The Independent’s journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission. Why trust us?

Compare contents insurance quotes 2024: How to get the best deal

Fact-checked by Molly Dyson

How to get the best contents insurance for your home in 2024

Contents insurance is a type of home insurance that covers the cost of replacing your possessions if they’re damaged, destroyed or stolen.

If you didn’t have insurance and all your belongings were destroyed in a fire or flood, you’d have to pay to replace them yourself, which could cost tens of thousands of pounds. For a relatively small outlay you can get cover that will protect you in the unfortunate event that this were to happen.

In this guide, we explain what you need to know about contents insurance and how to get the best deal on it.

Contents insurance explained

Contents insurance covers your home’s contents, which means almost everything you would take with you if you moved house, such as furniture, kitchen appliances, clothes, gadgets, computers, sports equipment, and personal possessions. 

It doesn’t cover the structure of your home, such as your roof, walls and windows, or any permanent fixtures and fittings such as a fitted kitchen. These will be covered by buildings insurance. 

Contents cover insures your belongings against burglary, or damage from events such as storms, floods, leaks, subsidence, or your home being hit by a vehicle. You can choose to add cover for your possessions outside your home too – in case your mobile phone is stolen, for example.

How much you can claim after a burglary, fire, flood or other insured event depends on the policy limit and any limit on single items.

To help you compare contents insurance quotes, we’ve included the contact details for the UK’s best home insurance companies and price comparison websites.

Who needs contents insurance?

Unlike car insurance, there’s no law that says you must have contents insurance, but you could regret not having it if the worst were to happen. You should consider covering your possessions whether you’re an owner-occupier, renter or student.

With a policy in place, your insurer will pay towards the cost of replacing your possessions in the event of a fire, flood or theft.

Fortunately, the complete destruction of everything you own is unlikely. But smaller incidents such as a burst pipe flooding your home or being burgled, are more common and could leave you in financial difficulty or debt if you don’t have insurance to help you pay for it.

If you’re renting, your possessions won’t be covered by any insurance your landlord holds – you’ll need to arrange your own policy. If you live in a student house or house of multiple occupation (HMO), you’ll also need contents insurance for your personal items.

Likewise, if you own a leasehold flat, your freeholder is responsible for insuring the building, but you’ll need to buy your own cover for your possessions.

What contents insurance covers

Contents insurance covers you against destruction, theft and damage of the personal possessions in your home. You can choose add-ons to cover items you take out of your home, such as your mobile phone.

If you live as a couple or family unit, one policy will cover everyone. If you live in a HMO, student house or university halls, your policy will only cover your belongings. However, some contents insurance policies cover students temporarily keeping their possessions away from home in student accommodation, so you could be covered by your parents’ policy if you’re a student.

Contents insurance provides cover against ‘insured events’ such as fires, water leaks and burglary.

What contents insurance doesn’t cover

Contents insurance won’t cover the normal wear and tear of your possessions, or an item breaking down. For appliance or gadget breakdown, you’ll need to claim on the item’s warranty, if it still applies. You can get home emergency cover for situations like your boiler breaking down or plumbing problems. 

Your policy is likely to have other exclusions too, so it’s important to be clear about what they are.

Policies usually have an upper limit for single items, so if you own something really valuable such as a piece of jewellery, you might need to insure it separately. This is sometimes called a “specified item”.

Accidental damage is often available as an add-on, but deliberate damage of your possessions won’t be covered by your insurance. Opting for accidental damage cover will usually cost extra, but some policies include it as standard.

Contents insurance only covers movable objects. You’ll need buildings insurance to cover the structure of your home (such as the walls and roof) and permanent fixtures and fittings such as your kitchen units and bathroom suite.

Contents insurance cover as standard vs optional extras

What is and isn’t covered by contents insurance depends on the insurer and the policy, so make sure you read the policy terms before you sign up. 

