes extra steps to get good grades, which could qualify him or her for a good student discount offered by many car insurance companies. Consider paying your teen a portion of the amount you save if they qualify for the good student discount. For cash-strapped teens, a cash incentive can be a good way to motivate them to get the best grades possible.
  • Third, make sure your teen understands the effects an accident – even a minor one – can have on your car insurance rates, and be sure your teen understands and practices good driving habits at all times.

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And here are a few more tips to help take the worry out of turning over those keys:

  • If you’re purchasing a new vehicle, look into makes and models that cost less to insure.
  • Set limits and make sure your child understands them. Some parents limit the number of friends a teen can have in the car to avoid distractions; others limit driving to a certain radius – say, no more than 25 miles from home.
  • If your child will be driving to school this fall, let them have plenty of experience driving now, before classes begin, so they’re as confident as possible when they get behind the wheel. Have them drive the route to school a few times so they can plan their time and don’t wind up rushing to make it to school on time.
  • Invest in a roadside assistance program for peace of mind for you and your teen. Some insurance companies offer roadside assistance as an additional option. And of course, AAA is a popular option.

Adding a teen to your auto insurance policy is a great opportunity to review your coverage to ensure you have enough liability and collision. You might even decide to add an umbrella liability policy for added protection. At Tri-County, we’re ready to help you get the best coverage possible for your teen driver. Give us a call and let us review your coverage options today.

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Protect Your Car from Heat Damage This Summer

Warrenton sees some pretty warm temperatures during the summer months with averages around 90 degrees, and many days reaching close to 100 degrees. With heat like that, it’s not surprising the interior of a parked car with the windows shut or even cracked open can get amazingly hot in a very short period of time. In fact, within the first 10 minutes of being parked with the windows closed, the interior temperature of a car can rise by as much as 20 degrees. On a 90-degree day, the interior of your car can top 120 degrees in under 20 minutes. That’s why you should never, ever leave a pet or a child in a car on a hot day, even if you leave the windows cracked open an inch or two. Just a short stint in a hot car can prove deadly.

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Even when your car is empty, all that heat can take a toll on your car’s exterior and interior, as well as its mechanics. Here’s what you can do to protect your vehicle this summer:

  • Park in the shade or under a carport or other protected area whenever you can. Preventing sun from reaching the car’s exterior or interior surfaces is the best way to avoid damage. Plus, if you have vinyl or leather seats, parking in the shade can prevent your legs from being burned when you sit down.
  • Consider a car cover. Today’s covers provide UV protection to help keep your car’s finish in good shape. If you don’t have a carport or garage, investing in a car cover for home or work can help you maintain your car’s good looks for years to come.
  • Wash and wax your car to remove debris and protect your car’s paint job. Waxing at least twice each year – ideally in the spring and fall – can provide adequate protection for most vehicles.
  • If a car cover isn’t in your future, use a sunshade to keep sun from reaching the car’s interior. Sunshades fold up so they’re portable enough to be stowed in the trunk or backseat, and they take just a few moments to place in your windshields.
  • Keep your car windows cracked if possible. While cracking windows does not provide enough relief for pets or children, it can help decrease the interior temperature enough to prevent damage to your car’s upholstery.
  • Keep fluids topped up. Just as we need extra fluids during the hot months of summer, so does you car. Have it tuned up before summer starts, then keep an eye on the coolant throughout the summer months.

Summer heat can take a toll on your car. By providing it with a little extra protection and TLC, you can help ensure it looks and runs its best.


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Know Your Local Fireworks Code: 7 Tips to Keep Your July 4th Celebration Safe and Fun

Few things are as closely associated with Fourth of July than fireworks. After all, who doesn’t love the bright, colorful splashes of light and the thunderous booms of fireworks lit up against the dark summer sky? Yes, they’re beautiful – and they’re also dangerous. Every year, there are hundreds of reports of people, pets and property being damaged by fireworks that wind up exploding unexpectedly or devices that are used improperly.

