Renters' Hindsight 20/20
December 18, 2010 4:04 PM   Subscribe

I just learned -- the HARD way -- that I should have renter's insurance. Seeking recommendations for companies and policies, please.

My Brooklyn apartment was broken into and rifled through last night, but all they took was my laptop and my roommate's. (Still sucks, because that means that everything I've written for the past TEN YEARS is completely gone now.) Fortunately, replacing the physical computer was easy enough (I'm logging on via my brand new dell), and was only half the cost of what I paid for the old one (purchased three years ago), but I am kicking myself for not having insured the old one, even so.

So yeah, I should do that. But the only other person I know who has renter's insurance is a friend who got screwed over by his policy, so I'm looking for recommendations for good comanies to work with, policy advice, and any other tips. Thanks.

(Oh -- and yes, I'm also going to start backing up my files now. That was just my own damn fault.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Home & Garden (30 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
If you're eligible for USAA, I can't recommend them highly enough. I had them for renter's insurance when I rented and now I have them for homeowner's; I have them for auto insurance too. They're the best for service, low rates, etc. <3 And I don't work for them or anything... I'm just a satisfied customer!
posted by hansbrough at 4:08 PM on December 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh, and jeez, I almost forgot to say: I am SO SORRY this happened to you. :( Sucks.
posted by hansbrough at 4:09 PM on December 18, 2010

From Ms. Vegetable who works for an insurance company:

I too highly recommend USAA, if you're eligible - they do have the most satisfied customers.

Otherwise, you probably don't need an agent, but if you choose to go that route, an independent agent is better and will find you a cheaper policy. Also, when you get the physical contract (big fat mailing envelope with ~10 pages to read) - READ IT. And make sure that your computer, if stolen again, would be covered in full - some policies put limits on how much they will pay for electronics.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:11 PM on December 18, 2010

And yes, I too think this SUCKS and feel for you - we had a claim several years ago and the whole thing sucked and made me sad.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:12 PM on December 18, 2010

Don't feel too bad -- the deductibles for these policies are high (like $500 I think). Between the deductible and the premiums you would have paid, you could very well have broken even on the cost of replacing your laptop. My impression is that renter's insurance is really only a good financial investment to hedge a catastrophic loss of all of your belongings, like in a fire or flood.
posted by yarly at 4:18 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding everything yarly said, with the addition that many leases actually require it. Trying to find it now, but I think there was a somewhat-recent thread with a similar question about finding renter's insurance.
posted by inigo2 at 4:21 PM on December 18, 2010

Oh, and the things to look for in your policy: the dollar amount of claims you're capped at; the deductible; whether they give you the replacement value of your goods or just the actual, current value; exclusions of certain items (many policies exclude jewelry, for instance, but you can get additional coverage for that); whether your belongings are covered away from home (eg, camera stolen on vacation); whether they're covered in a car; and the kinds of loss covered (eg, theft, negligence by others, fire, act of god, weather, war, terrorism).
posted by yarly at 4:24 PM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

State Farm was very good when my apartment went up in flames a year ago, which is to say they didn't scrutinize my claim too much, and they paid when they said they would. I should add I live in Georgia, and have no experience with insurance in NY.
posted by dortmunder at 4:58 PM on December 18, 2010

Nthing USAA. I sometimes joke that I'm marrying my fiancé just for his insurance, which is awesome.
posted by charmcityblues at 5:05 PM on December 18, 2010

I guess in Brooklyn you're unlikely to have a car, but if you have any other insurance policies (high-value item on an engagement ring, f'ex), you can usually get a substantial discount from a full-service insurer by having car AND renter's insurance with them.

I had renter's insurance through State Farm (who also insures my car and my engagement ring, and these days, my house) in North Carolina, and I was always very happy with their rates and their service. (Though I have heard having a good agent is key.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:37 PM on December 18, 2010

N'thing State Farm, but I have my car insurance with them (and they've been great, although maybe that's my agent?) and the renter's insurance is so inexpensive (like <$20 a month) that it's a no-brainer for me at least. So if you have a car or some other type of insurance, I'd check with that company first as they may have deals for adding to your existing policies.
posted by smirkette at 5:37 PM on December 18, 2010

Oh -- and yes, I'm also going to start backing up my files now.

