Finding cheap home insurance should be easy. Just call up some insurance providers, compare prices and choose the lowest one. However, with the importance of proper homeowners insurance price isn’t always the best comparison point. After all, home insurance doesn’t just protect the structure of your house. It also protects your belongings and covers you in case you’re liable for someone else’s injuries or property damage while they’re at your home.
Though a number of factors that determine your home insurance rates are beyond your control, in this article I’ll outline several strategies that will help you find cheap home insurance. You can start using one crucial strategy — shop around — with the online quote tool below. All you have to do is enter your zip code and you will be presented with a number of options from top home insurance companies in your area.
What Home Insurance Covers
There are several types of homeowners insurance, but they all protect your home from “perils,” which is just a fancy way of referring to something bad that damages your property. Homeowners insurance policies are denoted by numbers: HO-1, HO-2, HO-3, and so on. HO-1 policies are so basic that most insurance companies have stopped selling them, so I won’t cover that type in depth.
Both HO-2 and HO-3 policies protect your house and its contents in the event of these 16 perils, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III):
- Fire or lightning
- Windstorm or hail
- Riot or civil commotion
- Damage caused by aircraft
- Damage caused by vehicles
- Vandalism or malicious mischief
- Volcanic eruption
- Falling objects
Weight of ice, snow, or sleet which causes damage to a building
Accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam from within a plumbing, heating, air conditioning or automatic fire-protective sprinkler system or from a household appliance
Sudden and accidental tearing apart, cracking, burning, or bulging of a steam or hot water heating system or an air conditioning or automatic fire-protective system
Freezing of a plumbing, heating, air conditioning or automatic fire-protective system or of a household appliance
Sudden and accidental damage from an artificially generated electric current
The difference between HO-2, also called “broad form” policies, and HO-3, called “special form,” is that HO-2 policies specify everything they cover, and HO-3 policies don’t. In other words, if you have an HO-2 policy and something happens to your home that isn’t on the list above, you’re out of luck. HO-3 policies, on the other hand, cover everything that could possibly happen to your home except for what they specifically exclude. Standard exclusions include earthquakes, floods, war, nuclear disasters, neglect, and pests. HO-3 policies are the most popular, according to the III.
HO-5 policies are just like HO-3 policies, but protect your personal belongings, too. There are other types of homeowners insurance for special circumstances: HO-4 policies protect renters, and HO-6 policies protect condo owners. HO-7 policies are for mobile or manufactured homes, and HO-8 policies are specifically for older homes.
What Home Insurance Doesn’t Cover
No matter what kind of homeowners insurance policy you buy, there are some important things that won’t be covered. Floods aren’t covered — you’ll need a separate policy for that (and it’s federally required if you’re in a high-risk area). Earthquakes or other “earth movements” such as landslides or sinkholes also require separate coverage. Sewer backups, mold damage, and problems resulting from neglect are also excluded from standard policies. Make sure you ask your insurer for a full list of exclusions — some may surprise you.
How Much Home Insurance Do I Need?
First, you’ll need to calculate the full cost of replacing your home in the event of a total loss. This is the amount it would cost to rebuild your home in the same location using similar materials to what you currently have at prevailing labor costs. This number could be vastly different than your home’s market value, experts warn. A professional estimate can help if you’re unsure.
Second, you need enough to cover your possessions. A rule of thumb is a dollar amount equal to 50-75% of what it would cost to replace the structure of your home, discussed above. So, if you figure on a rebuilding cost of $250,000, you’ll want at least $125,000 to cover your belongings. Conducting a home inventory by listing important items and their values can help you arrive at a more exact number. Expensive possessions such as jewelry and fine art may require add-on coverage.
Third, you’ll need to think about liability — that is, what you’ll be responsible for if someone is hurt on your property. The minimum typically included in a standard policy is $100,000, but experts often recommend $300,000 to $500,000, according to the III.
Finally, think about special situations, like where you would live if a disaster destroys your home. A standard policy may provide 20% of the cost to rebuild for you to use in this situation, but you may have an option to add coverage. Also consider whether your home is at risk for disasters not covered by standard home insurance, such as floods or earthquakes. In these cases, you’ll need separate policies to protect your home.
Picking a coverage level
Even after you’ve determined a dollar amount for coverage, you’ll need to choose between three standard coverage levels for your home insurance policy:
Actual cash value: This is the least expensive level of home insurance because it factors in the depreciation of your home and belongings, paying for only what these things would be worth today.
Replacement cost: This type of home insurance doesn’t factor in depreciation, but payouts are subject to policy limits.
Guaranteed replacement cost: Like replacement-cost insurance, guaranteed replacement doesn’t factor in depreciation. However, it also allows you to exceed your policy limits, paying whatever it takes to replace your home and belongings. These policies are the most expensive and might be hard to find. Some insurers offer extended replacement cost policies instead. These typically pay up to 120% or 125% of your coverage amount.
