What You Need to Know About Moving Insurance

Relocating scores near the top on anyone’s stress scale. The process creates both physical and emotional tension. Add to that the possibility of someone damaging your prized possessions and you’ve likely reached your breaking point. Although you can’t replace a shattered antique, reimbursement for the piece’s value is an option if you have the right insurance. That protection should cover all your belongings in case they don’t arrive at your new destination safely.

Don’t assume your homeowner’s coverage will take care of your household goods while they’re on the road. Although some insurance companies may kick in during a move, it’s limited. While professional movers are packing in your home, your items are insured, but once they leave in the truck, your homeowner’s protection probably ceases. Your best bet is to call your insurance company and ask what they do cover. But let’s not jump ahead. First you need to pare down what you plan to move before discussing your insurance needs.

Declutter First
We tend to grow into the homes we live in and by the time relocation is on the table, we’ve acquired many more possessions than we need. Some suggestions for cutting back on household goods include:

  • If it’s broken, toss it
  • Take photos of sentimental items instead of keeping all of them
  • If you haven’t used a piece in a year, donate it or trash it
  • When choosing what goes with you, remember that your move costs you both time and money

Once you’ve reduced the number of your possessions to the bare essentials, you need to create a record of them and their value.

Make a List
Take an inventory of what’s left. The Insurance Information Institute (III) has some valuable suggestions on how to proceed. You’ll need a description of each item and its replacement value. When completed, your record will give you a better idea of what kind of insurance coverage makes the most sense for you. III also offers a smartphone app called Know Your Stuff to make inventorying easier.

Having a completed record of your belongings helps if you need to file a claim. A photo of the item in question proves the damage happened during the move, which is something the insurance provider will want to know. If you hire a moving company, they’ll want that evidence, also.

What is Professional Mover’s Coverage?
When you engage a moving company, they must offer to sell you additional coverage for your possessions. That protection is over and above what their insurance protects. If you decide against buying this insurance, the mover only protects your belongings for their Released Value protection. That means they’ll give you 60 cents per pound for any lost or damaged items. So if you move a 30-pound high-definition TV that breaks in transit, your reimbursement is $18. The American Moving & Storage Association recommends you not settle for Released Value protection and buy at least Full Value protection for your household goods.

Your mover can sell you Full Value Protection. Federal law requires that a relocation company tell you this type of insurance is available. Full Value Protection either pays for what the current market value of an item is, replaces the missing or damaged goods with a similar piece, or shells out for repair of the damage. Ask the mover how they decide on replacement value and what, if any circumstances limit their liability.

Movers can often reduce their obligation for loss or damage to possessions that have extraordinary value unless you specifically itemize those pieces on the shipping documents. Anything that’s valued at more than $100 per pound is considered an item of extraordinary value. So that includes jewelry, china, furs, antiques, art, etc. You’ll want the mover’s written explanation of this liability before the move commences.

You’ll also want to know the details of the Full Value Protection as it varies from mover to mover. If you’re not satisfied with the mover’s answers, you can buy your own protection from your current insurance company or from a company that specializes in moving insurance (3rd Party coverage).

You’ll also want professionals to pack your most valued items as they have expertise in how to move them carefully and safely. Besides, packing your own boxes may limit what your movers are responsible to cover under the policy they provide you.

What Are Some Additional Policies I Can Add?
Trip transit insurance covers your property for theft, disappearance, or fire while in transit or storage, but it does not cover breakage. This type of policy doesn’t protect household goods that are broken, or damaged by flooding.

Consider adding endorsements to your current homeowner’s policy for the replacement cost of your possessions and special perils coverage. The latter covers some breakage, but not for fragile items. Your best bet is to share your inventory list with your insurance agent and see what he or she suggests to get the best protection you can.

To File or Not to File a Claim – How Do I Decide?
Before contacting the prevailing insurance company about any damage or missing household goods, ask the moving company if they’d like to handle your complaint. Many of them would rather pay for a loss than have it on their record. Professional, legitimate movers reimburse you quicker and with a great deal less paperwork than an insurance company might.

Don’t replace or repair any damage until the claims adjuster has had a chance to take a look at it. He will review your claim and contact you with your next steps.

Do-it-yourself Moving
You have the same choices for buying protection from your own insurance company whether you hire a professional or move yourself. The best bet is a replacement cost and a special perils endorsements on your current policy. Renting a truck adds a new twist to the coverage conundrum.

The III (Insurance Information Institute) suggests buying the optional collision damage waiver from the rental company. The coverage you have on your personal vehicle for collision and comprehensive usually doesn’t transfer to a rental truck.

You may also want to ask your insurance agent what protection you need if you put some of your household belongings into storage.

Remember, relocating is hard on your possessions. Even when professionals carefully pack and handle your things, accidents do happen. Find out for yourself what insurance protection you need beforehand. Don’t assume it’s the responsibility of the moving company or that your homeowner’s coverage will take care of everything. That could lead to a huge disappointment.

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