How to Protect Your Personal Property with Contents Insurance

Because some personal belongings aren't fully covered by standard policies.

Christine Lacagnina Written by Christine Lacagnina
Christine Lacagnina
Written by Christine Lacagnina

Christine Lacagnina has written thousands of insurance-based articles for by authoring consumable, understandable content.

paul martin Reviewed by Paul Martin
paul martin
Reviewed by Paul Martin

Paul Martin is the Director of Education and Development for Myron Steves, one of the largest, most respected insurance wholesalers in the southern U.S.

Modern Loft Apartment Interior. Find Contents Insurance.

When you have valuable items or property, you need to make sure they're protected against all kinds of hazards. Unfortunately, many folks mistakenly believe their homeowners insurance, renters insurance, or business insurance policy provides coverage for all of their property, regardless of type. However, this isn't always true, which is why it's so necessary to be informed about which property requires additional coverage before disaster strikes.

Many policies don’t offer enough personal or business property coverage, also called contents insurance. But luckily an independent insurance agent can help you find the right type of contents insurance to help protect all your belongings or business property, regardless of how valuable or breakable it is. First, here's a closer look at contents insurance and why it's important.

What Is Contents Coverage?

Homeowners insurance includes coverage for the dwelling of your home, meaning the physical structure, and it also includes protection for your personal belongings, aka your home’s “contents.” So your personal belongings like furniture, clothing, electronics, knickknacks, silverware, art, jewelry, etc., are covered from damage, destruction, or loss due to the perils listed on your homeowners insurance policy.

Items stored within the home are protected along with any belongings kept in external sheds or storage units. However, anything stored off-premises often comes with a lower coverage limit. But essentially, the contents coverage portion of your homeowners policy is designed to help keep you from having to pay to replace or repair your belongings out of pocket following a disaster.

What Does Contents Coverage in Homeowners Insurance Cover?

Homes are subject to many perils on a daily basis, including damage from criminals or natural disasters and more. But not only is the actual building of your home at risk, the belongings you keep inside of it are, too. That’s why your homeowners policy extends coverage for many common threats to the home to your personal belongings as well.

Contents Coverage in Homeowners Insurance Typically Covers the Following Perils:

  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Explosion
  • Fire and smoke
  • Water damage
  • Aircraft or vehicle damage
  • Riots
  • Falling objects (and trees)
  • Certain natural disasters (i.e., windstorms, hail, lightning, and blizzards)

Your independent insurance agent can help you review your homeowners insurance policy to answer any remaining questions about your coverage. They’ll also be able to help you figure out whether you’ve got enough coverage, or if you should purchase more.

What Types of Personal or Business Property Need Extra Contents Insurance?

Contents insurance is a section of homeowners, renters, and business insurance policies, but for certain types of property, it's not enough. You might need additional contents insurance for the following types of personal or business property:

  • Artwork
  • Jewelry
  • Antiques
  • Rugs
  • Gold/silver/bouillon
  • Stamps and other valuable collections
  • Firearms
  • Drones
  • Fine china

Special Property in Need of Additional Contents Insurance Often Comes in One of Three Forms:

  • Old/antique
  • Highly valuable
  • Extremely fragile

Items are considered valuable based on their actual cash value or replacement value, not on which items are important to you and your family. Your independent insurance agent can help advise as to which pieces of property in your home or business require additional coverage.

Why Do Certain Types of Property Need Additional Coverage?

Certain types of business or personal property need additional contents coverage because they'd be much more expensive for your insurance company to repair or replace. Some types of property are insured by standard policies against certain perils, but not all. Especially fragile properties like fine china would often be insured against disasters like fire and wind but not against breakage since the item is so susceptible to it. 

Special property for your home or business needs to be fully protected, not just value-wise, but against anything that could potentially happen to it. That's what makes additional contents coverage so important. An independent insurance agent can help you get all your special property covered against most major disasters for its actual cash value or replacement value.

