Accidental damage in the UK

Accidental damage in the UK

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Spilling red wine on the cream carpet, one of the kids drawing on the walls, or dropping your phone down the loo – accidents happen. Accidental damage cover is sometimes included in home insurance, but usually it’s sold as an optional extra. 

Accidental damage to contents is quite common in the UK- consumer sentiment data shows three in five Brits (62%) say they or someone else have damaged contents around their house, to the point it needed repairing or replacing, in the past 10 years.1 Despite this, 43% of MoneySuperMarket customers enquiring about contents insurance don’t opt to include accidental cover.2

In fact, our research showed that the price paid to repair or replace damaged items costs up to 16 times more than adding accidental cover to your contents insurance in the first place.

Percentage of Brits who say that they or someone else have damaged contents around their house

Under lockdown, Brits are spending on average an extra 6.5 hours at home, meaning the chance of damaging an item around the house may increase - something one in six say they are concerned about.1

We explore accidental damage in UK homes and look at the groups most likely to experience it.

Most commonly damaged items in the last 10 years

Have you or anyone else in your house ever damaged an item accidentally? Pick an item to see the proportion of Brits that have damaged it in the last 10 years, and pick a second item to compare. You can also click to see the full results below.

First item will appear here...

Second item will appear here...

Accidental damage covers many items within the home, which is useful since the list of items that Brits say they have damaged is extensive. 

The item most commonly damaged is a mobile phone, with two in five (40%) households saying this had happened at least once in the past 10 years. Nearly a quarter (23%) of households said it had happened two or more times.1

Other regularly used electronics such as personal computers (29%) and tablets (24%) also feature near the top of the list.1

Every item listed – including dining tables, wardrobes, fridges and musical instruments – has been damaged by a minimum of one in seven (14%) households, and two or more times by at least 4% of households.1

The average cost that households paid to repair or replace the most recently damaged item was £475, which is more than 16 times the average yearly cost of adding accidental cover to your contents insurance (£28.53).1,2 This average cost of repair or replacement rose by 85% to £876 in London – the highest of any region - where prices are generally more expensive.

Londoners are also 27% more likely than average to say that someone in their house had damaged an item, with nearly three quarters (72%) saying this had happened at least once in the past 10 years.1

It’s common for children to be the cause of a home insurance claim and those who live with someone under the age of 18 are far more likely to have had an item damaged within their home. The majority of households with children (80%) said they had experienced accidental damage in their home, compared to 53% of those who do not live with any children.1

Having more than one child in the home also increases the chances of accidental damage. More than three quarters (76%) of those living with one child had an item damaged at home. This rose to 82% of those living with two children, and 88% of those living with three or more children.

Looking at individual items, households with children aged under 18 were around four times as likely to damage things such as games consoles and musical instruments - items especially popular with younger people to use - than those with no children at home.

This trend extended across all items, with these households at least twice as likely to have damaged every single item listed in the survey.1

Items % of households with children that had damaged this item % more likely to have been damaged in a household with children than one without children
Mobile Phone 61% 103%
Carpet/Flooring 49% 104%
Desktop/Laptop 48% 140%
iPad/Tablet 47% 262%
Bed 45% 246%
Sofa 42% 223%
TV 42% 223%
Games Console 39% 388%
Chest of Drawers 39% 255%
Outdoor Furniture 39% 200%
Washing Machine 38% 171%
Wardrobe 37% 270%
Fridge/Freezer 36% 260%
Dining Table  35% 289%
Cooker/Oven 35% 150%
Dishwasher 31% 244%
Musical Instruments 30% 400%

As well as being more likely to have had items damaged, accidents were also far more expensive for those living with children. The average cost to repair or replace the most recently damaged item was nearly twice as much as for those with no children at home (£638.50 vs £364.30).1

More than a quarter (27%) of those with kids in the house say they are concerned about damaging contents due to the extra time they are spending at home during lockdown, compared to 16% across all those surveyed.1

And with a higher proportion (30%) saying they are concerned their children will damage items around the home with school closures in place1, getting accidental cover at this time could be an important consideration.

There is a similar story with 18 to 34-year-olds, who are far more likely than other groups to say that items have been damaged around the house.

Three quarters (75%) of 18 to 34-year-olds said at least one item had been damaged at home in the past 10 years,compared to just 57% of those aged 35 and over.

And while younger adults were more likely to have damaged mobile phones or games consoles, they were also far more likely to have damaged cookers, fridges, washing machines and outdoor furniture, a trend holding true across every item in the survey. 

Items % of 18-34s that say they or someone they lived with has damaged this item % of 35s and over that say they or someone they lived with has damaged this item % more likely to have been damaged in a household with 18-34s than one with 35s and over
Mobile Phone 60% 32% 88%
Carpet/Flooring 47% 22% 144%
Desktop/Laptop 42% 28% 50%
iPad/Tablet 41% 17% 140%
Bed 40% 16% 150%
Sofa 38% 19% 100%
TV 38% 15% 153%
Games Console 37% 17% 118%
Chest of Drawers 37% 14% 164%
Outdoor Furniture 37% 11% 236%
Washing Machine 36% 14% 157%
Wardrobe 35% 12% 192%
Fridge/Freezer 35% 16% 119%
Dining Table  34% 13% 162%
Cooker/Oven 32% 12% 167%
Dishwasher 32% 10% 220%
Musical Instruments 30% 7% 329%

Despite being far more likely to have had items damaged accidentally, 60% of 18 to 34-year-olds either did not have accidental cover or had no home insurance at all at the time they damaged their items. This is compared to just 38% of other age groups combined.1

This means a high proportion of young adults may have missed out on the chance to recoup some of their repair or replacement costs, with a quarter (24%) saying they would have considered claiming but were unable to do so.1

When asked about their current policy, more than half (53%) of those aged 18 to 34 with insurance said they do not have accidental cover included or are not sure they do, compared to just 32% of those aged 35 and over.1

And while 11% of this younger age group with insurance chose not to buy a policy with accidental cover because they thought they wouldn’t need it, there were some that were a little less clear in their decision. Nearly one in 10 (9%) weren’t sure what it covered and one in 20 (5%) weren’t even aware it existed.1

Being both more likely to have items damaged and less likely to have accidental cover may be the reason that 28% of 18 to 34-year-olds are concerned about damaging contents with extra time at home during lockdown. This is compared to just 16% on average across the survey.1

Some home insurance policies include accidental cover as standard, but for others it comes as an optional extra. There will often be an extra cost involved, and whether it makes sense to get it or not depends on your circumstances.

If you have expensive items in the home or you live with children, then you may find the additional cost is worth it. It’s important to understand whether the cost of the claim is worth the pay-out – if you can pay for the repairs yourself, you’ll maintain your no-claims bonus and hopefully reduce your home insurance premium.

For more information you can read our guide to accidental cover.

  1. Consumer research figures according to a survey of 2,000 UK adults, carried out by Opinium, between 1st and 4th of May 2020
  2. Date is taken from 3,261,197 MoneySuperMarket contents only and buildings and contents home insurance enquiry records, from the 1st January 2019 to 29th February 2020