Insurance 101 for College Students … And Parents Too
Moving away from home to go to college is an exciting time for most kids. It’s their first real taste of independence, but this newfound freedom also comes with increased responsibility.
Mom and dad aren’t around anymore to nag you about the hours you spend on your smartphone or to wake you up for school in the morning, but this also means they aren’t there to fix problems either. What, for example, would you do if someone were to steal your precious smartphone?
Students can easily get swept away in the excitement and bustle of the college social scene, forgetting that not everyone they meet at school has the best of intentions. Crime exists in most communities, and college life is no exception. According to the FBI, 97 percent of crimes reported by college students in 2012 were property crimes and a whopping 41 percent of these crimes occurred on campus grounds.
Students bring many pricey belongings from home – electronics like laptops, smart phones, tablets, televisions and gaming systems are common dorm room items. They may also have a skateboard, bike, vehicle or combination of all of the above.
Another on-campus threat to personal property is fires. Firefighters responded to an average of 3,870 college housing structure fires per year1. These fires caused an annual average of $15 million in personal property damage and losses.
So, how can you protect your belongings while you’re away at school? The first step is to check with your insurance agent to see if your stuff is covered under your homeowners insurance policy. Some policies, like those offered by Mercury Insurance, will extend coverage to college students living away from home.
Another option is to purchase renter’s insurance. Renter’s insurance is designed to protect property owners in the event that their belongings are stolen or damaged in a fire. It will also provide liability coverage in the event someone is injured while visiting your apartment or dorm room.
To maximize your college experience, here are a few tips to protect personal property:
- Cover personal belongings with an insurance policy. Students who live on-campus may have coverage available through their parents’ homeowner’s policy. Some companies have policy options that extend personal property coverage for students away from home. Students living off-campus may not be covered by their parents’ policy and should look into purchasing renters insurance.
- Create an inventory. Record the value of all personal property to determine the right amount of coverage needed in the event of a loss.
- Always lock doors. Talk to roommates and make sure to communicate the importance of securing personal belongings.
- Conceal valuables. Never leave electronics or other valuables out in plain sight, and do not advertise their presence on social media.
- Secure valuable electronics, like TVs and laptops, to stable fixtures with locking mounts in your room so they can’t be easily removed. Also, protect personal electronics with passwords to guard accessibility and discourage theft.
- Use a bicycle lock when you’re out and about or for added security while on-campus. Steel and titanium locks are difficult to cut and provide thieves with a challenge. Reinforcing these locks with cable locks, which can be threaded through wheels, will provide extra security.
- Install or activate an alarm if you have a vehicle on-campus. Insurance companies frequently offer discounts for vehicles equipped with anti-theft devices. Students with good grades – at least a B average – may be eligible for an additional discount as well.
- Ensure your auto insurance is up-to-date. Coverage for vehicles left at home while in school should be maintained to protect the vehicle from theft or any damage that may occur while it is parked. This will also protect you if you forget to notify your agent to add coverage back to your vehicle when you return.
Consult with your local Mercury agent to learn more about renters insurance and they’ll help build the protection plan that best suits your needs.
The bottom line: with greater independence, comes greater responsibility.
1 The National Fire Protection Association reports this annual average occurred during the five-year period from 2009-2013.