What Types of Personal Property Are Covered under Standard Contents Insurance?

Built-in contents coverage in a home insurance policy provides protection for many of your personal belongings. Your personal property includes a number of items, such as:

  • Clothing
  • Furniture and decor
  • Kitchen utensils, dishware, and equipment
  • Appliances such as washer, dryer, refrigerator, dishwasher, stove, microwave
  • Items used to maintain the home, such as rakes, lawnmower, and at times a golf cart or ATV (as long as it's used to take care of the property)

Some items are not considered personal property as it applies to contents coverage, including anything permanently attached to the home, because that would fall under dwelling coverage. Additionally, anything with a motor is usually not included under contents unless it's used to take care of the home in some way. Otherwise, that would likely go under an auto insurance policy. If you own a boat and it gets damaged by a covered claim, you would need a separate boat insurance policy.

What about Invaluable Personal Contents?

It's kind of hard to insure something that doesn't have a price tag associated with it. This can include items such as photos of children that were lost in a fire, or a piece of jewelry that has very little financial value but was a gift from a deceased family member.

Some items don't have a monetary value attached to them, but they are priceless to those who own them. When it comes to insuring them, the simple truth is the insurance company will replace up to its declared market value if it's a replaceable item. But if it's something like family photos that weren't digitized, it's not really possible for your insurance company to assign a dollar amount to them. 

The Basics of Contents Coverage

The contents insurance section of homeowners and renters policies has two very distinct coverage gaps that are important to understand. To ensure your property is covered sufficiently, become familiar with these aspects of your policy.

  • Valuation: Your insurance policy has a valuation clause regarding how it determines the value of your personal property at the time of a loss. The first type, actual cash value, is calculated by taking the purchase price of an item minus depreciation. The second type, replacement cost, determines the price of the item if it were bought new today. 
  • Sublimits: Homeowners insurance companies have determined that some categories of personal property are much riskier to insure than others and have established sublimits for these. Basically, it's a fraction of the limit that would normally apply to a loss in the property category. So certain more valuable or fragile items may be covered to a lesser extent than others.

Most homeowners and renters policies allow policyholders to increase the limits on some or all of these categories with endorsements and additional premiums. Policyholders can also "schedule" valuable items by having them appraised and listed separately. An independent insurance agent can provide you with further details.

Save on Valuable Items Insurance

Save on Valuable Items Insurance

Our independent agents shop around to find you the best coverage.

Deciding Between Actual Cash Value and Replacement Value

The decision on whether to base your personal property coverage on replacement cost or actual cash value is made at the time of application. If you prefer to have claims resolved in a way that allows you to replace your contents on a new-for-old basis, then replacement cost would be right for you. 

If you're not as concerned about your contents and only expect the cash value for them at the time of a loss (factoring in the depreciated value), then selecting actual cash value coverage could save you some money on your insurance premium. An independent insurance agent can also help you make an informed decision.

Upgrades for Contents Coverage

Upgrades to standard contents coverage can be added to your homeowners insurance policy, making it more robust and even more padded with protection in the event of a claim. Some of the most common options include:

  • Additional contents coverage: Most insurance companies have the option for you to increase your contents coverage as you see fit. For instance, you may have more items than the general 50% to 70% allotted to you for contents coverage. In this case, the carrier would allow you and your agent to increase the amount warranted since you have more items that need insuring.
  • Miscellaneous disappearance: If an expensive item like a diamond engagement ring was lost but not necessarily stolen or damaged, depending on the carrier, this coverage can be added or even included.
  • Accidental damage: This can include incidents like spilling a beverage on a computer. This coverage may already be included or can be an endorsement added for an additional premium. 
  • Legal expenses: This coverage would provide finances to help pay for legal expenses should a lawsuit arise concerning contents. Usually, this will apply when theft is involved but can be applied in multiple scenarios. Often it's a coverage that's included, but checking with your independent insurance agent is a good idea.
  • Off-premises: Coverage for your personal belongings while they are off your home's premises is typically covered up to 10% if a covered claim arises while they're out. However, some carriers may offer a higher percentage or allow you to purchase more coverage for contents stored off-premises.
  • Scheduled property: This is an endorsement that usually covers those larger priced items such as furs, jewelry, firearms, and so forth. A benefit of scheduling some of your personal property is that the deductible will not apply when a claim occurs. The premiums are also very low and usually include miscellaneous disappearance.

