Renters insurance for college students

If you live in dorms, your options for renters insurance are limited. You’ll most likely be covered under your parents’ policy unless you live off campus.

Zack Sigel

Zack Sigel

Published August 31, 2018

If you rent your home, renters insurance protects you from the loss or damage of your personal property, liability when someone gets hurt at your home, or when you’re put out of your home by an accident or weather. Renters insurance also covers you when you’re in college, but the way it works differs on your living situation while you’re in school.

Normally, you can get renters insurance from a variety of insurance companies. But if you live in dorms, your options for coverage are limited. You’ll most likely be covered under your parents’ renters insurance or homeowners insurance policy. Students who live off campus, like in their apartment, will be able to get their own renters insurance policies; in fact, their parents’ coverage may not extend to them anyway.

Read on to learn how renters coverage works for your situation.

How renters insurance protects college students

Renters insurance typically covers a range of situations in which you could be on the hook financially for an accident, disaster, or loss. The three areas of protection offered by renters insurance are for personal property, liability and medical costs incurred by someone in your home, and needing alternative accommodation.

As a college student, you’re looked on by insurance companies as kind of a risk. Dorm life can be unpredictable, especially if it’s your first experience living on your own. While insurers will cover you, you won’t necessarily enjoy the same degree of coverage you’d get living out of dorms.

You need to calculate how much of your property you’d need to replace with coverage. That means your laptop, TV, and expensive textbooks. The risk doesn’t have to be from theft; personal property coverage also includes damage to your property, like from a wayward Solo cup full of cheap vodka landing upside-down on your MacBook.

Renters insurance can also protect you when someone is injured on your property. However, as a college student, depending on the type of coverage you’re eligible for, you may not necessarily have liability coverage.

The alternative accommodations protection that comes with most renters insurance policies won’t apply to you if you live in dorms. This kind of coverage is generally used by people who have been displaced from their homes by a covered peril.

Renters insurance when you live in a dorm

You can get renters insurance if you live in a dorm, but it’s more complicated than getting it as someone who lives off campus.

If your parents have renters insurance or homeowners insurance, it’s possible that their coverage will extend to you if you live in a dorm. In some cases, this may be automatic. Otherwise, you may have to request the insurance company to add the extra coverage, although it may be available at no extra cost.

In most cases, you can stay on your parents’ renters insurance plan until a certain age, which is defined by your policy, but only if you live on campus during that time. Your parents’ coverage doesn’t extend to you if you move to an off-campus apartment. Rather, the property you bring to your dorm is considered “off-premises” property.

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There will also be limits on your coverage. For one, getting renters insurance through your parents’ plan generally excludes liability and alternative accommodation coverage – you can really only get personal property coverage. And that personal property coverage is itself limited to around 10% of your parents’ coverage or a fixed number that may not be enough if you have a lot of expensive property to insure.

If your parents’ renters insurance plan isn’t enough for you, some renters insurance carriers offer dorm insurance, which is similar to a renters insurance policy but tailored to college students. As a college student, you probably have fewer possessions and don’t need as much coverage. We’ll go more into dorm insurance later.

Renters insurance when you live off campus

If you rent an apartment to live off campus, your parents’ coverage may not extend to a new apartment. You’ll have to get your own renters insurance policy. Luckily, renters insurance is relatively inexpensive, even for college students. You can expect to pay between $180 and $190 per year for coverage.

Renters insurance for college students who live off campus is identical to renters insurance for everyone else. You’ll get all the protections for personal property, liability, and alternative accommodations. You’ll be able to adjust how much coverage you need to reflect the property you own as an underpaid work-study employee.

As with other renters insurance plans, renters insurance for students who live off campus may have coverage limits, and you may need to buy more coverage than your basic offerings if you want protection for expensive (and often stolen) possessions like your laptop or smartphone.

Your renters insurance policy covers items outside your home as well, such as a bicycle. You may also need to pay more for certain kinds of disaster insurance, such as for earthquakes or floods. Always make sure the renters insurance policy comes with a low deductible, which is the amount you’ll have to pay out of pocket to cover any loss or liability before the insurance company kicks in to pay the rest.

Coverage for your roommate

Your roommate won’t automatically be covered by any kind of renters insurance you get. That’s standard for any renters insurance policy regardless of whether it’s an extension of your parents’ policy or one you bought for yourself.

If you have your own renters insurance policy, you’ll have to add your roommate to it for him or her to receive protection, and your premiums will increase slightly to account for the additional coverage. Otherwise, your roommate will have to get his or her own renters insurance.

If you’re still living in a dorm, and you receive renters insurance coverage via an extension of your parents’ policy, your roommate can’t be added to the policy.

Dorm insurance

Some companies offer dorm insurance (sometimes called “college renters insurance”) policies designed specifically to protect the personal possessions of students living in dorms.

Dorm insurance costs tend to be generally comparable with renters insurance, with premiums falling about $20 a month or less.

Dorm insurance and personal property coverage

Since dorm insurance policies are designed for personal property claims, they tend to have small deductibles — generally under $100.

Renters insurance policies deductibles vary, but many people choose higher deductibles to keep their premiums low, meaning that if a single item is stolen, the deductible payment, which could be $500, cuts into the reimbursement amount.

Dorm insurance policies also tend to be more lenient than renters and homeowners policies in when they cover property. While renters insurance and homeowners insurance only cover property damaged in by covered perils named in the policy and excludes damage from flood and earthquakes, many dorm policies cover property regardless of the reason it was damaged. In fact, dorm insurance even covers property if you lose it or if you accidentally break it yourself, neither of which are ever covered by renters insurance.

Dorm insurance and liability coverage

While dorm insurance policies cover your personal belongings, they don’t usually offer any liability coverage or medical payments like renters insurance does, though some companies that offer dorm insurance do also offer personal liability policies for additional fees.

When to consider dorm insurance

Dorm insurance policies can be useful if your parents don’t have renters or homeowners insurance or if their policy doesn’t extend to your on-campus housing. If you tend to lose or break things a lot, it may also be worth considering a dorm policy, since their deductibles tend to be lower and, if you own the policy, you could make the claims yourself and not have to wait for your parents to liase with their insurance company.

Talk to an insurance agent, or have your parents to talk to their insurance agent, about your options and coverage.