Between household names, insurers that date back to the Great Fire of London, brokers and newcomers, it’s hard to tell who has the best home insurance policies. Selectra provides you with the information you need to pick the right contents and building insurance policies.
Top UK insurance companies
At Selectra, we aim to give you the necessary information that will help you choose the right home insurer whether you live in a flat or semi-detached house. Let’s take a quick look at some of the top home insurance companies and see how they compare.
Aviva insures 2.8 million UK households for both car and home insurance. They got their start with fire insurance in the late 17th century, after the Great Fire of London. Their home insurance policy is notable for being fairly straightforward and the fact that there are no set upper limits.
Axa started up in France and is now active across 60 countries. Axa is no slouch in the UK insurance market. They also act as underwriters for many high-street insurance brands, from Homeguard to household names like Marks & Spencer.
Covea does things a bit differently when compared to other companies. They specifically sell their insurance through third-party brokers exclusively. Covea is fairly new entrant to the UK insurance game. They came out of the merger between Provident and Norman Insurance, two respected insurance companies.
LV (Liverpool Victoria, don’t confuse them with Louis Vuitton) are a well-established British insurer whose heritage takes them back to the Industrial Revolution. They are also a noted underwriter working with brands like Asda. LV has partnered with one of the main insurance players in the world, Allianz.
Legal & General are one of the biggest insurers to remain British through and through. This is fairly unique for a market that is well known for its constant mergers and acquisitions. In terms of reviews, they are somewhat uneven across the difference insurance areas they deal with.
Ageas are a significant insurance provider in Belgium where they are better known for car or travel cover more than for home insurance. Their customer reviews are split down the middle when it comes to the service quality they provide, which is fairly standard for the insurance industry as a whole.
What’s the difference between home, building and content policies?
You know you need some kind of home insurance, right? But how do you know if you need contents insurance, buildings insurance or any of the other endless types of home insurance policies out there?
Home insurance is an umbrella term for different types of policy that protect your home and your belongings from a range of perils (risks such as fires, floods, theft). It’s really important that all owner-occupiers, landlords, tenants and owners of leasehold property have the right coverage!
There are three main types of standard home insurance: buildings insurance; contents insurance; and combined buildings and contents insurance. Let’s break down when you need these and what they cover.
- Buildings insurance
- Contents insurance
- A combined policy
Buildings insurance covers the physical structure of your house - the bricks, roof, doors etc. - as well as any permanent fittings, such as your bath, shower, kitchen sink (basically anything you would leave in the house if you moved out), from damage and destruction caused by things like a natural disaster - fires, floods, earthquakes etc. - or water damage caused by a burst pipe. It covers you to repair or rebuild your house if it is completely destroyed.
Buildings insurance is for freeholders, meaning the person who owns the property and the land it is on (in the case of a flat, you will own a part of the land it is on). If you own your house or flat, you need buildings insurance. In fact, most mortgage lenders will not approve your mortgage if you do not have it.
If you are renting, whether it be an entire house, flat or a single room, you do not need buildings insurance. For owners of leasehold flats (you lease the flat from the freeholder long term) the situation can vary. Find out more in our buildings insurance guide.
Make sure you aren’t over-insured !When it comes to buildings insurance, a lot of people pay too much. Your building insurance should not be based on the market value of your home: it should be based on the cost of rebuilding your house which is usually cheaper than the market value. Check your rebuild cost with BCIS rebuild calculator.
While buildings insurance covers the outside (and permanent fixtures) of your house, contents insurance provides coverage for the inside of your house, in other words the contents - it’s pretty self-explanatory really! It protects all of your personal belongings from any catastrophes (fires), natural disasters (earthquakes), unfortunate mishaps (spilt red wine on your white rug), water damage (floods) or theft that might occur.
Chances are you need contents insurance. In fact, pretty much everyone needs contents insurance as, even if you don’t own the property you live in, you still have personal possessions that you want to protect. Want to know more? Read our complete guide to contents insurance.
Make sure you aren’t under-insured!If the value of all your possessions is £30,000, you may think that covering yourself for £15,000 is enough as you will never claim more than that at once. This isn’t how insurance companies think: if your £1,500 laptop is destroyed, they will only pay you half (£750) as you only took out insurance for half the value of your contents. Make sure you accurately calculate the replacement value of all of your personal possessions.
Homeowners (freeholders) can take out a combined buildings and contents insurance policy. This simply means that rather than taking out two separate policies for your property (buildings insurance and contents insurance), you take out one policy that covers both, which is a great way to save you both time and money.
