cheap home insurance guide

Cheap Home Insurance

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Home insurance costs are at their lowest for two years. However, a huge home insurance shake-up is coming as, from January 2022, insurers will be banned from charging renewing customers more than newbies. This could mean higher prices and less competition for those who regularly switch – so check NOW if you can save, even if you're not at renewal. Our tips and tricks will help you find your cheapest home insurance.

1-min read on finding cheap home insurance

Many can, and have, saved £100s by switching their home insurance policy. Here's a quick lowdown if you know what you're doing and just want to speedily find a cheap policy – alternatively, if you need a bit more help, you can read our full guide below:

1. The biggest savings come from NEVER auto-renewing – instead get a quote from comparison websites. Comparison sites don't search identical insurers, nor give identical prices, so try as many as you've time for in this order: MoneySupermarket*Confused.com*Compare The Market* and Gocompare* (see how we rank 'em).

2. Get a quote from direct insurers and find MSE exclusive deals. Direct Line* doesn't appear on comparison sites, and can be competitive. You also won't find some special deals – see hot deals comparisons miss.

3. How much you cover makes a difference. Use a rebuild cost calculator to work out how much you need to insure for buildings cover, and a contents calculator so you don't underinsure your contents.

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What is home insurance?

There are three main home insurance policies: buildings insurance, contents insurance and combined building and contents cover. Buildings insurance cover protects the structure (the fixtures and fittings in your home), while contents insurance covers your belongings.

Combined buildings and contents cover is only suitable for people who own the freehold of their homes. If you rent or own the lease only, buildings cover should be handled by your freeholder or managing agent. Contents insurance, however, is your responsibility and should be considered by everyone. See our Tenants' Contents Insurance guide for more.

What does home insurance cover?

The buildings part protects the structure of your home and permanent fixtures and fittings, such as doors and sanitary equipment (baths, basins, toilets and showers). It can differ from policy to policy, but home insurance will usually cover:

  • Damage from storms
  • Flooding
  • Fire damage
  • Other 'acts of god' including earthquakes & lightning
  • Explosions
  • Theft
  • Riots
  • Vandalism. 
  • Damage from falling trees or motor vehicles
  • Damage from escaping water (such as a burst pipe). 
  • Subsidence (a shifting of the ground, which can cause your house to sink).

The contents part of your insurance protects you against damage and theft to possessions in your home, garage and shed. 

Most policies will also cover the cost of a hotel or B&B if you can't stay in your home following a fire or a flood, replacement keys and locks if they are damaged or your keys go missing, spoiled food if your freezer breaks down and the replacement of cash stolen from your home. There are limits on how much you can claim for, so if you're concerned about fancy frozen goods or you have cash hidden in your mattress, check your policy carefully.

Both contents and buildings policies give you legal liability protection as the occupier and owner of the home. This means that as part of the contents policy, the insurer will cover you and your legal costs if a visitor to your home is seriously injured and it's deemed to be your fault. A buildings policy will do the same if the structure injures a passer-by or visitor, or damages a neighbour's property.

What's not covered by my home insurance?

Home insurance won't insure you against:

  • Acts of terrorism
  • Damage due to wear and tear
  • Accidental damage (though you can sometimes pay more to cover this, see add-ons below)
  • High-value items, unless you've specifically told the insurer about them
  • Business-related accidents or damage, if you run a business from home

It's worth noting that with many insurers, the cover is invalid if your house is unoccupied for more than 30 consecutive days during the year (see leaving the house unoccupied below). 

Plus, if you sub-let your home, you won't be able to claim if you are burgled and there's no sign of forced entry.

  • If you need both building and contents insurance, buying combined insurance can be cheaper and limit any disputes among insurers, for example, if you need to make a claim affecting both the structure of your home and its contents, such as a flood.

    Should you decide to buy two separate policies and you need to claim, there may be arguments between your two providers over who should cover what. It is rare, but it is possible.

Rather watch than read?

To see Martin on how to choose home insurance in a five-minute lowdown, click on this video filmed in partnership with The Telegraph in June 2014.

How to choose home insurance video, with Martin Lewis
Embedded YouTube Video

11 home insurance need-to-knows

You may have mastered the basics of home insurance. But are you confident you can get the right cover at the right price? These need-to-knows will help you understand what to look out for and how to save...

  • From 1 January 2022, car and home insurers will be banned from charging existing customers more at renewal than they would expect to pay when taking out a new policy with the same firm. Currently, many insurers hike renewal prices for existing customers in a process known as "price-walking".

    While banning price-walking is a popular move, it could push up prices for savvy switchers over the coming months. Here's Martin's view on what this change could mean for car and home insurance prices and what you should do now to beat predicted rises...

    Prices will meet in the middle, but act now and you may be able to beat the system

    With firms being forced to offer new and existing customers the same prices, the overall new pricing structure will likely meet somewhere a little above halfway between them.

    That's good news for those who never switch, as renewals will be cheaper – bad news for those who actively scour the market for the best deals as, while they should still be able to save due to competition, the difference will be reduced and overall they'll pay more.

    Overall though, the move is a popular one – in a Twitter poll I've just done, after the first 5,000 votes over 85% were in favour, even including the majority of those who switch regularly.

    Admittedly it's likely big insurers are already working on innovative new pricing structures. Perhaps we'll see them launch new cheap sub-brands to draw customers in without legacy customer bases they'd need to reduce prices for. 

