Home emergency cover - is it worth it?Tips for choosing the best home emergency cover

09 November 2013

Boiler repairs

Households could save hundreds of pounds a year by changing the way they insure against home emergencies, according to new Which? research.

There’s little that can prepare you for the panic you feel when a burst water pipe floods your home or a broken boiler leaves you shivering under blankets. But if you want to protect your home and your wallet in the event of
an emergency, you have plenty of options.

While home insurance can cover basics such as replacement locks and leaky pipes, buying a home emergency cover bolt on – for as little as £30 a year – will cover you for a wider range of problems.

That's cheap compared to standalone home emergency cover policies which can cost as much as £330 a year.

Home emergency cover - what am I covered for?

Most home emergency add-ons cover the most common problems, although some policies have lower claim limits on parts of cover than some standalone policies, and there are exclusions to watch out for.

With standalone policies, coverage can be sporadic or non-existent for some elements, such as electrics and replacement locks, even with more expensive policies. But you can add these on for an extra cost.

Protecting your boiler

Most home emergency insurance add-ons, provide some cover for boiler and heating repairs but watch out for seasonal restrictions - Axa, for example, doesn’t cover you between May and August.

While claims can be limited to £500, this should usually be enough. The most common problems with boilers and central heating cost between £120 and £450 to repair. But £500 won’t go very far should you need to replace your boiler. 

According to the Heating and Hotwater Industry Council, the average age of a boiler is 15 years, and the Energy Saving Trust says that replacement work costs around £2,300. So bear your boiler’s age in mind when deciding which policy to pick.

Most standalone policies that we checked also offer unlimited boiler repairs and an annual inspection, apart from the AA and Direct Line. This is something no home emergency insurance add-on offers, but an annual boiler inspection costs around £70 on average.

Read our boiler reviews to find the best one for your home.

Making a claim on home emergency cover

Some providers limit the number of claims you can make in a year, and if you do need to claim on an add-on this could affect your home insurance premium. 

Of the providers we looked at, only John Lewis and Hiscox say in their literature that claiming on your home emergency cover add-on won’t affect your no claims discount on your home insurance.

Home emergency cover - problems and limitations

Whether standalone or as part of your home cover, there’s no guarantee of an immediate response in an emergency.

Providers say bad weather, the severity of the problem or even the level of a caller’s vulnerability can cause delay. There is also a chance your policy may not cover full costs of repairs, leaving you with unexpected costs.

Which home emergency cover should you buy?

Adding home emergency cover to your home insurance is certainly the cheapest option - you may even find you're covered as standard with some insurers like Which? Recommended Providers for home insurance John Lewis, Ecclesiastical and Hiscox.

If blocked drains, pest problems or other potential emergencies are a concern, the case for getting just an add-on becomes stronger as most policies cover these perils. However, check the small print carefully before buying, and pay attention to what items are covered, the maximum cost of each repair and any seasonal restrictions.

The key selling point of standalone cover is boiler protection, especially if your boiler is nearing the end of its life. But unless claims exceed the cost of the policy you'll be out of pocket.

Meanwhile, it could be cheaper to 'self insure' by putting money away in a Best Rate savings account to pay for annual servicing and any problems as and when they arise.

More on this...

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  • Home insurance - Customer satisfaction scores for home insurance providers