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How much contents insurance do I need?

When you take out home contents insurance, your provider will need a house contents valuation. You’ll need to calculate how much your possessions are worth to determine how much contents insurance you need.

Find out how to correctly estimate the value of your contents with our guide.

When you take out home contents insurance, your provider will need a house contents valuation. You’ll need to calculate how much your possessions are worth to determine how much contents insurance you need.

Find out how to correctly estimate the value of your contents with our guide.

Written by
Anna McEntee
Insurance comparison expert
Reviewed by
Rachel Lacey
Insurance and money expert
Last Updated
14 AUGUST 2023
6 min read
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What is contents insurance?

Contents insurance could cover the cost of replacing your personal possessions if they’re stolen from your home, or damaged or destroyed after an incident like a fire or flood.

It covers everything that you’d take with you if you moved home. So, anything that isn’t a permanent fixture: for example, clothes, furniture, soft furnishings, electronics, jewellery, curtains and even carpets.

How much should I insure my contents for?

Determining how much contents insurance you need isn’t something you can guess at. For example, the average contents insurance for a three-bedroom house is likely to differ from home to home.

You should insure your contents for the amount they’re worth. Having the right amount of cover will ensure you have enough money to replace all your possessions should the worst happen.

Why you need to calculate contents insurance accurately

When you take out contents insurance, your insurance provider will ask you to give an estimated house contents valuation that includes all the possessions in your home. This sum will be the maximum amount your insurance provider might pay out.

It’s important that this valuation is as accurate as possible. If it’s too low, you risk being underinsured and you may not receive a large enough pay-out to replace everything.

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), one in five UK households could be underinsured because they don’t know how much their home contents are worth.

Find out how to avoid underinsuring your home.

At the opposite end of the scale, if you overestimate the value of your belongings, you’ll end up paying for cover you don’t need and won’t benefit from.

When you get a quote with us, you can use our insurance contents calculator to help you accurately estimate the value of your contents.

What to include in the estimate

When you estimate the value of your home contents, you need to consider all your possessions, not just the more valuable items that might be taken in a burglary. Some of your home contents are unlikely to be stolen, but they could still be destroyed by a fire or flood.

A good rule of thumb is to include everything that you would take with you if you moved house, including carpets and curtains.

Permanent fixtures and fittings, like fitted wardrobes and bathroom suites, should be covered by your buildings insurance.

How can I accurately estimate the value of my home contents?

To accurately estimate the value of your home contents, there are several steps you should take to ensure your calculations are as precise as possible.

Make a thorough list of each room’s contents

Move from room to room in your home so you don’t miss anything. Don’t forget to include things hidden away in cupboards and drawers.

Your list of possessions is likely to include:

  • Furniture that’s freestanding, including lamps, cabinets, sideboards and bookcases, as well as sofas and chairs – plus soft furnishings like curtains and carpets
  • Artworks, ornaments and antiques
  • Electronics, such as your TV, stereo system, games consoles and controllers, laptops and tablets
  • Cooking equipment, such as the oven, microwave, kettle and toaster (as long as they’re not built in)
  • Fridge and freezer
  • The food stored in the fridge, freezer and cupboards
  • The drinks cabinet as well as all the bottles in it
  • Kitchenware, such as pots and pans
  • Freestanding appliances, such as washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers
  • Bedroom furniture, bedding and towels
  • Cutlery and crockery
  • Books, DVDs and games
  • Clothes and shoes
  • Children’s toys
  • Jewellery
  • Coins, medals or stamp collections
  • Sports equipment
  • Musical instruments
  • Arts and craft materials – or anything else you use for your hobbies
  • Cosmetics and toiletries
  • Garden furniture and ornaments
  • Items stored in sheds or other outbuildings, including play equipment, barbecues, bikes, and any tools and gardening equipment.

Calculate the value of individual items

For each item, give an estimate of its value. The value of an item for insurance purposes is usually the amount of money it would cost to replace the item today. This is unlikely to be the same as the price you paid for it.

Many contents insurance policies work on a new for old basis. That means if your computer is five years old, it would be replaced with a new model of equivalent spec. The model probably won’t be the very latest, which it might have been when you bought it.

