However, recent research from MoneySupermarket warns that we are underestimating the true monetary value of many of our expensive items, meaning we are running the risk of leaving ourselves underinsured – and severely out of pocket.
What is contents insurance?
Insuring your contents is not compulsory in the same way as insuring your car. Neither is insuring your property itself if you are a homeowner (although if you have a mortgage your lender will probably insist on buildings insurance being in place).
But both types of home cover are essential protection in case you are burgled or suffer some other kind of misfortune, such as a fire or storm damage.
You can often earn a discount if you buy buildings and contents insurance from the same insurer.
So what is contents cover – and how can it protect your most treasured belongings?
Contents are defined as all the items in your house that aren’t a fixed feature. Therefore, this can be anything from cookers, fridges and beds, to clothes, phones and jewellery.
A good way to look at it is to think about contents as everything you would take if you were to move house.
When applying for your policy, you will have to insure your contents for a certain amount – known as the sum insured. This is where it can become difficult, as many people underestimate the total value of their belongings.
Research shows that an average family of four values their contents at £25,000 when the actual cost would be closer to £55,000.
How to calculate the value of your contents
One way to work out the value of your contents is to go through every room in your house noting down each and every item.
Make sure you include everything, including bed linen, clothes and other things that might not necessarily occur to you when you think of insurance.
Then, work out how much it would cost to replace all these items, either by using the internet or going through old receipts. Using MoneySupermarket’s handy home insurance contents calculator tool will help you with this.
New for old contents insurance or indemnity cover?
Even if your item is old, most insurers recognise that, if it were lost, stolen or damaged, it could still be expensive to replace. You should therefore be able to get new for old cover if you can run to the cost.
However, if you need to trim the cost of your premium as much as possible, you may want to consider indemnity cover.
This factors in wear and tear to items so would therefore only pay out part of the cost of replacing a lost or damaged item.
Your insurer may also offer an ‘all risks’ or ‘accidental damage’ option at an extra cost – the insurer will explain the precise nature of the extra cover on offer, such as insurance for items when they are outside the home.
As with any insurance, it’s an unwelcome cost until you make a successful claim, when it becomes superb value. So you need to weigh up whether you are willing to stump up for additional peace of mind.
Cover away from home can be well worthwhile for items such as jewellery, which may often be worn on social occasions or taken on holiday.
The same applies to the growing number of portable electronic devices we used. It’s important to find out from your insurer when and where your belongings are protected.
We don’t all own fine art or antiques, but just think about how much you have spent on items such as mobile phones, iPads, cameras and jewellery.
Your contents policy is likely to set an upper value limit for single items, typically of £1,500. But it is imperative to check what this is when taking out your insurance policy as different insurers have different limits.
If you find that your item is worth more than the limit, it might be possible to get additional cover on your policy by ‘listing’ the item – giving a precise description of what it is, perhaps including a photograph and making a note of serial numbers and other identifying features.
Not doing so could leave you underinsured and, if you were to make a claim, severely out of pocket.
For particularly expensive items that could be difficult to replace, your insurance provider may ask for even more details.
Some of the more unusual items we have seen insured on MoneySupermarket with a price tag of more than £2,000 include suits of armour, gold teeth and science fiction memorabilia.
It is also vital that you keep the value of items of your policy up to date as certain items, such as jewellery, may increase in value year on year.
Julie Fisher, head of home insurance at MoneySupermarket said: “A gold ring, which may have cost a couple of hundred pounds several years ago, may now be worth four or five times that value because of increases in the price of the metal, so it is worth seeking a professional valuation.
"The valuer will provide you with a receipt that you can use ‘for insurance purposes’. If you underinsure items on your policy, many insurers will invoke a ‘condition of average’clause which means you would only receive a percentage of the actual value of an item should you make a claim.
“Additionally, it is essential to list any specific items over £1,500 on your home insurance policy to ensure you are covered for those items in the event of an accident or burglary.”
How to save money on your contents insurance policy
Shop around: research from MoneySupermarket revealed that Brits are wasting £687 million a year by sticking with their existing provider – around £125 for the typical household. Auto-renewing your policy could really be costing you – so go to MoneySupermarket’s home insurance channel to compare a variety of quotes to find the best deal.
- Go for a combined contents and buildings insurance policy. Many providers will often offer a discount it you take out both with them.
- Secure your home: making sure your house is not an easy option for thieves will make insurance companies see you as less of a risk. Fit a burglar alarm, install a safe for your valuables , make sure you have good locks on your windows and doors and join a neighbourhood watch scheme – these will all will help to keep your premium down, and hopefully save you the distress of being robbed.
- If your policy specifies certain types of lock – 5-lever mortice deadlock is common – or gives you a list of approved alarms, it may also require you to use them when the house if unoccupied. If you neglect to lock your windows or switch on the alarm, you may find it difficult to push through your claim.
- Pay annually: although monthly payments often seem a more attractive form of payment than one big lump sum, you actually end up paying more overall when you opt for instalments.
- Opt for a higher excess: the excess is the amount you pay towards the cost of any claim, and if you volunteer on your policy to pay a higher amount, this will also keep premium costs down. However, be realistic and make sure it’s an amount you could pay if you did put in a claim.
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