    Yet let me stop crystal-balling, and focus on what matters now. It's possible today is a sweet spot to check insurance prices. While the new regime starts in January, insurers will likely start to shift their pricing algorithms beforehand – we think there may even be signs of it now (the data isn't conclusive though).

    This likely means the cheapest prices disappearing rapidly for those who do comparisons and switch. Therefore I'd suggest everyone check car and home insurance ASAP to see if you can cut costs grabbing cheaper switchers' deals, before things start to change.

    Even if you're not at renewal, if you can find substantial savings, it can be worth moving now to lock in the cheaper prices. As long as you've not claimed, you can usually (do check) cancel your existing policy for a £50ish admin fee, and get a pro-rata refund for the rest of the year (though you won't gain this year's no-claims).

  • For the buildings element of house insurance, a common mistake is to cover the home's market value (the amount it might sell for), instead of the rebuild value – the cost of rebuilding the property if it was knocked down. The key is the cost of materials, labour and architects for your area. However, buildings policies should also cover the cost of somewhere for you to stay while your home's rebuilt or is uninhabitable.

    To find a rebuild value, commissioning a survey is most reliable, but it's expensive unless you're getting one anyway (eg, if you're buying a new home). A less accurate, but quicker option is the Association of British Insurers' calculator.

  • For contents insurance, underinsuring could lead to you getting less than the value of your items if you need when you claim. Add everything up, including smaller items such as clothes, on a 'new for old' basis.

    For example, if you insure £20,000 of possessions when you actually have £40,000, and you need to make a claim, then you'll only have 50% of your contents protected and your payout could be halved.

    If you don't know where to start with estimating the value of your belongings, try Direct Line or the AA's* free calculators.

    Quick questions

    • Your insurer will ask you for an estimated value of your contents. But pricey items, usually ranging from £1,000 to £2,000, have to be separately listed to be covered on many policies. Expensive purchases such as high-end laptops and jewellery (including engagement rings) may not be covered if they were bought after your policy was taken out.

      Even if your goods are valued under £1,000, some of them may not be covered, especially if they are mobile phones or tablets. A number of providers insist these items are specifically named on the policy, regardless of their value. After you buy something expensive, always check your policy carefully to ensure it's covered.

      Always keep hold of – and safeguard – receipts for valuable items like jewellery and big-ticket items such as specialist cameras or high-spec televisions. Insurers will usually want to see proof of purchase before paying out. A receipt, photograph, valuation (for jewellery or antiques) or even bank statement will suffice. This is also the case if adding such items to an 'all risks' or 'personal possessions' add-on to your contents policy.

    • Make sure you're especially careful when you set the value of your contents. It may affect any potential claim and your level of coverage, as most insurers will only cover you on a proportional basis.

      Sounds complicated? This is how it works. If you have £20,000 of possessions but you only cover £10,000, your insurer will consider you 50% covered. So if you have a claim worth £5,000, you'll only get £2,500 of your claim.

    • Having lots of contents and expensive items in your home may make it difficult to insure. Follow the steps below to find the right cover.

      Decide how much to cover your contents for

      With high value contents, it's crucial not to underinsure. It may seem cheaper to err on the low side, but this could lead to insurers not paying out when you need them to. Add up everything you'd want to replace, including smaller items such as clothes.

      If you insure £20,000 of possessions when you actually have £40,000, you'll at best only have half of your contents protected or, worse still, the policy could be cancelled for being underinsured. The latter will mean a hike in the future cost of insurance.

      To get your magic number, walk from room to room, noting what everything would cost if bought again new.

      When you sign up, you must specify individual items worth a lot (£1,500+) – such as an engagement ring or an expensive watch – or risk them not being covered. If you're not sure, phone the insurer.

      Very expensive possessions – eg, antiques, paintings – should be professionally valued. Remember their value may increase over time.

      If you have several mid to high-value possessions, Hiscox* may be worth a check. Others are Home & Legacy, which provides three types of contracts, and John Lewis Specialist Home Insurance.

      • Types of cover. Once you've defined the cover level, make sure you're comparing the price like for like.

      • New for old. Here, the payout should be for the original price of the items, though for clothing there's usually a wear and tear deduction.

      • Indemnity cover. The provider only pays out the current value of your possessions. It's cheaper, but it can leave you in the lurch.

      • Add-on cover. There are various types. 'All risks' includes property taken outside your home such as wallets or jewellery, legal cover pays for legal representation or disputes.

      No single site captures the entire market, combining a number of comparison sites is the best way to make a really meaningful saving, so try them one by one.

    • Presents kept in your home will be covered by your usual contents insurance, but if you've bought big-ticket items as gifts they may need to be listed separately. Typically, the limit for single items ranges from £1,000 to £2,000, so check your policy and call your insurer if you've purchased anything above your limit.

      Many home insurers automatically increase your contents cover in December (and some even into January) at no cost but, if you need extra and your insurer does not routinely up its limits, you may have to pay a small fee if you want to extend your cover. Some insurers will also increase your contents cover for other special occasions, such as religious festivals and weddings.

  • Insurers usually offer the best deals to new customers, punishing existing customers with higher rates for failing to challenge them. They charge more each year, knowing inertia stops policyholders switching.

    If your renewal's coming up, jot it in your diary – and ideally 17 to 30 days before it is due to renew.