In case you aren't aware, especially if you have broadband internet an online backup service is the way to go these days; many of them run automatically in the background and don't require you to remember to stop and manually do a backup.
posted by XMLicious at 5:46 PM on December 18, 2010

Yet again, just to drill it in: USAA.

charmcity, my fiancee also regularly jokes that she's marrying me for my insurance!
posted by InsanePenguin at 6:41 PM on December 18, 2010

I ended up with Amica renters insurance years ago because it was the cheapest, and while I could get USAA, my boyfriend couldn't. (And I can't remember the technicalities of that.) I have never been burgled, but they have always been a totally pleasant company to deal with. (We now have homeowners insurance with them.)
posted by purpleclover at 7:52 PM on December 18, 2010

The same thing happened to us a couple of months ago. It really sucked. We got a reasonable policy for fairly cheap from Amica, even considering that extending the computer deductible cost a little more. A nice side benefit of this is that it was cheaper than Apple Care, yet in a way, it kind of covers more - things that are our fault, like spilling water on the computer are covered.
posted by ignignokt at 9:12 PM on December 18, 2010

USAA won't do renter's insurance in New York City unless you're active duty military (I think). They certainly won't do it for me, someone who has never served but had a grandparent who did. If you call them they will through their General Agency arrange for you to purchase renter's insurance through a third-party provider that they vet. That's how I get my renter's insurance. But I have never had to make a claim under my policy and while I truly believe that USAA will do right by me with regard to any products I purchase from them, I'm less certain about this third-party provider. So unfortunately take the USAA suggestions above with some salt - most places in the country I'd fully agree, but renter's insurance in NYC you're out of luck with USAA.
posted by slide at 11:42 PM on December 18, 2010

Nthing state farm. Been using them for auto, renters and now homeowners insurance since I started driving, renting and owning a home.

The customer service and whole "we understand shit happens" attitude from them cannot be beat.

In high school, on my parents insurance, I got in two car accidents (one not my fault and one my fault that totaled the vehicle) and they didn't raise my parents rates cause the policy had no claims against it in like 15 years. They are what they advertise: good neighbors.
posted by ish__ at 4:41 AM on December 19, 2010

I have renter's insurance from USAA and I live in Brooklyn. My policy doesn't mention a third-party provider. I haven't had to use it for anything.
posted by Mavri at 6:29 AM on December 19, 2010

I have Liberty Mutual and recall it being quite cheap when I lived in Brooklyn (it's more expensive now that I am in DC). I haven't had to pursue a claim but any interaction I've had with them has been fine. You can do special coverage for laptops, cameras, jewelry, etc. They have a discount for alumni of several NYC schools, so ask about that--I am a Columbia alum and got a 10% discount, and I think NYU and a few other schools have the same deal.

I had USAA via an ex (his parent served) when we lived in Manhattan and we did not have a third-party provider.

And, I am so sorry this happened to you! Ugh!
posted by min at 7:19 AM on December 19, 2010

I had (and adored) renter's insurance with USAA in Manhattan and Queens, wasn't active duty, and didn't go through a third party.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:29 AM on December 19, 2010

Oh man that sucks! Do you have car insurance? I got mine really cheap from my car insurer. Who, BTW, is USAA and they are awesome. But pretty much all car insurance companies also offer renters insurance, unless I suppose you have Safe Auto or one of those super-shady ones.
posted by radioamy at 1:24 PM on December 19, 2010

That's very strange. I wonder why USAA told me that I wasn't eligible for USAA renter's insurance in NYC? Gonna have to call them back... If you can get USAA, do it! Best customer service of any institution I've ever come across by far.
posted by slide at 3:07 PM on December 19, 2010

USAA won't do renter's insurance in New York City unless you're active duty military (I think)

Definitely not true. I'm not active duty military; I'm the child of a retired Marine, and I have USAA renter's insurance for my NYC apartment.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:54 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe that's the difference. I got in through my father, too, so I'm a full-fledged USAA member. I think they have two tiers: people who can do everything, and people who don't have access to as many services.

