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How we cover home insurance companies: Research and policy comparisons explained

Choosing the right home insurance is no easy feat. As you’d expect when taking out any type of insurance, the small print can be vast, there are lots of terms and conditions involved, and overlooking one slight detail could have financial consequences when it comes to making a claim. There’s no getting round how important it is to triple check your specific policy wording, as this will be defined on a case-by-case basis, depending on what you have covered in your policy and other details. 

To help you get a good understanding of which insurers cover what, how much financial aid they offer and how they compare with other home insurance providers, our in-house team of researchers have spent hundreds of hours reading different policy documents, scouring websites, customer reviews and speaking with companies directly to effectively sum up what you should typically find with each policy to help with your decision.

Home insurance review stats

features considered
policies compared
hours of research
customer reviews read
customer service calls
experts consulted

The home insurance features we prioritise

When we’re researching and reviewing home insurance providers, we focus on the following features to gain a thorough overview of what a company is offering:

  • Policy types and levels
  • Standard cover
  • Optional extras
  • What’s in the small print
  • Excesses and no claims discounts 
  • Claims process
  • Customer service and reviews
  • Defaqto scores

Policy types and levels

Most home insurers typically offer different levels of policy: basic and more-premium versions. Axa, for example, has three policies to choose from: Home, Home Plus and Premier. When we review a provider, we take a look at the main differences between all the policies on offer to help you understand what each covers and what they don’t, so you’ll know whether to consider the next level up entirely or the standard cover with some optional extras. 

Within these policies, there are different types of cover to choose from: contents, buildings, or combined insurance, and this can affect what is covered as standard within the different policy levels. A good top-level way to compare home insurance quotes is to look at the maximum amount insured. This can range from £50,000 to £1m, or be unlimited in some cases.

Standard cover

Next, we look at the detail within the standard cover to highlight everything included and sum limits so you have a detailed view of what to expect if you took out that specific policy as it was, without any optional extras. Here’s what you can often find included under standard home insurance cover:

  • Theft
  • Natural disasters: storm or flood, fire, explosion, lightning, earthquake, etc
  • Subsidence
  • Replacement locks/keys
  • Emergency accommodation
  • Garden contents
  • Contents in outbuildings
  • Money
  • Homeowners’ liability 

What some companies include as standard might actually be an optional extra for others. Freezer foods and valuables, for example, can be offered as standard up to a certain amount, but in our experience we have also seen them feature as an added extra. We will also include the maximum sum insured for each, for easier comparison against competitors.

Optional extras

All home insurance companies will have different optional extras you can add on to tailor your policy to your needs. How much this will increase your premium by depends on what the extra is, and whether you need it purely depends on your circumstances. Some companies’ add-ons may actually feature in a competitor’s standard cover, so we make it clear what is included and what is optional. Some companies will include all of the extras available in their premium package, and for some it could, therefore, make more financial sense to choose the next policy tier, rather than customise a standard package. Here is what you’ll typically find as an add-on:

  • Personal possessions
  • Accidental damage 
  • Home emergency cover 
  • Family legal protection

What’s in the small print

There are a number of factors that could invalidate your home insurance, so in our research we aim to highlight the main policy exclusions to make you aware of these when comparing quotes

Usually, if your property has not been occupied for a certain amount of time – typically 30 consecutive days – it will invalidate the insurance cover if something were to happen to your property or possessions. Similarly, unless you have specific cover on items outside the home, loss of valuables or theft of a bike, for example, may not be covered. Damage caused by negligence or by pets is usually not covered either, so we outline the main policy wording so you can make a fair judgement and understand what will work best for you.

Excesses and no claims discounts

Insurance excesses are what you can expect to pay out of your own pocket on each claim you make before your insurer will pay out. Typically, a provider will require one excess per claim. Knowing how much this is and whether you can increase your voluntary excess is important, as this could reduce your annual premium. Some may prefer to pay a higher premium but less excess to pay towards claims, but it depends on your circumstances.

We also check whether a company offers a no claims discount on policies. This means you’ll get a discount on next year’s premium, with the amount of discount increasing every consecutive year you don’t make a claim. This doesn’t always mean your premium will be lower every year, as renewals are often linked to other factors, such as inflation and whether the rebuild cost for your home or the value of your possessions has increased. Although you would assume this is available with all modern home insurance companies, some don’t offer any such discounts. We will always highlight each provider’s stance, where available, in our reviews.

Claims process

In the unfortunate event you do have to make a claim, having a streamlined process can help take some level of stress out of a situation. We summarise the different ways you can log a claim with a company, be that over the phone or online, noting the average time for processing claims and how long it takes for the company to pay out where possible, as well as what documentation or detail you might need to provide initially. You’ll find lots of people leave poor reviews about home insurers leaving open claims outstanding for substantial amounts of time, and we want you to avoid that at all costs.

Customer service and reviews

Our researchers always reach out to companies, where possible, to understand the level of service they offer. We also cross check our findings with reviews and ratings on Trustpilot to get a wider picture of how easy the company is to communicate with and how effectively they can handle claims, as well as how quickly it is to get through to someone (a human) in the claims department in the first place. The different circumstances surrounding some home insurance claims can often be sensitive, so, although easy to overlook, how compassionate and understanding those dealing with claims are is also important.

Defaqto scores

Finally, we always look at how an insurance company fares against others in its Defaqto score. Defaqto’s researchers analyse market developments, conduct consumer research, and meet with industry experts to finalise its reports. This presents a good measure of trust and helps support our findings so we can give a comprehensive overview of the home insurance company we’re looking into.  

You can read more about our commitment to editorial impartiality and our editorial code on our About Us page.

Cam is an experienced writer and editor who has been creating content for more than 10 years. She studied English Language and Italian at The University of Manchester, where she started out blogging and copywriting on fashion and travel.

She’s worked for Groupon and its partnerships – including <em>The Guardian</em> UK and US, the <em>HuffPost</em>, and</i> – and has covered a plethora of topics, from kitchen design trends to the best ways to score a good deal on home insurance. S

Swifty tapping into her love for everything home decor-related, she moved into the interior design space and edited, part of Future plc, for three years, where she worked with a tonne of DIY and renovation experts.

She currently lives in North London and is passionate about helping others perfect their surroundings with stunning interiors and functional home additions, whether they own or rent.