How to estimate the value of your home contents

When you take out home contents insurance, your provider will want to know how much your possessions are worth. Plucking a number out of thin air might be easy, but it could mean that you end up with too little cover or you pay more than 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 want to know how much your possessions are worth. Plucking a number out of thin air might be easy, but it could mean that you end up with too little cover or you pay more than you need. Find out how to correctly estimate the value of your contents with our guide.

Rachel Lacey
Insurance and money expert
8
minute read
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Last Updated 23 SEPTEMBER 2022

How much contents insurance do I need?

Contents insurance covers 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 a flood. 

This is why it’s important to arrange the right level of cover and value your belongings as accurately as you can. 

The temptation might be to guess, but for complete peace of mind it’s worth taking the time to work it out properly. 

The last thing you need if disaster strikes is to find out that you don’t have the right amount of cover. 

Why you need to make accurate estimates of your home contents

When you arrange your contents insurance, your insurance provider will ask you to provide an estimated value of all your possessions. This sum will be the maximum amount your insurance provider would pay out if everything you own was destroyed. 

It’s important that this number is as accurate as possible. If it’s too low you risk underinsurance and you may not get a big enough payout to replace everything. 

To find out more about underinsurance, read our guide: Avoid under-insuring your home.

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

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 through us, we provide a contents calculator tool that will 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 or ruined if there’s a fire or your home is flooded.

A good rule of thumb is to include everything that you would take with you if you moved house as well as anything else that isn’t nailed down, such as 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 estimate the value of your home contents, you should:

  • Go from room to room, making a list of all your possessions
  • Estimate how much each possession is worth
  • Add up the cost of all your items to get your estimate 
  • For valuable items like jewellery, art or other heirlooms, it’s a good idea to get an up-to-date valuation before you start. 

Go from room to room

You probably have more possessions than you think. So, to get an accurate estimate of the value of your home contents you’re going to need to be methodical.

The best way to ensure you don’t miss anything is to move from room to room in your home. Take a pad and pencil so you can write down an estimate of how much you think each room’s possessions are worth. Don’t forget to include things that are hidden away in cupboards and drawers.

If you wanted to be extremely thorough, you could write down a list of everything in your house and search online for up-to-date values.

Make a thorough list of each room’s contents

Your list is likely to include the following:

  • Furniture that’s freestanding, including lamps, cabinets, sideboards and bookcases, as well as sofas and chairs
  • Artworks, ornaments and antiques
  • Electronics, such as your TV, stereo system, games consoles and controllers, laptops, tablets, etc.
  • All cooking equipment, such as the oven, microwave, kettle and toaster (as long as they’re not built in)
  • The 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 and similar items
  • Coins, medals or stamp collections
  • Sports equipment
  • Musical instruments
  • Arts and craft materials – or anything else you use for your hobby
  • Cosmetics and toiletries
  • Garden furniture and ornaments
  • Items stored in sheds or other outbuildings, including play equipment like trampolines, 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, which is unlikely to be the same as the price you paid for it.

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

If you’re not sure, go 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 

Most contents insurance policies will have a single-item limit. This is the maximum it will pay out for any item and it’s typically around the £1,500 mark. You can insure items worth more than this, you’ll just need to declare them to your provider.

This is likely to include family heirlooms, antiques or designer accessories, as well as electrical equipment. These are known as high-risk items and they’ll be listed separately. 

Get up-to-date valuations of jewellery and valuables

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 but you forget to update your insurance policy, you’ll only be covered for the value you originally declared to your insurance provider. If an item’s value increases significantly and it exceeds the single article limit, you’ll also need to let them know and have it listed separately – otherwise it might not be covered at all if you need to make a claim.

To avoid any problems at point of claim, it’s a good idea to get valuable items revalued regularly. You should also take photographs to ensure that you get a comparable replacement if you don’t get cash.

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

You might also want to think about the value of anything that you carry with you outside the home – for example, laptops, mobiles, watches and handbags – and total these up so you know how much personal possessions cover you need.

Add up the total value of your home contents

Grab your calculator or open a spreadsheet. It’s probably sensible to tot up a total value for the items in each room and a separate one for your valuable items. Once you’ve added all the totals together, plus anything else you own that would be classed as part of your household contents, then you have a good estimate of the value of your home contents.

This is exactly what our contents calculator tool does for you, then we can help you get a quote for your contents insurance too.

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

If you’ve already worked out the value of your home contents or you need a helping hand in calculating the value, you can start comparing home insurance.

Just tell us what you need and we’ll search the UK’s most trusted home insurance providers to find some great-value deals that suit you. 

Remember that contents insurance policies do vary, so always check the terms and conditions to ensure that the cover you’re buying does what 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, bikes, phones, jewellery, glasses, watches and wallets when you’re out and about.

Cover may also be extended to certain foreign destinations, but always read the small print.

How often should I update my contents insurance cover?

Most items either go up or down in value over time. That’s why it makes sense to review the total value of your possessions on a regular basis to make sure you’re paying for the right level of cover.

For valuables like jewellery, it’s a good idea to get a re-evaluation every three to five years.

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

  • Moving in with your partner
  • Children leaving home
  • Renovating and redecorating
  • A wedding, anniversary or special birthday that results in expensive gifts

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 the item in question and you don’t have one, you may be able to get a copy from the retailer who sold it to you.

For items like jewellery, you may also need a proof of value certificate.

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

Many contents insurance providers now offer you the option to include digital downloads in your policy, including e-books, films and music. This covers the cost of replacing your downloads if they’re damaged, lost or stolen. However, it 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. However, you could end up paying more than you need to and get no additional benefit. That’s why it’s important to make the cost estimate for your possessions as accurate as possible.

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