Below are the main areas of cover and whether they’re usually covered as standard or sold as add-ons:

Covered as standardOptional extrasDescription
Storm or flood If your possessions are damaged or destroyed due to storms or flooding
Escape of water or oil If your possessions are damaged due to burst pipes or leaks
Fire or explosion If your possessions are damaged or destroyed in a fire or explosion
Subsidence, heave or landslip Damage to your possessions if the ground underneath or around your home sinks or moves
Theft or attempted theft If your home is broken into and items are stolen or there is an attempt to steal them
Vandalism If items you own are vandalised
ImpactIf your items are destroyed or damaged due to being hit by an aircraft, falling tree, vehicle or other object
Freezer contents coverIf the contents of your freezer are spoiled during a power cut
 Accidental damageMishaps in your home that cause damage, such as wine being spilled on the sofa. This is sometimes included as standard
 Personal possessions coverCover for theft and damage of items you take out of your home, such as mobile phones and jewellery
 Legal expenses insuranceFree advice in accident, employment or property disputes
 Home emergency assistanceCovers calling a tradesperson to fix a broken boiler or electrical fault, for example
 Bike cover away from homeCover for bikes while you’re cycling or when your bike is locked securely in a public place
 Valuables worth more than a certain amountCover for listed expensive items such as jewellery, laptops, mobile phones and bikes
 Money and card coverIf cash or your debit/credit card is stolen. Theft of money from your home is usually covered as standard
Ed Bowsher circle v2

Insurers offer many possible add-ons – you might need some of them, but you almost certainly won’t need all of them.

 

When you look at each optional extra, consider whether you’re likely to need it, and whether you could afford to pay for what it covers yourself if you weren’t insured for it. 

 

Let’s look at accidental damage cover as an example. It might make sense for families as it would cover some damage caused by kids, but I’ve not gone for it myself. I don’t have kids and I also don’t do any DIY, so I don’t need to protect myself from mishaps like hammering a nail through electrical wiring. Yes, I might spill something on the carpet, but I’m prepared to take the hit myself if that happens. Don’t forget that most accidental damage policies come with an excess, and a claim can affect future premiums. 

 

That said, I have bought home emergency cover. This pays the repair costs if your pipes burst or drains are blocked, for example. The emergency cover won’t pay for wider damage caused by the drains or pipes, but the main policy should do that, so the two work well together.

How contents insurance works

man in blue living room looking at fallen tv
Contents insurance will protect your belongings if they’re lost, stolen or beyond repair. (Adobe)

Contents insurance is primarily sold as an annual policy. You can choose to pay for it monthly, but this will work out more expensive over the duration of the contract, as you’re effectively borrowing the premium from the insurer at the start of the policy and paying it back with interest.

A policy will insure your possessions, up to a stated limit, against certain risks and events. The policy documents will explain what’s covered and what’s not.

Insurers typically offer two types of contents insurance:

  • New-for-old
  • Indemnity

New-for-old cover is more expensive but better, as if your items are lost, stolen or beyond repair, the insurer will replace them with an equivalent new item. 

Indemnity cover is cheaper but, in the event of a claim, the insurance company will deduct an amount for wear and tear and depreciation. This could leave you out of pocket.

When buying a policy, you need to calculate the sum insured – this is the total value of your contents. We explain how to work this out further on in this guide.

Each policy will come with an excess, which is the amount you must contribute to any claim yourself. For example, if your TV worth £1,000 is stolen and the excess is £100, you’ll pay £100 towards replacing it and the insurer will pay £900.

How to make your contents insurance cheaper 

You can buy contents insurance directly from an insurance company, bank or building society. It’s much better to use a price comparison site to compare quotes from lots of companies to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible.

Where you live, the value of your contents, how many people live in your home, your previous claims history and the security measures installed at your home will all affect the price you pay for a policy.

Here’s how you can cut the cost of your contents insurance:

  • Shop around: don’t accept your current insurer’s renewal quote – use a price comparison site to compare policies and premiums to find the best deal
  • Combine contents and buildings insurance: if you need to insure your building too (i.e., because you own the property), a combined policy can work out cheaper than separate policies
  • Make your home secure: some insurers offer discounts if you fit high-quality door/window locks, burglar alarms or smart devices that monitor your home
  • Choose a higher excess: the higher your excess, the lower your premium. But be sure you’d be happy and able to pay the excess amount in the event of a claim
  • Pay upfront: you can pay for insurance either annually or monthly – annually is typically cheaper as insurers charge interest on monthly instalments. Some providers only offer annual premiums, so this is something to bear in mind when comparing quotes
  • Build up a no-claims discount: if you don’t claim on your policy, you can build up a no-claims discount (NCD), which can make your premiums cheaper in the future even if you switch insurers 
  • Don’t over- or under-insure: Make sure you buy the amount of cover you need by accurately calculating the value of all your contents. Too much cover could see you paying more than you need to on your premiums, while too little could mean you’ll be out of pocket if the worst happens
Ed Bowsher circle v2

You might be fed up of people talking about shopping around and comparing quotes when it comes to insurance, but you can save big money if you do it properly.