    However, a huge home insurance shake-up is coming as, from January 2022, insurers will be banned from charging renewing customers more than newbies. See our MSE News story for full information on the car and home insurer 'price walking' ban.

    There are also rules meaning insurers must tell you the premium you paid last year in correspondence to you. Even if there is a small price difference, compare comparison sites and then call your insurer to see if it can match, or even beat, the best quote you find. If they can match or beat it, you're quids in.

    The most extreme example we've seen is from MoneySaver Billy, who was gobsmacked as his Tesco renewal jumped from £140 to £1,621 in a year, despite there being no changes. Luckily, he'd seen our tips and managed to cut the cost.

    I’ve seen Martin talking about it on TV, but I was not prepared for a 1,000%+ hike. So I switched and paid £182.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Billy

    You can lock in a price, to buy at a later date, as a safety net

    A number of insurers will hold the price of the quotation for 90 days. So if you get a quotation two or three months before your renewal is due, you've locked in a price in case costs rise in the near future.

    Aviva*Churchill and Privilege will allow you to buy a policy up to 90 days ahead, while John Lewis Insurance is valid for up to 60 days.

    Once locked in, the price is fixed as long as your details don't change, but you can always change your mind if you find a cheaper deal (see why buying 21 days ahead is cheapest).

    Remember, the quotations are subject to your details not changing.

  • Many assume switching is only for those at renewal. It's not – you can actually switch at any time. This is important when prices are rising, or if you're someone who recently auto-renewed without doing comparisons to see if you can cut costs. However, if you are thinking of switching mid-year, there are a few things to be aware of:

    • If you cancel a policy mid-year and you paid upfront, you'll usually get a pro-rata refund for the rest of the year, providing you haven't claimed. If you pay monthly, you'll just stop paying the old insurer and start paying the new one.

    • There will normally be a cancellation fee of about £35 (check what your insurer charges), so your savings from switching should outweigh this to make it worth it. The longer you've got to go on your policy, the more likely you'll be better off switching. 

    • You won't earn the current year's no-claims discount if you switch so you'll need to be making a substantial saving to make this work.

    If it makes financial sense for you to switch mid-year, call the old insurer to tell it you're cancelling. Ask if it has a notice period, as this will dictate the date you want the new policy to start. Then buy the new policy. Make sure the dates align so that one ends on one day, and the other policy starts on the next day to ensure there's no time when you're uninsured. 

  • An MSE investigation in which we analysed more than three million quotes from the four biggest price comparison sites – Compare The Market, Confused.com, Gocompare and MoneySupermarket – revealed buying your home insurance three weeks ahead of the day you want your policy to start can save you 20%+, compared with leaving it until the last minute.

    Based on an average price, the cheapest time to buy your policy is 17-30 days before the start date, with 21 days before being the optimum time. The differences in price are closely aligned to how much of a risk you're deemed to be, and when the highest number of insurers are likely to provide quotes (see the full price investigation).

  • We only know of one policy, Admiral MultiCover (the link takes you to details of its voucher offer lower down in the guide), which currently offers home and car insurance on one policy. However, if you have both insurances, it's worth checking whether you can save by combining them. 

    Other insurers offer a discount on new policies to existing customers. For example, Direct Line*Aviva* and Churchill all offer discounts on your home insurance if you have another policy with them, eg, car insurance, though the policies remain separate. 

    How does this work if my home and car policies have different renewal dates?

    With Admiral, if you want the cover for your home and car(s) to start at the same time, it's simple, you'll just be given one total cost.

    For different start dates, you'll be given a total price to pay, which'll cover all the car(s) and your home - you just pay for however long each additional bit of cover is insured for. You'll also be given an 'annual equivalent price', as if all were insured for a full year, to help you compare against other providers. An example may help... 

    Your first car needs cover in three weeks' time, but your home insurance renewal is seven months away, and your second car's insurance renewal is 10 months away. With the Admiral policy, your home and car two will stay insured with their existing insurer until their current policy ends, at which time they will move across to the MultiCover policy for the remainder of the year.

    Then they'll all renew at the same time, at which point you should compare your renewal price with standalone policies.  

    For Direct Line, Aviva and Churchill, different renewal dates don't matter as each car and your home will have its own policy and policy number. The insurer will just give you a discount for each policy you purchase – as long as you let them know you are already an existing customer.

    Whichever option you look at, ALWAYS check to see if you can get the cover cheaper insuring your home and each car separately.

  • better locks

    Don't know your five-lever mortise deadlock from your rim automatic deadlatch? Well you should, as getting the right lock on your doors could massively lower your contents premium. Insurers ask what type of lock you have, so you risk invalidating your cover if you put down the wrong type.

    Scan the questions below to help you understand what lock you have, and how the right lock can save cash on your insurance...

    Quick questions

    • The following are listed roughly in order of what's considered most secure, but there are no hard and fast rules to cutting costs.

      Five-lever mortice deadlock

      MOST SECURE: Five-lever mortise deadlock conforming to BS (British Standard) 3621.

      This is the gold standard of locks recommended by police and loved by insurers. If you're thinking of changing your locks, this is the one to go for. The British Standard kitemark is stamped on the metal plate, so it's easy to see – it's heart-shaped with an 's' in the middle.

      British Standard kitemark

      Five-lever mortise deadlock.

      This is the same as above, but without a British Standard kitemark.

      multi-point locking system

      Key-operated multi-point locking system.

