Insurance

Should I tell my insurance company about my latest purchase?

Guess which of these big-tickets items warrant giving them a call

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During the pandemic, we weren’t going out as much, so suddenly people had to get creative about their home entertainment. Big-ticket items like brand-new televisions, hot tubs and laptops became popular purchases. In fact, based on a recent survey we conducted, 55% of respondents said they purchased a big-ticket item during the pandemic. 

Out of that 55%, almost half decided they didn’t need to tell their insurance company about these purchases. While some larger items may already be covered by your homeowners' insurance policy, others will require an entirely separate policy.

Let’s look at a few big-ticket items, many of which people bought frequently in the last few years, so you can get a sense of what belongs on your insurance policy and what doesn’t.

Flat-screen television

According to our survey, 21% of respondents bought a flat-screen TV sometime in the last three years. Maybe to cope with the boredom of pandemic life or maybe just because they like watching sports and had the money. If you were one of them, should you have let your insurance company know? 

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Nope!

You don’t need to worry about letting your insurance company know when you buy a big TV. Under your personal property coverage or renter's coverage, your TV will almost definitely be covered if it undergoes a covered event. 

A “covered” event isn’t it breaking because your cat jumps up and knocks the whole thing over (I know this from personal experience). It’s also not covered if it’s just old and needs replacing. On the other hand, damage from a house fire, theft, vandalism, or power surges is likely covered.

While you don't need to let your insurance company know, it is a good idea to include it in your home inventory, so you have everything documented in case disaster strikes. 

Solar panels

While not necessarily a pandemic purchase, the use of solar panels on personal residences has exploded in recent years. This could be because they have become more affordable (thanks in part to tax incentives) and because of rising concerns for the environment. If you add solar panels to your home, do you need to tell your insurance company?

 solar energy hero

Yes!

You should let them know, as the value of the panels may increase the value of your home past your existing coverage limit. Since solar panels are considered a permanent addition to your house, at least in the eyes of insurance companies, you often won’t need a separate policy. Still, you should at the very least, give your insurance company a call to double-check. Especially if you live in a hail-prone area.  

All this said, if your solar panels are not mounted on your roof and are instead on, say your garage roof or in your yard, you may want to consider a separate policy. Since it’s not attached to your home, these panels may not be considered permanent structures on your property and may not be covered under a traditional policy. Call your agent to find out what types of coverage they can offer for your free-standing solar panels.

Swimming pool

Who wouldn't want to add a little summer fun to that backyard? Especially as many public pools have been closed in recent years, first because of COVID concerns, then because of life guard shortages. According to our survey, 7% of people did outdoor renovations, including swimming pools. Of course, pools do require a lot of maintenance and upkeep, not to mention some significant upfront costs. But what would your insurance? Do you think you need to tell them when you get one? 

 swimming pool

Yes!

Swimming pools provide a complex situation for your insurance company, so you’ll want to contact them. Pools, named “attractive nuisances” by insurance companies, are fun, but they create potentially dangerous situations. Thus having a swimming pool will very likely increase your home insurance premiums. You’ll need both liability and other structure coverage for your pool so others are protected as well as any unforeseen damage to the pool itself.

Gym equipment

With people stuck at home for a huge amount of 2020 and 2021, home gyms became popular, with 11% of our survey respondents saying they invested in fitness equipment. But is this equipment covered or should you inform your insurance company?

 gym

Maybe

This one depends on what you buy. For many pieces of athletic equipment, you can just include the additional costs in your home inventory for home or renters insurance. 

Your typical policy will likely cover damage you may do to your home while using equipment, but you may also want to add personal injury coverage in the event that you get hurt while using the equipment.

Kitchen appliances and gadgets

Everyone likes to eat, and during the pandemic many people discovered staying home more gave them time to indulge in more hobby cooking. (With a special emphasis on bread making!). It’s no surprise that 17% of our survey respondents bought some sort of kitchen appliance recently. With people home much more than they once were, appliances are taking on more wear and tear. Do you need to notify your insurance company if you bought a new breadmaker? 

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Nope!

Much like a flat-screen, unless you bought something truly unique, it's likely covered with the rest of your belongings.

In general, whether or not your appliances are covered by your insurance is determined on a policy-to-policy basis. Some policies will cover the damage if there’s an unexpected, emergency event like a power surge or fire. If your stove, refrigerator, washer or dryer, breaks due to normal wear and tear, you’re out of luck and will have to deal with the cost yourself. 

