Twelve Surprising Things You May Not Know—But Should—About Your Insurance Policies

Consider these insights about your home and auto coverage.

Consider these insights about your home and auto coverage Westend61/Getty Images

As a home and auto policyholder, you care that your property is protected. But do you understand what’s in the fine print?

Protecting what matters most to you starts with understanding your insurance coverage now—don’t wait until you need to make a claim. Here are 12 things you should know:

Home insurance

If you started working from home … talk to your insurance agent about whether you need additional coverage to protect you while you work. If you’re a full-time employee, you should be covered by your company’s business liability insurance if you get hurt while working or if your company-issued office equipment gets damaged or stolen, but it’s best to be sure before you need to file a claim. If you’re self-employed and run your own business from home, talk to your agent to make sure your business-related property, including supplies and technology, is covered.

If you rent out your home on Airbnb … your standard homeowners policy may not protect you if someone damages your property or gets hurt while staying in your home. Ask your agent if you need additional endorsements on your policy or a completely new type of coverage.

If you have long absences from home … your policy requires you to protect and maintain your property. If you’re gone in winter, it’s important to maintain heat and protect drainpipes and to have a family member or friend frequently check that your home is secure.

Auto insurance

If you’ve started driving less … check with your agent about discounts that may be available for low-mileage drivers. In 2020, most insurers issued refunds to policyholders because so many drove less due to lockdowns and work-from-home situations. If your policy still reflects a long commute that you no longer make, be sure to let your agent know.

If you use your car for job-related tasks … you won’t be covered if you’re in an accident while on the job—unless your policy classifies your vehicle as a business vehicle (for real estate agents, for example). Most policies don’t include coverage for delivering pizza or driving for a ride-sharing service like Uber.

If you rent a car after a wreck … you’ll want your insurance to pay for a vehicle similar to yours while it’s in the repair shop. Research that cost and compare it to the per-day rental coverage on your policy. Say, for example, you drive a minivan to ferry your children around. If the van is in a crash and spends several days in a shop, you’ll want your insurance to pay for a similar-size vehicle.

If your pet loves to come along for the ride … check your policy to see if it covers injuries to Spot while he’s riding in the vehicle.

If you buy a new car … most auto policies include a 15- to 30-day carryover of coverage from your previous car when you buy a new one.

If you’re tempted to delay making a claim after a crash … don’t. Most policies have a window of time after a crash to make a claim. More importantly, you might jeopardize the investigation, which could affect how much of the damage is covered.

If you waive uninsured motorist coverage … you risk having to pay your high medical bills from your own pocket, because this coverage provides protection if you’re seriously injured by a driver without insurance. The odds of that happening are greater than you might think, as 12.6% of drivers on U.S. roads have no insurance, according to a report published by the Insurance Research Council in 2021.

Auto and home insurance

If you’re targeted in a liability lawsuit … and lose, the damage amount awarded could exceed the limits on your home or auto policy. An umbrella policy provides additional liability coverage above the limits of your other policies. It must be purchased separately from your home and auto insurance, but it costs much less than you might expect—especially for the amount of coverage it provides.

If you travel overseas … your auto insurance doesn’t cover you outside of the United States and Canada (though rental car insurance will). On the other hand, your homeowners insurance typically covers personal property—such as jewelry and golf clubs—no matter where you go. If the value of your jewelry exceeds the standard coverage, you may need an endorsement to ensure that you’re protected. This doesn’t include luggage lost by an airline, which can be covered through travel insurance.

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