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What is contents insurance?

Contents insurance covers your belongings if they’re damaged or stolen. It can help pay the cost of repairing or replacing a whole range of possessions like your clothing, furniture, appliances and devices. Some events that you’re covered for include fires, storm damage and theft.

Contents insurance doesn’t cover your home’s structure, only the items inside it.

Types of contents insurance cover

Renters insurance

As a renter, you only need to protect those belongings that you bring with you to your rental home. Contents-only insurance can help you do just that.

Landlord insurance

If you’re a landlords renting out a furnished home, you can get insurance coverage for the furniture and some fixtures to help protect your investment and provide peace of mind for your tenants.

Combined home and contents insurance

For homeowners who want their home building and everything inside it covered, a combined home and contents insurance policy is your best course of action.

What contents insurance can cover

EventIs it covered?
Storm damageYes
Fire damageYes
Flood damageNo – this may be an optional extra
Impact damageYes
TheftYes
Spoiled food after insured eventYes
Vandalism and malicious damageYes
Legal liability Yes
Falling treesYes – except when the tree was cut on purpose (e.g. tree lopping)
Damage from verminNo
Accidental damage to glass and ceramicsNo – this may be an optional extra
Motor burnoutNo – this may be an optional extra
War, civil commotion and violent uprisingNo
Loss of liquidYes – but the item that leaked isn’t covered (e.g. a fish tank)
Damage from renovationsNo
Removing debrisYes
Temporary accommodationYes – if the house is uninhabitable after an insured event
ExplosionsYes
Earthquakes and tsunamisYes
N.B. Some events such as flood damage may be an optional extra or a separate policy you can purchase alongside building and contents insurance. Limits and additional exclusions may apply.

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Optional extras for contents insurance

Accidental damage cover

Accidental damage can be added to your policy to help protect your home’s contents from yourself, your family and guests – after all, accidents can happen! If you drop the fine crystal or spill wine on the carpet, you’ll be insured for the accidental loss and damage.

Portable contents cover

There are a few common items you’ll often take out of the house with you regularly (like mobile phones, laptops and jewellery). Portable contents cover is an optional add-on that covers these items when you take them out of the house.

Motor burnout cover

Motor burnout cover specifically insures appliances (like fridges and washing machines) when their electric motors are damaged by power surges and electrical currents.

Valuable contents cover

This optional cover allows you to increase the payout you could receive for specific items, such as works of art, jewellery and collectibles. This can be handy if your standard coverage limits wouldn’t cover the cost of replacing them.

Flood cover

If you want cover against flooding for your belongings, you can add flood insurance as an optional extra to your contents insurance policy. Flood cover can replace or repair your belongings if they’re damaged or lost in a flooding event.

Commercial storage cover

While some insurers offer commercial storage cover as standard with a contents insurance policy, some only provide it as an optional extra. This can benefit you if you’re in the process of moving, upsizing or downsizing your home and need to put stuff in storage for a while.

Learn more about contents insurance

How does contents insurance work?

To get a contents insurance policy, you’ll need to pay a fortnightly, monthly or yearly fee (called the insurance premium) to stay covered. You’ll then be able to claim for any damage or losses to your belongings that are caused by the events listed in your insurance policy.

Should you need to claim for these reasons, you’ll need to provide your insurer with some details about the incident and pay an excess. Your insurer will then organise repairs for your items or pay you their replacement value, depending on your level of cover.

The full details regarding coverage, how to claim, limits and exclusions for any insurance policy will be listed in the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS). You should always check the PDS before you purchase an insurance policy.

What isn’t covered by contents insurance?

There are a few things that your contents insurance policy won’t cover you for. Most of these exclusions are the same across insurance providers operating in Australia, though some might have one or two unique to their policies. Common contents insurance exclusions include:

  • Leaving your home unoccupied for an extended period(typically 60 days)
  • Flood damage (unless you have purchased flood cover)
  • War, terrorism, civil commotion and rebellious uprisings (though some insurers may cover this for contents cover)
  • Deliberate or wilful damage
  • Illegal activity
  • Tree lopping
  • General wear and tear
  • Damage from animals and insects.

It’s always important to read the PDS of any policy before you buy so you know exactly what is and isn’t covered.

Many contents exclusions also apply to home insurance as well, which you can read about here.

What kind of excess payments can apply to my contents insurance?

Your contents insurance policy will likely come with a basic excess that you may be required to pay each time you make a claim. This excess goes towards the cost of repairs or replacements for the items you’re claiming for; your insurer will then foot the rest of the bill.

For example, if your contents insurance excess is $500 and the repair bill for your furniture is $2,000, your insurer will pay the remaining $1,500 after your excess is paid.

