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7 Tips For Buying The Best Renter’s Insurance Policy

If you’re planning on moving in with other people or getting your own place, a solid renter’s insurance policy might be the last thing on your mind. Some people even go all the way through college without it (me), although my parents’ homeowner’s insurance was probably covering me the first two years in the dorms. Doing it all again, I would have absolutely researched and bought some minimum coverage before move-in day with a couple friends junior year. Here’s 7 tips that can help you move in with the right company.

Research And Buy Before You Need A Policy

You should start the process of getting quotes and researching different options at least a month or so before the actual move-in day. This way, you won’t have to worry as much when your one roommate keeps forgetting to lock the door after their 3 a.m. White Castle runs. Some companies will probably take a while to respond after you request a quote, too. The longest we had to wait was a week in one case. Factoring in the company who misinterprets what you ask for (like the one who had an agent respond about homeowner’s insurance by accident) and there might be a minimum of of two weeks before being able to start comparing.

Look At A Few Different Companies

The great part about a quote is that it’s based on a lot of different factors and could change. One thing companies don’t mention up-front is that they’ll negotiate with you if you have a better offer from one of their competitors, so it’s important to get at least a few quotes together before making a decision. You might also find some companies offer different levels of coverage. Without putting the options side-by-side, you could be at risk of settling on a company that’s just okay for your needs versus a perfect fit. It’s more than likely you’ll end up over-paying or under-paying in that case. Make sure you block off enough time for requesting quotes with the ones you want to hear from all at once. Hopefully, they will all get back to you in a semi-timely manner. Shoot for at least four companies.

Call With Questions…But Brace Yourself

When in doubt – call it out. If you aren’t sure whether certain companies’ policies cover a specific item, they probably have a 1-800 number you can dial to clarify. Be aware, though, that the customer service representative you’re calling might actually be a sales rep. That was exactly what happened when I called my auto insurer’s 800 number to see if their renter’s insurance would cover my 3D printer. Before the call ended, she practically had me handing over my credit card! I didn’t have it on me and they couldn’t apply funds from my auto pay account so I got away. Many companies will also just refer you to an agent anyway at the beginning of their quote, so one way or another you’ll be taking your questions to a rep.

Consider Paying The Lump Sum Versus Monthly Fee

The way you pay can have a big impact on how much you pay. Before fully committing to a company’s quote, you should have the options of how to pay -either monthly, lump sum (pay all at once) or another variation like paying a few months now and the rest later. Assuming you aren’t planning on moving in the following year from getting this, the lump sum will probably be the lowest cost option. We’re talking a potential $8 and $9 dollar difference if you divide the lump by 12 and compare it against the monthly payment. Things could change if you move to a different city (like transferring schools mid-semester) and you will probably see a slight difference in cost, for better or worse. Unless you move somewhere with insane crime rates, because you like to live dangerously or something.

Check-In With Your Landlord

Touch base with your future landlord when you start the search. They might have some recommendations for a couple companies their past tenants have worked with that you could call. Their provider for landlord insurance (otherwise known as rental property insurance) could also have a renter’s arm. Regardless, there’s some info you will want to get from them. Not every company asks, but it’s still good to have your landlord’s name, address, and their insurance provider on-hand while requesting quotes. The lord of your land might also make you list a renter’s policy on the lease and have their info readily available for you in that paperwork.

Take Pictures And A Video Of Your Stuff

This is the big one, right up there with actually paying. Filing a claim will be infinitely easier if you have detailed documentation of your personal property. Especially when you can’t track down those old receipts for possessions with some some history but a lot of dollar value left in ’em. Things like your laptop that was $2,500 seven years ago and still worth $1,175 when it gets stolen. After taking pictures and a video of everything, back the media up in more than one place, the cloud being one of them. Dropbox, Onedrive, and Google Drive are all great options.

Carefully Review Coverage In The Policy

Chances are, most of your possessions will be covered under the policy you land on. Assuming the correct dollar amount is chosen – the options usually being between $5000 – $30,000, you’ll be good if something happens. It’s still important to read the policy and its fine print (we know, we know) even if it seems like nobody else does. In some cases, you might need what’s called a “rider,” which adds a specific item or items to your policy. These would be things like a diamond ring or your zillion dollar art collection you bought that time at the Louvre. A good rule of thumb is that if the dollar value exceeds your coverage – get a rider. You might also see that damages from earthquakes and floods aren’t covered since those don’t typically fall under a standard policy.

Tying It All Together

These tips should set you in the right direction when searching for renter’s insurance. We are all prone to making mistakes in a rush, so if nothing else – start searching early, make sure you correctly add up the value of ALL your stuff, and decide on what you need before moving into the new place. Happy searching!

Bob Buckley

Bob Buckley writes about food and business.