What would happen if burglars broke into your house? Or if a fire damaged your flat? Would you be able to replace your stolen TV and laptop? Or replace all the fire damaged furniture?
Well, that's what contents insurance is for. In this article we'll explain what contents insurance is, how it works, and how to get the right cover at the best possible price.
Table of Contents
What is contents insurance?
Home contents insurance covers the contents of your house - that is, anything which is not the building, or fixed to the building. It's one of two components of home insurance - buildings and contents.
So for instance, while your building insurance will cover any damage to your roof, or replastering and painting after a flood, your contents cover would pay out if the water damaged your TV, furniture, or clothes.
Do you need home contents insurance?
Home contents insurance isn't legally obligatory. But given the average UK family home has £55,000 in contents (according to the Association of British Insurers), most people will find that it's well worth having a policy that covers them.
Remember that contents includes your washing machine, fridge, and cooker; your carpets and curtains; and all your furniture, pictures, cushions, and rugs. Those would be costly to replace in the event of a fire or flood, though they're probably not as likely to be stolen as your jewellery or your TV.
When you renew your contents insurance, remember whether you've added to your possessions over the course of the year. If you've been restoring or redecorating a house it's quite likely you've spent extra money on furniture and decorative items, so take that into account when you're looking for quotes.
You can use our contents calculator as a short cut to work out just what you own, and what cover you need.
How does contents insurance work?
Contents insurance covers the contents of your home for a particular overall value. You'll be covered either
- new-for-old, that is, giving you the money you need to replace a stolen or damaged item with a new one, or
- on an 'indemnity' basis - that is, paying out the value of a stolen or damaged item after subtracting an allowance for wear and tear.
For instance if you bought your three piece suite for £1,500 a few years ago, and would cost £1,700 to replace, a new-for-old policy would pay out £1,700. An indemnity policy would subtract for wear and tear, so you might only get £300.
Fortunately most policies nowadays offer new-for-old cover, which is obviously better for you, but you do need to check to make sure that this is the case.
What is covered by contents insurance?
Levels of cover vary but all contents insurance will cover basic items like your furniture, clothes, kitchen equipment, and electricals, against theft, vandalism, fire, flood and other natural damage, like earthquake. Some policies may also cover:
- limited amounts of cash in your home,
- the contents of your garden,
- or the contents of your fridge and freezer if they're ruined by a power cut or breakdown.
You'll be covered for a certain value, and there are usually two types of limit;
- first of all there's an overall cover figure, such as £35,000 for the contents of a flat,
- and then there's also a limit on the amount you can claim for any single item, which will probably be between £1,000 and £2,500.
What can also be covered by contents insurance?
House contents insurance can also include
- third party liability cover for visitors to your home,
- cover for accidental damage,
- legal expenses cover,
- home emergency cover,
- alternative accommodation if your property can't be lived in,
- cover for garden furniture and equipment,
- cover for possessions like your laptop, bike, or jewellery that you take outside the home with you (this is called "personal possessions cover").
With some insurance you'll get these as standard, while other policies will offer them as paid-for extras.
|Kitchen equipment, and electricals||Yes|
|Third party Liability||Not always|
|Home emergency cover||Optional|
|Personal possession||Not always|
Check out our main guides to know which content can be covered by your home contents insurance:
Home contents insurance for engagement ring
Engagement ring insurance under your home insurance policy covers theft or loss of, and damage to, your engagement ring, but most policies will only cover it while you’re at home.
You can decide to add personal possession cover to cover things outside your home. Jewellery thefts often happen outside the home, so this is a sensible thing to do.
Contents insurance for e-bikes
Basic home insurance policies will cover the theft of your ebike at your home, if your electric bile is stolen while it’s in a secure place. Usually it won’t work if you left your ebike in the garden.
If you have an ‘all risks’ home insurance policy that covers personal possessions outside your home, your bike will be covered if you lock it outside the shops.
Contents insurance for your watch
Watch insurance under your home insurance policy covers theft or loss of, and damage to, your watch, but most policies will only cover it while you’re at home.You can decide to add personal possession cover to cover things outside your home. Jewellery thefts often happen outside the home, so this is a sensible thing to do.
