Renters insurance is pretty cheap. The average policy costs around $190 a year, or just under $16 a month, per 2014 data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, making it much cheaper than other insurance products, like car insurance or life insurance. The cost of renters insurance varies by state or zip code.
Beyond that, your premiums mostly depend on how much coverage you want, which depends on how much you own, but it's still a good idea to shop for the best deal. And it’s certainly convenient to do so online.
Figure out how much you own
Buying renters insurance starts with making an inventory of your stuff. You need to create a record of everything you own, preferably with photographs. This can be a heavy lift, but there are free home inventory apps and services that make cataloging your possessions easier.
Make special note of any difficult-to-replace or expensive items like art, collectibles or jewelry. You may want to have the special items you own appraised by a professional. Why note these items? Many policies only cover these pricey stuff — like jewelry or electronics — up to a certain dollar amount that may not match up to what they're actually worth. Because of this you may want to buy additional coverage.
For the rest of your stuff, go online and figure out how much it's worth. That will determine how much coverage you need.
Now that you know the cash value of your stuff plus the cost of any special items you can shop for quotes. You should ask insurers for the same deductible amount when reaching out to make comparison shopping easier.
If you do have special items, also ask insurers to provide a quote for a personal articles policy floater or endorsement. As we said before, many standard policies only cover these items up to a certain dollar amount or not at all.
You can buy an add-on to your policy, called a floater or endorsement, to make sure these items are covered.
Lower your renters insurance premium
There are a few things you can do to get lower premiums. One way is to buy renters insurance as part of a larger package, like with auto insurance. Some insurers offer cheaper rates for bundling different types of insurance like this. They may also give a discount if you agree to stay a customer for a certain number of years. Here are some more ways to lower your renters insurance premium.
Installing approved security devices, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors can lead to a discount.
You can take on more risk. If you agree to a higher deductible, which is the amount you'll pay before insurance kicks in, you'll pay a lower premium. Just make sure you have enough saved up to cover your deductible if there's an emergency.
Speaking of taking on more risk, you’ll pay a lower premium if you opt for actual cash value renters insurance in lieu of replacement cost renters insurance. That’s because an actual cash value renters policy pays out based on what damaged or destroyed items are worth at the time you file a claim, not what you originally paid for them. A replacement cost policy pays out what it would cost to replace an item today, no depreciation factored in.
Your credit may raise your premiums. A low credit score can lead insurers to charge higher rates, so pay off your debts — which should raise your score and possibly lower your premiums.
Certain dog breeds could lead to higher premiums and may lead insurers to refuse to sell you a policy outright. Insurers commonly reject pit bulls, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers and German shepherds. Let your insurer know about your dog when shopping to get an accurate quote. Some might be more flexible if you send your dog to obedience school.
FYI, you may be charged higher premiums as if you have a recent history of making a lot of renters insurance claims. Smoking will count against you too.
Get quotes online
Many insurance companies offer online quotes. (Policygenius helps people shop online for renters insurance, too, right here.)
You'll need to provide a bunch of information, including your name, date of birth and address. Insurers may use this information to pull your credit report, which is why it's important to make sure yours is free of errors.
You can use the inventory you created to determine how much personal property coverage you need. You'll also be asked to choose a deductible. Remember, in general, the higher your deductible, the lower your premium.
You can also choose how much personal liability coverage you want. This pays for legal fees in case someone sues you for injuries suffered in your apartment.
If this is something you expect to happen (because your friends are clumsy and shady), you may want to purchase coverage for medical payments to others as well. Once you provide all the required information, that should be enough to generate a quote.
When comparing quotes, remember the premium isn't everything. Check the fine print to see what each policy covers before making a decision. We break down what standard renters insurance covers and doesn’t cover here.