What is Home Contents Insurance?

Home contents insurance, or personal property insurance, pays to replace your stuff if it's damaged or stolen.

Basic home and renters insurance usually includes home contents coverage.

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What does contents insurance cover?

Home contents insurance protects belongings in your home against damage or theft.

Home contents insurance usually covers:

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Clothing and jewelry

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Furniture and area rugs

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Electronics, computers and phones

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Firearms and ammunition

Clothing and jewelry
Clothing and jewelry
Furniture and area rugs
Furniture and area rugs
Electronics, computers and phones
Electronics, computers and phones
Firearms and ammunition
Firearms and ammunition

It will cover both the things you own and the belongings of long-term tenants who are related to you, like a relative living in your home.

Home contents insurance usually doesn't cover things that are attached to your home or insured in another way.

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Built-in appliances like hot water heaters

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Fixtures, carpeting and flooring

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Pets and animals

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Vehicles used on the road, like your car

Built-in appliances like hot water heaters
Built-in appliances like hot water heaters
Fixtures, carpeting and flooring
Fixtures, carpeting and flooring
Pets and animals
Pets and animals
Vehicles you use on the road, like your car
Vehicles you use on the road, like your car

Other parts of your homeowners insurance policy cover many items that your contents insurance doesn't. This includes coverage for permanent carpet, boilers and appliances such as washing machines. If you rent, your landlord's homeowners coverage should apply to these items.

The coverage you get can depend on which company you choose and where you live. Check your policy to see what types of personal property it protects.

Does contents insurance depend on where you keep your things?

Yes, the amount of coverage you have may vary depending on where you keep your stuff.

Most homeowners insurance policies offer some protection for your stuff when it's outside of your home.

However, your coverage limit is often much lower for belongings outside your home. For example, property "usually located" at a different residence might be limited to 10% of the coverage for belongings in your home.

However, home insurance provides complete coverage for belongings outside your house but still on your property.

For instance, tools in a detached garage or shed have the same protection as in your basement. However, landlords have lower coverage limits for furnishings and other property in a tenant's rented space.

What are the coverage limits of home contents insurance?

Your personal property limit is usually a percentage of your dwelling coverage limit, typically 50% to 70%.

For example, if your home has $500,000 of dwelling coverage, your contents coverage would likely fall between $250,000 and $350,000.

With renters insurance, you can choose a coverage limit when starting your policy. This allows you to pay for just enough coverage to account for the total value of your possessions.

Two factors affect your maximum coverage:

  1. How your policy calculates value
  2. Limits on specific types of property

Actual cash value vs. replacement cost value

Home contents insurance generally covers you for the actual cash value (ACV) of your belongings.

  • Actual cash value is the original purchase price of an item minus any loss of value from wear and tear. An actual cash value policy will almost always pay out a smaller amount than you spent on the item.
  • Replacement cost value pays to replace an item with a brand-new version. However, replacement cost coverage costs more than actual cash value. You'll need to decide whether the extra expense is worth the improved coverage.

Limits on valuable items

Most contents insurance coverage has special limits for valuable property, like jewelry or fine art. When you file a claim for these items, your policy will only pay you up to the limit shown in your policy. In addition, some valuables limits also include a lower per-item limit.

State Farm
Checks and deeds$500$1,500$1,000
Jewelry and furs$500 $5,000* Separate coverage
Trading cards $1,000* $2,500* $2,500
Digital equipment$3,000$5,000$5,000
Rugs $10,000* $10,000* $10,000*

*These valuables have a smaller per-item limit.

Some of the limits on valuables apply specifically when something is stolen. This means the limit doesn't apply to property lost in another event covered by your policy, like a fire.

For instance, your insurance will pay the total value of firearms destroyed in a fire up to the overall limit on your personal property coverage.

Sometimes, a company's standard contents insurance won't cover certain objects. For example, State Farm typically doesn't cover jewelry and furs. You can usually add coverage for specific items at an additional cost.

How much contents insurance coverage do you need?

You should have enough contents insurance coverage to replace all of your belongings after a major emergency.

Putting together an inventory of all your belongings is the first step in getting the right policy. Most people underestimate how much their personal property is worth. This makes sense, given that you're tallying up years' worth of purchases.

There are two main ways to create an inventory:

  • Make a list of your belongings (with serial numbers if you have them), and keep photos and receipts.
  • Use a mobile app to create a digital inventory and upload photos, receipts and serial numbers.

How can I get home contents insurance?

If you're a homeowner in the U.S., you probably have home contents insurance already.

  • House: Typical homeowners insurance policies cover the contents of your house and the structure itself.
  • Condo: If you own a condo, your insurance policy may be "floor-to-ceiling" in that it includes coverage for the interior and your belongings.

If you're a renter, you most likely need a renters insurance policy if you want your belongings insured. Unless you're related to your landlord, their contents coverage won't protect your property in their home. The average cost of renters insurance is only $18 per month, so buying a policy is usually a good idea.

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