Follow this simple guide and you may be surprised how easily you can find the best deal, too.
Home insurance is the cover you need to protect your home. Should something unforeseen happen to your property, such as being damaged by falling trees, subsidence, flooding or subjected to a burglary, your home insurance policy will cover the cost of repairing any damage and replacing wrecked or stolen items.
Once we have a home insurance policy in place, it is very easy to sit back and forget about it. What’s more, many insurance companies store our credit card or bank account details and simply auto renew our cover each year, debiting our accounts for the subsequent year’s premiums without us having to do a thing.
But this convenience comes at a price. Most insurers increase their insurance premiums by a substantial margin each year, meaning their existing customers can pay significantly more than new customers for the same level of cover.
This is one area where loyalty definitely doesn’t pay.
Fortunately, switching home insurance provider is easy to do and can bring a number of benefits. Not only can you save money by switching provider, you can also update the details of your property and include any extensions or other improvements, to ensure you have the correct level of cover.
You may even find you are under insured in some areas and over insured in others, which could put you in a tricky position should you ever need to claim.
It is therefore essential to make sure you understand the cover you actually need before applying for quotes.
There are two main types of home insurance:
Buildings insurance covers the structure of your property.
As well as the building itself, it includes all of the fixtures and fittings, as well as your garage, garden shed and any outbuildings you might have. So, if a storm damages your roof or walls, or vandals destroy your garden fence you could claim on your buildings insurance.
Contents insurance, as you can probably guess, covers everything inside your home.
Generally speaking, if you could pick up your property and tip it upside down, everything that falls out would be covered by contents insurance. And while tiled or wooden flooring is included under buildings cover, contents insurance covers fitted carpets and curtains.
So, if your carpet was damaged by flooding, your furniture destroyed by a fire, or your laptop was stolen by burglars, you could claim on your home contents insurance.
Taking out a combined buildings and contents policy means both your building and what’s inside it are covered.
Depending on your situation and the type of property you own, combined insurance can work out to be cheaper than two separate policies, as well as being simpler for administration.
Now you know what the options are, it is time to assess what you actually need.
For most of us, contents insurance is a must. After all, could you afford to replace all of your furniture and belongings, should they be damaged or destroyed?
With buildings insurance it is a different matter. All homeowners should certainly have buildings cover and if you have purchased your home with a mortgage, your provider is likely to have already insisted that you take it out.
However, if you are a tenant, meaning that you rent your property from a landlord or local authority, you do not need buildings cover. You don’t own the building, so there is no need to insure it as this is your landlord’s responsibility. You should therefore limit your searches to home contents insurance only.
You will now need to find some details from your current insurance policy to aid you in your search:
Check your home insurance documents or renewal paperwork to find out when your cover runs out and the price your current insurer is charging for renewal of cover
Look at the sums you are insured for and decide if this is enough (or too much). You can work out exactly how much buildings and contents cover you need in our guide
Check the date that your insurance expires; this is when your new policy will need to begin
Take note of any no claims discount you have built up as this can significantly reduce your premium costs
Be warned: Insurers usually charge a cancellation fee for cancelling a policy mid term. For this reason, it is often more cost-effective to only start searching for alternative cover around 3 weeks before your current insurance policy expires.
If you have buildings insurance, make sure you are covered for the ‘rebuild value’ of your property, which is how much it would cost to rebuild the property (including materials, labour and architect fees) should it be destroyed and need to be rebuilt. Don’t confuse this with the much higher ‘market value’ of your home, which is how much an estate agent would value it at.
If you’re not sure what the rebuild cost would be, you can work it out with the Association of Buildings Insurers’ (ABI) calculator.
If you’ve recently extended your property, improved security by replacing doors or locks or fitting an alarm, remember to include this on your buildings cover searches as this will affect your premiums.
Other information that should be mentioned include any changes in the number of people living in the property, any home businesses and if anyone has had a criminal conviction.
Now that you are prepared it is time to search for insurance quote, which typically means plugging your information into numerous provider’s websites.
But there is an easier way.
By using an insurance comparison website, you only have to input your details once.
The site will then use your information to apply for quotes from a large number of insurers all at once. The site will then list all of the insurance policies in order of price, allow you to compare providers and find the best cover for you.
Once you’ve chosen a policy, you will click through to the insurers website, where you will find your details have been pre entered and you can complete the application.
Bear in mind, there are a number of comparison sites such as Bankrate available and each one tends to allow you to apply for quotes from different insurers. For this reason, it is worth using a few comparison sites to make sure you have searched as many as possible.
There are also some insurance companies that do not appear on comparison sites that are worth checking, such as Direct Line and Aviva.
But what if your home is a listed building, has a thatched roof or boasts special architectural properties? Alternatively, what if your contents insurance needs to cover your rare assortment of European teaspoons or valuable collection of electric guitars?
For anyone not living in a standard, brick constructed home requiring standard levels of cover, it is worth contacting an insurance broker.
As experts in their field a broker will know which insurers specialise in the type of cover you require and should be able to find you the most appropriate insurance for the best price. And while you may have to pay for this advice, using a broker may save you far more money (and time) than they cost.
When searching for insurance quotes, it is worth remembering that there are a number of additional types of cover that can be added to home insurance policies including:
Accidental damage – while your insurance will cover some accidental damage (such as a broken window) this add on protects against damage or loss caused by accidents or unintentional mistakes (such as dropping a tin of paint on a carpet)
Legal cover – this covers you for £50,00 to £100,000, which can be used to cover legal advice or action should you be involved in a dispute regarding your property, employment or subjected to a tax investigation.
Cover away from home – this covers any listed items when you are away from home, or even abroad
Home emergency cover – this provides cover should you suffer a plumbing, roofing or electrical emergency
While some of these extras may be of great value and well worth including, it is important to decide if they are useful to you and worth paying extra for. If you already have home emergency cover elsewhere, for example, there is little point covering yourself again.
Additionally, decide whether insuring certain items on your home insurance is the best way to do it. If you have a number of expensive bikes, for example, you may find it cheaper to take out a specialist bicycle insurance policy, rather than pay to list each bike individually on your home insurance.
Many insurers will allow parents to use their home contents policies to cover any children at university, offering between £5,000 and £10,000 of cover to protect against loss or damage to contents that are kept in student accommodation.
So, if you have a child who has recently started at university, you could search for home contents insurance policies from providers that will cover them, too (any laptops and mobile phones would need to be listed under ‘cover away from home’).
Once you have decided on a suitable insurance policy, make sure you understand and are comfortable with the details. Are the compulsory and voluntary excesses acceptable? Are there any limits or exclusions to be aware of?
If the policy is from a company you’ve never heard of, or perhaps a retailer that you didn’t realise sold insurance, take a look at its website and you should be able to see which insurance company underwrites the policy. You can also check the insurer is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Search for the insurer on sites such as Trustpilot and you will be able to see any reviews submitted by previous customers. It may not be worth saving a few pounds by taking the cheapest policy if it is underwritten by an insurer with a worrying reputation for customer service.
Finally, examine the payment options. While the annual payment might seem large, try multiplying the monthly charge by 12 months and you might notice a hefty wad of interest has been added. If you can pay upfront and avoid the interest charges, do so.
Switching home insurance provider every year may take a little time and trouble, but it can save you a lot of money, and will ensure your cover is up to date and suitable for your needs.