 

You should visit more than one comparison site. I’d say go to at least two, because not all the comparison sites work with all insurers and they may have different deals set up. Visit Direct Line as well, because it doesn’t appear on any of the comparison sites, and it often offers competitive deals. NFU Mutual doesn’t either so check that too.

 

It’s also worth checking for deals on cashback sites such as Topcashback and Quidco but don’t just take out a policy because of the cashback – make sure it’s right for you.

 

From personal experience, fitting better locks in your home is also a good move. As well as cutting my premiums, they’ve made me feel more secure. Extra security is a great stress reducer if, like me, you live in an area with quite a lot of crime.

 

If you’ve got some really valuable items such as jewellery, think about getting a safe. If you tell your insurer you’ve got one, it will probably reduce your premiums. It’s also worth thinking about any valuable items you have that you no longer want or need. If you sell them, not only would you get some cash, but your insurer could cut your premium.

Common exclusions

Exclusions in insurance policies are things that aren’t covered as standard. To avoid having a claim rejected, read the policy documents before buying your policy so you know what kind of events you’re not covered for.

Common exclusions include:

  • wear and tear
  • damage caused by pets fouling, chewing or scratching
  • any event where you were deemed to be ‘negligent’
  • damage or theft by paying guests (you would need to take out holiday home insurance to get cover for this if you’re letting a whole property as a holiday home. Some insurers may cover you for paying guests staying in your home as standard or add this cover to your existing contents insurance policy)
  • homes unoccupied for more than a set number of days (normally 30, 45 or 60)
  • storm damage to gates and fences
  • pest infestations (sometimes offered as an optional extra, for example through home emergency cover)
  • damage to your computer caused by a virus
  • digital downloads.

How much cover do you need?

You need sufficient contents insurance to cover the value of everything you own. To work this out, go from room to room in your home and write down how much everything would cost to replace, either using any receipts you have or the internet. There are also apps that can help you do this. The total value of your contents is called the sum insured.

Some insurers automatically provide cover up to a set limit, normally about £50,000 to £100,000. Others work out the amount of cover needed based on the number of bedrooms in your home.

A few insurers offer unlimited sum insured policies, where all your contents are covered without a limit, but these are typically more expensive.

Do you need extra contents insurance?

Your insurance policy will have a single item limit – the maximum amount it will pay out for any individual item regardless of its value. You might be asked to list items worth more than this figure in order for them to be covered, or you might need to pay extra.

You may want to add home emergency cover to your contents insurance. Depending on the policy, this means your insurer will pay for the cost of calling tradespeople out to your home to deal with heating, plumbing or electrical breakdowns.

It might be worth considering buying separate insurance to cover appliances, such as your washing machine or TV, in the event of a breakdown.

If you’re planning to have building work or renovations carried out on your home, you should tell your insurer to make sure your contents would still be covered. You may also want to add accidental damage cover or legal expenses insurance to your policy for this if you don’t have it already. Also check that the company carrying out the work has its own public liability insurance in case your property is damaged as a result of it.

Ed Bowsher circle v2

As always, you should always visit comparison sites first. You can compare quotes for contents-only policies, buildings-only policies and combined ones.

 

It’s worth checking all of the options on offer, but you’ll probably find that some combined policies are cheapest. Also try and check what each policy covers and get a feel for what different insurers will pay out for. A great way to vet an insurer is by reading reviews on Trustpilot, as these will often indicate whether existing customers are satisfied with aspects of its service such as the claims process and renewals. 

 

If you have a mortgage, your lender will almost certainly require you to take out buildings insurance. Sometimes lenders offer an insurance policy as part of their mortgage package. If the overall package is attractive, this can be a good way to get insured, but shop around first to check the cost. My wife and I took out buildings insurance with our mortgage provider (Santander) and we’re happy, as the company paid out a significant amount to repair subsidence problems. 

 

Be careful though, as sometimes the mortgage provider isn’t offering home insurance as part of the package, but rather as an extra charge on top of your mortgage. In that case, there’s a good chance you could get a cheaper quote from another insurance company.

Contents insurance and working from home

If you’re an employee working from home or you’re self-employed and your work is computer-based, you shouldn’t need any extra insurance.

However, you might need extra cover for working from home if:

  • clients visit your home (e.g., for physiotherapy)
  • you have an employee who works in your home
  • you keep stock or other expensive items at your home.

