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Starting university? Here’s how to find the best insurance policy for students

September 22, 2011 1 comment

This is a feature I did for Thisismoney.co.uk, the personal finance website and supplement to the Mail on Sunday. It is, of course, with their kind permission that I reprint it here.

Advice for students on getting the best home insurance policy

Peace of mind: Make sure your insurance covers your possessions such as phones and iPods when you are out and about on campus

The common dorm room has changed since the days when a student would turn up with a few LPs and books, a record player and a government grant.

More and more students have laptops or desktops, smart phones and cameras in order to keep up with the demands of their education.

Criminals know there’s money to be made from this equipment.

Liam Burns, NUS President, comments that because ‘the nature of higher education means students need regular access to expensive equipment such as laptops and cameras’ they advise all students to take ‘precautions against theft and damage’ to gain ‘piece of mind’ and ensure they are not left out of pocket.

This may be why student insurance deals are popping up all over the web. So how do you decide which one to choose?

For those who choose to buy insurance, there are two options to consider: whether to extend your existing contents insurance or to buy a stand-alone policy.

 Using your existing contents insurance

Some home insurance brokers will offer student cover within their comprehensive or platinum packages, so it is worth talking to your or your parents’ provider first as you may already be covered.

If this is not the case, then there is the possibility of covering your possessions as an add-on to an existing policy.

Phil Paterson-Fox, head of home insurance at price comparison website Gocompare.com, says ‘it is well worth checking the cover available as it can mean you avoid doubling-up on cover.’   

However, he adds that ‘it is important that you check the policy terms and the exclusions.’ Some insurers have been known to only cover one student as part of their premium or comprehensive policies, so if you have siblings heading off to university make sure to find out exactly how far your cover stretches.

In 2009 Direct Line published information for students wanting to cover their kit. Parents who already have insurance with them could insure any number of children going off to university to the tune of £5,000 with the same full-cover protection offered to their own home.

Getting a tailor-made policy

The other option is to go through an independent student provider, to get a tailor-made policy. There are now loads of websites that offer specialist student insurance:  Cover4Students.com, Saxon and Endsleigh to name the big three.

These all have options to build your own policy, starting from £18 with Endsleigh, through to over £30 with Saxon, underwritten by Aviva, for their Student Shield policy cover.

Endsleigh is recommended by the National Union of Students (NUS) on their website.

All policies cover accidental loss or damage to your property while in your accommodation. But be careful to read the small print because the cheapest deals tend to leave out the very items you most want to cover, like laptops and cameras.

Different add-ons can be purchased to extend the cover to your person during term time, and while travelling to and from university at the start of term.

Know the terms and conditions

One of the main problems with both of these options is that the small print and exclusions may render your policy invalid if you don’t follow them carefully.

For example, if you leave your door unlocked or a window open, the policy that you so carefully crafted could be nul-and-void.

Phil from Gocompare.com advises ‘having a good look at your existing home cover and comparing it with policies specifically designed for students.’ 

He admits that there is ‘good value cover available’ but it always comes with restrictions and exclusions, so be careful.

Although student policies are advertised as uniquely catering to those at university, they may not be the best solution.

Martin Lewis, of Moneysavingexpert.com, warns students not to get bogged down by the ‘student specialists’. He advises parents and students to not ‘think only companies that advertise to student provide for students.

‘There are certainly peculiarities to being a student, but it’s a home insurance policy. The fact that you’re a student is mostly irrelevant.’

He adds, ‘Don’t narrow yourself to the student specialists unless you need to because of peculiarities of circumstance. Make sure your policy is right, and it covers you.’

Gocompare.com has published a list of tips for getting the best policy for you or your child’s time at university.

Student Home Insurance Dos and Don’ts

  • Never assume that you are automatically covered by your family home insurance policy, which may have restrictions outside the room or property. Make sure you check these details in the terms and conditions because it you could unwittingly invalidate your policy.
  • Always make sure your insurance covers what you actually own: the cheapest policies might not cover bikes, musical instruments or personal damages, and especially expensive items will need to be listed separately to make sure they are fully covered.
  • Watch your excess fees. While cover4students.com has an excess of £10 for their basic cover, Saxon charges a £55 excess for its Student Shield protection. Make sure you will be able to afford the excesses and that you know you are comfortable with them.
  • Always make sure you know exactly when your policy is valid to and from. Some insurers like Endsleigh will only provide stand-alone insurance during term-time, so make sure that if you are staying over the holidays that your cover is staying with you.
  • Don’t forget that although your insurer can replace your laptop and iPod, they cannot replace any of the data and files stored on it. It is always worth backing-up your files and important details in case the worst should happen.
  • Shop around, and never go for the cheapest option without making sure it covers everything you need it to cover. There’s no point having insurance cover up to £10,000 if it doesn’t cover your laptop, and the rest of your possessions are only worth £100!
  • The best method of protecting your property is to make sure you never leave any of your valuables visible in your room or vehicle, keep the door locked where possible, and use a property registrar like Immobilise.com to keep a register of all your items, so if they are stolen or lost, you can forward the exact details to your broker and the police.

Original source: Thisismoney.co.uk

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/mortgageshome/article-2038483/Starting-university-Heres-best-insurance-policy-students.html#ixzz1YgrlHlcw