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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 cover. 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 two main types of home insurance, buildings and contents. Often housed within one policy, you simply buy the elements you need.

Contents insurance usually covers loss of personal property from your home. It may also include loss of property from your garage, garden and outbuildings such as a shed.

By personal property, when it comes to contents, we mean items you've brought into the home that could be removed.

For this reason, contents insurance covers you against property that is lost or damaged – accidentally or deliberately – including due to fire or theft.

Contents insurance is the cover to opt for whether you’re renting or a homeowner. If you own your home, you’ll 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.

Both accidental and malicious damage should be covered.

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How much contents insurance do I need?

It’s vital to get just the right amount of contents cover. By this we mean you need to be as accurate as possible about the potential total value of your belongings.

If they were all lost in a fire, you’d need to have insurance to cover the cost of all the replacements.

Underestimate the costs of belongings at your peril. Should you undervalue your contents, your insurer may not pay all of the claim as you will’ve received a cheaper quote.

Overestimate and you could be paying too much for your insurance.

 

Use a contents insurance calculator

The best way to establish the value of your contents is to use a contents calculator and to draw up a list of all your contents by going from room to room.

Remember to include everything that isn’t a permanent fixture.

It also helps to take photos of the rooms, plus any valuables, such as the TV, rare books, works of art, and jewellery to confirm what they are to the insurer.

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 will help if the worst happens and you need to prove what you owned.

 

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

 

Living room

Work out the value of your furniture, such as sofas, armchairs, bookcases, and books.

Also include TV stands, plus any soft furnishings as well as carpet, rugs, throws, cushions, curtains and blinds.

You’ll need to add electronic items such as a TV, DVD player, computer games consoles and hi-fis – plus, of course any computer games, CDs or DVDs.

Include Bluetooth devices, speakers, cables and chargers.

Don’t forget any mirrors, pictures and ornaments, as well as lamps and light shades.

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

 

Dining room

Furniture here usually includes the dining table and chairs, and perhaps a side table or display cabinet.

Don’t forget shelving, if you’ve not bought any in a while you might not realise how expensive even the most basic shelf could cost to replace.

Again, include the carpet and curtains or blinds, pictures and photos, plus their frames and ornaments.

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

The big-ticket items here will include your oven, cooker, as well as fridge-freezer, washing machine and dishwasher.

But don’t ignore other apparatus that might be in seldom-opened draws or cupboards, such as a food processor, electric whisk or a toasted sandwich-maker.

Add any non-fitted units as well as blinds, and the cost of your kitchenware – pots and pans, crockery, cutlery and so on.

And don’t forget other table-top appliances such as kettles, toasters and microwaves.

You should also cover the value of any frozen food – perhaps keep and scan receipts for a typical month’s grocery shopping.

 

Bedrooms

The main bedroom is often where valuables such as jewellery or other heirlooms are likely to be kept.

You may have an expensive picture or art work hanging there, include this, plus the frame costs. Curtains or blinds, including blackout curtains should be added to the list.

Many policies have an upper limit for covering individual items.

So if something is worth more than £1,500, for example, it may need to be covered separately at additional cost. An example of this is jewellary insurance.

Include any IT equipment, such as computers, printers and so on, as well as any other electronic items like games consoles, TVs or iPads.

Add the value of bedroom furniture. This could include beds, wardrobes, chests of drawers, as well as soft furnishings and bed linen. Remember to include clothes and shoes too.

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

 

Bathroom

Calculate the cost of bathroom cabinets, and toiletries if they’re particularly valuable.

Work out how many towels you have in cupboards, or on racks. Check cupboards for infrequently used items, such as sun lotion and electric toothbrush chargers. 

 

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.

Some of those items might include your luggage, a Christmas tree and decorations, some heirlooms and other items that you’ve not found a place for downstairs.

You’ll probably 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.

 

Does contents insurance cover gardens?

Garden furniture can be expensive, and that needs to be covered too. As do garden pots, ornaments and certain animals, such as koi carp if you have a pond.

Also consider gardening equipment such as lawn mowers or hedge trimmers, BBQs, plus any bikes you keep outside or in a shed or garage.

On this point, don’t forget about tools, manual and powered, as these will cost a lot to replace.

Check your home contents insurance policy covers you for items outside the home, as every policy differs. 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 may be required to chain bikes to a permanent structure for the same reason.