You can check online to see how much it would cost you to order a new replacement item of the same quality.

Make a note of any high-value items

This is likely to include family heirlooms, antiques or designer accessories, as well as electrical equipment.

Most contents insurance policies will have a single-item limit. This is the maximum your provider will pay out for any item. You can insure items worth more than this. They’re known as high-risk items and they need to be listed separately on your insurance policy.

When you get a contents insurance quote with Compare the Market, we ask you to add any items with an individual value above £1,500 in the ‘specific items’ section.

Get up-to-date valuations of jewellery and valuables

It’s a good idea to get expensive items valued regularly. Some items, especially those that are rare and collectable, can increase significantly in value over time.

The value of gold and other precious metals can also go up and down, affecting the value of jewellery.

If an item increases in value, let your insurance provider know. Your policy will need to be updated to ensure the item is covered for its current value. You’ll also need to list it separately if it exceeds the single-item limit.

You should also take photographs to ensure you receive a comparable replacement if your provider doesn’t pay out cash.

The Jewellery Valuers Association is the only independent body in the UK and Ireland that offers professional valuations of jewellery, gemstones, watches and silver. You can search for valuers on its website.

Add up the total value of your home contents

Grab your calculator or open a spreadsheet. Add up a total value for the items in each room and a separate one for your valuable items. 

Add together all the totals, plus anything else you own that would be covered by contents insurance, and you’ll have a good estimate of the value of your home contents.

Don’t forget, you can use our insurance contents calculator to help you.

How can I get a good deal on home contents insurance?

Compare home insurance with us and we’ll search the UK’s most trusted home insurance providers to help you find a deal that suits you.

Contents insurance policies vary among providers, so always check the terms and conditions to ensure you get the cover you need.

Frequently asked questions

Are my possessions covered outside of the home?

Not all contents insurance policies will cover your belongings once you’ve taken them out the front door. That’s where personal possessions cover comes in.

Depending on the policy, it can cover laptops, phones, jewellery, glasses, watches and wallets when you’re out and about.

If personal possessions cover isn’t included as standard with your contents insurance, you can usually add it on for an extra fee.

How often should I update my contents insurance cover?

It’s a good idea to review the total value of your possessions on a regular basis. Most items go up or down in value over time, and you want to be sure you have right level of cover.

For valuables like jewellery, it’s a good idea to get them revalued every three to five years.

A change in circumstances may also give you a reason to review your cover. This could be:

  • Moving in with your partner
  • Children leaving home
  • Home renovations
  • A wedding, anniversary, Christmas or special birthday that means you have expensive gifts at home.

Do I need to have receipts for my valuables?

To prevent fraudulent claims, your insurance provider may ask you to provide proof of purchase – or at least proof of ownership, like a bank statement that shows the amount you paid.

If you need to show a receipt for an item and you don’t have one, you may be able to get a copy from the retailer who sold the item to you.

You may also need a proof of value certificate for high-value items like jewellery.

I download music and films onto my computer. Are they covered?

Many providers now offer you the option to include digital downloads in your contents insurance policy, including e-books, films and music. This could cover the cost of replacing your downloads if they’re damaged, lost or stolen.

However, cover may be invalid if the loss is due to a computer virus or hardware failure. The same goes if you accidentally hit ‘delete’.

Your downloads will also need to be from legitimate sources like iTunes, Google Play or Amazon.

Is it worth overestimating the value of my possessions?

It’s easy to think that overvaluing will give you extra peace of mind, particularly when the items you’re insuring have sentimental value. But you’re likely to pay more than you need to and get no additional benefit.

That’s why it’s important to estimate the value of your contents as accurately as possible.

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Anna McEntee - Insurance expert

Anna’s all about delivering fantastic insurance products at a great price. Value is the most important thing for Anna, as she cuts through the jargon and finds what’s most important and worth your hard-earned money.

Learn more about Anna

Rachel Lacey - Insurance and money expert

Rachel’s a self-confessed money nerd who’s been writing about personal finance for more than 20 years. She spent 17 years writing for Moneywise, including a few years as Editor, and likes making complicated subjects like insurance, pensions, investing and tax, easy for people to understand.

Learn more about Rachel

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