      A multi-point locking system has a minimum of three points that all lock simultaneously at the turn of a key. Multi-point locks are most common on uPVC doors or patio doors.

      Rim automatic deadlatch with key locking handles

      Rim automatic deadlatch with key-locking handle.

      These offer security at night, allowing you to lock your door more securely from the inside.

      other lock type

      Any other lock?

      If it's none of the above, it's probably classed as "other lock type". To cut costs and improve security, they recommend you consider getting one of the recognised locks above.

      The lock pictured directly above – the 'any other lock?' image – is of decent quality. But it doesn't meet insurance standards when it's fitted alone on a door. It has no external deadlocking feature, which means the latch can be bypassed and forced open.

    • If you have one of the top four locks above (ie, not 'any other lock'), you should have decent security and lower premiums.

      Sometimes, insurers will distinguish between the four. Where they do, the five-lever mortise deadlock conforming to BS 3621 is normally the best, followed by the same lock but without the kitemark.

      But approaches vary among insurers, so it's a good idea to compare quotes from as many providers as possible.

      What lock you can have fitted may also depend on how sturdy your door frame is. A quality lock is only as strong as what it's attached to, so you'll need to take that into consideration.

    • The better your lock, the more secure your home is, and the less you pay for your insurance.

      We ran some quotes on a price comparison website. The difference in premium between a five-lever mortise deadlock (preferred by insurers) and a rim automatic deadlatch with key-locking handle with the same insurer was £50 for the year.

      A five-lever mortise deadlock comes in at about £25 to buy, so it's cheaper to change the locks and get a lower premium with the added comfort of extra security for your home.

      Insurers recommend the lock is professionally fitted, the cost of which may be similar to or higher than the lock itself. But don't let that put you off. Even if it means the lock doesn't pay for itself in year one, it's an investment, so it will in the future.

      You can't just say you have the lock to get a cheaper premium. If you're burgled and it turns out you don't have these locks, or you haven't used them, your insurer may not pay out or will want a higher excess should you claim.

    • If you are unsure about your locks, try comparing them to the pictures above. If you still can't find a match, Gocompare also has a detailed guide to locks, as does Confused.com. If you rent and you're still unsure, speak to your landlord.

  • Pay monthly options are essentially high-interest loans. Either pay your premium in full, or if you can't afford to, use a credit card with a low APR (or better, a 0% credit card for spending, ensuring your repayments are large enough to clear it within a year).

  • Most standard policies usually cover you for limited accidental damage, such as a broken window. Some contents may also be covered, for instance electrical goods, but if you spill paint on your carpet, it's unlikely to be covered.

    Many insurers offer extra cover for an additional cost, so if you're particularly clumsy, you should give it some thought – just make sure you check the T&Cs first to see what is covered as standard.

    Something else worth considering is an 'all risks' or 'personal possessions' add-on to your contents policy. Most policies don't cover contents outside the home as standard, but by paying a bit more you can usually get cover for items including your handbag, smartphone and tablet – basically, if it's designed to be taken out of the home, it'll fall under this extension.

    For valuable bicycles worth £1,000 or more, you could be better off taking out a specialist bicycle insurance policy. Equally, if you carry a lot of valuable gadgets, eg, a laptop, tablet and smartwatch, then gadget insurance could be worth considering.

  • The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has said there's no need to change or update your cover if you're now working from home because of the ongoing coronavirus restrictions. You also don't need to let your insurer know you're doing this. The ABI's stance was echoed by major home insurers Axa, Aviva, Churchill, Direct Line, Esure, Hastings, LV and More Than when we asked them.

    This applies if you're doing clerical work – generally defined as working on a laptop and making phone calls.

    However, if you have visitors to your home who are there as part of your work, or you have stock you've brought home (for example, if you've a mail order business which you're now operating from home), those won't be covered. If either of these applies, call and tell your insurer as you may need to pay a premium to have the visitors/stock covered, or you may need to get an extension to your usual business insurance. 

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How to buy your home insurance

Now you've read the eight home insurance need-to-knows, you're ready to take our steps towards purchasing a home insurance policy... 

Step 1: The top comparison sites

First up, start by visiting the comparison sites, which zip your details off to a number of insurers' and brokers' websites to find the cheapest quotes. As no single site captures the entire market and prices vary, combining a number of sites is the best way to make a meaningful saving.

  • When ranking comparisons, we want to get you to use the best ones, as quickly as possible. We focus principally on price, as depending on who you are, you can get cheaper quotes on different screen scrapers. However, we also factor in 'softer' features to assess the quality of each.

    Ranking on price

    We analysed the prices of a large range of insurance quotes given by Compare The Market, Confused.com, Gocompare and MoneySupermarket.

    • Step 1. Check how many times each comparison site returned the cheapest or within £5 of the cheapest quote.
    • Step 2. Rank the comparison sites based on their 'score' in the first category.
    • Step 3. Assess how often each comparison gave a unique cheapest quote, ie, not just equal cheapest with a higher-scoring comparison.
    • Step 4. Alter the order to see if it's possible to increase the speed with which you access the cheapest quotes.
  • Yes and no. Comparison sites send your details to a raft of insurers, they then use information on your credit file to judge your quote. This leaves a 'soft search' on your file, which you can see as a reference if you get your credit report – but this worries many people.

    Yet crucially lenders CAN'T SEE these soft searches, so they have no impact on your creditworthiness. The only time a hard search – which lenders can see – may go on your file is if you then go on and actually apply for insurance, specifically 'pay monthly' insurance (because the firm effectively pays upfront for you and you repay the loan over the year).

