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Contents insurance explained

Find out how contents insurance works, what it covers and typical exclusions to watch out for

In this article
What is contents insurance? Contents insurance policies compared How does contents insurance work? Contents insurance and working from home
Contents insurance calculator What are common exclusions for contents insurance? Should tenants get contents insurance? Contents insurance: your questions answered

What is contents insurance?

Home contents insurance covers the cost of replacing your belongings in your home if they are damaged, destroyed or stolen.

As a general rule, your ‘contents’ are the items you would take with you if you moved home.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • Furniture: bed, sofa, wardrobe, dining table and chair
  • Kitchenware: cutlery, cookware, microwaves and kettles
  • Entertainment: video games, toys, DVDs and CDs
  • Soft furnishings: cushions, curtains and bedding
  • Electricals: TVs, laptops and game consoles
  • Clothes and jewellery
  • Ornaments and antiques

Contents insurance can be bought as a standalone policy or as part of a combined home insurance policy with buildings insurance.

Here, we reveal the best contents insurance policies. If you're looking for tips on getting cheap contents insurance, go to our guide.

Contents insurance policies compared

    We've analysed 58 contents insurance policies from dozens of providers. Click on the provider name for in-depth reviews and scores.

    Members can log in to see the results of our analysis. If you're not already a member, join Which? and get full access to these results and all our reviews.

      How does contents insurance work?

      There are three main types of contents insurance policy:

      Bedroom-rated

      A bedroom-rated policy uses the number of bedrooms in your home to calculate the amount of contents cover you get.

      Sum-insured

      A sum-insured policy requires you to calculate the amount of contents cover you need.

      Unlimited sum-insured

      An unlimited sum-insured policy covers all your contents without any limit, so you don’t have to worry about being underinsured.

      Find out more: read our reviews of home insurance providers 

      Claiming on contents insurance

      For all types of home insurance, if you need to make a claim, your provider will settle this on either a ‘new-for-old’ or ‘indemnity’ basis.

      • New-for-old cover means your home insurer will pay for a new product of equivalent value if your insured item is damaged or stolen.
      • Indemnity cover takes into account wear and tear on the items you claim for, which reduces the payout you’ll get. For example, while it may cost £800 to replace your sofa, you may only get £150 if it's 10 years old with rips and stains.

      Since the payouts on new-for-old policies tend to be higher, they can be more expensive than indemnity policies.

       

      Contents insurance and working from home

      If you, like many people, have had to set up an office in your home since the start of the pandemic, this could have implications for your contents insurance.

      Clerical, computer-based work is generally covered. Home insurers generally don't need to be notified if you're doing more of this at home instead of in the office.

      If you've taken expensive equipment home from your workplace, that should be covered by your employer's business insurance, so again there's no need to tell your insurer.

      However, if you've bought new equipment or furniture yourself, you may have to increase your contents cover limit to account for it. You can do this by contacting your insurer online or over the phone. 

      You'll need to check with your insurer if your work isn't computer-based, if you have visitors come to your home for work purposes or keep stock at home.

      Whether you’re looking for contents or buildings insurance, we can help you search for the right deal. Compare 50+ policies with our partner Confused.com.

      Contents insurance calculator

      Before you start looking for contents insurance quotes, you need to work out the value of your belongings.

      Our contents insurance calculator will help you work out the total cost of your possessions. 

      Simply enter the value of your items in each room. 

      What are common exclusions for contents insurance?

      There are a number of exclusions that are likely to apply to your contents insurance policy. These include, but are not limited to:

       

      High-value items

       

      Within your overall contents cover, there's usually a limit on the amount an insurer will pay out for single, high-value items such as jewellery.

      These limits vary depending on the insurance policy, but can be as low as £1,000. So if you expensive possessions, be sure to check to what the policy's limit is.

      Most insurers will allow you to separately cover expensive possessions in full if you declare them.

       

      Running a business from your home

       

      If you run a business from your home, business-related equipment or supplies (other than basic clerical equipment such as a computer) usually won't be covered by your contents policy.

      If you have lots of business-related items, have adapted your property, are offering services from your home (for example, child minding or beauty treatments) or have visitors to your property on business matters, you'll need to notify your insurer. 

       

       

      Subletting your home

       

      If you experience loss or theft when you’ve let or sublet your home, you may not be covered by your contents insurance unless there are signs of forced entry.

       

      Pairs and sets

       

      Some policies offer 'matching sets' cover. This means that if one item from a pair, set or suite (for example, matching furniture) is damaged and can't be repaired or replaced, the insurer will pay for the whole set to be replaced. 

      However, not all policies contain this cover – so you should check the policy wording carefully if it's important to you. 

       

      Unoccupancy

       

      When you buy insurance, you'll usually be asked how long you're likely to leave the property unoccupied. Most policies have an 'unoccupancy period', which usually ranges between 30 and 60 consecutive days.

      If you leave the property unattended for longer than that – say, for a long holiday – your insurer may suspend some of your cover, eg for burglary claims.

      Insurers may agree to extend their standard unoccupancy period if they have advance notice and if can provide certain assurances – for example, that a neighbour will regularly check the property.