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Ideally, you should enjoy your fireworks as public displays, which historically tend to be much safer than setting off displays at your own home. But if you feel you must indulge, remember these safety tips:

  • First, make sure you review your local laws and regulations very carefully. Missouri is one of several states with a very liberal fireworks code when it comes to the sale of consumer fireworks, but the use of those fireworks may still be regulated. Check with your local municipality and read up on the fireworks code before your event.
  • Use fireworks as directed, keeping them away from anything flammable, including trees, brush and wood structures.
  • Use extreme care when lighting fireworks. If a firework doesn’t “go off,” do NOT walk up to it; follow directions for disposing of it (usually, this includes dousing it heavily with water first to ensure any sparks are completely out).
  • Never let children or pets be in close proximity to fireworks. In fact, it’s a good idea to keep your pets indoors with the TV on so the noise of the fireworks doesn’t scare them. More pets run away on July 4th than any other day of the year, so keep them safely inside.
  • Have plenty of water on hand just in case. A bucket or two of sand can also come in handy in case of fire.
  • Keep fireworks displays well away from your home and your neighbor’s property. A single errant spark or rocket that goes off course can wind up starting a fire, which can damage or destroy property as well as cause serious injury to others.
  • If you’re hosting an event where fireworks will be used, make sure your liability insurance is up to date. Accidents can happen even when all safety rules are being closely followed; having adequate insurance coverage helps protect you in case someone becomes injured.

If you have more questions about your own responsibilities and liability risks regarding fireworks use, we can help. Call Tri-County Agency today and let us make sure you have a safe, enjoyable Fourth of July.


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Is Your Boat Ready for Summer? Here’s a Quick Checklist to Make Sure

Boating is one of the most popular pastimes in the U.S., and when summer arrives, people take to the water en masse for some relaxation, enjoyment and fun in the sun. Of course, one of the quickest ways to spoil all that is get out on the water – or get ready to leave the dock – and find out your boat isn’t quite as ready for the adventure as you are. Before you set your boat afloat this season, follow these simple tips to make sure she’s ready for action:shutterstock_331534352.jpg

  • First, do a visual examination of your boat to look for any obvious repairs that need to be made. Then focus on individual areas, testing equipment and looking for loose connections as you go. Combine this task with cleaning the boat inside and out to save time.
  • Pay attention to the hull, scraping and painting as needed. Add a coat of wax and polish wood surfaces to prevent damage from moisture and sun. Check the canvases, bimini and sheets.
  • Test the battery; make sure it’s charged and clean the terminals as needed. This is also a good time to check other electronics, including the radio and the interior and exterior lights.
  • Inspect the anchor windlass and lubricate it as needed to ensure it functions properly. Check the seacocks and the bilge pump. Clean out the bilge while you’re at it.
  • Make sure the safety lines and stanchions are in good repair, and check your flotation devices and life vests to ensure they’re still in good shape.
  • Make sure the fire extinguisher is charged and also be sure to stow it in a spot that’s easily accessible. Restock your first aid kit and be sure you have tools and spare parts (including fuses) to make any necessary repairs while under way.
  • Know the safety rules. There may not be any “lanes” in the open water, but operating a boat requires the same attention to safety regulations and sound operational principles as driving a car.

Every year, boating accidents cause serious injury and even claim lives, and many of those accidents could have been avoided with just a little preparation and safety training. For more information on boating safety and to register for a free boat check courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard, check out the USCG website here and click on “safety.” The site also features listings of classes to help make you a safer operator so you – and your passengers – can relax and enjoy the time on the water.


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Protect Yourself from an Identity Thief with These 5 Tax Time Tips

Tax day is just a few days away, and that means a few things are going on right now: Accountants are working overtime, providing professional tax services and guidance to taxpayers across the country; do-it-yourself tax filers are feverishly trying to complete their returns; and identity thieves are in full swing, using all kinds of tactics to gain access to social security numbers, birth dates and other confidential information found on tax-related documents like filing forms, W-2s and other supporting documents.shutterstock_361167344.jpg

A skilled identity thief knows tax season is ripe for opportunity: Not only are millions of men and women filing taxes, usually online, but tax season is also a time of added stress, when many people are less likely to follow the important guidelines that can help them prevent fraud and protect their information from an eager identity thief who’s just waiting for the ideal moment to strike.

In addition to looking for information he or she can use in the future, a tax-time identity thief goes one step further, filing taxes before you have a chance to do so yourself, which means any refund you’re due will go to the identity thief and not to you. Tax refund fraud has become more common in recent years, and the Internal Revenue Service has ramped up its efforts to thwart thieves and prevent fraud on its end. Here’s what you can do to keep your identity safe and make sure you get the refund you’re entitled to:

  • Never carry documents containing your Social Security number, and shred and destroy all documents that contain those numbers and which you don’t need to keep on hand.
  • Never provide your SSN to a business unless absolutely required – and even then, ask why it’s required and check the business’ credentials.
  • Check your credit report at least each year, and more often if you suspect fraud. You can get a free report from each of the three major bureaus every 12 months at annualcreditreport.com.
  • Contact the IRS right away if you receive a notice that more than one return has been filed, or if you receive a document indicating you have a balance due, your refund was reduced or canceled, or indicating IRS records show you had more income than you reported.
  • Report suspected fraud to local police, the three major credit unions, the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit (800-908-4490), and the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov or 877-438-4338.

