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What is contents insurance?

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It's important that you have the right cover in place if you ever become a victim of theft, fire or flood damage. As you may end up needing to replace a lot, if not all, of your belongings.

Living room

Home insurance is split into two basic types of policy.

First off is buildings insurance, which protects the structure of the house and any permanent fixtures inside.

If you want more detailed information on this, check out our guide to buildings cover.

Contents insurance is designed to protect your belongings. As a general rule, your contents are the things that could be taken with you if you decided to move house.

Think to yourself: “If I had to replace everything in my house after a fire, how much would it cost me?”

Chances are that the figure is in the tens of thousands. This is where contents insurance comes in.

A contents insurance policy protects your stuff against theft or damage from fire and flooding. This could include things like:

  • Furniture - beds, sofas, wardrobes and dining tables.

  • Entertainment - DVDs, CDs, video games, books and vinyl.

  • Kitchenware - pots, pans, cutlery as well as microwaves, kettles etc.

  • Soft furnishings - cushions, curtain and bedding.

  • Electricals - TVs, DVD players, laptops, games consoles and digital media.

  • Toys, ornaments and antiques.

  • Clothes and jewellery.

The list goes on, and you’d be surprised at how much it all adds up.

How does it work?

Most insurers operate under one of these two types of policy:

The first is indemnity - a policy that takes into account wear and tear on items that you claim for.

So if your six-year-old rug ruined by leaking water, any payout you’d get for the rug might be reduced because of its age.

The other kind is new for old, which pays out the full amount for a shiny new replacement.

Because the payouts tend to be higher, new for old policies could have higher premiums than indemnity policies.

Is it compulsory to insure my contents?

Not in the slightest.

Whereas buildings insurance may be required by a lender before you can have a mortgage, contents insurance is completely optional, but a very sensible idea.

How much do I insure my belongings for?

 Contents statistic

The simple answer? Insure them for what they’re worth.

Ideally you want to have enough cover in place so that you could replace everything you own if something was to happen to your home.

“Everything” also includes all the stuff that you’d normally forget about, like those old Christmas decorations in the attic, and that exercise bike you threw in the shed after one use.

It can seem like a pretty daunting task, but it’ll be worth it to get an accurate idea of how much everything is worth. 

An easy way to work out the value of your contents is to go room by room and tot up how much each type of item adds up.

An even easier way is to use our contents calculator that will keep a running total of how much your stuff is worth.

Keep a record of which of your belongings is worth more than £1,000.

These are classed as high-risk because of their value – they’re a more tempting target for burglars, and could be more difficult to replace.

Extra cover for your contents

Though they’re usually not part of a standard contents policy, some insurers may offer extra cover at a cost.

The most common extras are:

  • Accidental damage cover – in case you drop your iPhone down the toilet or launch your TV remote into the TV.

  • Legal expenses cover – covers legal fees for if you took a tradesman to court, or if someone was injured in your home and then sued. 

  • Home emergency cover – offers a helpline for quick assistance when a pipe bursts, a window breaks or your house is infested with pests.

When looking at contents insurance policies, check what exclusions each insurer has on the policy.

And keep an eye out for what excesses are attached to make sure you’re not unwittingly paying over the odds.

Also, don’t blindly hit the buy button just because one policy is cheapest – make sure that what you’re getting will serve you well if you ever need to use it.

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