      Should tenants get contents insurance?

      When you're renting a home, your landlord is responsible for insuring the building and fixtures, so if there’s a burst pipe or a problem with your boiler, ask the landlord to fix the problem as soon as possible as it should be covered under their policy.

      If your flat is furnished by your landlord, it’s their responsibility to insure their own contents as well.

      You'll need to get standalone contents insurance if you want to cover your own personal possessions, though. 

      Depending on your living situation it’s possible to get contents insurance for the entire property or for just your room.

      If you decide to insure the entire flat or home-share, bear in mind that being the named person on a policy can bring unintended consequences. If, for example, your housemate makes a claim, it will affect everyone else’s premium when it comes to renewal even if it was solely their fault.

      Your claims record can follow you for up to five years, so even if you move out and change home insurance provider you may still have to declare the incident, which will drive up your premium.

      If you decide to go for room-only insurance, you’ll need to have a lock on your door to be eligible for theft cover.

      Where there is no sign of forced entry into your room, your claim may be rejected. Belongings in communal areas are also unlikely to be covered unless there is a sign of forced entry into your home.

      Contents insurance: your questions answered

       

      What is personal possessions cover?

       

      Personal possessions cover protects your portable belongings while you’re outside of your home and overseas.

      These could include items such as your:

      • Mobile phone
      • Tablet
      • Laptop
      • Jewellery
      • Handbag

      There are some restrictions as to what’s covered here, so it’s best to check with your insurer so you get the protection you need.

       

      Does contents insurance cover accidental damage?

       

      Accidental damage occurs when there’s a one-off unintentional incident that harms your contents – spilling purple paint on your cream coloured carpet, for example.

      Home insurers provide very limited cover for accidental damage as standard, so it’s often bought as an add-on to a policy.

      Find out more: home insurance: add-ons, fees and charges

       

       

      Students: should you get contents insurance?

       

      Like tenants, students can get contents insurance to protect their belongings while they’re away.

      An alternative way for students to get cover is by extending their parents' home insurance policy.

      As long as the student’s permanent address is their parent’s home, it may be possible to get their contents insured against theft or loss.

      Importantly, there is usually a distinction between this cover – which protects the belongings the student keeps in their accommodation and personal possessions cover – which protects portable items (jewellery, phone, etc) that they will have with them when out. 

       

      Does contents insurance cover items stored in my garden, shed or garage?

       

      Belongings stored inside outbuildings, which include sheds, garages, greenhouses and summer houses, are normally covered for theft.

      However, most home insurance providers will only pay up to a certain amount for these items and the limit can vary dramatically.

      Be sure to check how much cover you have with your home insurer.

      It’s also important to make sure that your outbuildings are secure, so where possible, invest in locks for doors and windows as well as a security alarm to keep your belongings safe.

       

      Does home contents insurance cover my bike?

       

      Bikes are not always automatically covered on your home contents policy and the ones that do offer varying degrees of protection.

      For example, some insurers will only cover bikes if they’re stolen from your home or garage as standard and may not include mishaps that occur when you are out.

      It’s important to check with your provider to see if your bike is covered at all and whether you can get the right level of cover needed. Specialist bike insurance is also available.

       

      Does my home contents insurance include my mobile phone and other gadgets?

       

      Cover for your mobile phone and gadgets may not be automatically included on your policy as standard.

      It is possible to get cover for them by adding personal possessions cover to your policy.

      See our guide for more information on home insurance: add-ons, fees and charges.

       

      Will my home contents insurance cover items bought at Christmas and other special occasions?

       

      The combined value of your contents is likely to fluctuate during the year, especially around Christmas and other special occasions.  

      The majority of home insurance providers offer free temporary additional cover during special events and religious festivals such as Christmas, weddings and the birth of child.

      The amount of additional temporary cover varies between home insurance providers and some offer no protection at all so it’s best to check the terms of your policy.

       

      Can I get home contents insurance for less than a year?

       

      Yes. A number of new insurers have sprung up offering monthly insurance, often targeted at renters.

      Some established insurers also offer policies without cancellation fees, so you can hold the policies as long as you'd like.

      Bear in mind that temporary contents policies can be pared down in terms of features, and over several months could work out more expensive than an annual policy.

       

      How do I make a claim on my home contents insurance?

       

      No one wants to have to make a claim on their home insurance, but should the worst happen there are ways to make the process as smooth as possible.

      Our making a home insurance claim guide tells you all you need to know about handling the claims process and which home insurance companies stand out from the pack when the going gets tough.

       

      Should I renew my home contents insurance policy?

       

      Most home insurance providers save their best offers for new customers, which can mean that loyal policyholders often pay more in their second year of cover.

      Our guide on how to renew your home insurance shares everything you need to know about renewing your policy and how you can save money on your cover.

       

      Does my home contents insurance cover damage by pets?

       

      Most home insurance providers don’t offer cover for damage as a result of pets such as dogs and cats.

      Some insurers may cover pet damage if you add full accidental damage to your contents insurance policy.

      If you do have pets, it’s vital to check before you buy a policy that your home insurance provider will cover any accidental mishaps caused by them.

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