How to insure your student digs

As a student, insuring your belongings can rack up, says Natalie Stanton. But there are ways to keep the costs down.

As freshers' week looms, insurance is unlikely to be at the top of students' things-to-do lists. But given that each student owns an average of £4,500 of belongings, according to insurer Endsleigh, not having it could be costly. Follow these tips to ensure that your belongings are protected.

First, check your university's insurance policy. Freshers living in university halls may be automatically covered. But if this is the case, read the small print. Most university and basic student contents insurance is far from comprehensive. You'll want to make sure that any policy covers accidental damage that's the clause that will pay compensation if your MacBook gets dropped in the library, or bathed in beer at a house party.

Second, shop around. There are a number of specialist insurers aimed at students who often have a lower excess than traditional policies. Buy online if possible. If you can pay for the insurance up front, then do: monthly payments tend to work out more expensive. If you're unsure where to start, try Endsleigh, which is recommended by the National Union of Students.Some banks that offer student accounts, such as Barclays, NatWest and HSBC, also provide specialised insurance cover.

Third, make sure your most valuable items are covered. Often, laptop cover only runs up to about £400, which will be little consolation if your £1,000 machine goes missing. If you've found a good basic policy that excludes some of your gadgets, you may want to consider splitting your coverage across a few different policies or providers. Providers such as Protect Your Bubble can be competitive for insuring add-ons.

Finally, it may be tempting to add your name onto your parents' contents insurance, but this is rarely the best choice. It may work out slightly cheaper than starting from scratch, but you're likely to end up lacking some crucial protection including accidental damage, or theft when there are no signs of forced entry (it only takes one forgetful housemate to forget to lock the door). If your parents' policy only covers the basics, it's probably worth topping up your cover elsewhere or taking out a new policy for yourself.

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