4 Common Myths About Renters Insurance

Think renters insurance is unnecessary? Here’s how it can save you money now – and later.

Young couple moving in new home
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[Read: Should You Buy Renters Insurance?]

This liability protection can cover medical or legal expenses associated with your home. "If you are entertaining at your home and, say, someone trips over a loose rug or injures his or herself in your apartment in some way, could you afford to pay the potential medical expenses associated with that, but in the event of a lawsuit, could you pay the legal expenses as well?" Rutman asks. "A typical renters policy will cover that full range of risks that any renter could be exposed to."

Myth #4: "Renters insurance is too expensive."

Unlike car insurance or a typical homeowners insurance policy, a renters insurance plan is not a large additional monthly cost. "You are probably looking at about an additional $185 a year," says Tim LaCasse, a State Farm insurance agent. "I try to tell people that for less than $20 a month, all your personal property is protected." Policy premiums can vary between individuals, providers and location, but as a whole, renters can expect to pay about 50 cents per day for a renters insurance policy.

For even more savings, many insurance providers offer multi-policy discounts to customers who add renters insurance onto an existing insurance package. On average, bundling can decrease overall monthly insurance costs by approximately 5 to 10 percent, according to LaCasse.

However, even though renters insurance is less expensive than homeowners insurance, it could still become expensive if consumers are not careful, regardless of the policy type. "You have to shop around," Hunter says. "You could pay twice as much with one company than you would if you had a policy with another. I recommend calling your state's insurance department and ask them to recommend the top five renters insurance providers in your state. Then give those places a call to get some quotes before making a final decision."

How to Choose a Renters Insurance Policy

Renters insurance coverage needs are different for every individual, based on factors like age, location and protection needs from things like natural disasters. But in general, there are two important areas to understand when choosing a renters insurance policy: what the policy covers and whether that coverage is actual cash value or the total replace cost.

An actual cash value policy would cover your belongings contents for what they are worth today. "So if you purchased a flat screen TV for $1,000 two years ago, and you are going to resell it today, it might only be worth $200," Rutman says. "An actual cash value plan is going to take into account the depreciated cash value of your property, and it's going to pay you for that depreciated value."

[See: 50 Smart Money Moves to Make Now.]

The other option is total replacement cost coverage, which will pay out the dollar amount that it costs to replace a renter's property today. So, with this type of policy, you would be able to replace that $1,000 flat screen TV without an additional cost, regardless of how old it was at the time of loss. Replacement cost policies often come with a slightly higher premium, but in the long run, the extra few dollars a month it may cost can really be worth it.

If the cost difference between a cash value policy and a total replacement policy is small, experts suggest going with the total replacement policy. But depending on the condition of your belongings, a cash value policy can be a cheaper and just as effective option, according to Hunter. "If [you] have relatively new stuff, a cash value payout for replacing that new stuff will be almost the current value of it," Hunter says. "And on the other hand, if [you] have really old stuff and the policy premiums are a lot different, then I would go with actual cash value. You really have to analyze your individual situation."

Once you decide what type of protection you need, the next step is to develop a value estimate and inventory of your possessions. Many insurance companies offer value estimation calculator tools, so check with your provider to make the most of all available resources during the deliberation process.