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Once you have moved into a new place and decided to get renters insurance to protect yourself and your belongings, there are several things you should do to make sure you get into an appropriate policy that suits your individual needs. This handy checklist gives a brief overview of some general steps every renter should follow in putting together an insurance policy, and offers a few specific details concerning each step.

1. Take Inventory Before You Buy: This first step in some case could be the most critical of all. If you fail to assess the value of your personal belongings prior to enrollment, you may end up underestimating the value of your personal possessions and buying insufficient protection to cover your losses in the event of a major claim. Taking inventory of your possessions is a fairly simple process, but it can easily be done wrong. Take the time to do it right, because doing so will make a difference in the long run. Make a list of everything you own, as well as an estimate of its replacement value.

2. Assessing the Value of Property: This part of the process can get a little bit tricky. When you get to this point, you need to start thinking about whether to opt for actual cash value or full replacement coverage in your personal property policy. ACV coverage depreciates the value of lost items according to age, while replacement coverage provides payment based not on the depreciated value of the item, but rather on the cost of replacing it with a similar new item today. For example, a three year old computer would not fetch much money from an insurer if the renter carried ACV coverage, but someone with full replacement protection would get a check for the average cost of a new machine at current market prices, less deductible. Assess the value of your property with an eye toward the type of protection your policy will include. ACV is obviously cheaper, but provides substantially less monetary protection for losses.

3. Gather and Compare Quotes: This step is an easy one if you use our free quote site. Put together multiple quotes from competing renters insurance carriers offering policies in your home area and you can quickly get a sense of what you will be paying for a policy on your apartment or loft. If you find that the prices are well within your budget, you might choose to lower your deductibles or raise the limits of liability insurance, for example, to beef up your overall policy. Take a look at each quote in comparison to one another. Make sure to pay attention not only to the premiums, but also the limits of coverage, exclusions, and deductibles. The first low price that pops up may not be the best deal, depending on what it includes.

4. Ask for Multi Policy Discount: If you are happy with your current auto insurance carrier, now is the time to let them bid on your renters policy. Most insurers offer a broad range of different policy types. Getting renters and auto coverage from a single insurer can save you money on both policies. Take a look at the numbers your auto carrier comes back with, and see how they stack up with the other quotes you've gathered. Be sure to factor in any additional savings you might see on your existing auto policy by adding renters coverage with your current provider.

5. Think About Your Deductibles: If the quotes you have gotten back are a bit higher than you had hoped, maybe you should consider raising your deductibles. Doing so makes your renters insurance policy on your house or condo a little more of a catastrophic plan. It limits you from making small claims, since you must meet the deductible before any claims will be paid. If there is a small fire in your senior condo kitchen and a few of your personal items are damaged but the total cost does not meet your deductible, it is senseless to file a claim and risk your rates increasing. Higher deductibles should be approached with caution because setting them too high might come back to haunt you later.

6. Consider a Security System: Almost any security system will get you a discount on your premium, but the biggest discounts usually come from security devices that have direct interfaces with local police and fire. While you are thinking about security, now is also the time to request a deadbolt be installed on your front door if there is not one already. Window locks are perfectly reasonable tenant requests as well, and they can help keep the cost of renters insurance down not just through discounts on the short term, but reduced instances of break in and theft down the road.

There are certainly other things you can do as a renter and a consumer to help ensure you get into a well crafted policy that provides the best protection for your premium dollar. The important thing to remember is that the purpose of this policy is protection. Getting too caught up in the financial cost of the policy can make you lose sight of that. There is nothing wrong with doing what we can to save money wherever possible, but not at the expense of protection. Make sure when you are assembling and completing your own checklist that you keep this in the back of your mind.

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