    More info can be found in our Will buying insurance from a comparison site affect my credit score? guide.

  • Some comparison sites include 'free' gifts for every policy you take out. At Compare The Market for each new home insurance policy you buy you can get 2for1 cinema tickets and 2for1 at 1,000s of restaurants (see Meerkat Movies & Restaurant trick for full details) for a year.

    Alternatively, buy a policy through Confused.com and you can choose a £20 voucher to use at Halfords or Domino's, 12 car wash vouchers or a Hello Fresh recipe box.

    But remember always be guided by the comparison site that offers you the cheapest price for a policy that meets your needs. Don't pick one comparison site over another based only on the freebies it offers.

Typical homes

It's best to use all four sites, but if you don't have time, we've ranked them in order of the sites that most often return the cheapest quotes so you've the best chance of bagging the top deal.

MoneySuperMarket

First try MoneySupermarket* as our analysis shows it gives the cheapest quote the majority of the time.

confused.com

Move on to Confused.com* to boost your chances as it was the second-best site at returning cheap quotes.

Compare the Market

Thirdly, get a quote from Compare The Market* as it's the next best at returning the cheapest quote.

GoCompare

Then try Gocompare* (next cheapest) as it'll mean you've covered all of the big four comparison sites to increase your chances of a cheap quote.

Boost chances of finding a cheap quote even further

If you still haven't found a deal you're happy with, or want to push the envelope, there are some more options. Try these comparison sites if you have time: Quotezone* and uSwitch*.

Struggling to find cover?

Some groups, such as those in areas prone to flooding, subsidence or whose home is left unoccupied for long periods, can find it difficult to find cheap insurance cover as they are considered too high a risk. Those with a chequered financial past – such as bankruptcy or county court judgments – may struggle too.

In these situations, providers Intelligent Insurance* (see below how to get a £55 Amazon e-gift card) and Home Protect* may be able to help.

If flooding is the reason you're struggling to find affordable insurance cover, Flood Re has a useful tool that will list insurers to try.

One final option is to try speaking to a broker about your individual circumstances – find one on the British Insurance Brokers' Association website.

Renting or in shared accommodation

Getting insurance for a room in a shared house or flat doesn't need to be expensive.

If you rent, your landlord's responsible for insuring the buildings, so you only need contents insurance.

Our Cheap Contents Insurance for Tenants guide highlights why contents insurance is essential for renters and how to get the right policy to suit you at the cheapest price. Bear in mind, insurers usually only pay out if there is a sign of forced entry – hence the importance of having the room your contents are in kept locked.

Will increased security get me better cover?

Improve your risk profile and increase your chances of getting the lowest possible quote.

Make sure you have the right security – not only to your 'self-contained' room, but to the main entrance to your home or flat. Without an approved lock, it's difficult to find a policy giving you theft cover. 

Keep all your contents in your locked room. Anything left in a communal area is unlikely to be insured against theft. Remember, theft only applies when there's violent and/or forced entry.

Made past claims (in the last five years)

Combine the comparison sites in this order...

Comparison sites zip your details to insurers' and brokers' websites, finding the cheapest. So be aware they often feed your personal details to insurers. They don't all compare the same sites, so combine them. We've analysed the comparison sites to find the cheapest results.

No single site captures the entire market – combining a number of sites is the best way to make a really meaningful saving, so try them one by one.

MoneySuperMarket

First try MoneySupermarket* as our analysis shows it gives the cheapest quote most of the time.

Confused.com

Move on to Confused.com* next to boost your chances as it was the second-best site at returning quotes.

GoCompare

Thirdly, get a quote from Gocompare* as it's the next best at returning the cheapest quote.

Compare the Market

Then try Compare The Market* (next cheapest) as it'll mean you've covered all of the big four comparison sites to increase your chances of a cheap quote.

Boost chances of finding a cheap quote to nearly 100% 

If you still haven't found a deal you're happy with, or want to push the envelope, there are some more options. Try these comparison sites if you have time: QuoteZone* and uSwitch*.

Step 2: Get a quote from a big insurer that comparisons miss

One large and often competitive insurer – Direct Line* – only offers its products directly, so you won't find it on a comparison sites. Get a quote and compare it with your cheapest from a comparison site.

Step 3: Check hot deals not on comparison sites

Here we list special deals you won't find on comparison sites, and are reserved for new customers. We're not saying they win every time, but they're worth checking as once you factor in the voucher, it could beat the best price on comparison sites. Here are the current top deals...

Buy a new combined buildings and contents policy by 11.59pm on 10 Sep 2021 via this MSE Blagged Intelligent Insurance* link and you'll get a £55 Amazon gift card emailed to you after 60 days of your policy starting. You can't have had an Intelligent Insurance policy in the last 12 months. 

Note: It may not be cheapest if you've standard needs – it specialises in cover for unusual properties and situations, eg, people in flood-prone areas, unoccupied or listed buildings, or those who have a chequered financial past.

Buy a new combined buildings and contents policy by 8.59am on Wed 1 Sep, when you go via this Age Co* link, and you can get a £45 Amazon or Argos voucher.

You'll need to choose your voucher before you get a quote, and the gift card should arrive within 120 days of your policy start date.

To be eligible, you can't have had Age Co home insurance within the last six months, and it must be a new quote – not a retrieved or saved one.

