While I was making dinner one night last week, I noticed that my groceries weren’t as cold as they should be, but I didn’t think too much of it, probably because I’m always in a hurry. Later that night, around 12:20 a.m. I remembered that I should check on the freezer. As I slowly walked down the stairs, I mumbled sleep-deprived prayers in hopes that my bomb pops were still intact. I reluctantly opened my freezer only to find that my ice cream was more of a drink than a treat, my frozen pizza was floppy and limp and all my premade ice was now a puddle of water. At after midnight, what was I supposed to do? That is when the renter insurance comes into play.
When renting a place, the landlord is responsible for fixing big things when they break, but what if your belongings get damaged in the process? Is my landlord responsible for replacing my ice cream, pizza and the week’s worth of groceries that had to be thrown out because their refrigerator broke?
No, my landlord is only responsible for fixing the appliance.
I decided to call the emergency maintenance line for my property manager and I left a message. While I wasn’t expecting an immediate call back, I was surprised that it took till nearly noon the next day for my landlady to return my call. By that time, all the food in my freezer was ruined and the refrigerator was beginning to warm.
Like other college students, I don’t have much extra money so I couldn’t really afford to replace all my groceries; unlike most students, however, I had heeded the advice of my parents and purchased renters insurance. While writing the insurance check is one of those things that I never really want to do each month, I still always break down and pay it because I might need it one day. Thankfully I do, because a week ago that day I never thought would come, did.
Mike Jelinek, a former financial trader and author for The Simple Dollar, a personal finance site, writes, “If you rent a house or apartment off campus, get your own policy,” in his article The Best Renters Insurance for 2017. Many students are covered by their parents’ policy if they are living on campus and it’s possible to add yourself to their policy even if you are living off campus, but, either way, it’s still best to get your own. Jelinek advises that the best place to start is with a free quote because it’s simple and informative.
Many students, myself included, hesitate to pull the trigger on renters insurance because they feel that their meager belongings are hardly valuable enough to warrant a policy, especially considering its attendant cost. However, the cost of a laptop, clothes, textbooks and cellphone alone can add up quickly, and those are just the basics.
The beauty of renters insurance is that it’s inexpensive. Across the United States, the average premium for a year was $190, according to the Insurance Information Institute, which breaks down to about $16 a month—or roughly the cost of one delivery from Dominos—and gets you nearly $30,000 in coverage. So, in terms of numbers, it’s a no brainer to purchase a renters insurance policy or add yourself to your mom and dad’s policy.
So where to begin? Determining how much coverage you need is the first step in handling your policy. “You don’t want to overestimate your coverage level and pay for insurance you don’t need. But you also don’t want to underestimate and end up in a bad place if you have a major loss,” writes Jelinek. After some digging, the author finds that Allstate comes out on top when it comes to the best policy.
Allstate makes it easy for students to know what kind of coverage they need. It provides users with an incredibly easy-to-use tool called “What’s Your Stuff Worth?” to interactively catalog your items and keep a running total of what everything is worth. At the end, the tool gives you the option to see how long it would take you to replace all your belongings in case something unfortunate happens. So if you have $1,000 disposable income (but what student does?), it would take you roughly two years to buy $23,820 worth of stuff back.
In addition, Allstate has an app, Digital Locker, that allows you to snap photos of your possessions so they are all at your fingertips if and when you need them. The app also keeps a value of all the things inside your “locker” as you continue to add things. Allstate truly makes managing renters insurance easy and straightforward, is a great place to start for students and my favorite as well.
Before you commit to a policy, however, make sure you know the exact coverage. My policy, under the personal property coverage area, covered the loss of my food because my landlord’s appliance failed. But that might not be the case with the coverage you choose, so be aware of what your policy does or does not cover. If you live in an area that is prone to fires, make sure fire damage is on your policy. Or if you live in an area with frequent flood, water damage should have your attention.
Moving into your first apartment can be overwhelming and picking out a suitable insurance policy is a stressful obligation that comes with it. However, ensuring your possessions are safe in any circumstance is important and will save you loads of worry and the financial burden in case something happens. If you can cover $30,000 worth of stuff for approximately the cost of your takeout, why wouldn’t you?
I was able to restock my refrigerator and freezer without having to pay extra simply because I made the responsible decision to get a renters insurance policy. If I hadn’t, I’d be calling my parents for help and I hate doing that. I didn’t foresee the appliances breaking because things happen and misfortune can happen to you too. Jelinek notes that numbers add up quick and having a policy is imperative. “Choosing to live without a policy may end up being a big financial mistake.”