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Contents insurance

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What is contents insurance?

Contents insurance protects your household belongings against theft, loss and damage. Although it’s not compulsory it’s a good idea to protect your belongings as they can cost thousands to replace.

Contents insurance is often sold alongside buildings insurance to form a complete home insurance policy.

Most home contents insurance policies fall into one of two types - ‘new-for-old’ and ‘as new’.

New-for-old does exactly what it says on the tin. Some providers will replace the damaged item for a new one, while others will offer a cash settlement.

As new policies, also known as indemnity policies, are cheaper, but they only pay out on the items’ depreciated value, with wear and tear taken into account.

What does contents insurance cover?

Contents insurance is designed to cover some of the cost of repairing or replacing your possessions if they're damaged, stolen or lost in a fire.

It typically covers pretty much everything you’d take with you if you moved house, including:

  • Electrical goods
  • Furniture
  • Money and jewellery
  • Clothes
  • Works of art and family heirlooms

Some providers also include shed insurance that should cover the contents of your garden and outbuildings, contents as well as those inside your home.

There are a few areas contents insurance doesn't cover, though.

It won't cover the physical structure of your building - for that you need buildings insurance.

It may not cover expensive items above £1,000 in value. For these, you may need separate high value item insurance.

It might not cover you for theft if your home was left unsecured. 

If you fail to tell your insurer about a new lodger living at your address, this can also invalidate your policy. 

There are some other areas that may not be covered either, so always check your policy details if you're unsure. Or, for a full list of common home insurance exclusions, see our guide. 

Do I need contents insurance?

If you think you'd struggle to cover the cost of replacing your possessions, then you might need contents insurance. 

If you're a tenant your landlord's home insurance will not cover your possessions. Having your own contents insurance could help protect your tech, furniture and more while you're renting. Tenants insurance policies can be a good idea here, as they can combine contents cover with tenants liability insurance, giving you real peace of mind that you're fully covered. 

Homeowners can benefit from contents insurance too, and can combine it with buildings insurance to create one simple, comprehensive policy that'll help protect everything you need it to.

Landlords don't usually need contents cover - that’s normally the responsibility of the tenants, unless the property is fiurnished. In this case, landlord insurance can cover your possessions while your property is occupied.

Students can benefit too, although the premiums on a student contents insurance policy are typically a little higher due to the increased risk of theft and damage your possessions face in a shared home. 

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How much does contents insurance cost?

Our data shows the average cost of a contents insurance policy is £54.88 per year*. But the exact cost of your policy depends on the value of your possessions, including any high-value items you need to insure. Where you live and the security of your home also have an impact on the cost.

*Confused.com data February-April 2022 - top average premium excluding quotes with claims or accidental damage.

How much contents insurance do I need?

The Association of British Insurers estimates that the average home contains £35,000 worth of contents, so it's important that you get the right level of cover.

Don’t just guess how much cover you need. You could either end up under-insured or paying for cover you don’t need. Instead, go around your home from room to room and write a list of everything in it and a ballpark figure of its cost.

Don’t forget items hidden away in the loft, basement, garage and the shed. Also remember that high-value items over £1,000 will need to be listed separately.

Some insurance providers calculate the value of your contents based on how many rooms are in your home.

However, this can increase your policy if the total sum is overestimated.

Take the time to accurately calculate the total cost of your contents to ensure you're getting the right amount of cover. 

Still wondering how much contents insurance do I need? Try our guide for hints and tips on getting it right. Or let our contents calculator do the hard work for you.

How do I get a contents insurance quote?

Before you compare contents insurance quotes, having the following details to hand will speed things up:

  • Your property's build date - This is usually pre-filled based on your address.
  • The year you bought your house - If you're renting you'll need the date you moved in.
  • Lock types - You'll need to know the type of lock on any external doors. If you're unsure, our guide helps explain different lock types. When we ask the question we also provide example lock pictures to help you out.
  • Previous claims - Details and cost of any claims you've made in the last 5 years - this should be in your renewal documents. Alternatively, contact your current insurer.
  • The value of your personal possessions - The total cost of your personal belongings - our contents calculator can help you work this out.
  • High-value items - Details of any high-value items worth over £1,000 you wish to insure - for example engagement rings, antiques, musical instruments or expensive computer equipment.

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What optional extras are available?

There are a number of optional extras you can bolt on to your policy for an additional fee that increase cover for your home. These include:

  • Home emergency cover
  • Legal cover or family protection cover
  • Away-from-home cover
  • Accidental damage cover

Home emergency cover could give you protection against a number of unexpected incidents, such as burst pipes or your boiler breaking down.

