Your guide to contents insurance

A general guide to insuring the contents of your home

Most of us have plenty of ‘stuff’ in our homes. From large items of furniture and family heirlooms, to our electronics and clothes, the cost of replacing it all can add up to a surprising amount. This is where contents insurance comes in. Our contents insurance guide will help you understand how contents cover works so you’re better equipped to find a policy that best suits your needs.

Why is contents insurance important?

Whether you own or rent your home, having contents insurance means the contents in your home are typically covered for events such as theft and vandalism, as well as damage from water, fire or storms.

Contents insurance helps you replace your posessions if something unexpected happens. It covers the things you could take with you if you moved, including

  • Household goods – appliances such as your washing machine, dishwasher, fridge, TV, computers
  • Furniture and furnishings – eg beds, sofas, curtains, carpets and dining suites
  • Your prized possessions – things like jewellery, watches, gadgets, mobile phones, art and collections (some policies have a single item limit so you may have to list items worth over a certain amount separately)
  • Personal belongings – everything else, such as clothes, shoes, CDs, DVDs, books, sports equipment, bikes and musical instruments

Most policies only cover these items while they’re in your home. You’d usually need to get separate/additional cover for personal belongings you take out with you, like jewellery, gadgets, sports equipment and your mobile phone. Always check the policy document to see what is and isn’t covered.

Should you get contents insurance?

Although 86% of UK homeowners have contents insurance1, it isn’t compulsory. But it’s a good idea in case the unexpected happens. If you know you couldn’t easily replace your possessions should you need to, contents insurance is there to do it for you.

Before you decide whether to get contents insurance and which provider to choose, you’ll need to assess how much cover you need and what you need cover for.

Things to consider when getting contents insurance

How much contents insurance do I need?

How much would it cost to replace everything in your home? You’ll need to think about everything, from your valuables to your clothes.

You should check the limits of a policy to see if they’ll be adequate for your needs – some policies have the option to increase limits, which is helpful if your needs change. Many policies offer an unlimited sum insured but will usually have certain restrictions in place, which you’ll need to know about before making a choice.

If you don’t have many possessions, or nothing is particularly valuable, you might not need an unlimited sum insured and may be able to get a cheaper premium by opting for a lower sum insured.

Types of contents insurance

There are two types of contents insurance – ‘new for old’ and ‘indemnity’. You should carefully consider which one you choose, as this will affect not only your premium, but also what happens in the event of a claim.

If you choose ‘new for old’ cover, your insurer will pay to have damaged items repaired. And if they’re lost, stolen or beyond repair, they’ll replace them with an equivalent item. 

‘Indemnity’ cover deducts an amount for wear and tear and depreciation. This could be a cheaper option, but it might leave you out of pocket, especially if you’re claiming a high amount.

What contents insurance exclusions to look out for

The majority of home insurance policies will have exclusions, ie things that aren’t covered. To avoid having a claim turned down, read the policy wording to see what’s covered and what’s not before choosing your policy. For example, most policies won’t cover wear and tear, or damage caused by pets.

A key element to check for is accidental damage – is it included as standard or is it an optional extra? Only 52% of UK homeowners have accidental damage cover1, yet it accounts for over half of contents claims enquires received at Barclays. Three-quarters of these are for things like knocking the TV off its stand, spilling red wine on your carpet, or a dropped tablet or mobile phone. Some policies have accidental damage cover as standard, but if yours doesn’t and you haven’t added it to your policy, these types of claims may be declined and you’ll need to foot the bill yourself.

Contents insurance only covers your belongings – you’d need buildings insurance to cover the structure of your home. If you own your home, you’d need to get buildings insurance – it’s usually a condition of having a mortgage. If you’re a tenant or live in a block of flats, it’s usually the landlord’s responsibility.
Our Guide to buildings insurance has more information.

How to calculate how much contents insurance I need

Do you have any high-value individual items in your home, such as jewellery or a piece of art? Some policies will have a single-item limit in place so you may need to list high-value items separately (you wouldn’t usually need to list other high-value items, such as furniture). It’s important that you check this as a claim for it may be declined if you haven’t told your insurer about it. It’s a good idea to get things valued, too, so you can make sure you have adequate cover.

It’s not just valuables that you may need to list separately – if you have expensive sports equipment like golf clubs, bikes or scuba diving kits, you should certainly tell your insurer as it may need to be noted separately. It’s also worth checking if it’s covered away from home and when it’s in use, if you don’t have a separate policy that covers it.

Will your policy cover items you carry around with you, like rings, watches, bags and laptops if something happens to them away from home?  If you don’t have cover for this, it may be worth looking into so you’re covered for loss, damage and theft.

And don’t forget – we have a habit of acquiring things over time. So it’s important you review your cover regularly to make sure it always matches your needs, particularly if you make a large purchase or receive an inheritance.

The excess on any contents insurance claims

You’ll have an excess on your contents insurance policy. This means you’ll have a minimum amount to pay whenever you make a claim. Some policies allow you to adjust your excess – generally, the lower your excess, the higher your premium. It’s definitely a key thing to think about – for example, if you were to make a successful claim for £500 and your excess was £250, you’d only get £250 from your insurer.

Tips on protecting your belongings

Do what you can to reduce your chances of needing to make a claim. Burglary is a traumatic experience even if you’re fully covered, so it’s common sense to do all you can to deter would-be thieves.

  • Get approved locks, such as 5-lever mortice deadlocks, key-operated multi-point locking systems on uPVC doors and key-operated window locks – and make sure you lock up every time you leave your home unoccupied, even if it’s only for a short time
  • Never advertise when you’re away from home for extended periods – while it can be tempting to post pics of your holiday all over social media, potential thieves could pick up on this
  • Install an alarm system and security lighting if you can – sometimes, their presence is enough of a deterrent in itself
  • If you have furniture or other items in your garden or in a shed, keep access locked

Barclays contents insurance

Our home insurance offers a few choices on contents cover. Full cover has an unlimited sum insured for the contents of your home and garden. There are exclusions, like a certain amount that we’ll pay out for items in your freezer or single item cover, all of which are in the policy summary.

Not everyone needs unlimited cover though. Our starter contents cover is designed for people who own a bit less, offering cover levels between £2,000 and £15,000.

If you or a member of your family is going off to university, our student contents cover insures possessions while they’re in student accommodation. We also have the option for a student contents extension on the full contents cover, which insures items temporarily removed from the family home to student accommodation.

If you’d also like to know more about buildings insurance and what it covers, our Guide to buildings insurance has details.