What is contents insurance?
- Covers personal items that are not fixed to your home, but you'll need buildings insurance to cover the property itself
- Renters shouldn't need to worry about buildings insurance - that's down to the landlord
- If you need buildings and contents cover, consider a combined policy
A stand-alone contents insurance policy is a form of home insurance that protects contents against damage, theft or loss, and even accidental damage caused by leaks, flooding and storms.
'Contents' would fall out of your house if you tipped it upside down and gave it shake, leaving only the property's structure, and its permanent fixtures and fittings in place.
It's these items which you need to consider as part of your contents insurance policy - possessions including appliances, electrical equipment, clothes, jewellery and furniture may all be covered.
Digital downloads are an increasingly important part of modern life and some policies take this into account, so remember this element when assessing the value of your possessions.
Many policies offer replacement protection on a new-for-old basis, but others - known as indemnity policies - offer less cover as they take wear and tear into account.
This may mean that the premium on an indemnity policy is cheaper.
A good contents policy should offer you protection against fire, theft and other losses, but bear in mind that accidental damage may be an optional extra.
Contents cover is often sold jointly with buildings insurance - this can be a convenient and cost-effective option, but there are times when only contents insurance is required.
When you compare home insurance with GoCompare, you'll be presented with the option of whether you want to look at combined buildings and contents policies or separate deals.
When would I need contents insurance but not buildings cover?
This will come down to individual circumstances, but tenants will not usually have to concern themselves with buildings insurance - in most instances this will be the landlord's responsibility.
Landlords may need to consider contents insurance on properties that they let out.
This is likely to depend on what their landlord insurance covers and what contents they have in the rented property.
Is contents insurance compulsory?
Contents insurance is entirely optional, but you should consider whether you could afford to replace your possessions, and how valuable they are to you.
What information do I need to obtain a contents insurance quote?
In seeking a quote you'll be asked to assess the value of your contents - this is a crucial process in making sure that you're not under- or over-insured.
The easiest way to do this is to use our contents calculator, but if you'd rather do it yourself simply go through your property room by room, making a list of your possessions and their value.
If you have an attic, remember to include the contents stored there and - depending on your policy - you may also need to consider the items you have in a garden, garage or shed and even your freezer.
When you compare contents insurance through Gocompare.com, our easy-to-use forms will ask you to estimate the total value of your contents and whether you need cover for bicycles and laptops away from home.
You'll also be asked to name and describe any individual items that are worth over £1,000, and whether you want those items to be covered away from home.
You'll then be asked to input how much cover you need for any other personal possessions away from the home.
Some insurers will refuse cover for shared accommodation or add extra exclusions, especially if bedrooms don't have their own locks
Note that any individual item included in this section must be valued under £1,000, even though the total sum covered may be significantly more.
After you've answered these questions you'll see a handy table with a summary of all the cover you've requested.
Note that, in the event of a claim, insurers usually apply a 'single article limit' to items. This is the maximum amount an insurer will pay for an item, and this may differ between item types as well as between insurers.
You should always check your policy's terms and conditions for full details of what's covered and for any exclusions, and bear in mind that areas such as flood risk and subsidence may require extra attention and information.
Contents insurance for students and shared accommodation
Student living arrangements can be somewhat unique, but if you're living in rented accommodation away from home you may be able to find the cover you need by comparing contents insurance through Gocompare.com.
Insuring possessions away from home
Bear in mind that the number of insurers who will quote for you may be more limited than for non-students, particularly if you're living in shared accommodation.
If you are sharing and/or living in a halls of residence, you may need to think about a dedicated student insurance policy.
Read more about the options in our beginners' guide to student insurance.
Even if you're not a student but live in a shared house things can be a little more complicated - some insurers will refuse cover for shared accommodation or add extra exclusions, especially if bedrooms don't have their own locks.
You should still be able to find contents insurance easily enough, although your choice of provider may be limited and your premiums may be more than you'd anticipated.
But always make clear to insurers the living arrangements in your shared property or - in the event of a claim - your policy is likely to be invalid.
By Sean Davies