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What Kind of Insurance Coverage Do You Need When Moving?

The boxes are packed, the floors are swept and the keys to your new house are jingling in your pocket. Once the movers arrive, they’ll load all your worldly goods into their truck and you’ll be off on a new adventure. But what if there’s a traffic accident, your boxes get jostled around and your china collection shatters? Or your stereo system slips in the movers’ hands? Or the cloth backing on your heirloom oil painting gets ripped?

If you hired a professional moving company, they’ll likely offer basic insurance based on weight, from $0.60 to $2 per pound. That works well for smaller items but likely won’t replace a broken piano or antique dresser. The movers may offer to sell you additional coverage, but know that your insurance policy from the home you’re vacating includes your personal property while in transit. It is in effect for either 30 days or until the policy expires, whichever comes first.

But be careful—some insurers only offer the coverage if you use professional movers. A DIY job, while cheaper, can be a lot messier—and riskier.

Both the movers’ insurance and your home policy have exceptions. If items broke because you—and not the movers—didn’t pack them properly, you’ll be responsible for replacing them. Other common exceptions are furniture made of pressed wood or particleboard, open boxes and the wiring inside of electronics.

In terms of your home insurance policy, remember that coverage will be the same as if the items were still in your home. So if movers break your fancy flatscreen TV, a comprehensive policy would cover it while a named perils policy wouldn’t. Similarly, the amount your insurer gives you depends on whether your policy specifies replacement value (the amount needed to buy a brand new item) or actual cash value (the amount you could get by selling the item in its current condition).

Before you move, it’s a good idea to make a careful inventory of your belongings and the condition they’re in. That way, if you run into any problems during or after the move, you’ll have a better idea of what went wrong. Also consider calling your insurance provider to learn how their claims process works and to double check your deductible and any exclusions. If you need to file a claim, it’s helpful to have already done the legwork.

When packing, mark the boxes and bins containing fragile items, and indicate where each box should go in the new house. Don’t forget to create a master list of which items are in each bin so you will know if anything is missing. If you are moving small but valuable items, consider skipping the boxes and stashing them in a purse or suitcase so you have total control.

Finally, don’t forget to let your insurance provider know that you have moved. They’ll need to ask some questions about your new home—location, age, what sort of condition it’s in—to ensure it’s properly insured.

To estimate your insurance costs, get a home insurance quote.

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