You Ask, We Explain: Insurance for Contents

Do you have enough to protect your stuff?

Truthfully, nobody likes to think about replacing everything they own. You purchase insurance with the hope you won't need it, but if a catastrophic event required you to replace every possession in your home or apartment, would you have enough coverage?

Most people obtain insurance for contents when they buy a home or renters insurance policy. Contents insurance, also known as contents coverage, protects your belongings if something happens.

How is insurance for contents determined?

When you buy an insurance policy, you will be asked how much coverage you'd need to replace all of your personal belongings at the time of a covered loss. This is a moment of truth. Your answer will determine the insurance value of your belongings.

Many people, thinking first about budget and saving money, may underestimate the amount of coverage truly needed to replace their personal property after a loss. Others may simply not recognize the true value of their belongings.

Estimating the Value of Your Belongings

Even if you think you don't have a lot of stuff, it adds up. It's easy to estimate some of the more expensive items in your home, like computers, televisions, furniture or appliances. But what about your everyday items, like dishes, silverware, pots and pans, or small appliances like your coffee maker, toaster or blender? Or, what about your clothes? Have you estimated what it might cost to replace your entire wardrobe? Do you have any collectibles or heirlooms with undetermined values in your home?

Tools to Help You Figure Out Insurance for Your Belongings

Online tools can help calculate the value of your personal possessions to ensure you get enough personal property coverage. For example, the Insurance Information Institute offers free web-based home inventory software, available at knowyourstuff.org. The software includes secure online storage so you can access your inventory anywhere, anytime. You can also download the "Know Your Stuff" app in the iTunes App Store (or search for "iii inventory") or from Google Play. Information about your belongings can be entered through the mobile app or online, and your data will automatically synchronize on a secure, password protected server.

Inventory your home using these tools before disaster strikes so you have the right level of insurance for your contents.

Taking Inventory

If you don't have time to create a full inventory, review your current policy and consider how much it would cost to replace everything you own. Then, take an inventory of your home using a video camera or digital camera. Capture the contents in every room and closet. Open cabinets and drawers, too. If you have expensive items stored out of site, include those as well. Keep the video or memory card in a safe place, like a safety deposit box or a friend or family member's home, so you'll have detailed lists of contents to provide to the claims adjuster if something happens.

Special Coverage

Keep in mind that items like jewelry, art work and collectibles may increase in value over time. Check with your insurance company to make sure that you have adequate insurance for these items. They may need to be insured separately, so it's important your insurance company knows about these items before a loss.

Be thorough when determining the value of the contents of your home, condo or apartment, and you'll be well-prepared if something happens. That will give you peace of mind both now and then.