From A to B: Transit insurance when moving house

Even though you and anyone assisting may take care with your possessions when moving home, accidents can and do happen. To help protect your items from damage or loss while on the move, you may want to consider your transit insurance options, including cover through a contents policy or from your removalist.

Arriving at your new house or apartment after a move only to discover your furniture has been broken, your glassware has been chipped, or some of your clothes have gone missing can be a disappointing and costly experience.

If you have an existing contents insurance policy, it may include cover to protect your belongings while in transit, but if not, there are other insurance options you can consider.

What is transit insurance?

Transit insurance can help provide a level of financial cover for your possessions if they are damaged and/or lost while they are in transit from your old home to your new home, either within Australia or overseas.

Transit insurance can be purchased as a standalone product from a specialist insurance provider, removalist or freight/shipping company. Some transit insurance policies may include similar coverage to a contents insurance or removalist insurance policy, however these are different types of insurance and should not be confused with each other.

Source: Africa Studio (Shutterstock)

What does transit insurance cover?

The cover provided by transit insurance will differ depending on the policy you have chosen and the provider of that policy. It may include cover for:

  • Loss or damage to your goods when being packed and unpacked
  • Loss or damage to your goods when being loaded or unloaded to a mode of transport (e.g. a truck)
  • Loss or damage to your goods while in transit (e.g. caused by road accidents, fires, derailment, theft, impact or malicious damage, as well as grounding of vessels and crashes or forced landings for aircraft)
  • Loss or damage to your goods caused by removalist mishandling
  • Incidental storage costs
  • Alternative accommodation expenses, if required

The policy may be for international or domestic moves, based on your requirements.

How can you get transit insurance for moving house in Australia?

There are several options available for insuring your belongings during a move, including:

1. Contents insurance

Canstar Research found contents insurance policies differ when it comes to cover for your belongings in transit.

Some insurers do provide a level of cover for your contents if damage or loss is caused by events such as fire, flood, theft or a road accident while a vehicle is carrying your items to your new home. However, exclusions and conditions may apply to this type of cover. For example, some policies may cover the items in transit, but not when they are being loaded and unloaded from the vehicle.

Other policies may not provide cover if you fail to let your provider know about your moving plans, or if you use a removalist company that is not deemed professional. There may also be an exemption if your belongings are stored in a facility.

Some insurers may restrict transit coverage within its contents insurance policy altogether, or will only provide this additional cover if you pay an extra premium.

As policies do differ, it is recommended to read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) of your policy or to contact your insurer directly to ask about your cover.

2. Removalist insurance

If your current contents policy does not provide cover for your belongings while they are being moved, you can check to see if insurance is available from your removalist.

→Relevant article: How much do removalists cost?

Removal companies are not legally required to have insurance to cover your belongings.

The Australian Furniture Removers Association (AFRA) recommends you ensure your removalist is properly qualified to offer you insurance, if you’d like this added protection. For professional removal companies to be accredited by AFRA, they must have public liability, third-party property, motor vehicle and carriers’ legal liability insurance. These types of insurance may provide some cover for your items should they be damaged or lost as a result of negligence by the removalist, but not due to other events or accidents (such as fire or theft). This is where standalone transit or moving insurance, which can provide some financial protection for your belongings, may be an option.

AFRA-accredited removal companies are authorised to offer transit insurance as part of their service, and it will typically come at an extra cost. This cost will vary depending on the level of cover you take out (e.g. full replacement cover or value only) and the excess you select, which is the amount you pay the insurer if you need to make a claim. If your removalist offers this insurance, they will need to provide a PDS and Financial Services Guide (FSG) regarding the cover. Check these carefully before you purchase the insurance to understand exactly what you are and are not covered for and whether it will suit your needs and budget.

If you decide to hire a removalist, research your options carefully and ask family and friends if they have recommendations. It may also be a good idea to use a company that is accredited by AFRA. Removalists who have this accreditation are guaranteed to meet certain equipment, premises and staff training standards, along with carrying certain insurance. You can visit AFRA’s website to search for accredited members.

3. Standalone transit or moving insurance

If you’re not satisfied with the insurance cover on offer from your contents insurance provider or qualified removalist, or you don’t have these options available to you, then there are some specialised moving and storage providers who do offer transit or moving insurance you could consider. The price of these policies will depend on a range of factors, including the value you place on your belongings and what circumstances you would like covered.

