Contents insurance: the complete guide

Use this guide to find out what contents insurance is and what it covers.

What is contents insurance?

Contents insurance covers everything you’d take with you if you moved home. This includes furniture, kitchen appliances, curtains, bedding, clothing, television, computing equipment and jewellery.¹  

It does not cover the structure of your home such as the roof, walls and windows. It does not include permanent fixtures and fittings like fitted kitchen units and bathroom suites. You can cover these with buildings insurance.

What does contents insurance cover?

Home and contents insurance protects you against damage caused by:

  • weather such as storms and lightning

  • flooding

  • burst or frozen pipes and water damage

  • fire or explosion (but will not cover damage to the building itself)

  • subsidence (gradual sinking of the ground under your home)

  • theft and vandalism

Most insurers also offer add-ons for an extra cost such as: 

  • accidental damage

  • cover away from your home (also known as personal possessions cover)

  • legal expenses cover

  • home emergency assistance

“Accidental damage” is damage that happens suddenly from something unexpected. Such as someone smashing a window with a ball.

Some home contents insurance includes this as standard. But other policies will charge an extra cost for this cover.

Contents insurance covers many risks, but does not cover everything. Events and risks that are not covered are “exclusions”.

Exclusions vary between policies.

You're not usually covered against: 

  • general wear and tear

  • mechanical or electrical breakdown, such as an oven breaking down

  • homes left unattended for a long time (often 30 days but some policies go up to 90 days)

  • any amount over the limits specified in the policy 

  • theft by someone who lives in your home or who you have invited into your home

  • fixtures and fittings, buildings insurance will cover these

  • boiler repairs. Home emergency or boiler insurance will cover this

You should compare contents insurance to check what they cover and the price.

Standard contents policies will cover your mobile phone and any other item in the home.

If you want to cover your phone when you’re out, check your policy for “personal possessions” cover.

How does contents insurance work?

When you buy an annual contents insurance policy you’ll pay for it in one lump sum or in monthly instalments. The policy protects your things up to a cost limit against certain risks and events.

If you make a claim, the insurer will either pay you a sum of money to replace a lost or damaged item or replace or fix the item.

How to get contents insurance

You can get a quote from companies such as banks, building societies and insurance firms. As well as price comparison sites.

You can buy contents insurance as a policy on its own. Or buy a policy that includes buildings and contents insurance.

To get the best deal, compare insurance quotes from different companies.

Some companies offer specialised student contents insurance or tenants contents insurance.

Do I need home contents insurance?

You do not have to take out house contents insurance. But it's a good idea as it protects your belongings against fire, theft and other risks.

If you do not have insurance, it can cost a lot to replace items if something happens to destroy or damage them.

If you’re a tenant, your landlord will be responsible for buildings insurance. But it's up to you to buy your own contents insurance. 

If you live in a leasehold flat, your freeholder should arrange buildings insurance. You'll need to buy your own contents insurance.

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How much is contents insurance?

The average annual cost of contents insurance is around £127, which is about £2.40 per week.²

If you ask for a contents insurance quote the insurer will ask about your home and your belongings. They'll use this information to calculate a cost.

When you apply for a quote, the insurer will ask questions about:

  • the total value of your belongings

  • where you live and who lives in your home

  • your previous claims history 

  • security in your home

Who offers contents insurance?

There are different places you can look to get contents cover. Insurers are all different so it’s worth doing research to see who offers the cover that suits you and your needs.

Some insurers are: 

  • Aviva

  • Direct Line

  • Admiral

  • Halifax

  • Barclays

How much contents insurance do I need?

To get a contents insurance quote you’ll need to know what your belongings are worth. To do this, go from room to room in your home and write down how much each item is worth.

If you’re not sure how much it would cost to replace an item, look for its value online.

Do not forget things like clothes and bedding. Some insurers will ask you to list separate items worth more than £1,000. The total value of your contents is the “sum insured”.

It’s important not to under-insure your possessions as this will affect any claim your make.

Most insurers have a single item limit. This is the most they will pay for any individual item regardless of its value.³

For example, your insurer might have a single item limit of £1,500. So if someone steals a necklace worth £2,500 from your home, your insurer will only pay out £1,500 if you make a claim.

More about contents insurance

Home insurance is often buildings or contents insurance, or a policy that covers both. 

Contents insurance only covers your belongings, not the structure of your home.

You do not have to get contents insurance if you’re a tenant, but it’s worth having.

Any insurance your landlord has will only cover the building, not your possessions.

Landlord contents insurance covers the cost of repair or replacement. This can be of the furniture and appliances that a landlord provides in a property.

It could be beds, sofas, tables, curtains, carpets and freestanding white goods. White goods are items like fridges or washing machines.

The excess on an insurance policy is how much you have to pay towards any claim. Often cheap contents insurance will have a higher excess.

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