Do I Need Renters Insurance as a College Student?

Find the Cheapest Renters Insurance Quotes in Your Area

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Every college student should consider buying renters insurance, but not everyone will need a policy. Whether you need to buy renters insurance as a college student depends on a variety of factors, including whether you live on campus and whether you have coverage from your parents. Here's how to decide whether you need a renters insurance policy in college and how to find affordable coverage.

Do College Students Need Renters Insurance?

College students may not have much in the way of personal belongings, but it can add up quickly. A laptop, software, television, art supplies, jewelry and other belongings can easily add up to thousands of dollars. College students usually have little money saved in the event of an emergency, so losing your possessions would be especially devastating if you can't afford to replace your belongings. However, if you have renters insurance, a student would be able to file a claim and only have to pay a deductible to replace their personal property.

The most important considerations are whether you live on or off campus and whether you are protected by your parents' homeowners or renters insurance policy.

Living On Campus

If you're a student living on campus in a dorm room or apartment owned by your university, and you leave campus during breaks, you may not need to buy a student renters insurance policy. You are likely protected by your parents' homeowners or renters insurance policy, since you still legally reside in your parents' home. You should confirm with your parents' insurance company that you're protected by their insurance, though.

Even if you are covered by your parents' renters insurance, it may be worth it to buy your own policy. Homeowners insurance policies are created with much larger limits than would typically apply to a college student. A typical homeowners insurance policy might have a maximum payout of hundreds of thousands of dollars with a deductible of $1,000 or more—which is how much you must pay toward a claim. It's also the minimum amount for which you can make a claim. If your $700 smartphone is stolen, your parents' plan with a $1,000 deductible wouldn't cover you at all.

Meanwhile, a renters insurance policy typically has a smaller payout of tens of thousands of dollars, but a much smaller deductible: around $100–$500. This means a renters insurance policy will pay out for smaller claims and cover a higher percentage of the costs of your losses.

Getting Your Own Renters Insurance vs Sharing Your Parents' Policy

Your own renters insurance policyParents' renters/home insurance policy
Is off-campus housing covered?YesNo
Deductible$100–$500Often $1,000 or more
Cost$10–$20 per monthNo cost, besides existing insurance premium
Liability coverageIncludedIncluded
Property coverage limit$10,000–$100,00010% of total home coverage limit

You should also consider renters insurance if you often host parties, especially if you serve alcohol. Even if you live on campus, you may be held legally responsible if someone is hurt in your dorm, and the liability protection included in renters insurance will protect you if you are sued.

Some universities partner with specific renters insurance providers to offer coverage to their students. For example, University of Southern California works directly with GradGuard to offer college renters insurance. It can be convenient to buy a renters insurance policy this way, but they don't usually offer discounts—you might save money by going with another company.

Living Off Campus

If you live off campus in an apartment or house where you've signed a lease, you should consider buying a renters insurance policy—and this goes for off-campus fraternities and sororities, too. Unlike a dorm resident, you legally live in your own apartment, so you will likely not be covered under your parents' policy. You likely also have a greater deal of legal liability than a college student who lives on campus. If you host a party in your off-campus apartment and someone is hurt, you may be held liable for their injuries.

Renters insurance is generally quite cheap, though. With enough coverage for liability and all your belongings, you'll generally spend only $10–$20 per month.

You might also be required to buy a renters insurance policy, especially if you live in an apartment. Landlords commonly require them, especially for properties they rent to students, which can be subject to more wear and tear than other rental properties.

Dorm Insurance: An Affordable Alternative for On-Campus Students

Dorm insurance is another cheap alternative to regular renters insurance for college students who live on campus. This type of policy has many names: personal property insurance, student insurance and personal articles insurance, among others. Dorm insurance is essentially just personal property coverage from a typical renters insurance policy, leaving out liability coverage and additional living expenses (ALE) coverage.

However, personal articles insurance generally goes further than typical renters insurance in one important area: It includes accidental and water damage. These are two of the most common forms of damage to things like cellphones, laptops and tablets—some of the most valuable items a college student is likely to own. Renters insurance typically won't pay for repairs if you cause damage to your property accidentally, like if you drop your cellphone and break the glass or it gets wet after falling into a swimming pool.