An independent insurance agent can help recommend any upgrades or additional contents coverage you may need for your specific personal property.

Should Renters Also Get Contents Coverage?

Your landlord’s insurance will not cover your belongings if the structure you’re renting burns to the ground. Also, if your unit is burglarized and your personal property gets stolen, your landlord’s contents insurance will not cover that either.

A landlord’s insurance will only cover losses related to the structure. If you haven’t purchased contents insurance for the apartment, condo, or home you rent, you'd have to pay out of pocket to replace your property after a disaster. 

The only section of your renters insurance that applies to your personal belongings is loss of use coverage, which would reimburse for a temporary storage unit for your belongings if the building was undergoing repairs. An independent insurance agent can help you get set up with all the protection you need for your belongings.

How Much Contents Insurance Do I Need?

When it comes to contents insurance, you decide the amount of coverage you need under your homeowners, business, or renters insurance. Your responsibility as the applicant is to provide your agent with the value of any special items you own (appraisals may be required). Afterward, you'll either schedule the property on your underlying policy or purchase additional coverage. 

The Following Additional Coverages Can Be Used to Fully Protect Special Property:

  • Inland marine insurance: This coverage is commonly added to homeowners, renters, and business insurance policies to cover special contents or to increase existing personal or business property coverage in the policy. These policies can be used to cover property from additional perils excluded by the underlying policy as well.
  • Unscheduled property floater: Unscheduled property floater provides additional insurance on categories of personal contents on a broad basis. Instead of separately listing each item in a collection, these floaters cover the whole category with a set limit.
  • Scheduled property floater: Scheduled property floaters provide a specific amount of coverage for listed items. For example, an antique chair might be listed with an appraised value of $2,000, or a drone might be listed at $10,000. Scheduled property floaters often have higher premiums than the other additional property coverage options.

If you're unsure of which type of contents insurance is best for you, be sure to speak with your independent insurance agent. They'll help you determine what property you own needs additional coverage and much more.

What's Not Covered by Contents Insurance?

Whether you get additional contents insurance through an inland marine policy or floater, it's still going to exclude a small list of disasters. It's important to be familiar with these, just in case.

Contents Insurance Won't Cover the Following:

  • Intentional injury by the insured
  • Dishonest acts by the insured
  • Certain natural disasters (e.g., floods, earthquakes, and mudslides)
  • Maintenance-related losses
  • Wear and tear damage (i.e., failure of the homeowner to maintain upkeep of their belongings)
  • Insect damage or infestations
  • Damage from war or nuclear fallout

In order to protect your belongings against flood or earthquake damage, you’ll need a flood insurance or earthquake insurance policy. Homeowners may want to seriously consider getting a policy to further protect their belongings, especially those located in areas prone to flooding.

Coverage for your personal property is often limited to 50%-70% of the insurance you have on the structure of your home. There are also typically limits placed on more expensive items like pricey electronics, jewelry, and collectibles like art. Talk to your independent insurance agent about special jewelry floaters or other endorsements to increase your coverage limits on the more expensive property you want to protect.

Save on Valuable Items Insurance

Save on Valuable Items Insurance

Our independent agents shop around to find you the best coverage.

What Are the Benefits of Contents Coverage?

While it may be impossible to ever fully replace any items you feel a personal attachment to after disaster strikes, having contents coverage can at least help soften the financial blow.