Tax time is rarely a popular time for most filers – even those who receive refunds. But you can make it a little less stressful by following these simple tips to reduce your risk of becoming an identity theft victim.


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Tips to Help Save Money on Your Electricity Bill

Energy costs seem to fluctuate, depending on a variety of factors that consumers usually can’t control. There are, however, several things homeowners can do to save money on their monthly electricity or gas bill. The following are 7 money-saving tips for minimizing heating expenses throughout the winter.

1. Adjust the Level of Your Doors

If you can see any light under the front door, you’re losing heat. It’s sometimes possible to adjust the height of doors so the bottom gaps are eliminated. If this isn’t possible, even purchasing a doorstop to eliminate drafts can help save on heat.

TriCounty2. Wash Clothes on Cold

Most of the energy costs of operating a washing machine come from heating the water. Washing most of your clothes with cool water will not only help avoid shrinking clothes but will also save on energy bills. If you can’t imagine washing most clothes with cold water, at least try using moderately warm water instead of hot.

3. Maintain Your Heating and Cooling System

An HVAC system that is running efficiently can save on heating bills. Getting regular inspections to make sure the entire system is working properly is a good idea. Even changing filters on a regular basis can help lower the electricity bill.

4. Cover Windows

A lot of heat lost in a home is through drafty windows, and that causes an increase in the electricity bill. Tape clear plastic on the inside of the windows during the colder months. Using thicker drapes and putting blinds on the window can also help keep the cold air out and the heat in.

5. Turn Back the Thermostat

Turn down the heat about 10 degrees at night before going to bed. This can save up to 10 percent on heating bills. Many people actually sleep better when the temperature is cooler than average. Consider getting a programmable thermostat so it’s easier to keep the heat lower at certain times.

6. Use Kitchen Appliances Wisely

Keep your fridge fully stocked. Cooling empty spaces between food items actually uses more energy. Don’t use a pre-rinse on the dishwater, and make sure that it’s completely full before starting the washing process.

7. Insulate

Insulation is not only for walls but also attics and attic doors to keep heat from escaping. It’s also a good idea to insulate your water heater with a water heater jacket. Finally, if there’s insulation that’s been in your home since the 1970s or earlier, it may be time to replace it.

Following just a few of these money-saving tips can go a long way in saving energy, as well as saving money on the electricity bill.


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5 Tips to Stay Safe this Winter Season

Enjoying outdoor activities, traveling to visit friends and family and, yes, even the dreaded snow shoveling – it’s all part and parcel of the winter season. Getting outside to enjoy the snow can be fun, but it can also be dangerous. Follow these simple tips to stay safe and sound when you head out this winter:

Dress appropriately.

It may seem like no big deal to don your flip-flops to run out to the mailbox and back, but shoes with poor treads are a slipping hazard on ice and snow – and that can mean nasty falls and injuries. Likewise, be sure to wear layers of warm, wind- and water-resistant clothes, as well as mittens or gloves, hats and scarves to prevent heat loss through your head (heat rises in your body, just like it does in the air) and protect your extremities during outdoor activities. And when clothing becomes damp, change as soon as possible into dry clothes.

Tri-CountyChoose your shoes carefully.

Waterproof, insulated boots with good treads are your best bet for the winter season. Wear socks for added warmth, and carry extras to change into if they become damp. If you must wear dress shoes for work or another event, carry them with you and change when your each your destination.

Take it easy on heavy chores.

Shoveling snow, chopping firewood and other rigorous outdoor tasks may seem like “just exercise,” but remember: your body is already working overtime just trying to keep you warm. Add in some significant exertion and weight-bearing like shoveling heavy, wet snow, and it could be more than your heart can handle. Dress warmly, take your time, and ask your doctor if you’re healthy enough for outdoor chores during the winter season.

Travel smart.

If you have to travel during the winter season, carry warm blankets in your car, and use chains on snowy roads – or better, avoid travel completely until roads are clear. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged before traveling, and let friends or family members know your anticipated departure and arrival times.

Don’t ignore shivering.

Shivering is your body’s attempt to generate heat and stay warm – and it’s also an early sign of hypothermia. If you find yourself shivering persistently, head inside and warm up. And don’t think you can chase away winter cold with a shot of alcohol or a warm cup of coffee – both alcohol and caffeine can lower your core temperature and increase the risk of hypothermia.

Above all, use common sense: If you feel really cold, lightheaded, confused or extremely sleepy, or your hands or feet seem slow to respond, head inside immediately to avoid hypothermia and frostbite. And stay safe and sound this winter.