How to Buy Renters Insurance

Find the Cheapest Insurance Quotes in Your Area

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Buying a renters insurance policy is easy. With a little preparation and direction, you can have a number of renters insurance quotes within minutes. But there are things renters need to keep in mind before they purchase a policy.

Should I Get Renters Insurance?

Yes. Every renter should purchase a renters insurance policy. Even if the renter has very little personal property, the liability protection and loss of use coverage could be well worth the inexpensive policies. The average annual renters insurance rate in the U.S. is only $187. That's far cheaper than the average cost of homeowners insurance, which is $952

Before You Start Shopping

Before shopping around for the best renters insurance policy for their needs, renters should prepare the necessary information needed to gather renters insurance quotes. It will save time because insurance companies require various details from a potential policyholder to generate what a renters might expect to pay.

Most of the information needed will be obvious to a tenant seeking a renters insurance quote: their name, address, the type of dwelling they live in (such as an apartment, townhouse or duplex) and whether they have a dog. But renters should be prepared to answer a number of other questions, depending on which renters insurance companies they gather quotes from.

Other questions asked might include whether the rental unit is a primary residence, what the primary source of heat is for the rental unit or the distance to the nearest fire department. Travelers Insurance even asks how many rental units there are between firewalls in multi-family buildings.

How To Calculate The Value of Personal Property

Once a renter is prepared to answer the basic questions about him or herself and their rental property, they need to make a list of all their personal property that will be covered by their renters insurance. The list will serve two functions: to determine the aggregate value of their belongings and as a reference in the event they need to make a claim.  

Renters insurance policies generally cover the cash value of belongings (their value at the time of a claim), not the replacement cost of items (the cost of an item at the time of its purchase). Replacement cost coverage is more expensive but policyholders are more likely to be made whole again – especially if they have a list detailing their belongings. For example, if a policyholder files a claim for a large grey couch, the insurance company will pay out enough money to cover any grey couch. Filing a claim for the specific couch model, manufacturer and color is far more likely to result in a better payout, if the policyholder has replacement cost coverage. Without an existing list of personal belongings, it will be more challenging to create a comprehensive one in the event of a loss.

Some insurance companies, such as Allstate, have websites and mobile applications where policyholders can create a list of personal belongings.

How Much Liability Coverage Do I Need?

To get a renters insurance quote, a potential policyholder will need to choose a claim limit for personal liability protection, which covers damages and fees associated with bodily injury and property damage lawsuits. Most renters insurance policies come with $100,000 of liability coverage and include the option to expand it up to $500,000. To get a liability coverage limit greater than $500,000 a renter would likely have to purchase a separate umbrella insurance policy. Umbrella insurance typically provides an additional $1 million or more of liability coverage.

How much liability coverage a renter should purchase could widely vary, because it's based on how much you have to lose. Homeowners and renters should consider purchasing enough liability to cover their assets, since all assets could be sought in a lawsuit to cover damages. By that standard, $100,000 of liability coverage might be plenty for the typical consumer. But renters should still consider their own lifestyle and total assets when determining how much coverage to buy. Total your bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and other properties to figure out how much you'd have to lose in a worst case scenario to start with. Anyone who is unsure should consult a licensed insurance agent in their area.

For example, a renter with a dog, one that frequently entertains, or has a swimming pool should probably consider purchasing additional liability coverage.

How Much Loss of Use Coverage Do I Need?

Loss of use covers the cost of living expenses in the event a rental property becomes uninhabitable. Without renters insurance and loss of use coverage, a tenant would have to pay for any expenses incurred out of pocket which could be very expensive. Loss of use usually covers hotel stays, meals and additional transportation costs, up to the limit of the coverage. Depending on where a tenant lives, those expenses could be much higher in comparison to others. For example, a renter in the suburbs of a large city might spend much less on a hotel stay and meals than a renter in an urban center.

Gathering Renters Insurance Quotes

After a renter complies a thorough list of their personal property and knows its aggregate value, has an idea of how much liability and loss of use coverage they need, they can begin shopping for the best renters insurance quotes.

Almost every company that offers renters insurance policies provides quotes for premiums online, which is the best place to start. Filling out an online for a renters insurance quote is simple. With the information mentioned above ready, a renter can easily gather quotes from five or more companies in about 30 minutes. In many cases, a renter can even complete the purchase of a policy online.

Sometimes companies will allow a renter to fill out online forms then prompt then prompt them to call a local insurance agent. This still saves the renter time because the information they provide is available to the agent -- the renter will not be starting the process of gathering a quote from the beginning. Renters can always call insurance companies or local insurance offices, too.

Customizing A Renters Insurance Policy

Renters insurance is a little simpler than homeowners insurance because renters policies do not cover the structure of the home itself. However, renters insurance is very customizable. Depending on the policyholder, there is a long list of renters insurance endorsements, changes to deductibles and supplemental policies that should be considered. Below are some examples.

Deductibles: Most renters insurance policies have a $500 deductible – the amount the policyholder is responsible for paying toward a loss before an insurance company will make a payment. Renters have the option to increase their deductible and lower their monthly payments. Insurance companies frequently allow renters to increase their deductible by increments of $500 up to $2,500 or more. Increasing a deductible lowers the cost of premiums, but also means a renter will need to have more money available in the event of a loss. 

Deductibles for property damage are also unlike the typical health insurance policy, which has a single, annual deductible. Renters insurance deductibles apply to each individual claim, no matter the length of time between each loss. Renters insurance policies frequently offer medical payments coverage between $1,000 and $5,000 but it is not subject to the policy deductible. 

Endorsements: Renters insurance endorsements and scheduled items (sometimes called floater policies) are are two ways tenants can make sure their renters insurance policy adequately covers them. These extensions of a renters insurance policy enable renters to fill gaps in coverage that might exist because of limitations to standard policies. For example, no matter the personal property claim limit chosen by a renter, renters insurance policies typically only cover up to about $2,000 of jewelry in the event of a loss. Renters with jewelry valued more than that category's limit can purchase an endorsement to increase it and adequately cover their belongings. Categories like this one exist for a number of different items. 

Roommates: Most renters insurance policies only cover the personal property and liability of the policyholder. That means any non-family roommates are not covered by the policy purchased by someone else and they cannot be added to a policy. Each renter should consider purchasing their own individual renters insurance policy to ensure all tenants of a rental home or unit are effectively insured.

Floods, Earthquakes and Sinkholes: Renters insurance doesn't cover everything and depending on the dwelling and where a renter lives, they might choose to purchase other insurance policies that conside with renters insurance. Flood insurance is availabel through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and a number of companies sell earthquake and sinkhole insurance policies. In some cases, an endorsement can be added to cover earthquake or sinkhole damage.  

Two Common Mistakes in Shopping for Renters Insurance

There are two common mistakes renters make when shopping for the best renters insurance policy for their needs: they purchase a policy from a familiar company without comparing prices, or choose the cheapest policy without regard to detail.

Tenants need to shop around and compare renters insurance policies before buying one. Renters insurance premiums are priced based on factors besides the coverage itself. Insurance companies use the location, type of dwelling and other factors to determine rates and every company calculates these things differently. The cheapest renters insurance policy for one person might not be the most affordable for another. The neighbors next door might even have different quotes for a similar policy. 

Renters also need to keep in mind that the cheapest policy might not be the best choice either. One policy might be slightly more expensive, but have a lower, more affordable deductible. Some policies might be nearly evenly priced, but one might include identity fraud protection and the other might not. Renters need to decide what is most important to them, gather quotes and review renters insurance policies side by side. Otherwise, there is no way they can be certain which is better for them.

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