Contents Coverage Offers the Following Main Benefits to Homeowners:

  • Repairs for damaged property: If your belongings are damaged by fire, vandalism, or other covered perils, your contents coverage will reimburse you for the repairs up to your policy’s limit in that category. Of course, you’ll be responsible for paying your deductible first.
  • Replacement for lost/stolen/destroyed property: Depending on your specific policy, your contents coverage may include the full replacement cost for property that is lost/stolen/destroyed, or it may otherwise offer reimbursement for the item’s current value (i.e., the original value of the item minus depreciation). Coverage limits and your deductible still apply to this aspect of your insurance.

Having contents coverage can mean the difference between being able to afford to replace your belongings and losing them for good in the event of a covered disaster. Talk to your independent insurance agent about any further questions you may have about your coverage. Your agent can even help you increase your coverage limits if necessary.

How Much Does Homeowners Insurance Cost?

Many factors influence the cost of a homeowners insurance policy, including the size and location of your home, the value of the structure and the contents inside, and any upgrades you’ve made. But as of this year, the average annual cost of home insurance in the US is about $1,211. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to offer an exact figure without knowing more about your unique home, but your independent insurance agent can help you find multiple quotes.

Is Personal Property Covered while in Transit?

Coverage for your personal belongings while in transit typically operates like home insurance coverage for items stored off-premises. This means that your carrier will often reimburse you for just 10% of the value of each damaged, stolen, or lost item if it was being transported. This amount varies from carrier to carrier, and some may offer full coverage depending on how they write their policy. 

Perhaps the best course of action is to make sure to hire an insured moving company that gives you a guarantee in writing that they will repair, replace, or cover any damaged, lost, or stolen items they transport for you. Most moving companies offer something in the form of this, and it may be a good course of action to take if you find yourself in this situation.

Why Itemize Your Belongings?

One of the best things you can do when determining if the contents coverage listed on your home policy is enough is to take inventory. Itemize your personal belongings. This will include things like the replacement cost or market value of each item as well as receipts and pictures. 

Include the Following in Your Itemizations:

  • Photographs of your belongings 
  • Product-specific details, like serial numbers
  • Makes and model numbers
  • Year of purchase
  • Any official documentation, such as receipts and appraisals

Another thing to double-check is how your insurance company will pay out your contents coverage reimbursement after a claim. Read the fine print because some carriers will only offer depreciated value, while others may offer full replacement cost. Work with a knowledgeable independent insurance agent who can provide you with all the facts when it comes to how your coverage works and the options surrounding it.

Best Companies for Contents Insurance

Contents insurance is available from many different insurance companies, and the best way to find the right carrier for you is through working with an independent insurance agent. They know which carriers to recommend to meet your needs and can provide informed suggestions based on company reliability, rates, and more.

While many insurance companies could provide contents insurance for you, finding coverage could also depend on the area you live in. Here are a few of our top picks for contents insurance.

Top Contents Insurance Companies Star Rating
5 star rating
5 star rating
Liberty Mutual
4.5/5 star rating

One Contents Insurance Company Outshines Its Competitors

  • Best overall contents insurance company: Travelers

Travelers is a 5-star insurance company that provides quality coverage. According to their official website, contents coverage under their homeowners insurance protects your personal property, such as:

  • Furniture
  • Clothes
  • Sporting goods
  • Electronics

Travelers' contents insurance protects your property from numerous kinds of loss. Travelers also sells business insurance and renters insurance, which each also offers contents coverage.

The Benefits of an Independent Insurance Agent

When it comes to helping insurance customers find the absolute best contents coverage, no one’s better equipped to help than an independent insurance agent. Independent insurance agents search through multiple carriers to find providers who sell contents insurance, deliver quotes from a number of different sources and help you walk through them all to find the best blend of coverage and cost.

Share this page on Twitter Share this page on Facebook Share this page on LinkedIn