As a student, you may think that insurance is just for grown-ups, but you're actually more likely to need it than anyone else

Insurance? You? Whatever for? You don't have anything valuable have you? So here is one area where you can economise. Wrong! How much would it cost to replace all your CDs? Your sound system, camera, clothes, books, computer - all those things that lie around your room while you are out? And we're not talking here about another light-fingered student along the corridor. Student accommodation offers rich pickings. Professional thieves know that students own such things and a gang with a van can do a house, let alone a room, in minutes.

Insurance? You? Whatever for? You don't have anything valuable have you? So here is one area where you can economise. Wrong! How much would it cost to replace all your CDs? Your sound system, camera, clothes, books, computer - all those things that lie around your room while you are out? And we're not talking here about another light-fingered student along the corridor. Student accommodation offers rich pickings. Professional thieves know that students own such things and a gang with a van can do a house, let alone a room, in minutes.

According to research conducted by Endsleigh Insurance Services, specialists in insurance for students, the average value of a student's possessions when away from home is over £3,000. The National Union of Students says that one in four students is a victim of crime at some point.

So - you need to be insured. But do you need to take out insurance? Two things to check first. If you are going to be living in university- or college-owned accommodation, find out whether insurance is included. Some halls of residence have a master policy and include the cost in the rent. Or could you be covered by your parents' insurance? Some companies automatically cover the property of family members away from home (provided that that home remains their permanent address) for up to 10 per cent of the sum insured. With others, they would need to arrange to extend their cover - and it's not necessarily a good idea. Your cover might be limited; their premium might go up and if you make a claim, bang goes any no-claims bonus.

Before you take out a policy it pays to shop around. An increasing number of companies now arrange cover for students. So before you pay up it's advisable to get details from a few and compare them. You need first to work out which of your possessions you wish to insure and work out the total. Then there are other points to consider. What is the excess you would have to pay in the event of a claim? Would your possessions be replaced on a new-for-old basis? (Cover for this option is usually more expensive). If you are in privately rented accommodation can you insure just your room or must cover be taken for the entire house? Is there a maximum amount you can claim in any one year or for any one item? Why not check three or four companies, not forgetting to look at policies offered by banks and by the major supermarkets. You can do most of the research on the internet.

Cover can be quite cheap, particularly if it is straightforward. You should be able to get basic cover for £15-18 for a year but the exact price will vary according to what you choose to include. You can opt to cover items only while they are in your room - the definition of "room" including your own room on or off campus and the one in your parents' home, plus direct transit between the two.

By paying more, you can go for "All Risks" which covers your property anywhere. (Suppose you leave your laptop in a friend's car which is broken into). You can choose the total amount to insure and the limit you can claim on one item. The maximum amount you could claim for a computer for example could be £1,250 with a £50 excess payable by you, but you could increase it to £2,500 and £100 respectively. Some policies cover fraudulent use of credit cards up to £500, damage to landlord's property up to £5,000 and any university or college property you are responsible for, like library books.

Postcodes come into play too. Inner cities are usually rated as higher risk than small towns, so living in the student area of, say, Manchester costs more than Cheltenham or Winchester.

USEFUL WEBSITES

www.endsleigh.co.uk
www.directchoice.co.uk
www.saxoninsurance.com
www.eandl.co.uk

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