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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? How to find the best contents insurance policy 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 if you moved home.

These include but are not limited to:

  • Furniture: beds, sofas, wardrobes, and dining tables and chairs
  • 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.

 

Contents insurance policies compared

    We've analysed 59 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, sum-insured and unlimited sum-insured.  

      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

      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 ten 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.

      How to find the best contents insurance policy

      Here are a few tips you should follow when searching for a policy:

      1) Shop around

      This will increase your chances of finding a competitive deal for your contents insurance.

      2) Get the right level of cover

      Be as accurate as possible when valuing your contents. You don’t want to under or over-insure your belongings.

      3) Read the terms of your policy carefully

      Once you’ve found a policy, read the terms and conditions carefully to reduce the chances of being caught out if you ever have to make a claim.

      Contents insurance and working from home

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

      Clerical, computer-based work should be covered by your current policy, so there's no need to notify your insurer that you're working from home. 

      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 receive visitors to your home for work purposes, or keep stock at home.

      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

       

      There is usually a limit on the amount of cover for high-value items such as jewellery or audio-visual equipment.

      For most contents insurance policies, the limit for each item is around £1,500, but this can go up to £15,000 depending on your provider and policy.

      If you have expensive possessions, be sure to check your policy to make sure they are covered.

       

      Running a business from your home

       

      Ordinarily, if you run a business from your home, any business-related equipment will not be covered by your contents policy.

      It’s important to check this with your insurer however and notify it if you work from home.

       

       

      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

       

      The cost of replacing an entire set of furniture or units is unlikely to be covered by your contents insurance if only part of the set is damaged.

      You’ll usually only receive the cost of replacing the damaged parts.  

       

      Unoccupancy

       

      Most insurers will cover your home on the condition that it will not be left unattended for more than 30 consecutive days.

      If your home will be left unoccupied for an extended period of time - if you’re taking a long holiday, for example - be sure to let your home insurance provider know as you may be able to increase your cover temporarily for an extra cost.

      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 will 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 home 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 - sometimes referred to as an ‘all-risks extension’ - 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 that 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.

      Accidental damage cover does increase the price of your home insurance premium and could cost an extra £20-£1000 depending on your policy and the value of your items.

      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 insured against theft or loss.

      This comes at an additional cost and can be done by adding an 'all risks' or 'unspecified personal possessions' section to the main policy.

       

      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 and about.

      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 and other gadgets?

       

      Cover for your mobile 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.

      Take a look at 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 value of your contents is likely to fluctuate during the year, especially around 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, cats and budgies.

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

      If you do have any 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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