Other types of home insurance
Besides buildings and contents cover, there are also home insurance policies designed for tenants, landlords, houses that are not used as main homes, and more unusual houses (houses not built with standard materials such as brick).
- Landlord insurance
- Tenants insurance
- Holiday home insurance
- Second home insurance
- Unoccupied property insurance
- High value home insurance
- Non-standard home insurance
- Listed building insurance
Landlord insurance, also known as buy to let insurance, covers rented property. It includes buildings insurance and optional contents insurance. As a general rule, if you rent out a furnished flat, contents insurance is recommended; if the flat is not furnished, contents insurance may not be needed.
Landlord insurance is also designed to protect property from the extra risks that come with renting, including: accidental/malicious damage caused by the tenant; legal expenses if you need to take the tenant to court; loss of rental income if the property cannot be rented out; and alternative accommodation for your tenants while the property is being repaired. Click here for more details on buy to let insurance.
Tenants’ contents insurance (sometimes just called tenants’ insurance or renters’ insurance) is designed for - you guessed it - tenants! It lets anyone who rents a flat, house or room exclusively protect the contents that they own, without having to take out buildings insurance or blanket contents insurance.
For example, if you rent a furnished flat, you don’t need to protect the sofa (as it’s not yours), but you should still protect your mobile phone. This is what tenants’ contents insurance is designed for. It also includes tenant liability protection, so it covers you if you cause damage to the physical property or any contents belonging to the landlord, such as the sofa. Read more about how tenants insurance works here.
Holiday home insurance can be taken out for holiday homes in the UK or abroad. Alongside buildings and contents insurance, it includes extended unoccupancy cover (cover for when the house is left empty for long periods of time, such as from Christmas to summer), and the cost of travel to the property in an emergency.
It can also include aspects of buy to let insurance (damage caused by guests, loss of rent if can’t be rented, etc.) in case you decide to rent it out when you aren’t using it. Find out more in our holiday home insurance guide.
This type of home insurance protects property that is not your main home but is a house or flat you still visit regularly, e.g. a seaside cottage that you go to every weekend or once a month.
The easiest way to explain second home insurance is as a mash-up between a standard home insurance policy and holiday home insurance. It does not include cover for extra long periods of unoccupancy like holiday home insurance, but is more flexible than regular buildings and contents insurance.
Confused about whether you need holiday home insurance or second home insurance? Our holiday home and second home insurance guide makes it crystal clear.
For many reasons, your main or rented out property can be left empty for a period of time: renovations; you’re waiting for a tenant to move in; you’ve moved house but haven’t sold your old house yet; you’re travelling etc. Most standard home insurance policies will not cover your property if it is left empty for more than 30 days (sometimes 60 depending on the provider).
If your property is going to be left empty for more than the period of time stated in your home insurance policy, you will likely need to take out unoccupied property insurance. This can include building and contents insurance, but the exact coverage (especially for contents) will vary depending on how long the property is left empty.
It can cover structural property damage, theft of belongings, legal expenses for removing squatters, and public liability coverage, which protects you if your property causes damage, for instance if a roof tile falls and breaks a neighbour’s window.
High value home insurance cover is for homes with a rebuilding cost of over £500,000 and/or with expensive items inside, such as fine art, antiques and jewellery. It has higher claim limits than standard home insurance and there is also no single-item value claim limit, so if someone steals your £1,000,000 painting, you are covered for the full amount.
With standard home insurance policies, providers tend to offer different levels of cover, e.g. basic, medium and premium. In some cases, the premium level of cover will protect a high value home or a home with high value items inside. Contact individual providers to discuss this further.
Sometimes it’s fun to be different with the design of your home; say good-bye to the typical brick/stone walls with a tiled roof and hello to a thatched barn conversion with a gorgeous timber frame. This sounds great, but these non-standard building materials make the property more risky. Like it or not, a thatched roof is more likely to burn than a tiled one.
Non-standard home insurance covers houses that are built with non-standard materials, such as timber, concrete or glass.
Listed building insurance is designed for listed homes; a building that has particular architectural, historical and/or national importance. This type of house is considered higher risk than ‘regular’ homes because if it’s damaged, repairs will be more expensive, tricky and time-consuming. Listed buildings insurance takes these extra costs into account to make sure you are still fully covered to rebuild your house if the worst happens.