9 Tips to Find Cheap Home Insurance
Several factors influence your home insurance rates. The most obvious include your home’s location, age, and construction type. Newer homes in areas with low risk of natural disasters or crime are the cheapest to insure. Unfortunately, these things are often beyond your control (unless you want to move, of course). But there are still several strategies you can use to reduce your home insurance bill. Use the following nine tips to nab cheap homeowners insurance.
#1: Shop around
Like anything else, you’ll need to shop around to find the cheapest home insurance. Online quote tools can help you save a lot of time over calling individual insurers, and some even allow you to compare quotes from several companies at once. Remember, don’t assume a certain provider will be the cheapest home insurance company just because it was for your family or friends. Your home and circumstances are different and your bill will be different, too.
#2: Don’t over-insure
Remember to insure for what it would cost to rebuild your home, not to rebuy it. This is an important distinction because market value takes into account the location of your home and value of your land. Your homeowners’ policy doesn’t pay for any damage to your land.
When it comes to personal property, experts emphasize the importance of taking a home inventory to determine the value of your belongings. (You can do this online with the III’s free Know Your Stuff inventory tool.) You may want to think twice before opting for actual cash value over replacement cost policies. While going with actual cost value will save you money on your premium, it could cost you a lot more in the event of a claim. For example, think about how quickly your new TV depreciates. If you cover it for actual cash value, you may only get a few hundred dollars, if that, to replace it when comparable models are well over $1,000 in stores.
#3: Bundle your policies
Your insurer would love to have all of your business. It’s worth checking to see whether you’ll get a discount for having multiple policies — for instance, home, auto, and life — with the same company. Be sure to compare whether you’ll actually be paying less overall with the same company than you would with policies elsewhere.
#4: Consider a higher deductible
As with most types of insurance, the higher your deductible, the lower your monthly bill. When you make a claim, your deductible is the amount you agree to pay your insurance company before your coverage kicks in. Going as high as you can comfortably afford in the event of a claim can mean major savings. Raising your deductible from $250 to $1,000 can save you as much as 24%, according to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. A $5,000 deductible can save you as much as 37%. Just remember that raising your deductible only makes sense if you have savings to pay the higher amount in the event of a claim.
#5: Rethink certain risky choices
You can’t move your home out of tornado alley or a crime-ridden city, but you can rethink certain things insurance companies frown upon:
Swimming pools: If you’re dreaming about adding a swimming pool, think again. It will almost certainly boost your bill because of injury and drowning risks.
Certain types of dogs: The same might go for that dog you want to adopt. Insurers charge more if you own certain breeds they perceive as a potential risk to others, including pit bulls and rottweilers.
Trampolines: Your kids may adore their trampoline, but your insurance company does not — they will raise your rate to guard against your liability if a neighbor’s child falls off and breaks his neck.
#6: Add safety features
Standard safety features such as deadbolts, smoke detectors, carbon-monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers may earn you a small discount. A security system can let you save even more, depending on your insurer.
If your home is in a disaster-prone area, check on special modifications you can make to further reduce your premiums. Adding features such as storm shutters, storm-resistant garage doors, stronger roofs, and shatter-proof windows can help you save, too.
#7: Maintain good credit
Unless you live in the few states that prohibit it (California, Maryland, and Massachusetts), most insurers consider your credit score when calculating your premium. According to the Federal Trade Commission, your credit score can affect your home insurance rates, sometimes dramatically. It’s a controversial practice, but the logic is this: If you have excellent credit, you’re less likely to file a claim and are rewarded with lower premiums. If you have bad credit, you’re seen as a greater risk, and that can send your bills through the roof.
Unfortunately, building good credit can be a time-consuming process, and it won’t be something you can do at the last minute before you buy insurance. However, given the range of financial dealings your credit can impact, it’s worth it for the long haul.
#8: Review your coverage every year
Don’t buy a home insurance policy only to forget about it. Just as you’ll need to make changes if you make any major purchases or additions that need protection, you’ll want to streamline your coverage if your home or possessions lose value or check for applicable discounts if you make certain improvements. This will also let you keep tabs on how much your insurance company raises your limits each year because of inflation.
#9: Exploit other discounts
It’s common for home insurance companies to offer a range of discounts. You may not qualify for all of them, but it never hurts to ask. Seniors, nonsmokers, longtime customers, and members of certain alumni or professional associations may qualify for lower premiums.
Starting Your Search
Now that you know what kinds of home insurance are out there, how much you need, and how to save, it’s time to find a cheap home insurance company. Save time by starting your search online. Our streamlined quote tool can help you get multiple cheap home insurance quotes quickly and painlessly.