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How much contents insurance do I need?

Calculating how much your possessions are worth is vital to get the right amount of contents insurance. But it's still a bit of a headache. Here's how you do it without too much fuss.

Person looking over content insurance documents

 

What is contents cover?

There are 2 main types of home insurance, buildings and contents. Many homeowners usually buy both, combined in 1 home insurance policy.

Contents insurance covers loss of personal property from your home, either as a result of theft, or damage by fire or flood. Depending on your policy, items in your garage, garden and outbuildings such as a shed may also be covered.

Your contents include pretty much everything you would take with you when you move. You can opt to have them protected away from the home and for accidental damage too, although this can come with an added cost.

  • Contents insurance is the cover to opt for whether you’re renting or a homeowner. If you own your home, you'd need buildings insurance too.
  • Buildings insurance covers the structure of your house and various fittings that you wouldn’t remove, such as radiators, garden decking and toilets. You only need this if you own the property you live in.

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How much contents insurance do I need?

It’s vital to get the right amount of contents insurance. This means you need to estimate the total cost of all your possessions - if your home was flooded or you lost everything in a fire you might face a hefty bill without contents insurance.

Underestimate the costs of belongings at your peril. Should you undervalue your contents, your insurer might not pay all of the claim as you won’t have paid enough for your cover.

Overestimate and you could end up paying too much for your contents insurance.

Many policies have an upper limit for covering individual items. This is known as the single item limit.

So if something is worth more than £1,000, for example, it might need to be covered separately at additional cost.

 

How do I estimate the value of my home contents?

To estimate how much your contents are worth, you need to include everything in your house that isn’t part of the structure.

Imagine your house was tipped upside down and everything that fell out would be included in the value of your policy. It includes things like carpets and curtains.

This might seem like a mammoth job, but help is at hand.

A helpful way to estimate the value of your contents is to use a contents calculator. Then, draw up a list of all your contents by going from room to room.

It also helps to take photos of the rooms, plus any valuables.

This includes:

  • The TV
  • Rare books
  • Works of art
  • Jewellery

Store these images securely in the cloud, not just on the home computer as this is at risk of being stolen or damaged too.

This approach could help if the worst happens and you need to prove what you owned.

 

Room-by-room breakdown for your contents

To break it down, let’s look at what might be valuable in your home room by room:

 

Living room

  • Furniture including sofa, armchairs, footstools, coffee tables and bookcases
  • Soft furnishings like cushions, carpets, rugs, curtains and blinds
  • TV, TV stand, games consoles, music systems, speakers, cables and chargers
  • Books, DVDs, video games, CDs
  • Mirrors, pictures and ornaments
  • Lamps and other lights

Remember to check in drawers and the sideboard, if you have one. You might miss something valuable.

 

Dining room

  • Furniture including the dining table and chairs, and perhaps a side table or display cabinet.
  • Bookcases and shelving
  • Carpets, curtains and blinds
  • Pictures, ornaments, photos and frames

If you have a drinks cabinet, tot up the cost of the bottles you have there, and make note of any expensive glasses and tableware.

 

Kitchen

  • Hob, oven as well as your fridge-freezer, washing machine and dishwasher.
  • Food processors, electric whisks, smoothie makers and sandwich toasters
  • Saucepans, cutlery and crockery
  • Table top appliances including the microwave, toaster and kettle

You can also tot up the value of the food in your fridge – perhaps keep and scan receipts for a typical month’s grocery shopping.

You should also cover the value of any frozen food.

 

Bedrooms

  • Jewellery and heirlooms
  • Art hanging on the walls
  • Bed linen, curtains, blinds and carpet
  • Beds, wardrobes, chests of drawers and bedside tables

If you live in shared accommodation, you can get a shared house contents insurance policy that covers your bedroom and your own contents. Remember to include any furniture that is yours in a quote as well.

Don’t forget the children’s and spare bedrooms, including toys, fitness equipment and beds.

 

Bathroom

  • Bathroom cabinets
  • Towels
  • Toiletries (if you use expensive stuff), perfumes and aftershave
 

Loft and storage rooms or areas

It’s easy to disregard the loft, as it’s not somewhere most of us hang out. But it can contain some valuable items, such as:

  • Luggage
  • Christmas trees and decorations
  • Heirlooms

You might have a vacuum cleaner under the stairs or in a utility room along with a sewing box, an ironing board and iron. Make a note of what you have in these places.

If you’re unsure of the cost of any item in your house, search online at a typical retailer for a ballpark figure.

 

The garden

Contents insurance also covers gardens so don’t forget to include items here and in any outbuildings.

These might include:

  • Garden furniture
  • Barbecues
  • Garden pots, ornaments, even koi carp in the pond
  • Lawn mowers, hedge trimmers and tools

Levels of garden cover vary significantly so check what your contents insurance covers.

For example, some won’t cover expensive ornaments if they’re outside the front door.

Likewise, others may insist that you secure your shed or outbuildings, using a padlock or other security measures. Especially if it’s possible to gain access to your garden from the road, alley or cut-though.

You might be required to chain bikes to a permanent structure for the same reason.

 

Should I update my contents insurance if I buy something new?

If you buy something particularly expensive and it makes a significant difference to the value of your home’s contents it’s worth mentioning it. This is especially important if it exceeds the single item limit and needs insuring separately.

If you have a number of high value items you may want to consider taking out specialist high value item insurance.

 

What’s the difference between buildings and contents insurance?

Buildings insurance covers the structure of your home and everything that can't be removed. This covers things like the walls, carpets and anything that is fixed to your home.

Contents on the other hand is everything that can be removed. This includes things like your TV, sofas, and bed.

You can buy buildings and contents insurance as a combined policy or as 2 separate policies from different insurers. It's worth comparing the costs of both before you buy.

 

Why do I need to make accurate estimates of my home contents?

If you over-estimated the value of your contents, you could end up paying for a more expensive policy than you need.

At the same time if you under estimate the value of your contents you may end up short changed if you need to make an insurance claim.

This is why it's important to make sure the value is as accurate as possible when you buy your contents policy.

 

Should I get up-to-date valuations on my jewellery and valuables?

You should get expensive items, such as jewellery and valuables, updated every few years. Your insurer should be able to advise you on how often to do it, but every 3 to 4 years is usually advised.

This is because the price of valuables, and in particular precious metals, can go up and down in value. If you don't get your items revalued you may get a smaller amount of money paid out then you're expecting.