‘Peace of mind’ is the promise that emergency insurance makes, and at this time of year when burst pipes and broken boilers are a worry, it’s an easy sell. But is it all it’s cracked up to be or can we cope without it?
The joys of home emergencies. From blocked drains to lost keys, pest infestation to roof damage, there’s many a thing that can cause you to dial your insurer’s number.
At this time of year, with the boiler working overtime and the ever-present risk of frozen pipes, insurance of this kind sounds like a lot of sense – but will it deliver?
Check the small print
Reviewing policies from over 30 providers for Which? Money recently, I was struck by the number of exclusions and limits lurking in the small print. As is often the case with insurance, if you don’t pay close attention to these you may find that your cover doesn’t count when you need it most.
And you may be surprised by some of the finer points. One important point to check is if boiler breakdown is covered at any time of year, or if this part of the policy is invalid from May to August. Sometimes, only a winter breakdown is deemed an ’emergency’.
What are the options?
Some home insurers offer home emergency cover as part of their standard policy. If this fits your needs, you don’t need to do any more, but you should check the level of cover carefully, as policies vary widely. If your insurer doesn’t provide emergency cover as standard, it may offer it as an optional add-on, but this can get costly.
The main suppliers of home emergency cover aren’t mainstream insurers but specialist providers such as Homeserve, Homecall Plus, Domestic & General and The AA. British Gas is also a major force.
But these can also prove expensive, with annual premiums for comprehensive policies ranging from £125 to £324. It’s debatable whether these companies provide better service than general insurers, although British Gas does have its own dedicated workforce.
Is it worth it?
If boiler failure or blocked drains are a real concern for you, a home emergency policy can be reassuring. But how many times do these emergencies really crop up? It’s unlikely your boiler will break down in same month as a rat infestation, after all. So it could be cheaper to ‘self-insure’ by putting money aside to pay for the times when you need an independent engineer or plumber.
The sums involved will vary, depending on where you live, the age of your boiler and what goes wrong. Insurance should reduce the stress of a household emergency, but the only way to ensure you have the right cover is to compare policies and check the small print carefully before you buy.
Have you found a policy that lives up to its promise – or do you rely on savings to get you through unexpected problems? Hopefully you’ll never need it, but if you do, it pays to have a policy that does what it’s name suggests.