Legal expenses cover or family protection cover is designed to cover costs and expenses in the event of certain legal disputes. Some insurance providers may include this as standard but it's always worth checking. It's important to work out if you need additional cover - but be careful not to waste money by doubling up on insurance.

Personal possessions cover can be used to cover your possessions against loss and theft while you're away from home. This can include things you carry with you every day, such as jewellery, watches, handbags, laptops and mobile phones.

Accidental damage insurance could help for one-off accidental events, such as spilling something on your sofa, smashing a television or dropping an antique vase.

Once you get a quote we'll show you details of the policies available to you, including whether these extras are included or if there's a cost to add them to the policy.

What our home insurance expert says

Try to be as accurate as possible when you estimate the value of your personal belongings. If you have family heirlooms or expensive jewellery, you’ll want to make sure they’re insured. You can add high value item cover for items worth more than £1,000 each when you get a contents insurance quote. You can’t replace the sentimental value of some things, but you can replace the financial loss.
Jessica Willock home insurance expert signature

Jessica Willock

Home insurance product manager

Need more help?

Do I need contents insurance as a tenant?

It’s not a legal requirement for renters to have contents cover, so technically you don’t need it. But it’s often a good idea.

As the owner, your landlord will usually be responsible for the general maintenance of the building, so it’s down to them to ensure their property is protected with buildings insurance.

But you’re responsible for any contents inside that you own. If anything were to happen to your possessions, you would have to pay for replacements if you didn't have contents insurance.

If you live in a house share, your possessions are obviously more prone to being stolen, so it can be a good idea here too.

Likewise with student accommodation: the more people in and out of your address, the higher the risk your possessions face.

Contents insurance vs personal possessions cover

Contents insurance covers your possessions against damage or theft while they’re at your home address.

Personal possessions cover protects them when you’re out and about.

There’s often an upper cover limit – typically artound £1,000 – but you’ll usually be able to find cover for everything from phones to cameras to jewellery to wallets and handbags.

So if your phone was stolen while out and about, your standard contents insurance policy might not cover it. But personal possessions cover might.

Does contents insurance cover mobile phones?

Yes, it does. If your phone is stolen or is damaged by fire, for example, you could claim to have it replaced.

If you’re keen to cover all bases, you could look into a separate gadget insurance policy for your phone. This separate policy also covers you for dropping it in the toilet or cracking the screen.

Are washing machines covered by contents insurance?

Yes, washing machines and all white goods should be covered for theft and damage.

But if your washing machine just breaks down and stops working, this isn’t normally covered by your contents policy.

Does contents insurance cover accidental damage?

You can get accidental damage as an add-on to your contents insurance policy.

Standard contents cover kicks in if your possessions are damaged by theft, fire or flood. But if you spill red wine on the carpet. It might not pay out.

Adding accidental damage cover to your policy helps cover these unfortunate incidents.

Does contents insurance cover boilers?

No, boilers aren’t normally covered by contents insurance. If you want to protect your boiler, you might need to get a standalone boiler insurance policy.

Does contents insurance cover carpets?

Yes - as part of your home’s overall contents, your carpets and curtains should be covered under your contents insurance policy.

Remember to add the cost of replacing all of your home’s carpets to your overall contents value when getting a quote.

Does contents insurance cover water damage?

If your possessions are damaged by a flood, then yes, you should be covered by your contents insurance policy.

But if you have a burst pipe, your contents insurance policy is likely to cover only items that were damaged by the water. The pipe itself, and any damage to your fixtures and fittings, would likely come under a buildings insurance policy.

Does contents insurance cover my tech?

Smartphones, laptops and gaming consoles will all be covered by your contents insurance. You will need to add a laptop or items worth over £1,000 to your home insurance quote to ensure cover in the home. However, for anything you use while you are out and about you will need away-from-home cover. You might also consider specialist gadget insurance if you have a lot of gear.

Do I need to provide proof of ownership?

It’s always a good idea to keep receipts if you can and take photos of high value items. This will help if you are claiming for theft.

What should I include in my contents cover?

As a rule of thumb, anything you’d take with you if you moved house should be included on your contents policy – including items like curtains and carpets. It’s worth taking the time to go around your house from room to room and put a reasonable value on everything. It’s easy to underestimate the value of your contents, but it’s important to make sure you’re not under-insured.

Are my garage, garden and shed covered?

Lots of policies will cover your garden and outbuildings but not all do so it’s important to check before you buy. If you have a lot of gear stored outside it’s important to check how much cover is included too as levels vary substantially between insurers.

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