Useful linksCheck online to see if your property - or one you are thinking of buying - is a listed building: Historic England; Historic Wales; Historic Environment Scotland. You could also find out by contacting your local council.
Not all UK insurance companies offer home insurance for more unusual property as they are seen as 'high risk', but here are specialist insurers, such as HomeProtect (underwritten by AXA) and GSI insurance, that focus on these types of buildings.
If you have an unusual property, the best idea is to contact an insurance agent. They will be able to advise you on what type of policy is the right coverage for you. Insuring a high risk home can also mean an expensive premium, so an insurance broker should be able to save you money too.
Compare home insurance
As you can see, there are lots of different types of home insurance! The best insurance type for you depends on the style of your house and the purpose of your property. When you have decided what type of insurance you need, it’s time to compare home insurance providers.
Most insurance companies provide different policy levels, ranging from basic coverage with low claim limits to more comprehensive insurance with high claim limits. The level of coverage you get is up to you, but it should be based on your property’s rebuilding cost and the replacement cost of your contents.
We have taken a look at the standard combined buildings and contents policies offered by some of the UK’s main insurance providers to give you an idea of what they cover. Check out our provider pages to compare home insurance in more detail.
|Accidents and theft away from home||no||optional||yes|
|Home emergency cover||optional||optional||optional|
|Accidents and theft away from home||optional||yes|
|Home emergency cover||optional||optional|
|Accidental damage||optional||buildings: yes
|Accidents and theft away from home||optional||optional||£2,500|
|Home emergency cover||no||no||no|
|Accidents and theft away from home||optional||optional|
|Home emergency cover||£1,000||£1,000|
|Accidental damage||optional||audiovisual items: yes
full contents and buildings: optional
|Accidents and theft away from home||optional||optional||£2,000|
|Home emergency cover||optional||optional||yes|
There is always the option to add additional coverage onto policies, allowing you to adapt policies to suit your needs. The more extra coverage you have, the more your insurance rate will be. Always read the fine print to see what is and is not covered - a certain peril or various circumstances can be excluded from policies.
Insurance provider vs insurance broker
Yet another one-word difference that has an impact on the kind of insurance you end up with for your humble abode.
Insurance provider: a company that underwrites the cost of loss or damage to belongings or property. An insurance company will define the types of risk it’s willing to take on in the policy wording that comes with the products they sell. They will process claims stemming from incidents such as burglary or high winds and if the circumstances fit the criteria described in the policy wording, they will assess compensation to be paid out to the customer who took out the policy.
What about brand name insurance?Everyone from supermarkets to online retailers is getting into the insurance craze, so what’s their deal? How does a supermarket go from stacking brussel sprouts to selling contents insurance? Simple: they are actually reselling someone else’s insurance product. This practice is known as white-labelling and it it isn’t unique to insurance. Essentially, it involves slapping a brand on a bog standard insurance policy. While the established insurer does all the heavy-lifting, managing policies and providing customer support, the high-street brand gets the attention.
Insurance broker: a high street, online or phone-based company that deals with more than one insurance provider. Good insurance brokers should be able to negotiate home coverage that is suited to their customers or at the very least cheaper than a retail policy. They provide extra value by giving bespoke advice to their customers. Shadier insurance brokers will push one or two policies over all the other ones even if they are not suitable, based on the commission they’ve secured for themselves.
If you are considering going with a broker, we recommend that you choose either a well-regarded local insurance broker with a longstanding reputation within your community or, if you are interested in an insurer who is only available through brokerage networks, you should reach out to them and ask them to recommend a policy broker near you.
How can I tell if a policy is decent?
These are our top tips when comparing home insurance policies like for like.
- Check the company and the insurance policy on Defaqto, an independent insurance rating service that is recognised industry-wide. Having a decent Defaqto rating (even if it isn’t the full five stars) means that companies and policies will meet certain requirements for the scope of coverage and customer service.
- Identify those belongings that have the most value and then decide what category they fall under. Then locate the policy wording and compare how each one
- Think about your home and the area you live in. How vital is home security in your area? What are the adverse weather events that are common in your county? Is subsidence (ground movement affecting building structures) a known issue with your home? Insurance policies cover a wide-range of misfortunes and situations. You need to make sure that the ones that are most likely to affect you are accounted for in the policy documents of your chosen insurance plan.
- Make sure you are comfortable with the excess amounts because you will be fully liable for them. This means that you’ve chosen to shoulder part of the cost relating to a claim.