This is where a warranty can be helpful. While these warranties, offered by the manufacturer of your appliance, only last a year or a few years, they can replace parts or the whole appliance if something unexpected happens.

Laptop or desktop

With at-home workers becoming more and more common, buying laptops and computers for professional and personal use went up during the pandemic. Our survey respondents reported that 5% of them bought computers, and 2% bought new laptops. Should you give your insurance company a heads up if you were one of them? 

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Nope!

Laptops will often be covered under the personal property coverage portion of your standard homeowners or renters policy. Additionally, many laptops come with optional warranties from manufacturers. These, although expensive, cover most accidents with the exception of water submersion. 

The exception is if you have a a very expensive computer. For those with multiple computers or very expensive computers, an additional policy may be worth it. Plus, it can likely cover the gaps in the manufacturer's warranty. These policies often cover the costs of repair or replacement that has experienced water damage or damage from dropping the equipment. If you rely heavily on your computer or laptop, this extra protection may be well worth the cost.

Furniture

If you're staying at home more, it can be nice to nest a little bit. According to our survey, 18% of people aquired furniture or decor items for their home in the last couple of years. Should they alert their insurance company of their sweet new leather sofa? 

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Nope!

Most basic insurance policies offer coverage for some of your personal belongings, which includes furniture. Unless you have an extremely expensive piece of furniture, there shouldn’t be a need for you to get an additional policy or any add-ons. 

If you’re concerned about damage from pets or children, check with the company you’re purchasing the furniture from. They may offer a warranty that can repair or replace the couch if covered damage happens.

Camper or RV

Just 2% of our survey respondents bought campers during the pandemic. Understandable considering this is a very big-ticket item that skyrocketed in price during the pandemic.

 RV

Yes!

If you have a travel trailer, when you’re pulling it with your insured care, the trailer will likely be covered if you’re to get in an accident. When you’re camping in your trailer, though, you’ll need separate coverage to protect the trailer itself if it’s damaged. 

Travel trailer insurance, offered by most major insurance companies, provides comprehensive and collision coverage just like your auto insurance policy does for your car. If you live full-time in your trailer or RV, you may also want to add a liability policy just for your trailer, since you’ll want to be protected if guests visit and injure themselves.

Hot tub

For those who want to turn their backyard into a relaxing oasis, a hot tub might be the ticket. The number of people who bought hot tubs folds into the 7% who did outdoor renovations in the last year. 

 hot tub

Yes!

Like a swimming pool, a hot tub is an attractive nuissance and warrants a call to your company.

Hot tubs are covered under many policies. Typically, since your hot tub is on your property, your liability policy will cover the cost of someone else getting hurt while in the hot tub. If your insurance company doesn’t offer coverage under your traditional policies, you can add accidental damage insurance to your policy, which should protect items in your home and on your property (including your hot tub) if a tree branch falls, it’s damaged in a storm or some other form of damage happens.

Boat

According to our survey, only 1% of people bought a boat last year, which makes sense given the high price point (and the fact that not everyone is a boat person). If you were in the rare 1%, did you tell your insurance company about your new boat? 

 boat

Yes!

You need to connect with your insurance company when you buy a boat because you’ll need to have a separate insurance policy altogether for adequate coverage. Your homeowner's insurance will only cover your boat from $100 to $1,500 and generally for damage that occurs at your residence.

Like auto insurance, boat insurance protects you in case of storms, age, or collision damage to your boat. It also protects others if you cause an accident or damage.

Bottom line: How to know when to report big-ticket items

When you purchase expensive items that will live in or near your home, you may want to consider adding additional coverage that can cover the cost to repair or replace these items. At the same time, some big-ticket items will be covered by your policy already. Here are a couple of “rules” to keep in mind when buying larger things for your home. 

  • If it’s outside your home, you likely need additional coverage. This includes hot tubs, solar panels that aren’t attached to your house and any other outbuildings. 
  • If it’s a separate vehicle, you’ll need a specific policy. RVs, campers and ATVs all need their own coverage. Even though insurance for these may not be technically required in your state, these are major purchases that you want to be covered in case something happens. 
  • Smaller items are likely covered under your personal property coverage. TVs, appliances and other smaller items are likely already covered. If these items break from normal wear and tear, though, you’ll be paying out of pocket for a new one.

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