Home insurance for boiler
Boiler insurance can sometimes be included in your home insurance; make sure you’ve checked with your home insurance provider whether this is the case. Boiler insurance is included in Home emergency cover, which is an optional coverage that you can take as part of your home insurance.
Many contents items can be covered either in your home contents insurance or with specific dedicated policy. This particularly concerns bikes, music instruments and valuables items such as jewellery, rings, watches etc.
What is not covered by contents insurance?
Contents insurance covers all your stuff, but there are some things it won't cover.
- Contents insurance doesn't cover the actual building. You'll need buildings insurance for that (or your landlord will).
- It won't cover you if your home is left unoccupied for more than 30 days (though some insurers will make a one-off exception if you ask, for instance if you're going on honeymoon for an extended trip).
- And it won't cover you for basic wear and tear.
For instance, if your sofa has collapsed over the years and finally gives up the ghost, that's just tough. On the other hand if a storm blows tiles off your roof, water gets in and your sofa's ruined - fair enough, contents insurance will pay out.
- You may also not be covered for accidental damage or damage caused by your pets. Some policies will allow you to add this as an extra.
- And you won't be covered if you don't keep your house secure, for instance by leaving windows open when you're out. You may also not be covered if you give someone keys to your property - for instance a cat sitter or tradesperson - and they steal from you.
What is the best contents insurance?
You'll need to compare contents insurance to find out, because your needs might be different from another household's, and because the price will depend on where you live and how much cover you want. But we've got some ideas for where to look and we show the best policies in the table below.
|Insurer||Excess||Standard||Add-on||Maximum sum insured||Single item limit|
|£100||£500 garden contents||Not stated||£100,000||£3,000|
|£125||£750 garden contents||£200,000||£1,500|
|£100||Personal possessions||Accidental damage||£150,000||£2,000|
How much is contents insurance?
According to the Association of British Insurers, the average contents insurance policy costs £139 a year.
That adds up to £11.58 a month, which really isn't a great deal to protect yourself against losing all your stuff.
Of course, you're not average! Depending on your lifestyle and the type of property you occupy, you may need to spend more to get the cover you need - or maybe a little less.
How much contents insurance do I need?
You need to cover the full value of what you own - if your insurer thinks you're underinsured, it may decide only to pay a percentage of any claim.
There's no easy way to do this. You need to take some time and make some effort to work out the value of what you own. But you can get a bit of help with the job.
- You could use a contents calculator to help you work out the likely total value you need to cover.
- You could download an app to help take an inventory of your possessions.
- Some insurers offer bedroom rated insurance which gives you the cover they think is appropriate for a property the size of your flat or house. However, this won't be appropriate if you have a lot of high value items.
Basically imagine your house completely stripped of everything that's not part of the building. The carpets are gone, the curtains are gone, and the shelves have all been taken out, as well as all your furniture and equipment. Go through each room and work out what you'd need to put back.
You then need to work out what items would cost to replace. Usually you can check on the internet, but for specialist items such as musical instruments, art and antiques you may want to get a valuation from a specialist.
Use our contents calculator to work out how much cover you need. It's much easier than doing it on a blank sheet of paper!
Remember though that contents insurance for tenants only covers your own stuff. If you rent a furnished flat, your landlord's furniture, microwave, and so on should be covered by their insurance - not yours.
Who is contents insurance for?
Contents insurance is for anyone!
If you only own a couple of pairs of jeans, a few tee-shirts and a mobile phone, then maybe you don't. But most people have enough possessions that insuring them makes sense.
There's a small difference though depending on whether you own your home or are a tenant.
- If you're a homeowner, your contents insurance usually comes together with your buildings insurance.
- If you're a tenant, your landlord will have buildings insurance, but you'll need a separate contents policy to cover your own possessions (and furniture, if you're renting unfurnished). Check our page on tenants contents insurance.
If you're a student, though, insurers consider you a higher risk. If you live in halls of residence or share a house with other students you'll need special student contents insurance.
