Reviewed by Stefan Tirschler
Updated May 30, 2023
con·tents | ˈkän-ˌtents
Definition: Personal possessions that are not permanently affixed to a home.
She needed to find home insurance to cover the contents of her new apartment.
If you’re shopping for home insurance, you’ll undoubtedly come across the term contents. To what does it refer?
Contents are your personal belongings. More specifically, they’re your personal belongings that are moveable. If you think of the items your home contains, those are its contents—pretty straightforward.
Examples of contents include:
Of course, this list is not exhaustive—pretty much everything you own that isn’t affixed to the building is part of the contents category.
It’s actually easier to note the things that are not contents.
As mentioned, fixtures are not considered contents. From an insurance perspective, pretty much anything attached to the house is part of the house. So, cabinets, chandeliers, toilets, and hardwood flooring are not contents. A rug falls under contents, but attached carpeting does not.
The same rule applies outside: in-ground pools, fences, outbuildings, and patios are not contents, because they’re fixed to the ground. Such things are usually called detached structures. Patio furniture, bicycles, and gardening equipment (even lawnmowers and snowblowers, usually) are contents.
Most motor vehicles, though moveable, are also not contents.
Any vehicle for which one can purchase a dedicated type of insurance is generally not covered by home insurance, and therefore would be excluded as contents. In fact, home insurance policies exclude self-propelled vehicles of any kind, with some exceptions for mobility aids or garden tractors. These exceptions vary from one policy to the next, so be sure to ask your home insurance agent if your policy meets your needs.
Now, it’s important to note that even though something falls under the broad definition of contents, it’s not automatically covered by contents insurance. Let’s talk about contents insurance next.
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Contents insurance covers the contents we defined in the previous section (that was easy).
It’s not quite that straightforward, however.
To start with, in Canada, one doesn’t generally buy contents insurance on its own—it’s almost always part of a more extensive insurance policy. As a homeowner, contents coverage is one part of your homeowner policy. The same goes for condo owners and their condo insurance.
As a renter, your renter’s insurance is primarily contents insurance. But, it also includes liability coverage and additional living expenses coverage.
Depending on your policy, your contents coverage may also be called personal property coverage, or simply Coverage C. To learn more about how contents insurance works, visit our definition of Coverage C.
The most important thing to know about contents insurance is that it doesn’t automatically cover all contents. For example, many insurers impose limits on specialty items like jewellery or bicycles. Others may exclude certain types of property entirely.
At Square One, we have several categories of specialty property that are excluded from coverage by default (but it’s easy to add them to your policy if you need them).
Ensure you know how your insurer and policy treat contents—don’t assume everything has coverage.
When you buy contents insurance, you’ll need to choose a limit of coverage that reflects the total replacement cost of your contents. That means you need to know approximately what all your possessions would cost to replace if you needed to repurchase them today—easier said than done.
A helpful average of contents value is hard to define. Consider the difference between a family of 6 that’s lived in the same house for 20 years and a 19-year-old college student just moving into their first apartment. Most insurers suggest a minimum of $30,000 in contents coverage, but that may not be enough for some households.
Some insurers use a percentage of the dwelling coverage to determine the contents limit. For example, if the house is insured for $300,000, the contents limit could be 40% of that, or $120,000.
At Square One, we’ll provide a recommendation for how much personal property coverage you need. But, the only way to truly know the value of your contents is to do the work yourself: a household inventory.
Inventorying everything you own sounds like a chore, but it’s a valuable exercise for many reasons.
To start with, you’ll be sure that you have the correct amount of contents coverage—no more, no less. Plus, if you ever have to make an insurance claim, you’ll streamline the process if you provide your adjuster with a detailed list of damaged property.
Plus, as you work through all your stuff, you may end up clearing up some clutter in the process. If you’re short on time, start with the kitchen, living room, and wardrobes—many customers find that these three areas represent a significant portion of their contents’ value.
Check out our guide to completing a household inventory to get started (then check your contents coverage to make sure you’ve got enough).
Looking for another insurance definition? Look it up in The Insurance Glossary, home to dozens of easy-to-follow definitions for the most common insurance terms. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.
About the expert: Stefan Tirschler
Stefan is responsible for underwriting leadership, market expansion, and product research and development for Square One's operations. Stefan has earned his Fellow Chartered Insurance Professional designation, and maintains a level 2 general insurance license in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Stefan is also an Education Committee member and CIP/GIE instructor for the Insurance Institute of Canada.
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