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Compare portable contents insurance policies

Portable contents insurance can cover the valuables you take with you when you leave your home. Learn more about how portable contents insurance works and what to look for in a policy.

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Contents insurance can help to protect the possessions in your home from loss or damage due to fire, theft, or other events. But what happens if something happens to your possessions when you remove them from your home? Will your portable goods still be covered by your current contents insurance policy, or will you need to pay extra to give your portable valuables separate cover?

How does contents insurance work?

While home insurance covers your home or investment property if it is damaged or destroyed, it only covers the cost of repairing or replacing the building’s physical structure e.g. the bricks and mortar. Anything you keep in your property – your furniture, your clothes, your electronics, your collection of travel souvenirs and so in – won’t be covered by a standard home insurance policy.

Enter, contents insurance. This may be bundled with your home insurance as home and contents insurance, or it may be a separate contents-only insurance policy, such as if you’re a renter, or the owner-occupier of a strata unit. If the possessions in your home are lost or damaged in an insured event, you can make a claim for your insurer to repair or replace them, possibly with new for old goods.

What is portable contents insurance?

Not all of your insured contents remain in your home at all times. You may choose to take certain possessions with you when you leave the house for work or play. For example, you may take your personal laptop or tablet to work with you each day, or you may wear a valuable engagement ring or other jewellery when you go out on the town.

Under a typical contents insurance policy, if something were to happen to your portable contents while they’re not in your house, you won’t be able to make a claim on your home insurance. However, a portable contents insurance policy could allow you to receive compensation if your items are lost, stolen or damaged while you’re in the great outdoors.

If you regularly take important items with you when you leave your home, whether for work, for leisure, or when you’re travelling, you may need portable contents insurance if you want peace of mind while you’re out and about. 

Depending on your insurer and your policy, portable contents insurance may cover your insured valuables while you’re out of home in Australia only, or you may be covered even when you travel overseas to nearby destinations like New Zealand, or further around the world in some cases. Time limits may apply for portable contents insurance while you’re on holiday.

Some items may not be insured if they are used for business, used for high-risk activities (e.g. bicycles used for mountain biking or stunt riding), or if you fail to properly care for or secure your property (e.g. if you leave valuables unattended in a public place or in an unlocked vehicle).

Additionally, insurers may put a maximum limit (e.g. $1,000) on how much they’ll cover for portable contents. Items valued at more than this limit may not be covered under the base policy, though you may be able to give specific items separate insurance coverage.

What's defined as portable contents?

Some of the items that could be covered by portable contents insurance include:

  • Laptops
  • Jewellery
  • Handbags
  • Sunglasses and spectacles
  • Smartphones, tablets and similar portable electronic devices
  • Bicycles
  • Surfboards and other sports equipment
  • Cameras and similar photographic equipment
  • Watches, smartwatches and fitness trackers
  • Musical instruments
  • Medical and health items

Does portable contents insurance cost extra?

Different insurers may handle portable contents insurance differently. For example, some insurers may not offer portable contents insurance at all, or may offer it as an optional extra for a contents insurance policy, which may involve paying an extra charge. Other insurers may offer portable contents insurance as a part of their contents insurance policies as standard.

Basic portable contents insurance cover may only offer a basic level of cover for items under a pre-set value limit such as $1,000. Paying extra for premium cover could expand the range of cover, such as covering more valuables, allowing you to make claims for loss or damage to your insured possessions while travelling overseas, or when engaging in higher-risk activities. Generally, the more coverage you choose, the higher the premiums may cost.

What contents need to be insured separately?

Some of your home’s high-value contents may not be covered by your portable contents insurance policy. These valuables may be worth more than the maximum limit on the policy, or may involve a different degree of risk to your home’s other contents.

These could include:

  • Jewellery
  • Cameras
  • Laptops
  • Mobile phones and tablets
  • Sporting equipment
  • GPS or navigational devices
  • Drones
  • Personal transportation vehicles and mobility aids (e.g. wheelchairs and scooters)

You will likely need to add individual high-value items to your contents insurance policy rather than having them automatically fall into your home’s standard contents coverage. The more valuables you choose to add to your policy, the more you may need to pay in premiums. 

How to compare portable contents insurance

To help you work out if portable contents insurance could be a good match for your needs, be sure to compare the quoted cost of premiums from a range of different insurers and compare this to the potential value you could enjoy. Consider adjusting the type and level of coverage to see how this could affect the premium’s cost. If you’re comfortable with the potential risk versus the reward, portable contents insurance could be a good option for you. 

Keep in mind that some policies and insurers may offer extra features and benefits that could increase the value of their offers in certain circumstances. For instance, you could get a discounted no-claim bonus, or you may be able to bundle your policy with other insurances or financial products at a combined discount.

This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Peter Terlato before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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