Some landlords may require you to purchase renters insurance. But even if you’re not required to purchase a renters insurance policy, doing so may be a good idea since it provides financial protection if your personal belongings are damaged or destroyed after a covered loss, financial liability if someone is hurt in your home and help with temporary living expenses if a disaster makes your home uninhabitable. Several factors affect how much renters insurance you need, including the replacement cost of your personal belongings and how much coverage you want to buy. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team explains the ins and outs of renters insurance to help you decide how much is right for you.

How much renters insurance do I need?

Experts recommend purchasing enough renters insurance to help you replace all of your personal possessions if they are stolen, lost or damaged.

A good way to figure out the value of everything you have is to create a list, or inventory, of all of your possessions and include dates of purchase, serial numbers, appraisal documents and any receipts. Use your cell phone or an app to take photos and save your inventory so that you can add to it if you make any new purchases. Include all expensive items and electronics, including computers, devices, home security systems, jewelry, instruments and any appliances you’ve purchased. Use the internet to identify what it would cost to replace those items, and then use that result to decide the minimum amount of renters insurance coverage you need.

Even after following the general guidelines above, you may still need help figuring out how much renters insurance you need. If that’s the case, consider contacting your insurance agent.

Bankrate’s insight
For renters who own large dogs, which is usually a breed of dog weighing in over 55 lbs, or have a dog from a breed usually included on an aggressive or banned dog list, you may want to consider increasing your renters liability insurance due to the added risk. Finding renters insurance when owning certain dog breeds can be challenging, but some insurance companies are more dog-friendly than others, such as State Farm and USAA — they underwrite the dog’s behavior and history instead of breed.

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How much does renters insurance cost?

According to the latest data available from the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I) the average cost of renters insurance is $173 per year, or about $14 per month. Keep in mind that many insurance companies offer bundling discounts for renters who purchase their car insurance with the same company. When combined, the reduction in auto insurance premiums usually makes renters insurance even more affordable.

What affects the cost of renters insurance

While the annual cost of renters insurance may be relatively low, several factors will ultimately determine how much your renters insurance policy costs. These include considerations for:

There may also be other factors that influence your rate, such as the insurer you choose and amount of liability you opt for. By considering factors such as these, you could begin receiving quotes based on your personal selections for a personalized rate.

Is renters insurance worth it?

Renters insurance covers many circumstances that make it worth consideration. While some people may assume that their personal belongings are not worth an additional monthly cost, the cost to replace everything you own due to a loss can add up fast.

Fire damage, water damage and theft are the most common claims from renters. In the event of a fire, your landlord would likely have a policy to cover their building and lost rental income, but you would be responsible for replacing any of your damaged or destroyed personal property. It may also reimburse you for items that are lost and stolen from your car or when you are away from home. Renters insurance also includes loss of use coverage, which can pay for additional hotel and living expenses if your residence is no longer inhabitable.

Renters insurance can also help protect your financial future from a liability loss. Most policies include personal liability coverage and medical expense coverage, usually in vastly different amounts. Liability coverage pays for attorney fees and damages or medical treatment for someone who gets hurt in your rented home where you are found liable. The standard liability limit is $100,000 but can be higher or lower depending on the carrier and the policyholder’s selection.

Medical payments coverage pays for medical-related expenses to someone who is injured in your home, but the fault isn’t necessarily yours. This coverage is typically listed at a lower amount, between $5,000 and $10,000, and is used as a way to pay for medical treatment quickly and hopefully avoid the more expensive and lengthy process of a lawsuit. Here is an example of how these types of claims differ:

  • Personal liability claim: Your dog bites your house guest, who then has extensive medical bills
  • Medical payment claim: Your house guest trips on your shoes that were left in the middle of the room and has a sprained ankle

How do I calculate renters insurance coverage?

An insurance agent can help you figure out exactly how much renters insurance you need, but Bankrate’s insurance editorial team has some general guidelines you can follow to get started.

Determine your desired deductible

The deductible of your renters insurance policy is that amount that you would be responsible for paying before the insurance company covers the rest of the cost. For example, if you have a $500 deductible and you filed a claim for damage from a fire, you would pay $500 towards the repair and the insurance company would pay the remaining cost. The higher the deductible, the lower your insurance premium, but make sure that it’s an amount you’d be comfortable paying out-of-pocket at any time.

Decide if you intend to purchase additional coverage

You can check whether your financial and personal possessions are sufficiently covered if you are affected by a disaster or involved in a lawsuit. If you do not think you have enough coverage on your renters insurance policy, you can also purchase an umbrella policy. This is an additional liability insurance policy that covers you when you reach the limit on your renters or auto insurance policies, and it also covers you for libel and slander.

Off-premises coverage for travelers

If you travel, it might be worth checking that you have off-premises coverage to insure possessions (such as a laptop or cell phone) that you take with you when you travel with the same coverage that you would have if you were using them at home.

Consider adding a floater

If you have expensive items or one-of-a-kind, collectible items like sports memorabilia, original artwork, antiques, expensive jewelry or furs, consider adding a floater to your renters policy. The floater adds additional coverage for more expensive items if they’re lost, damaged or stolen.

Double check your policy for additional living expense coverage

If you live in an area where there are natural disasters like fires or severe thunderstorms, it could be important that your policy includes enough insurance for Additional Living Expenses (ALE). Additional living expenses include paying for a hotel, eating at restaurants and other expenses from having to live away from your rental home while it is being repaired.

Insurers will pay the difference between your regular living expenses and your added living expenses from being displaced after a covered event, but they may only do so for a limited time. Read the fine print to make sure you have enough coverage for any anticipated future disaster. Also, consider checking that your insurance covers things like floods because not all policies cover every type of natural disaster. Flood damage is usually excluded from standard renters insurance policies, but may be purchased either through your provider or directly from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).