Before buying one of these policies, it is important to check the PDS or contact the provider directly to get a full understanding of the cover inclusions and exclusions.

Are any items excluded from cover while being moved?

Some items may be excluded from insurance cover while they are in transit, however the specific item exclusions will vary depending on your chosen insurance policy and the provider of that policy.

Based on desktop research, some contents insurance providers specify that they will not cover for loss or damage while in transit to cash, smart cards, phone cards, or documents able to be cashed or traded, and will also not cover items which are excluded from cover elsewhere under the contents policy. These items may include electricals (phones, laptops), building materials, business or trade stock, pets or animals, plants, trees and shrubs, chemicals, pesticides and firearms.

moving pets plants
Source: VK Studio (Shutterstock)

Some standalone transit or moving insurance providers also exclude particular items from cover or restrict the amount of cover on offer. For example, the PDS of one provider specified it would not cover living plants, pets, cash, banknotes or jewellery in transit under any circumstances, while another said it would not cover antiques, works of art, money, medals or jewellery unless these items are specifically declared on the list of items to be insured.

AFRA specifies there are some items that your removalist may not be able to move, such as animals, plants and prohibited dangerous goods (e.g. firearms). If these items are not able to be moved by your removalist company, then the insurance available for these items in transit will also not be available. Check with your removalist and the insurance PDS for more information.

If you are looking to transport your pet to your new home, and you have a pet insurance policy, it may be a good idea to check whether that policy will cover your pet should they be injured while you are travelling to your new address.

How much does transit insurance cost?

If you choose to purchase transit insurance through your removalist or as a standalone product, the costs for cover will differ depending on a number of factors. According to AFRA, some of the factors that go into determining a premium may include:

  • The level of cover chosen

Full transit insurance may cover for loss or damage to insured goods under all circumstances, while restricted cover may only insure items for loss or damage resulting from nominated events such as fire, flood or an accident on the road. Typically, full insurance cover will cost more than restricted cover.

  • Full replacement or market value

Customers may also be able to choose between covering their items for the full replacement cost of that item or for the market value. The market value option typically covers the replacement cost of the items, less a reasonable allowance for age, condition, wear and tear and depreciation, and often carries a cheaper premium.

  • Types of belongings you are transporting

If you need to move fragile, breakable or high-value items (e.g. a piano or artwork) with your move, you may have to pay a higher premium for insurance to cover them.

  • Distance to be transported

Typically, those moving interstate can expect to pay higher premiums compared with those moving within the same city, as the distance from address to address is often further.

  • Method of transport

Some types of transport (such as via road) may carry higher risks than others (such as via sea or air), and may carry a higher premium as a result.

  • Excess applicable to the policy

The excess is the amount you need to pay the insurer when making a claim on your insurance. You may be able to adjust the excess amount when taking out your policy. Typically, the higher the excess chosen the lower your premiums will be; however, you will then need to pay more if you have to claim on your policy.

You can source information on cover options and premiums directly from your insurer, either over the phone or online, or if you are using transit insurance provided by your AFRA accredited removalist, you can contact AFRA for more details.

What if I am moving overseas or back to Australia?

If you are relocating abroad or moving back to Australia from overseas and want to ship your belongings to your new home, there may be transit insurance options available through your chosen shipping, freight or cargo company, or from an insurance company who specialises in international transit cover. You can research your transit insurance options online or you may choose to talk to an insurance broker about what policy may suit your needs and budget.

Source: Franck Boston (Shutterstock)

What about insurance once you are in your new home?

If you have an existing home and contents insurance policy, you will need to contact your insurer to notify them you are moving, and to discuss any changes that need to be made to your insurance policy for your new home. For example, you may need to adjust the amount your property is insured for based on its size and location, or if you have purchased more belongings for your new digs.

If you don’t have home and contents insurance or are looking to review your cover, consider comparing your options and requesting quotes from a couple of providers. Keep in mind that the cheapest policy may not always provide the cover you require, so it is a good idea to read the PDS of any product before making a decision. You can compare home and content insurance policies using Canstar.

Cover image source: Milan Ilic Photographer (Shutterstock)