Personal property insurance generally has a lower deductible than normal renters insurance, so you'll be able to make a claim even if the dollar amount of damage is relatively small. Plus, they often include replacement cost coverage, meaning you won't have to pay for the depreciation of your belongings. And the costs per month are typically around the same price or lower than regular renters insurance.

However, with this type of policy you'll miss out on the liability and additional living expense coverages of a normal renters insurance policy. So, personal property insurance is most beneficial when you already have that coverage from somewhere else—namely, your parents' home insurance.

Renters vs Dorm Insurance

Renters insuranceDorm insurance
What's covered
  • Personal property
  • Liability coverage
  • Additional living expenses
  • Personal property (including accidental and water damage)
What's not covered
  • Accidental damage to personal property
  • Liability coverage
  • Additional living expenses
Monthly price$10–$20$10–$20
Deductible$100–$500$25–$100
Coverage limit$2,000–$5,000$10,00–$100,000

Not every renters insurance company offers a property-only plan, but many do. And a few companies, like NSSI, specialize in this type of policy only. Here are a few insurer options for dorm insurance.

Personal Articles Insurance Companies

  • State Farm
  • Nationwide
  • NSSI
  • GradGuard
  • Gallagher Student Renters Insurance

How to Find Cheap Renters Insurance for College Students

Picking the right renters insurance company (and the right kinds of coverage) is key to ensuring you're sufficiently protected, without overpaying for services you don't need. Here are a few tips for buying the right renters insurance while you're in college.

  • Figure out how much coverage you need by estimating the value of your property. Most renters insurance companies have a minimum policy limit around $10,000, which is likely to be as much as most college students need. This will ensure you're not spending more on coverage than you need to. Start with your most expensive items, like your laptop, smartphone and furniture, since those likely make up the majority of the dollar value of your property.
  • Decide which additional coverages to look for. Renters insurance typically includes liability coverage, which is good to have, especially if you regularly throw big parties. You may also want to add additional living expenses, which pays for a hotel or alternative housing if your apartment is unlivable. You can probably skip ALE if you live in a dorm, though.
  • Collect renters insurance quotes from multiple insurers. Renters insurance is not very expensive. The average cost of renters insurance nationwide is $187 per year, or less than $16 per month. But different companies offer different rates, so you can save money by shopping at several companies. Check with multiple reputable companies to see who will give you the best price—no small consideration for the tight budget of a college student.
  • Consider working with an insurance agent. Students who are unfamiliar with how insurance works may benefit from an insurance agent's guidance. An agent can help explain the process of signing up for a policy and making a claim and help you choose the right coverages for your situation.

How College Students Are Covered by Renters Insurance

Renters insurance is an insurance policy that protects you and your property in case an accident happens. And despite the name, renters insurance covers you even if you live in a dorm or with a family member. There are three main coverages included in a typical renters insurance policy: property coverage, liability protection and additional living expenses.

Property Coverage

Personal property coverage protects all your stuff. This includes your clothes, laptop, books and anything else you own. You're protected no matter where the things are, including in your home, in the classroom or even in another country. Renters insurance policies have a maximum coverage amount, for example, $10,000. Make sure your policy limit is high enough to protect all your belongings in case of a total loss—like if your apartment catches fire. That way, you'll be able to replace all your things without paying for it yourself.

Keep in mind that property coverage only protects you from certain covered perils. Most renters insurance policies include theft, fire, wind and other damage, but they exclude accidental damage or loss. Check your policy for exactly what is and is not covered.

Liability Coverage

Liability coverage pays other people in cases where you are liable, or legally responsible, for what happened to them. For example, you're covered if someone gets hurt while at your home, but it can also protect you in case of libel or slander.

Additional Living Expenses

If your home becomes uninhabitable due to a covered peril, additional living expenses (ALE) coverage pays for temporary living expenses. For example, if your apartment catches on fire, ALE coverage would pay for you to live in a nearby hotel until it's safe to move home.

What's Not Covered by Renters Insurance

Not everything is covered by renters insurance, though. For one, renters coverage only protects things you own; your roommates will need their own policies. And damage to your home itself, whether you're in a dorm or privately owned apartment, will be covered by the policy of whoever owns it—your university or landlord.

Cars also aren't covered under renters insurance, no matter whom they belong to. Damage to your car is covered under car insurance.

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