Buy a new combined buildings and contents policy by via this Admiral* link, and you can get a £40 Amazon, Love2Shop or M&S voucher provided you buy it by 31 Dec 2021You should receive an email around 90 days after the purchase date, which will have instructions on how to activate your voucher.

To be eligible, you must be a new Admiral home insurance policyholder, and it must be a new quote – not a retrieved or saved one.

When you buy a new Admiral MultiCover policy – insuring your buildings, contents and your car(s) – via this Admiral* link, you can get a £90 Amazon, Love2Shop or M&S voucher provided you buy it by 31 Dec 2021You should receive an email around 90 days after the purchase date, which will have instructions on how to activate your voucher.

To be eligible, you must be a new Admiral home & car insurance policyholder, and it must be a new quote – not a retrieved or saved one.

We've blagged you a £30 Amazon voucher when you go via this Urban Jungle* link to buy a contents-only policy, when using the code MSE30. To be eligible for the voucher, you must be a new customer and keep the policy for six months. The voucher will then be emailed within 30 days.

Step 4: See if you can get cashback on top of the cheapest quote

Once you know which your cheapest provider is, check you're not missing out on any cashback deals.

However, there is no guarantee the quote will be the same going through a cashback site as it is going through a comparison site, so make sure you check the cost carefully. And it's important to be aware the cashback comes from the cashback site, not the insurer, so getting the cashback relies on the deal tracking correctly (see Top Cashback Sites).

Here are three important things you need to know before getting cashback...

  • Never count the cash as yours until it's in your bank account. Cashback is never 100% guaranteed. There can be issues with tracking and allocating the payment. Many cashback sites are small firms with limited backing, and you've no protection if anything happens to them.

  • Withdraw the cashback as soon as you're allowed. Money held in your cashback site account has no protection at all if that company goes bust. Always withdraw it as soon as you're eligible.

  • Clear your cookies or the cashback may not track. While it shouldn't be a problem, if you've used comparison sites before, there's a minor risk that the cashback may not track due to cookies on your computer – so it's good practice to clear those first (read about cookies).

If you're new to cashback sites, make sure you read the Top Cashback Sites guide for pros and cons before using them.

I got paid more cashback than the policy cost, so I made £20 profit.

Forumite Frugaldom

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Step 5: Once you've found the cheapest quote, try to haggle a bigger discount

Haggling often won't get you the market's best deal. But it can cut the cost if you don't want to switch insurer.

haggle to get a discount

Once you've followed the steps above and have the best price, get on the phone and haggle. If your insurer can beat or match your best quote, it saves the hassle of switching policy.

For more haggling tips, read our full Car and Home Insurance Haggling guide.

Sainsbury's renewal was £252. Rang Sainsbury's, talked it down to £181. 

@ladygeeke

Step 6: Finally, check the policy carefully before buying

Once you've found the cheapest quotes from the screen scrapers, make sure you:

  • Double-check the quotes
    Click through to the insurance provider's own website to thoroughly read the quote. Some comparison sites make a few assumptions to speed up searches.

  • Examine the policy's coverage
    Check whether it's suitable. While you're there, it's worth playing with the policy details to see if you can finesse the price down. Look at the excess, and see if any tweaks can cut the cost.

Coronavirus home insurance cost-cutting, incl how to review your add-ons

Many of us are spending much less time away from the home, whether that's because we're furloughed from work, working at home or just not going out as much due to the lockdown.

If you're struggling to pay for cover, or need help to cut costs, here are ways to help for both scenarios...

  • If you contact your insurer to tell it you're struggling to pay for your home insurance, it should help you out. The first thing it should look at is whether it can make your policy cheaper. On home insurance, this can be difficult, as your home will cost the same to rebuild if it was destroyed, and you're unlikely to be able to cut your contents cover by much either.

    So it's likely you can only make limited savings on your home insurance premiums. Nevertheless, we've highlighted things you may be able to remove from your home insurance that could result in a saving. So try these to see if they work for you:

    • This is a useful add-on to a home insurance policy meaning valuables such as phones, laptops and other gadgets are covered when you're out. But if you're home a lot more due to lockdown, it may be worth temporarily removing it (you can usually add it on again when you need it).

      Or check if you can reduce the amount of cover you have outside the home, eg, a £500 limit rather than £1,000.  

      If you take either of these routes, make sure that when you or a family member leaves the home, you keep the number of valuables, clothing and gadgets you take to a minimum.

    • Some home insurance policies give travel insurance as part of the cover. If you have this extension, and don't have plans to travel (as it's not currently allowed anyway), look at removing it. 

      Before removing your travel insurance, check whether it covers you for coronavirus-related claims (many policies bought before March 2020 do). If it does cover them, weigh up whether you want to ditch that important extra protection, as it may be that if you got a new travel insurance policy later, it wouldn't cover coronavirus.

    • Other add-ons that you may want to consider removing include:

      • Home emergency.  If it's an all-singing, all-dancing policy, see if you still need such a high level of cover.
      • Legal expenses. It's worth checking this, but it usually doesn't cost much, and can give important cover that can be used for a variety of different legal disputes.
  • Our view is that it can be a faff, and cutting these add-ons isn't likely to save you much, even if you've many months left on your policy. You could always check, but also use this as a trigger to see if you should look for a new policy. Big changes to your circumstances can mean another insurer is cheaper, and you may have been overpaying anyway.

