How to Buy Renters Insurance

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You can easily buy renters insurance online or by speaking to an agent, in part because of a growing number of reliable insurance companies in the industry. You can get coverage at any point, and it will go into effect immediately.

Wherever you decide to get renters insurance, you should be prepared to compare the costs and coverage options of multiple insurers, find out how much your property is worth and decide which dangers your home faces.

Renters insurance repairs or replaces your damaged personal property, gives you liability coverage and provides you with additional living expenses if you are forced to leave your home temporarily. It doesn't pay for damage that your dwelling's structure sustains.

However, because renters insurance only covers your personal property, most of the information you'll have to gather about your household will be easy to find — sometimes all that's needed is an address. Being organized, and using this guide to renters insurance, could save you time and money as you search for insurance providers.

Who should you get renters insurance from?

You can get renters insurance from a variety of companies, from large providers like State Farm, Erie and Allstate, to smaller online-only insurers like Lemonade. In most cases, getting renters insurance doesn't take very long, especially if you choose to buy a policy online. You're also able to purchase renters insurance whenever you want — as long as you're not set on connecting directly with an agent.

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What options are there when choosing renters insurance?

The fastest way to get renters insurance is almost always to get a free online insurance quote. If you prefer more traditional methods, you can also speak to an agent over the phone or in person.

Many of the largest renters insurance providers will allow you to view, customize and purchase renters insurance in less than five minutes.

Due to the ease of accessibility, it's easy to compare policies and get the best coverage for your needs. It's worth noting, many companies do not operate in every state. Some companies will also not offer the coverage themselves but will partner with other insurers.

How to find cheap coverage

Your cheapest option isn't always the best choice when it comes to buying renters insurance, but the price of a policy is still an important factor to consider. Your policy's price is influenced by where you live and how much coverage you need.

While the national average cost of renters insurance per year is $224, the price of your policy may be different. For example, we found the average cost of renters insurance ranged from $12 a month to $37 depending on which state you live in.

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Depending upon where you live, it might not be realistic to match the national average. Louisiana, Arkansas, Michigan and Oklahoma are among the most expensive states. Smaller, more rural states such as New Hampshire, Utah and Wyoming are among the cheapest for renters insurance, though New York is fourth on the list.

When deciding where to buy renters insurance, use the national average as a baseline while collecting quotes from different insurance companies; however, you should also remember the role that your area's hazards, such as weather and crime, will play in the prices you are quoted.

Compare customer service scores

J.D. Power ratings for renters insurance

  • Lemonade: 866 (out of 1,000)
  • Erie: 865
  • Average: 842
  • Allstate: 841
  • American Family: 840
  • USAA*: 888
*Not ranked because it doesn't sell to the general public

In addition to checking the cost of different renters insurance policies, you should compare how satisfied a company's policyholders are when they make a claim. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) tracks the number of complaints insurance companies receive. This information can be found on the NAIC's website or through your state's insurance board.

It can also be useful to glance at J.D. Power's ratings for most companies before purchasing a policy. J.D. Power specializes in analyzing customer experience. Companies with higher scores from J.D. Power received generally positive feedback from consumers. Providers like Lemonade Insurance and USAA tend to have very high customer satisfaction scores from both the NAIC and J.D. Power. However, it's worth knowing that USAA is only available to military families.

Do you need renters insurance?

There's no legal requirement to buy renters insurance, but some landlords will require you to purchase a policy. We recommend that you — or your live-in family member if you have one — keep an active renters insurance policy whenever you rent. Roommates aren't typically covered by each other's renters insurance unless they're also related, so each tenant will need their own policy.

At an average cost of $19 per month, renters insurance doesn't cost much while providing effective financial protection from fire, theft and most disasters.

When you apply to buy renters insurance, you'll be asked about the value of your property — companies often suggest between $15,000 and $40,000 of property coverage as a default choice. You can opt for a lower limit, but that's only a good idea if you've already added up the value of your things and found it is less than the coverage you're looking for. Besides, it's possible that you'll accumulate more belongings over time, raising your total coverage requirement.

You can also usually change the value of liability protection that comes with your policy, though typically coverage starts at $100,000. Liability insurance protects you if someone else files a lawsuit against you for property damage or injuries they suffer.

When determining how much coverage to buy, you should consider your total assets and whether you have any hazards on your property, like swimming pools or certain breeds of dog.

How to buy renters insurance online

You can buy renters insurance online from most companies. Many providers supply online forms that allow you to request a quote and purchase coverage without speaking to an agent. Buying renters insurance online usually consists of three steps:

  1. Calculate the value of your belongings.
  2. Decide on the right amount of coverage.
  3. Select the best price, and adjust.

Step 1: Calculate the value of your things

You can calculate the amount of coverage you need by starting an inventory of your property. This inventory should include several key pieces of information about every item.

  • Names
  • Serial numbers
  • Descriptions of their functions
  • Prices, with appended receipts if available

Taking photos or videos of your items can also be helpful. You should store at least one copy of your inventory away from your property.

If you have to make a claim, an inventory is a useful tool for giving yourself the best chance of regaining the value of your possessions, especially if you don't have replacement cost coverage.

Once you know what you own, you can decide if you have any special items like jewelry or art that wouldn't be covered by most renters insurance policies. Instead, to insure these items you'd need to purchase riders or endorsements.

Step 2: Decide how much insurance coverage to buy

You will have to select a total amount of coverage for general personal property as well as any specialty items. You will also need to select a total for liability coverage.

Liability coverage will protect you in a range of situations related to the property you're renting. Those can include:

  • If you have a pet that bites someone on the property
  • If someone is injured in your rental home and you are found liable
  • If you cause certain kinds of damage to the home you're renting
  • If your family member damages someone else's property

You will be required to input any information of other members of your family who will benefit from your insurance, like a partner or spouse. Occasionally insurers will allow you to add roommates to your policy, too. Be aware that any claims your roommate makes for their property could affect the prices of your own future premiums.

If you live in an area that's prone to certain disasters, it could be a good idea to purchase additional coverage when buying renters insurance. For instance, floods, sinkholes and earthquakes aren't typically covered by a standard renters or homeowners insurance policy. If you live in a coastal region that experiences hurricanes, you may have to buy flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program.

Step 3: Select and adjust the best price

Before you choose where to buy renters insurance, you should make sure that you're getting the best price for your insurance requirements by raising or lowering your coverage limits and adjusting your deductible.

The price of your renters insurance is determined partly by the levels of coverage you buy. This means that if you're unsatisfied with a quoted price, you could try lowering your personal property protection and liability insurance on your application. However, you should continue to make sure that the coverage you buy will still be enough to protect you from any losses if your property is damaged.

While providing quotes online, companies will often offer a range of add-ons for more protection as well as discounts for home features such as dead bolts and burglar alarms. You should also pay attention to whether your policy offers actual cash value for your items or replacement cost value. The distinction is important if something does happen to your property.

  • Actual cash value: The price your older item would have fetched at the time of the loss. This factors in depreciation, meaning an older item will be worth less than a comparable item today.
  • Replacement cost value: The price to replace your item with a similar or newer version of the item today.

You can also change your price by adjusting your deductibles. A deductible is the money that you have to pay if you want to make a claim. Many renters insurance policies carry deductibles of at least $500. This means that if your $1,000 laptop was destroyed, you would be charged $500 before your company would make a payment. If you select a higher deductible, your monthly premiums will be lower — but so will your claim payments.

Once you settle on a company, a price and coverage options, all that's left is to sign up for your policy.

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