The personal property portion of your home insurance policy applies to the contents of your home, but whether it covers your home’s appliances will depend on the nature of the damage. While damage from events like fires is typically covered by homeowners insurance, natural wear and tear or breakdowns, like a decade-old refrigerator malfunctioning, usually aren’t covered.
When does homeowners insurance cover appliances?
Standard homeowners insurance policies provide financial protection for the structure of your home as well as the personal belongings inside, which include your appliances. However, it’s crucial to note that appliances are generally covered under the personal property portion of your insurance, and standard HO-3 policies cover personal property on a named perils basis. This means that your insurance policy will list out covered sources of damage that your personal property is financially protected against. The following list includes common personal property named perils, but your own policy specifics may vary from this list:
- Fire, lightning or smoke: Your appliances are typically covered if damage results from lightning, volcanoes or fire. This includes damage from smoke, which can affect air circulation systems, like forced air heating. Some policies in wildfire-prone regions may not cover damage from wildfires, so you’ll want to double-check your policy details.
- Wind and hail: This includes damage from windstorms, hail and the weight of ice, snow or sleet. For example, if a section of your roof caves in after heavy snowfall, damaging your washer and dryer, these appliances would be covered as long as the weight of ice and snow is a named peril in your policy. It’s important to note that flood damage is not included under standard HO-3 policies — separate flood insurance is required.
- Explosions: Appliance damage caused by explosions, whether they originate inside or outside of the home, is typically covered. This may include damage caused by aircraft or vehicles.
- Civil commotion, vandalism, malicious mischief or theft: Your appliances may be financially protected from damages or losses caused by intentional harm or theft. For instance, if someone breaks into your home and damages your appliances while looking for valuables, your policy will typically cover this damage.
- Sudden steam or water discharge: Sudden and accidental water or steam discharge or malfunction of a steam or hot water heating system is typically covered by personal property coverage. However, gradual damage or neglect, like a slow leak leading to mold, is excluded from standard policies.
- Freezing: Your appliances are generally covered against damage from freezing conditions. This may include damage to your plumbing or air systems caused by a burst pipe.
- Sudden artificially generated electrical current: Unexpected electrical surges can harm your electronics. This peril is generally covered by personal property insurance, but if your home contains a considerable number of high-priced electronics, discussing this with your insurance agent to ensure adequate coverage may be a wise move.
When does homeowners insurance not cover appliances?
There are some instances where your insurance will not cover appliances, and it’s a good idea to be aware of them before you’re faced with repair bills you didn’t expect. If your personal property coverage has named perils, any source of damage not included on the list of named perils will not be covered.
- Age-related breakdowns: Old appliance breakdowns aren’t covered by standard home insurance policies. If you’ve had an appliance for more than a few years and it stops working for a reason other than a named peril, you’re on your own for repairs.
- Lack of maintenance: Regular maintenance is crucial for appliance longevity. If your appliance damage is caused by lack of maintenance, your home insurance will not cover it. You may want to refer to the owner manuals for your appliances to ensure you’re performing the recommended maintenance for each.
- Flooding: Standard HO-3 policies don’t provide coverage for flood-related damages. For flood coverage, you can explore policies from private insurers or the National Flood Insurance Program.
- Earthquakes: A standard home insurance policy does not cover damage caused by earthquakes. However, if your appliances are damaged in a fire that occurred after an earthquake, that would likely be covered. Similar to flood insurance, homeowners in earthquake-prone regions can purchase earthquake insurance as an endorsement or standalone policy, depending on their location.
Home insurance for appliances
What insurance covers appliances? Standard home insurance policies cover your appliances from named perils under your personal contents coverage. If you want more robust coverage, there are a few other ways you can financially protect your appliances:
Home warranty coverage
Home warranty programs are not the same as home insurance. They typically cover specific systems and usually focus on routine breakdowns and malfunctions. This coverage is more like a service contract that covers your appliances and home systems (plumbing, electrical, HVAC) from damage caused by regular wear-and-tear and age. So you may have an HO-3 home insurance policy and a home warranty — the coverage types are different.
A home warranty generally costs between $20 and $150 a month, and you are often able to pick and choose what you’d like covered. If you purchase a newly-built home, you might have a home warranty from the builder — this is different from a home warranty policy, but the coverage may look similar.
Home appliances can be expensive, but when you purchase a new appliance, you typically have the option to add a manufacturer warranty. This warranty may even be included for free for the first year of the machine’s life. These manufacturer warranties may provide peace of mind should your new appliance break down shortly after you buy it.
Equipment breakdown coverage
Your insurer may offer equipment breakdown coverage as an add-on option on your home insurance policy. This coverage pays for financial loss caused by appliance breakdown. Unlike standard personal property coverage, mechanical failure and breakdown are covered under this add-on. The specific home systems covered by this endorsement will vary by provider, and coverage limits usually range from $10,000 to $50,000. Not all carriers offer equipment breakdown coverage, but you can consult your insurance agent for more details if you’re interested in purchasing this endorsement.
ACV vs. RCV
When you purchase a home insurance policy, you may be given the option to cover your personal property at actual cash value (ACV) or replacement cost value (RCV). ACV provides coverage for the depreciated value of items, while RCV covers items based on what it would cost to replace them at today’s market value. Standard HO-3 policies cover personal property on an ACV basis but may give you the option to select RCV coverage. HO-5 policies are more robust and may already include RCV coverage for personal property.
If you want more substantial coverage for your appliances, you might choose RCV for personal property insurance to ensure you’re getting enough coverage to replace your items if they’re destroyed by a covered peril. This may be particularly relevant to homeowners with lots of old appliances who would need to pay a significant amount out of pocket to replace appliances at today’s value after an ACV payout.
How much home insurance coverage do I need for my appliances?
Most personal property coverage covers your home’s contents at 50-70 percent of your dwelling coverage. You may want to discuss adjusting your coverage limits with your insurance agent based on your belongings. Having too little personal property coverage may leave you with significant out-of-pocket expenses following a covered loss.
To determine how much personal contents coverage you may need, you could start by conducting an inventory of all your household appliances, listing them along with their current values. This not only includes major appliances like refrigerators, washing machines and ovens, but also other electronics and smaller appliances that might add up in value. Regularly updating this inventory, especially after major purchases, ensures you have an accurate estimate at any given time.
Once you have a clear idea of the total value of your appliances, compare it with the value of your other personal belongings and the personal property limit in your homeowners insurance policy. If the total value of your items exceeds this limit, you might want to consider increasing your coverage.
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