    Yet if you can't cut costs, and switching provider isn't an option, and you still can't afford your home insurance...

  • If you're struggling to pay your insurance premiums because your income's been affected by coronavirus, your insurer should help you. It should first review your policy to make sure it's suitable and as cheap as it can be. If that doesn't help, then it should work with you on a repayment plan that suits you both.

    While any help you get will be based on your individual circumstances, measures your insurer might offer could include:

    • Reviewing your policy. This is the first port of call, and insurers would look at whether you can drop extras you may not be using, such as key cover on car insurance. Insurers could also look at whether a cheaper policy with lower cover levels may be suitable. 

    • A (further) payment deferral. This is likely to be a short-term measure only, and may be offered if your circumstances are still changing, and you're not able to commit to a longer-term measure such as setting up a repayment plan.

    • A (further) period of reduced payments. If you can pay something but can't make the full contractual repayment, your insurer or premium credit lender may agree to you making reduced payments. Again, this is likely to be short-term only.

    • Waiving or reducing interest. If you can't meet your payments, the insurer or lender needs to make sure the amount you owe isn't rising out of control, so it may need to cut or waive the interest it's charging you. 

    • Agreeing a repayment plan. This is where your insurer or lender works with you to set up a plan that doesn't meet contractual repayments, but allows you to pay off the debt in a reasonable amount of time. 

    However, the FCA says insurers and lenders SHOULD report any further forbearance (such as extra payment deferrals) after 31 October to credit reference agencies. Lenders will need to let you know if the support they're offering you would have an impact on your credit report. 

    The measures above cover all types of general and protection insurance, and it also includes premium credit providers – these are the companies that give you a 'loan' meaning you can pay monthly premiums rather than annual.

  • This depends on your insurer. Many will let you make a change online (eg, Admiral, Aviva, Axa and Direct Line). However, if you're in financial hardship, you'll usually need to call your insurer to discuss your options. Check its website, as some insurers have online forms to request a call back. Insurers will usually waive change fees if you contact them because you're struggling to pay and they agree to make changes to your policy.

    However, if you're just making a change and it's not down to coronavirus, you'll usually still need to pay an admin fee of up to £50 for this.

    Cancellation fees are unlikely to be waived if you're cancelling mid-term because you've found a cheaper policy. Though if you're struggling and can't afford to pay for your current policy but could afford the cheaper one with another insurer, you could try to negotiate with your existing insurer to see if it'll waive the fee in this case.

    However, it's best not to go without home insurance completely as, for example, you'd be left with all of the rebuild and refitting costs if your home burned down. Plus, it's usually a condition of most mortgages that you have valid home insurance while you have the mortgage. So by all means see if you can save, but don't go without!

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  • You need to tell your insurer about big changes in your circumstances, such as losing your job or moving home. However, you don't need to tell it if you're furloughed from your current employer.

How to complain about your insurance provider

The insurance industry doesn't have the best customer-service reputation and while a provider may be good for some, it can be hell for others. Common problems include claims either not being paid out on time or at all, unfair charges, or exclusions being hidden in small print. It's always worth trying to call your provider first, but, if not, then…

Home insurance FAQs

  • If you're struggling to find cover, eg, due to living in an area prone to flooding or subsidence, or because you have a chequered financial past – such as bankruptcy or county court judgments – see the 'I'm struggling to find cover' tab above.

  • If you don't have a job, you face a potential jump in insurance costs if you declare yourself unemployed. The same hikes don't apply to homemakers (housewives/househusbands). If that's you, say so to avoid a hike in costs.

    But only enter 'homemaker' if you're genuinely not seeking work, or not receiving benefits which require you to seek work. Otherwise, it's fraud. Read the full MSE News story: Unemployed walloped with high insurance.

  • If you're going away and leaving your home unoccupied, you may find that your cover is restricted or that you might not be covered at all.

    Almost all insurers restrict the number of days you can leave your home unoccupied for while still covering you – usually 30 days. Leaving it empty for long periods makes it more at risk of burglary, and the cost of any claims greater as any damage can be left undetected for weeks.

    What's more, during the colder months insurers reduce the number of days you can leave your home empty for to as low as five days UNLESS you keep the heating on at a minimum constant temperature or drain the water heating system (not for the faint-hearted). The reason for this is to reduce the risk of burst pipes and the damage they cause.

    For example, with Admiral, if you go away for five days or more between November and March, you would only be fully covered if you keep your home constantly heated to 12°C, or turn off your water supply at the mains and drain the water system.

    Also, if you're insured with Policy Expert and leave your home unoccupied for 15 days or more during November until the end of March, you may not be fully covered unless you've set the heating at a continuous minimum temperature of 14°C or have switched off your gas and water supplies at the mains.

    Failing to leave the heating on when you're away could see any claims made for the period you were away being declined, risking costs running into £1,000s.

    Some insurers have these stipulations in their T&Cs but others, such as Aviva and Direct Line, don't – so make sure you know your provider's stance on this. If unsure, just give it a call.

  • There are growing numbers of accidental landlords – those who marry and move into a partner's home and rent out their old one, for example, or who inherit a property and decide to let it out rather than sell.

    Fail to let your insurer know (and, just as important, your lender!) and any claim on the cover would be invalid since your existing home insurance policy won't be deemed valid because you've now got tenants in.

