Content insurance means you won't be out of pocket if your stuff gets pinched. Here's what you need to know
It’s not something you think about much when you’re preparing to go to university – but as a student you’re at risk of burglary or theft, just like anyone else.
So, in case the worst happens, and your computer, mobile, TV, musical instrument, jewellery or other valuables go walkies, it’s important to take out an insurance policy.
That way, you can replace your things without having to fork out a fortune.
Do I need coverage?
Yes. The insurer Direct Line says one in four students become victims of burglary during their time in higher education.
But you might already have insurance without knowing. Sometimes your parents’ home insurance policy will cover your possessions while you’re away. Best to check with their insurer to see what, if anything, of yours is included.
If you’re in halls, the university sometimes takes out cover on students’ belongings. They should tell you if this is the case before you move in. If they don’t, then ask.
And if you’re in private accommodation – like a house or a company-owned building – you’re very unlikely to have insurance for your belongings included in the bill. It’s their job to make sure the building’s insured, not your gear.
How much will insurance cost?
It depends on what you’re insuring and where you’re living. Insurance companies don’t like to be out of pocket, so they’ll charge more if you’re moving to a high-crime area.
You have to let the insurer know how much you think each of your valuables are worth. If you under-value them, you won’t get all the money back.
The total cost of contents insurance (covering the belongings you leave in your room) can be lower than £100, but this all depends on what kind of coverage you want and need (more on this below) – and how much stuff you’ve got.
How can I reduce premiums?
The premium means the money you spend on getting insured. As with anything, to get the price you have to shop around, asking lots of providers for quotes.
And don’t be shy about haggling with insurers – and letting them know when you’ve been offered a good deal with someone else.
As well as traditional insurance companies, banks, supermarkets, even gas and electricity firms are offering cover.
Remember: you’re the one in control.
This also applies if you’re renewing your insurance. People often forget this, just sticking with an old deal for the sake of an easy life.
And other cost-cutting?
If you can afford it, pay the insurance premium in a lump sum upfront. It’s tempting to do it in instalments to spread the pain, but this usually costs more overall.
Also, try to ensure your room is secure. Lock the door and shut the windows when you’re out, for instance. Keep valuables out of sight.
If you’re not burgled, the premium stays lower, making it cheaper to insure your stuff in future.
And what about the excess?
If you claim for a stolen item, the insurance company doesn’t necessarily pay you the full amount you think it’s worth.
There’s what’s called an excess – and the insurance company pays out over this amount. Say, for instance, you had belongings worth £1,000 stolen. If your excess was £400, the company would only pay out £600 and you would have to stump up the rest.
If you want to lower the excess, the insurance policy will cost more.
What kind of coverage should I look for?
How often are you likely to take things like your laptop out of your room? If it’s not going to happen very often, you’re probably OK with basic contents insurance.
But if you take belongings around with you – very likely to be the case with your mobile or bike – then you might consider adding extra cover for that.
And then there’s accidental damage insurance if, say, a screen smashes while you’re not in your room.
Companies are probably going to try to sell you these extras, but you have to be firm with them if you don’t think you need them – or the extra expense. See if they’ll offer you a discount here too.
Should I always claim if my stuff is stolen?
Not necessarily. If, for instance, your excess is £400 and an old laptop worth £250 is taken, it’s not worth claiming. And your premium’s likely to go up the next year.
Will getting insured take long?
Getting an insurance policy isn't the most interesting thing you're going to do all year, but it should only take a few minutes.
There are loads of price comparison websites to look at and you can do the whole thing online, if haggling on the phone isn’t for you.
Get your insurance done and you can get on with enjoying the rest of your life at university.