Well, EmpressCallipygos can find that out with a quick phone call.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:34 AM on December 20, 2010

I also got it through my father (retired Army).
posted by Mavri at 7:59 AM on December 20, 2010

If you can't get USAA, I suggest State Farm - the only reason we don't have USAA, my previous rental insurer, at the moment is that my boyfriend has State Farm and felt VERY STRONGLY about keeping them. I agreed because I'd had good experience with working with State Farm car insurers after someone backed into my car in a parking lot and left their insurance info under my windshield wipers. (I am not giving up my USAA car insurance, however!)

The quotes we got from both for rental insurance were so close as to be identical (less than $2 difference, I think).
posted by telophase at 10:35 AM on December 20, 2010

Hi all -- haven't been following this as quickly as I like, as I've been dealing with acquainting myself with the new computer and with trying to rebuild 10 years of missing data (I've found that I luckily emailed other people some of the really important files, so that's some relief).

But I noticed that a number of you are suggesting that I go to the insurance company that I have my car insurance with. One problem -- I don't have a car. Does that mean I'm screwed?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:42 PM on December 21, 2010

EmpressCallipygos: Certainly not. Most of us are probably recommending that (I know I am - *inserts State Farm recommendation*) because most insurance companies will give you discounts for having both home, auto, snowmobile, etc insurance through them. But as you've no car - no problem, they'll still happily provide renters insurance.
posted by ish__ at 6:12 AM on December 22, 2010

As ish said! You just get a discount for grouping your insurance in one place, if you have more than one policy. (Usually it bumps down both your car and renters/house insurance slightly.) You may have other policies -- high-value items policy (typically engagement rings for younger people, sometimes art or furs or antiques); life insurance; umbrella policy; even certain kinds of professional bonds. If you have ANY other insurance policies, you should look at a full-service insurer such as State Farm or USAA and see what kind of rates you'll get by grouping your policies.

(If you already have insurance somewhere, you probably also get a length-of-policy discount, at least for auto.)

If you DON'T have any other insurance policies, insurers still want to insure you! You can sometimes find cheaper policies (though mostly for auto insurance) through a company that does ONLY that type of insurance, but it's definitely worth looking a bit at full service companies so you can establish a customer relationship for when you might want multiple policies all at the same place in the future.

I've been with State Farm for years and years, I really like my current agent, and it made it very easy when I went to buy a house to transition into adding a homeowner's policy and feeling pretty comfortable I've got the right coverage because I had years of working with State Farm on my car insurance and renters' insurance. It was nice that the scary of first time "OMG HOUSE INSURANCE WTF DO I DO" was somewhat mitigated by already knowing some of the ins and outs of how my insurance company works and how to read their policies and so on.

(Personally I really like State Farm's agent model, you always have a go-to guy that you have a fairly personal relationship with -- we review our coverage once a year or every two years with our agent; after a car accident I can call his office, if I want, and have them interface with the claims department for me, although I have no complaints about calling claims directly, but if I'm all emotional and falling apart I can call my agent and he can deal with a lot of it for me -- but some people prefer to be able to handle everything online and not to have to do face-to-face. That's something to consider as well.)

Last thing -- as part of avoiding getting screwed, be very clear about what your renter's (or homeowner's, perhaps at a future time) insurance covers. SPECIFICALLY ask about high-value items or unusual items such as jewelry, antiques, art, high-end electronics, expensive bicycles, rare books, etc. The policy may only cover $1000 worth of jewelry, for example, or electronic items worth up to $2000 each, or whatever. (I am entirely inventing these numbers, I have no idea if there's an industry standard.) Fortunately, it is the easiest thing in the world to get an endorsement or a rider (extra coverage attached to your policy), or a separate high-value items policy. I pay around $80/year for $10,000 of coverage in a high-value items policy, it's not expensive at all. It is VERY COMMON to have personal property items worth more than the policy covers -- we have an ginormous art piece given to us as a gift by a relative who's a minor artist worth a couple grand that requires a rider, and I think most of that value is in the ginormity -- and it's not just for rich people with a house full of antiques! Tech geeks should be especially diligent about checking!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:25 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Eyebrows, that is not only exactly the comprehension level I needed, but that is amazingly comprehensIVE. Thanks!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:13 PM on December 22, 2010

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