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What is contents insurance?

Contents insurance is purchased to cover items in your home, such as furniture, electrical equipment and personal belongings. Whereas buildings insurance is just for homeowners, contents insurance can be valuable to everyone, including renters and council tenants. Whereas buildings insurance is just for homeowners, contents insurance can be valuable to everyone, including renters and council tenants.

Contents insurance covers all your personal belongings, from sofas to cameras, clothes to laptops

Insurers have a favourite metaphor to describe the difference between buildings and contents insurance — if you picked up your house and shook it, everything that fell out would come under a contents insurance policy. Everything that stayed put (such as the walls, fitted kitchens and bathrooms, doors etc.) would be covered by buildings insurance.

Do I need contents insurance cover?

Unlike car insurance, contents insurance is not a legal requirement. However, it’s highly recommended for most homeowners and tenants. Imagine if your house burned down and everything was lost – your buildings cover (or the insurance held by your landlord) will take care of damage to the building, but could you afford to replace everything from scratch, from your furniture to your shoes?

As with most insurance policies, general wear and tear isn’t covered, so you can’t claim if your old TV or camera stops working for no apparent reason.

You may not think that your belongings are worth very much, but once you add up the cost of all of your electrical goods, clothes, jewellery and other practical items and luxuries, you may have more than you think.

Home insurance guides

Contents insurance - additional cover

Away from home cover

This add-on allows you to cover items up to a certain value for loss or damage outside of the home. For example, if you use your laptop on the go and it is damaged or stolen while outside of your home, you could claim to replace it if you have away from home cover. You can also cover your mobile phone this way, but it may be most cost-effective to consider gadget insurance.

Accidental damage cover

Most basic contents insurance policies will cover you for events such as weather damage, flooding, fire, and theft. However, most policies do not include accidental damage cover as standard – for example if you spill a glass of red wine on your white sofa or if you accidentally knock over a valuable vase. This cover can be added for a fee, which might be useful if you have children or pets that might be prone to causing accidents.

Ways to find the cheapest contents insurance

Raise your excess

Similar to car insurance policies, you can reduce the cost of your premium by opting to pay a higher excess should you need to make a claim. Your insurer will require you to make a small payment when you make a claim (a compulsory excess), but many will allow you to add an optional amount (voluntary excess) that you promise to pay if you need to make a claim in the future. It can be tempting to add a huge voluntary excess to your policy to cut the cost of your premium, but be realistic about how much you will actually want to pay in the event of a claim.

Improve your security

Anything you can do to minimise the risk of theft or damage can help to cut the cost of your insurance premium. Ask your insurer whether you can get a discount on your premium by installing specialist locks or a burglar alarm.

Pay upfront

Some providers will allow you to spread the cost of your insurance over the year by paying a deposit followed by monthly installments. This is a great way of making your insurance seem more affordable, but often it’s actually more expensive. Rather than simply splitting your annual contents insurance premium into 12 monthly payments, insurers tend to charge interest when you opt to spread the cost, meaning you pay more over the year. You may prefer the convenience of monthly payments, but check both prices (annual and monthly), as you could make a great saving by paying upfront.

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Compare home contents insurance quotes