Some insurers may have event-specific excess payments that can also apply, such as an earthquake or tsunami excess.

How much does contents insurance cost?

The cost of your contents insurance will be based on a wide variety of factors, such as:

  • The value you want to insure your contents for
  • Your home address
  • Any previous claims history
  • The type of home (e.g. apartment flat, freestanding house, townhouse, etc.)
  • What security features you have in your home (e.g. alarm, security screens)
  • Any optional extras you want to include.

That’s why the price you pay for your policy won’t be the same as what someone else pays. You can get a quote today to see how much contents insurance could cost you. It only takes a couple of minutes and is free!

How can I reduce the cost of my contents insurance?

There are a couple things you can do to reduce the price of your policy, including:

  • Increasing your excess. If your insurer offers this option, you can choose a higher excess in order to lower your premiums. Bear in mind that this will mean you need to pay more if you file an insurance claim.
  • Purchase insurance online. Many insurance companies offer an online discount for the first year if you purchase a new policy through their website.
  • Bundle your policies. You may get discounted premiums on some of your policies if you take out more than one product with the same insurer (e.g. contents and car insurance).

Will contents insurance cover expensive valuables like jewellery?

Contents insurance will cover your prized personal possessions and valuables like jewellery. There will typically be a monetary limit per item covered as well as a total limit for all jewellery.

For example, say your insurer had a limit of $3,000 per item of jewellery and $6,000 for all items of jewellery. If your house was robbed and your $3,000 diamond necklace was stolen, you would be covered for that item’s total value, but you would only have $3,000 left for all other items of jewellery that may have been stolen.

If your insurer’s item-specific limit is lower than what your item is worth, this means you may face paying for the difference yourself or choosing a replacement that is similar but of lesser value.

It’s possible to increase the item-specific limits for certain valuables for an extra cost to your insurance premiums.

Does contents insurance cover sports equipment?

Contents insurance can cover sports equipment you keep at your home, but some equipment (like bicycles) you may need to purchase extra or specific cover for. Your gear will then be covered for any damage or loss caused by the events listed in your policy (such as fires and storms). However, if the sports equipment is damaged while in use, your claim will likely be rejected as it’s considered normal wear and tear.

How do I know how much to insure my contents for?

It can be hard to figure out how much your belongings are worth. A good way to determine your contents’ value is by making a list of your items and figure out the cost to replace each one of them. While you can do this with a pen and paper, there are contents calculators online that can help speed up the process.

What happens if I move house?

You’ll need to contact your insurer to update your details if you relocate into a new home. Your location can partly influence your insurance premiums. For example, if you move to a suburb that has a higher rate of break-ins or is in a bushfire zone, your premiums may change to reflect the risk.

If you’re moving, you might also find that some contents insurance policies can cover your belongings while they’re in transit from your old home to your new one. Contact your insurer and read your PDS to find out.

Will contents insurance cover power tools?

If you’ve got power tools stored in your shed or garage, these can be covered by contents insurance. However, if you use these power tools for a home business instead of personal use, you would need a business insurance policy instead.

Do I need contents insurance?

Whether or not you need contents insurance is something you have to decide for yourself. Consider this: If you lost your belongings in a fire or they were damaged by a storm, would you be able to afford the cost of repairing or replacing it all yourself?
Having contents insurance provides a financial safety net and peace of mind knowing your treasured possessions are protected.

Stephen Zeller, General Manager

Meet our contents insurance expert, Stephen Zeller

As the General Manager of General Insurance at Compare the Market, Stephen Zeller works to make the protection of a homeowners most significant financial assets, an easier and more efficient process. Stephen empowers people with choice and believes it’s important to have adequate cover in the event of the unexpected – fire, flood, storm, or vandalism.

Stephen has more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry. He is an Allied member of the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF) and ensures any information about insurance products that we publish is accurate and comprehensive.

Stephen’s contents insurance tips

  1. You can insure items you take out of the home for an additional premium, and this can provide coverage for jewellery, sports equipment, clothing items, computers and more. This optional extra is definitely worth considering if you often take something valuable with you when you leave the house.
  2. When you make a claim for stolen contents on your insurance, most insurance providers will require it to be reported to the police.
  3. It’s easy to underestimate the value of all the stuff you have in your home. Take the time to look through it all to make a reasonable assessment of what your policy limit should be. It will take a bit of time, but it can help you avoid being underinsured (where your coverage does not adequately meet the cost of replacing your contents).
  4. Compare your contents insurance regularly. If you find a better policy, you can switch at any time – you don’t need to wait for your renewal notice. If you paid your insurance premium in full (annually), your insurer will give you a pro-rata refund for the remaining period of your cover.

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