Student contents insurance

Students living away from home are sometimes covered by their parents’ contents policy – check the policy documents or call the insurer to check.

Otherwise, those living in a shared house need to find a policy to cover their own possessions. You can take out insurance just for your room, which will need to be locked when unoccupied for claims to be valid. You may also be able to take out a policy to share between all the people living in the house.

Contents insurance for renters

If you’re renting, any insurance your landlord holds will just cover the building and their possessions (e.g., furniture) in your home, but it won’t cover your belongings, so you’ll need to arrange your own cover for those.

If you live in a shared house, you can buy renters’ insurance to just cover the contents of your room. If you live alone, or as part of a household, you can buy one policy to cover everyone’s possessions.

Ed Bowsher circle v2

If you don’t read the small print, you may end up with a home insurance policy that isn’t right for you. That could mean your insurer won’t pay out when you make a claim.

 

A classic example is if you have an expensive item in your home – for example a painting. Your contents might be insured for, say, £30,000, but there may also be a single item limit of £1,500. So even if your total loss is £25,000, you may not get all that money if your painting is valued at £5,000. 

 

Thanks to the single item limit, you’ll only receive £1,500 for the painting, so £21,500 in total. In this case, you’ll want to take out extra cover for the painting from the beginning of your policy to ensure you won’t be out of pocket in the event of a claim.

 

The small print on your policy will probably be very long and could take hours to read, so you might be tempted to just read the summary. But be careful, as this won’t tell you about any special exclusions that are applied to your policy. If you can’t read the whole thing, look at the schedule of insurance document, which outlines the policy specific to you. 

 

You could also skim through the whole document, looking for anything on excesses, cover limits and general conditions. If your circumstances change, you also need to know what you must tell your insurer.

The claims process

Here’s what you should do if you need to make a contents insurance claim:

  • Call the police if you’ve been burgled or the victim of any other crime. You’ll need a crime reference number for the insurance claim
  • Check your policy documents to make sure what you want to claim for is covered
  • Call your insurer as soon as possible
  • Collect any evidence your insurer asks for to support your claim. This might include receipts for stolen or destroyed items, or photos showing the damage caused
  • For big claims, your insurer might send a loss adjuster to look at the damage and decide how best to progress your claim
  • Your insurer will talk you through the claims process and let you know when your claim will be settled. Your insurer may buy replacement items for you or send you a sum of money so you can purchase the items yourself

Making a claim will mean your insurance premiums are likely to go up in the future, so make sure to weigh up whether small claims are worth it.

Conclusion 

Now you have all the information you need to buy the right contents insurance policy for you at the best price. Just make sure you shop around again when your policy is up for renewal to make sure your renewal quote still offers good value. 

Our product review and research process

Our researchers and writers are dedicated to providing accurate and up-to-date information so you can make an informed decision when comparing and buying home insurance.

We will only endorse home insurance products after hundreds of hours of research, policy comparisons and mystery shopping, and after taking into account verified customer feedback and reviews, and the opinions of industry experts.

To write our articles, we’ve compared (and continue to compare) hundreds of insurance policies from dozens of the UK’s insurers – big and small. We focus our research on:

  • Cost and value for money
  • The level of coverage offered (and what’s not covered as standard)
  • Customer service and ease of making a claim

All of our articles are verified by industry experts, including regulatory compliance specialists, and the policy data verified by the insurance providers themselves, so you can be assured that our content is as accurate and up to date as possible.Even after all that, we would still recommend that you don’t just take our word for it – you should compare quotes to get the best deal for you and your home. To find out more about our process, read our article on how we cover home insurance companies.

emma lunn

Emma Lunn

Money Writer

Emma Lunn is a multi-award winning journalist who specialises in personal finance and consumer issues. 

With more than 18 years’ experience in personal finance, Emma has covered topics including mortgages, first-time buyers, leasehold, banking, debt, budgeting, broadband, energy, pensions and investments. 

Emma’s one of the most prolific freelance personal finance journalists with a back catalogue of work in newspapers such as The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, the Mail on Sunday, and the Mirror. 

As a freelancer she has also completed various in-house contracts at The Guardian, The Independent, Mortgage Solutions, Orange, and Moneywise. She also writes regularly for specialist magazines and websites such as Property Hub, Mortgage Strategy and YourMoney.com. 

She has a real passion for helping people learn about money – especially when many people are struggling to get by in today’s challenging economic climate – and prides herself on simplifying complex subjects.