Welcome (back) to college! Between picking your classes, planning your new schedule, and finding some time to socialize, your plate is probably already full. And insurance of any type is probably the last thing that you want to think about. However, no matter the card you’ve been dealt, unfortunate circumstances can happen to anyone and their belongings at any time.
But let’s say you just dropped top-dollar on biology textbooks, only for them to be burned when the shoddy wiring in your rental unit caused a short-circuit. Or maybe you forget to check the weather forecast and ruin your laptop in a freak downpour on your front porch. Or perhaps your brand-new speakers are stolen by some uninvited guests during your house party.
That’s where renters insurance steps in. One of the most common mistakes that college students make is assuming their landlord’s insurance policy covers them. While landlord’s policies generally cover their buildings, the tenants are generally on the hook for any personal property within them. To avoid any unplanned situations that may cause you to shell out unnecessary cash, you should consider renters insurance during your time away at college.
Let’s answer some common questions about renters insurance for college students.
Who needs renters insurance?
We hate to sound like your parents, but if you’re a student attending college — and not living with your folks — it’s wise to at least consider renters insurance. To really dig deeper into this question, though, it’s best to consider exactly where you’ll be calling home this upcoming school year.
If you’re calling the dorms home, it’s important to first assess if your parents’ renters or homeowner’s insurance suffices. It’s important to note that although their coverage may include some of your personal property within on-campus housing — albeit a limited amount — it generally will not cover liability or loss-of-use (more on these below).
However, if you’re holing up in off-campus housing — whether it’s an apartment, house, or condo — your parent’s coverage may be moot. In this situation, it’s almost always recommended to purchase your own policy, as it’s highly unlikely that your parents’ policies will protect your belongings.
What is renters insurance?
Renters insurance covers your belongings when they’re out in the world, be that at your friend’s place, the gym, or that one lecture hall everyone falls asleep in. But it also covers any situations in which guests may experience harm on your property. Basically, renters insurance has your back in many situations, including accidents, disasters, or scenarios involving theft.
The three areas of protection are:
- Personal property: Protects your belongings, including desks, bed frames, TVs, video game consoles, laptops, bicycles, jewelry, and smartphones. If you own it, it’s probably covered (though it’s wise to check with your insurance provider!).
- Personal liability coverage: Protects situations (including medical costs) in which you’re liable for harm experienced by other people, including guests and those in and around your dwelling.
- Loss-of-use coverage: Provides financial coverage of living expenses in the event that your house is considered uninhabitable as a result of peril (including lightening, theft, and fire).
What does it cover? And how much do you need?
Simply put, renters insurance covers your personal possessions. To gauge how much coverage you need, we suggest you grab a pen and paper and start an inventory of your personal belongings. Start tallying up the estimated cost of your computer, sporting equipment, TV, jewelry, furniture, and electronics. And don’t forget the small things like clothing and kitchen equipment. Next, take a few photos to document the current condition of your apartment.
Once you have a ballpark number, consider the replacement cost you’d need to replace your property tomorrow. Because items depreciate in value over time due to age and condition, it’s important to consider the initial amount paid vs. the going rate for a replacement. Consider that phone you paid $500 for a few years ago. With smartphones now surpassing the $1,000 mark, it’s important to account for the actual cash value of your property.
It’s also important to consider your deductible — or, the amount you pay of pocket in the event of a loss. Think of your deductible as the amount of money that’s deducted from any payout. Let’s say that you encounter $1,000 in damage to your laptop, and your deductible is $500. In this situation, your insurance will pay you the $500 balance.
Lucky for you, renters insurance tends to be inexpensive — even for those on a college budget. Don’t fret if your initial replacement estimates are high. The average insurance policy costs just $12 per month for up to $30,000 in personal property coverage, according to the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America.
How do you get the best deal for college students?
Of course, where you call home will impact your policy. If you’re renting an apartment in a neighborhood with a higher crime rate, you can expect to pay a bit more out of pocket. Similarly, older buildings may impact your rates, as they are more likely to have safety issues. Luckily, installing preventive devices like smoke alarms and fire extinguishers can help you save a buck or three.
Many insurance companies also offer discounts if you purchase more than one policy with them. For example, Elephant Insurance offers significant discounts when college students bundle auto insurance with a renters policy. And much like shopping around for auto insurance, it’s important to know your options as a renter.
The Elephant Coverage Wizard is a helpful tool for college students who have (or haven’t!) started comparing insurance providers. By answering a quick series of questions, you can learn which coverages would most likely be best for you—all before you get a quote. What this means is you can get personalized information with zero commitment. Try it out. We think it’ll help!