What's it for?
It covers the loss of or damage to the contents of your home. This includes your furniture, electrical goods and other items within your home. Some policies cover you for items you take outside, for example cameras, jewellery and briefcases. Different policies offer different levels of cover but generally you'll be covered against theft and fire, and have the option to insure against damage you may cause by accident. It is always vital that you thoroughly read and understand the full policy terms and conditions.
If not already covered by your contents insurance, you may want to consider travel insurance for loss or damage to your personal belongings whilst travelling. For more information see Travel insurance.
What isn't covered?
Anything beyond the maximum amount your insurer says they will pay, and it may pay a maximum amount on single articles. You'll need to specify the value of the contents. Some companies have limits on the value of any one item under the general policy so you'll need to specify individual items such as expensive jewellery or camera equipment, for example. Your cover may also be affected or cancelled if you leave your home empty for a long period of time, or if you let it out. Damage to the building itself is also not covered; this needs to be covered separately with Buildings insurance – see Buildings insurance.
Keeping costs down
Many insurers will offer discounts if you have a burglar alarm, window locks or if you're a member of a Neighbourhood Watch scheme. You may also get a deal if you combine contents and buildings insurance.
Most policies have a standard excess charge which means you agree to pay the first part of any claim, for example the first £50 or £100. If you agree to pay a higher excess you might get a cheaper policy.
Always compare what's covered by a policy, not just the price – the key policy information will help you do this. Some might be cheaper than others, but they may not offer the same level of protection.
Level of cover
Some contents insurance policies offer new for old. This means they'll replace old damaged appliances and possessions with new ones when you claim.
Bear in mind that your premiums may increase the following year, or the insurance company may refuse to cover you for the same risk if it happens more than twice, for example.