If you're sharing a property, you might want to take out contents insurance just for your own room (as long as it locks securely). If you take out a policy with other sharers, any claim another sharer makes will affect your insurance for the next five years, even if you move out and get your own place.
What types of contents can be insured with home contents insurance?
Contents insurance generally divides your coverage into two kinds: basic items, like your clothes, furniture, and carpets, and high-value items like high tech televisions, expensive cameras, jewellery, antiques and paintings.
Most insurers have a limit on how much they will pay out on any single item. This can be as low as £1,000 or as high as £2,500, depending on the insurer and what level of cover you have purchased.
High value items
These items generally need to be named on your policy. The most commonly named high value items are watches and jewellery; televisions; laptops, bikes, tablets and notebooks; and bicycles. If you have a lot of high value items like jewellery or antiques, you might want to think about a specialist policy. Check out our guide about jewellery insurance.
You can take out a special insurance for your valuable items, we selected the best insurance companies for your valuable items:
|Insurer||Limits||Note||Get a quote|
|Up to The amount shown on the|
|Get a quote|
|From £1,000 and up to £20,000||Get a quote|
What extras can I add to my home contents insurance?
In addition to covering the contents of your home, you can add cover for emergencies (such as central heating and boiler breakdowns), for possessions you use outside the home (personal possessions cover), and for accidental damage (spills and breakages). Some contents policies may include these as standard.
- Home emergency cover will help you out if, for instance, your roof is damaged in a storm or your boiler suddenly stops working. Your insurance company will send one of its contractors out to help, so you don't need to spend time calling tradespeople on your own behalf, and it will pay the cost of putting things right.
- Personal possessions or 'all risks' cover will insure things you use outside the house as well as at home, for instance your laptop, bicycle, camera, or jewellery.
- Accidental damage cover is often very limited, but you can choose an upgrade. You'll then be covered if you accidentally spill wine on your new sofa, for instance.
- Legal expenses cover which can be useful, for instance if a tradesperson has an accident while working in your home.
- Pet damage is offered by a few policies and may be useful if you share your home with animal companions.
How can I claim on my home contents insurance?
Your policy documents will tell you how to claim on your insurance, so make sure you keep them in a safe place. Usually you'll be given a special claims-only phone number to call, though many insurers now have online portals which you can use.
If you need to claim because of theft or vandalism, you'll need to report the incident to the police. Make sure you get a crime reference number (CRN) to give to your insurer.
In the event of fire, flood or other forms of damage, your insurer may ask for photos of the damage to your possessions, or for receipts or valuations. If you have joint buildings and content insurance and a major event occurs, the insurer may send a loss adjuster to assess the damage before deciding how much to pay out.
It's best not to buy any replacement items before you hear from your insurer, particularly if there's a clause in your policy that allows your insurer to provide a replacement item rather than pay you cash.
How can I cancel my home contents insurance?
You may be able to cancel your home contents insurance if you're moving house, or if you're unhappy with your insurer. You'll need to contact your insurer directly, and they may charge you a fee - but it must be a reasonable one. If you have months of cover left, and you paid annually, you may get a refund.
If you pay monthly by direct debit, don't cancel it with your bank - your insurer may need to take a last payment.
If you've just bought a new policy, the law gives you 14 days during which you can change your mind. This is called the 'cooling off' period. You should get most of your money back - but there may be a small administration charge.
How do I get a home contents insurance quote?
The best way to get a contents insurance quote is online, of course! When you want to buy contents insurance, compare different quotes to make sure you get the best quote for you.
You'll need to enter basic information including
- the property details: your address, how many rooms, when your property was built, security arrangements (locks, alarms), and when you're usually at home;
- the value of the contents, and any single items you want covered.
You can then see different quotes. Don't just take the cheapest - check the cover. For instance, do you get personal possessions cover (outside the home) as standard, or would you have to pay extra for it? Are you covered for the full replacement value of your contents, or only for their value now (after taking account of wear and tear)? And if you have expensive electronics kit or jewellery, make sure you check the limit per single item.