I am sure that you feel like I am rushing things. I understand that your child has barely taken off his cap and gown and the high school diploma has not been framed and hung in the family room yet; but it is the second week of July and time is moving forward. In less than six weeks, he will be heading off to college lugging pillows and comforters, stockpiles of shampoo and Axe Spray. Making checklists and searching the aisles of Walmart and Target for printer paper, bathroom cleaner and posters to decorate the dorm walls. You might think you have everything completed the day you leave the driveway and head towards the next four years of your child’s life. But you may be forgetting something.
What about insurance?
Most people do not consider the insurance ramifications of sending a child off to live away from home. But it is a life-altering event and insurance plays a part in making sure that he is protected and secure when he is out of your sight.
There are two specific insurance policies that you need to think about before it’s time to leave for the fall semester.
1. AUTO INSURANCE
You might think that if your student goes away to school and doesn’t take a car, you can drop him from your auto policy and save some extra money. But what if he comes back for Christmas break and wants the car to visit friends? Or, what if he is away at college and his friends ask him to be a "designated driver" one evening?
If your student doesn't take a car to school, we recommend that you keep him listed on the policy for a number of reasons:
· He’ll be fully protected if he returns home for a weekend visit and wants to drive.
· He will have insurance protection when he’s driving a friend’s car while away, and that vehicle isn’t adequately insured.
· Even if he doesn’t take a car to school, he’ll be fully protected if he’s hit by a car while walking or bicycling, or while being a passenger in somebody else’s car.
· Keeping him on your auto policy maintains continuous insurance coverage, which may be beneficial when he gets his own auto insurance policy.
· As a full-time student, your child may qualify for a Good Student Discount (if he maintains a grade average of 3.0 or higher). Make sure to let us know, and provide us with a copy of the transcript or a letter from a college advisor; the savings can be significant!
· You can also apply for the Distant Student Discount if your child attends college 100 miles or more away from home.
If your student takes a car to school, she or he can still remain on your auto policy. In fact, your child should, since it is usually much more expensive for young divers and students to have their own policy. Be sure to notify us about the new garaging address: Not only do insurance companies prefer that, but it may also save you money, particularly if your student attends college in a less populated area of the state. Full-time college students can usually remain covered on their parents’ auto policy if their primary address is the parents’ house, even if they attend college out of state. Make sure that the policy meets the minimum auto liability requirements for that state. If your student owns the vehicle and holds the title, they'll need their own auto policy.
2. HOMEOWNERS OR RENTER’S INSURANCE
You've bought your daughter a brand new laptop computer and a printer as a going away present. She's going to Vassar College as a full time student. Will these valuable electronics be insured from theft, vandalism or a fire?
- If your child continues to live in your household, his or her belongings are covered under your policy.
- If your child stays in a dorm room on campus and you, the parents, have renters or homeowner’s insurance for your home, your insurance policy will extend to cover their belongings, up to a 10% limit of your personal property coverage.
That means, if your renter’s or homeowner’s policy has a limit of $200,000 for personal property, there will be coverage for up to $20,000 for your child’s belongings. Keep in mind that coverage is subject to your renter’s or homeowner’s policy deductible, usually $500 - $1,000. Check with us to make sure the personal property limit on your homeowner’s policy is adequate. You might need additional coverage to insure expensive items like jewelry, musical instruments, or certain sports equipment.
Please note: Will your child return home or travel abroad for longer periods of time as part of their college experience? If they leave their belongings behind in a dorm or fraternity / sorority house for more than 45 days, your homeowners policy will no longer cover those belongings.
In that situation, it's important to either ship the belongings home during extended absences or temporarily store the items in a commercial storage facility.
If your college student lives in his or her own place off-campus, or shares an off-campus house or apartment with friends, things get a little trickier. You might have to set up a separate renter’s policy for your student. That will not only cover his or her "stuff", but also provide liability coverage in case somebody gets hurt in their place. In addition, many landlords have made renter’s insurance a requirement of the lease. Renter’s insurance policies are usually quite affordable, generally less than $15 per month.
Depending on your child’s particular situation, there might be some other variables that need to be considered. This is where an independent insurance agency (like us!) really comes in handy!
If your student is about to move into his or her own place, give us a call. We can help you navigate through the insurance-jungle and make sure you get the best value and protection for your money.