    For convenience, you can ring your existing insurer who – in most cases – will simply 'upgrade' your ordinary home insurance policy into a basic landlord policy. It takes just one phone call and there'll usually be a higher premium to pay to reflect this greater risk.

    But do this and you'll usually find your new policy won't include key landlord-specific extras such as loss-of-rent guarantee or public liability. Instead, you'll likely be better off looking for a specialist landlord policy from elsewhere that includes all the add-ons as well as basic contents and buildings cover. Ensure you get the cheapest deal by doing a landlord insurance comparison.

  • If you have a child studying, and living away from home, they may automatically be covered against theft or loss as part of your home insurance policy under its 'temporarily removed from the home' section.

    Many policies have this cover (but do check yours), as long as your home is your child's main permanent address (ie, they'll return to your home when not a student). However, it only applies while the contents are in their accommodation (or indeed at your home).

    If you want cover for mobiles or laptops, or other items your child normally wears or carries away from your home, or their accommodation, you can add an 'all risks' or 'unspecified personal possessions' section to your policy. This covers your child's belongings while they're out and about, but it typically comes at an added cost.

    Alternatively, if you prefer your child to have their own policy, see our Contents Insurance for Tenants guide.

  • Each policy normally comes with a compulsory and a voluntary excess, if you have selected one. A compulsory excess does what it says on the tin. If you make a claim, it's the amount you pay towards the cost. If your TV was stolen and you made a claim for £500, and had a compulsory excess of £50 – a typical sum – you'd get £450.

    If you have a £50 voluntary excess and a £50 compulsory excess, you'd only get £400.

    The excess is outlined when you buy the policy. What you pay is entirely up to you. A higher excess will lower the cost of your premium, with the insurer paying less if you have to make a claim. But if you make a claim, you'll get less money back.

    When you set your excess, think carefully. If you can't afford to cover a large chunk of the cost if you need to claim, don't set a high voluntary excess, as you'll have to pay that as well as the compulsory excess.

    If you need both buildings and contents insurance and you opt for a combined policy, make sure you check the details carefully. Some insurers will have a separate excess for both parts of your policy, which means a claim affecting both the structure of your home and its contents, such as a flood, will result in a double deduction.

    The Co-op, Hastings and Tesco may all charge two excesses on combined policies.

  • The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says customers should contact their insurers as soon as possible. When claiming, you may have to pay towards repairs and replacements, known as an 'excess', so check your policy for the full information.

    You'll need to provide full details of the circumstances surrounding anything that's been lost or damaged, plus any evidence of that. Take photographs of the damage to your home, contents or car, or film the footage. This may help provide proof.

    If your possessions have been badly damaged or washed away, any photographs of you with a particular item when undamaged, or held by friends or relatives, will demonstrate you owned it. Receipts, credit card bills or bank account statements that show your purchases can also be used as evidence.

    It can take weeks, sometimes longer, for a property to fully dry out, and you should only return to your home when it's safe to do so. Also, don't be in a rush to redecorate your property. It needs to dry out properly and it'll need to be disinfected with antibacterial treatments. The restoration will start with the removal of debris and silt from the flood and properties are then stripped out, which includes hacking off damaged plaster and woodwork.

    More information is available in this guide on how to protect your home and make a claim on your insurance.

    Adverse weather: What do I do if there's an emergency?

    With the ever-increasing risk of flooding, we can all do our bit to minimise any loss.

    If you've been affected by storms or flooding, see how to protect your home and make a claim on your insurance if hit.

    Here are some need-to-knows for starters...

    My property has been damaged. What should I do?

    If you've emergency damage, act quickly to sort it:

    • To report a possible gas leak, contact the National Grid on 0800 111 999.
    • If you've electrical problems, call your local electricity distributor, NOT your energy company (see a list of emergency contact numbers).
    • Report any sewage hazards to your council.

    When it comes to making repairs, don't do anything unsafe yourself. The ABI says you should contact your insurer first – it should have a 24-hour claims line – and it should arrange for someone to do any work that's covered.

    But if you can't get through, or it won't be able to fix the problem quickly enough, arrange to have the damage fixed yourself by calling a qualified plumber, electrician or builder. Make sure you keep any receipts as these will form part of your claim.

    As long as you have adequate home insurance, you'll be covered for any damage. It also nearly always includes cover for alternative accommodation if you have no access to your property. Buildings insurance will cover the structure of your home as well as fixtures and fittings, while contents insurance will cover your possessions.

    My possessions have been damaged. What should I do?

    The ABI says people shouldn't rush into throwing away damaged items, unless they're a danger to their health. Items may be able to be repaired or restored – your insurer will be able to give you more information on this.

    Often, when claiming, vital documents or proof of possessions will have been washed away or damaged. If such documents are damaged or destroyed, get copies from the relevant provider. For example, you can go to the DVLA for motoring documents, brokers or insurers for duplicate insurance documents, or utility providers and the Passport Office. Check Gov.uk for how to replace birth certificates.

    New for old: will my old goods be replaced with new ones if I have to claim?

    There are two main types of cover when it comes to replacing your goods. New-for-old entitles you to brand new stuff (or the requisite value) if your insurer agrees to replace your damaged or stolen goods. Or there's an indemnity policy, where you get the value of the goods at the time of the loss.

    An indemnity policy may be cheaper, but you only get a minor payout if you need to claim. So new-for-old is the best way to go. When you calculate the cost of your contents, factor in the value of your items as if they're new.

     

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