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Autos, Insurance, Fraud, Real Estate, Internet


Financial Beat

Jump to:Choose article section...Autos: For these SUVs, a minor bump means major costs Insurance: Car and home policy rates to increase again Fraud: Do online thieves have your number? Real Estate: Which home improvements pay you back? Internet: Is that No. 1 listing really the best?

By Yvonne Chilik Wollenberg


Autos: For these SUVs, a minor bump means major costs

A fender-bender in small sports utility vehicles such as a redesigned 2002 Honda CR-V or a new 2002 Land Rover Freelander could cost you thousands of dollars in repair costs, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. These SUVs earned poor ratings in low-speed crash tests that mimic those annoying collisions that are common in parking lots and commuter traffic; they sustained an average of more than $1,600 in damages in the 5-mph crash tests. By comparison, the 1998 Honda CR-V suffered an average of about $900 in damages in the same crash tests.

Top ratings went to another small SUV, the redesigned 2003 Subaru Forester, which sustained only $355 in average damages. Subaru improved bumper designs and lowered repair costs by selling small replacement parts separately rather than requiring repair shops to buy them as part of a more expensive bundle.

Insurance: Car and home policy rates to increase again

Expect to pay nearly 10 percent more for car and homeowners insurance next year, on top of the 8 percent increase for your home and 8.5 percent increase for your car you already shelled out this year, says the Insurance Information Institute. The estimated average cost of auto insurance will jump from $784 in 2002 to $855 in 2003, a hike the Institute blames on escalating medical costs, higher repair costs, and rising jury awards. For the spike in 2003 home insurance rates from $553 to $603, the Institute points to a high number of catastrophes such as hurricanes and earthquakes, aging homes, higher repair costs, and rising claims for mold damage.

Fraud: Do online thieves have your number?

One way to check whether your credit card number has been stolen is to log onto a new Web site launched by, (, an online credit card watchdog organization that allows you to check your card numbers against a database of stolen numbers. The site itself is secure and will not store the card number you use. The organization culled the stolen card numbers from Internet chat rooms frequented by online thieves.

Real Estate: Which home improvements pay you back?

If you're pumping money into your home instead of the stock market, make sure you're likely to get a good return on your investment. Here's what you can expect, depending on where you live:


Cost and resale value of popular home improvement projects

Minor kitchen remodel$15,55590%$12,97691%$15,30677%$15,25790%$14,77387%
Bathroom remodel9,604819,357899,3577310,274769,78680
Master suite65,4017855,3887665,5256466,7867963,27574
Siding replacement6,195815,361766,738726,850646,28673
Home office10,805549,5006410,9214710,8785310,52654

Source: Remodeling Online

Internet: Is that No. 1 listing really the best?

Three out of five Internet users don't know that search listings are often paid ads, says a survey conducted for Consumers Union. The Federal Trade Commission would like search engines to make clear that advertisers often pay for a prominent placement in search results. Nearly all search sites owned or operated by AltaVista, AOL Time Warner, Direct Hit Technologies, iWon, LookSmart, Microsoft, and Terra Lycos will list links that pay more prominently than links that don't.

The author is a freelance writer in Teaneck, NJ.


Yvonne Wollenberg. Financial Beat. Medical Economics 2002;16:12.