How much is contents insurance?

A guide to the variables at play.

If you own or rent your home and you’re wondering, how much is contents insurance?, the answer isn’t entirely straightforward. The cost of contents insurance varies depending on several factors, including the value of the items in your home, the level of cover you want, and even where you live.

In this guide we’ll take a closer look at the cost of contents insurance, and provide useful information to help you decide whether you need it and what type of cover is right for you.

What is contents insurance and do I need it?

There are two parts of your home insurance policy: buildings and contents. 

The former covers damage to the structure of your home, while the latter covers damage to the stuff inside that you might take with you when you move.

Pretty much all contents insurance policies will protect your personal possessions against losses caused by flood, fire, and theft of items inside your home. Some policies may have additional levels of cover for incidents like accidental damage, or for items (like mobile phones or laptops) that you might take away from your home or even abroad on holiday.

Most policies will cover the following as standard:

  • Removable home appliances
  • Clothing
  • Furniture (including antiques)
  • Electronics and gadgets at home
  • Carpets and curtains
  • Rugs and tapestries
  • Sculptures
  • Jewellery
  • Gold and silver items
  • Clocks and barometers
  • Vintage wine
  • Book collections
  • Fine art paintings or prints
  • Unusual, rare, or commissioned collections
  • Some cash
  • Freezer contents
  • Liability cover if a visitor to your home is injured and you are to blame

It is also possible to get more bespoke policies that cover high-value items like musical instruments and drones. 

Many policies will have a single item limit. This may be set at something like £2,000 and means that you need to notify your insurance provider of any individual valuables that are worth more than that amount of money.

Things like wear and tear to items or losses caused by acts of terrorism or pests and vermin are not usually covered by a standard contents insurance policy. Burglaries where there is no evidence of forced entry may also not be covered so it may be prudent to check the smallprint of your policy.

How does contents insurance work?

There are three main ways that insurance companies will calculate the value of the contents in your home to give you your total cover amount. These are:

1. Bedroom-rated: This when the cover is based on the number of bedrooms in your home. For example, if you have a three-bedroom house in a particular postcode then the insurance company will look at the average value of the contents in a typical three-bedroom house in that postcode.

2. Sum-insured: This will require you to estimate the total value of the contents in your home, and you will then be insured for that sum. It is recommended that any special items you might have, like fine art or jewellery, are valued by a specialist. In most instances, however, you should be able to find out the cost of everyday items via an internet search.

3. Unlimited cover: This will simply cover the value of everything, no matter what it is, although there may be specific requirements to list particularly valuable items individually. Some insurance companies may do a version of this where they offer blanket coverage for contents worth up to a certain amount, say £100,000, which is typically an adequate level of cover for the majority of homes in the UK.

Contents insurance policies won’t typically cover your contents if you leave your home unoccupied for 30 days or more. If you’re planning on doing so, make sure to check your policy documents carefully. 

There is also likely to be a compulsory excess, meaning you must pay the first amount of any loss yourself (as with most insurance policies of any type).

A word of warning here. You may think it a good idea to only insure for part of the value of your contents as you’re unlikely to lose all of it at once, and you will have enough cover. However, insurers may take a dim view of this and only pay out part of your claim, even if it’s for less than you are insured for. 

For example, you insure your possessions for £30,000, even though they are worth £60,000; and then have £20,000 of stuff stolen in a burglary. You submit your claim, thinking you’re ok because it’s less than the £30,000 you’re insured for, but your insurance company only wants to pay you £10,000 because you were only insured for 50% of the total value of your contents.

Assessing the cost of contents insurance

The average value of household contents in the UK in 2024 is [insert value here] according to our own data. [Note to Howden: Is it possible to provide this figure please? If not, we can certainly rephrase this sentence.] However, there are many factors that may influence the price you pay for contents insurance, besides just the value of your items. These include:

  • Where you live
  • Your age
  • The level of security at your property, including smoke alarms
  • Your previous claims history
  • How often your home is occupied
  • Whether you have pets or children
  • Whether you rent or own your home
  • The amount of cover you want
  • Whether you pay annually or monthly
  • Whether you bundle your contents insurance in with your buildings insurance from the same company
  • Whether you shop around for the best deal when it comes to renewal time, rather than leaving it to auto-renew (using a broker like Howden can help)
  • Whether you opt to have a voluntary higher excess in addition to the compulsory one

Another factor that will have an impact on the price of your contents insurance cover is whether you opt to replace your personal items with new ones (often called new-for-old), or whether you are happy to be paid only their second-hand value at the time of their loss. 

An example of the latter is buying a new TV for £1,000 and then claiming for its loss a couple of years later when its value is only £500. If you choose to insure it at its second-hand value, you would only get £500 value as a payout from your insurance company.

How much contents insurance do I need?

Besides the standard cover offered in a typical contents insurance policy, there are a variety of add-ons you might want to consider.

  1. Accidental damage cover: This is perhaps the most common addition to a standard policy. It covers accidents such as a pet knocking over a vase or someone spilling something on the carpet and staining it.
  2. Away from home cover: If you take your mobile phone out with you and it gets stolen then this won’t usually be covered by a basic contents insurance policy. If you also wanted to insure your mobile phone against you dropping it in the toilet or smashing its screen while you were out and about then you would probably need both accidental damage cover and away from home cover. There is also the option of separate mobile phone insurance.
  3. Cover for items like bicycles: Unless you get additional cover, bicycles are usually covered when they’re at home but not when they’re out and about. If you do opt for additional cover, be aware that there may be the stipulation that bicycles or e-scooters must be locked up if they’re left unattended when outside the home.
  4. Garden and garage contents: These are often covered in a basic policy, but it’s worth checking. Higher value items like an expensive barbecue or greenhouse may need listing separately if they are above the single item limit.
  5. High-risk items: These are expensive items like jewellery or gold that could be easily stolen and have a high value. Your policy terms may require you to notify your insurer of items of this nature.
  6. Legal cover: Legal cover will usually cover you for legal expenses connected to things such as personal injury, identity theft, or a boundary dispute with a neighbour. It doesn’t usually cover things like family law expenses or planning disputes.
  7. Business insurance: While some home office use will be covered, any stock or visitors you have on your property for business reasons won’t usually be covered by a standard home insurance policy. You may be able to add this or you may wish to take out separate business insurance.

Are you a student? If you are then there is a chance that your parents’ home insurance policy may cover your personal belongings in your student accommodation. Be sure to check their policy before taking one of your own out.

Quickfire summary

There’s no one-size-fits-all cost for contents insurance. It depends on a number of factors and your insurer will likely assess your unique case and requirements before providing you with a quote. Your level of coverage, where you live, how old you are, and the level of security on your property are all likely to affect the cost.

Consider your needs carefully, make sure you have any especially valuable items assessed by a specialist, and speak to a qualified insurance broker if you have any questions. The team at Howden is available to help no matter what level of cover you’re seeking. 

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