Back to School

Extra insurance coverage may be in order for college students living away from home

When Kathy Hall, a junior at a SoCal college, moved into her own off-campus apartment, she brought along things most students own: clothes, books, jewelry, a laptop computer, and a smartphone. She also had her car, which was still on her parents’ auto insurance policy. One thing she didn’t have? Confidence that insurance would cover all of her belongings if they were stolen or damaged.

Often, parents think their child’s possessions are covered under their own homeowners policies or they figure their child doesn’t have enough valuable items to justify separate coverage. That’s not always the case. If your child is going away to school, whether in state or out, now’s a good time to assess his or her insurance needs.

My child lives in a dorm. Do we need to get renters insurance?

If you’re still claiming your child as a dependent, most homeowners policies will cover him or her for personal liability and may cover some of your child’s personal property in a dorm.

How can I make sure my child’s electronics and other valuables are properly insured?

Most homeowners policies cover computers and electronic equipment, but it’s common for policies to limit the dollar amount of coverage—and limit it even further when the property is away from the primary residence. If your child’s electronic devices would cost more than $1,000 to replace, you might want to add an endorsement to your policy allowing you to increase your coverage of certain items. It is also important to consider whether the policy will pay replacement cost (the full value to replace items) or actual cash value (the value of the item minus any depreciation) for contents. For instance the actual cash value of a stolen three-year-old laptop may be significantly less than its replacement cost.

When do I need to consider buying a separate renters policy for my college student?

Consider it when your child moves into his or her own rental unit. If your child stays in a rental unit for an extended time, the unit may not be considered “temporary,” at which point it might be a good idea to get him or her a separate policy.

Typically, the landlord’s policy will cover only the building, not your child’s property. Renter’s insurance may be better able to pay to replace your child’s belongings in the event of a covered loss, such as theft or fire. It may also provide coverage for alternative housing if the apartment becomes uninhabitable. Finally, many renter’s insurance policies include liability coverage, which may be helpful if somebody gets injured in your student’s apartment.

Should I keep my daughter on my auto policy if she’s away at school and doesn’t have a car?

Some parents exclude their child from their auto policy when he or she is away at school to reduce their premium. That’s not always the only option. If you exclude someone from your policy, he or she has absolutely no coverage under your insurance. If your daughter is excluded from your policy and borrows a friend’s car at school, or uses your car when she is home on break, she would not have any insurance coverage. However, some companies offer a student away discount, which would keep your daughter on your insurance policy but reduce your premium. It’s a good idea to contact your agent to discuss potential options before making a decision.  

My son took his car to college. Do I need to change his auto insurance coverage?

Take a fresh look at your auto policy to make sure your son’s insurance coverage is appropriate for the school environment. Consider factors such as: Who owns the vehicle? How often will it be used? Also, consider getting physical damage coverage in case the car is vandalized or stolen.


Photo (top): Hero Images Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo