Insurance for your extras: What home insurance won't cover

Kim Porter

insurance for your extrasNow that the holiday decorations have been boxed up and the family members have departed, it's time to consider insuring your new expensive items against mishaps.

Since laptops may crash, your new puppy could get sick and bicycles can mysteriously disappear if unprotected, getting insurance for these items could make sense, says Frances Scott, an independent broker at F.A. Scott Insurance Agency in New York.

Scott has an example of this from her own life: "I have a daughter who I think replaces her phone at least five times a year," she says, adding that it's due to breakages most of the time. Scott's daughter pays her carrier a monthly fee for replacement coverage.

If you have received expensive new gifts for Christmas, you should consider whether getting extra coverage for your stuff makes sense for you.

How to get coverage for your insurance extras

1. Laptops, smartphones and tablets.

Most standard renters or homeowners policies cover these devices. But if you have to make a claim, you pay a deductible each time, and many people these days are opting for higher home insurance deductibles -- think $1,000 or more -- to save on the cost of premiums, says Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president of public affairs for the nonprofit Insurance Information Institute.

So even if a brand-new iPhone 5S costs up to $849 to replace without the carrier's subsidy, it probably doesn't make sense to pay a $1,000 deductible and get a new phone that way. Plus, your premiums might climb if you start filing numerous claims, Salvatore says.

Several companies, including extended-warranty provider SquareTrade, offer standalone policies for laptops, smartphones, cameras and other gadgets. SquareTrade's two-year care plan for a 16-gigabyte iPhone 5S costs $99 upfront, and you'll pay a $75 deductible for each claim. The plan covers replacements or repairs from normal wear and tear, damage from drops and spills, and more.

Other companies such as Protect Your Bubble and Protect Cell offer plans with overnight replacement, identity-theft assistance, deductible-free policies and device buyback programs. However, there may be a waiting period before you can file a claim, and you'll need to read the fine print to see what's covered.

2. Bicycles.

Bicycles generally are covered under a renters or homeowners policy. However, if you have a high-value bike - some cyclists own bikes worth $1,000 and more - getting an endorsement an addition to your home or renters policy that would specifically insure the bike for an established value) may be a good bet.

According to the National Bicycle Dealers Association, Americans spent $6.1 billion on bicycles and their accessories in 2012.

For a bicycle worth $1,000, a premium through Velosurance would cost about $150 annually with a $100 deductible. This plan would include $25,000 in liability coverage. Extra options, such as medical payments and roadside assistance, are available. According to Velosurance, its plans cover more than a standard renters or homeowners policy would, such as damage from a crash, replacement rental, and coverage for clothing and bicycle parts.

But if you have a basic bike, it probably won't make sense to pay the extra insurance for it, Salvatore says.

3. Stored items.

You may find you have so much stuff that you need a storage unit.

Many renters or homeowners policies will cover your belongings in an off-premises storage unit, and a standard policy usually covers 10 to 15 percent of the overall amount of your homeowners insurance coverage, Scott says.

That means if your policy covers up to $150,000 worth of belongings, then up to $15,000 worth of your property is covered at the storage unit.

But Scott says some policies' coverage will exclude high-price items like jewelry or artwork. Much like a bicycle, you might need to get an endorsement to cover expensive items whether in storage or in your home, Scott says. This usually goes for things valued at about $2,000 and more, according to the III.

Sometimes Scott's clients opt to have a renters or homeowners policy plus the storage company's policy, she says. For example, Extra Space Storage offers plans that cover up to $10,000 worth of belongings for as low as $9 per month.

Check whether your plan has cash-value coverage, which will reimburse you for the depreciated value of your items, or replacement coverage, which will replace the items at today's price, Salvatore says. You'll usually pay about 10 percent more for the replacement coverage.

4. Pet health insurance.

Fido's health isn't normally covered under your own health policy nor homeowners, renters or auto insurance, Salvatore says.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says the cost of a serious pet accident or illness could climb to $3,000, depending on the incident. But most pet owners won't spend more than $500 for an emergency, according to a 2010 survey co-conducted by The Associated Press.

Pet health insurance normally reimburses you a percentage of what you spend on surgeries, emergency care and shots after an annual deductible is met. For example, a plan through Healthy Paws would cost $25 a month for a mixed-breed cat and would cover 80 percent of costs with a $200 annual deductible.

The insurance might not be worth it if the pet doesn't need a lot of health care. But if your pet has a serious accident and you have insurance for him, you won't have to make the choice of putting him to sleep if you can't afford care, Salvatore says, who insures her pet parrot.

See how much you could save today on your home insurance. Get your free home insurance quotes today!