Protecting Expensive Tech: The Ins and Outs of Personal Articles Insurance

When I was a teenager, a burglar cut out a screen on our front door, broke the knob off, and made their way into my dad's home. To our shock, the thief didn't take jewelry or even money. They took our video game consoles, all our games, and an SLR camera and the lenses. That was it. Ever since, I've gotten pretty smart about insuring our tech.

After the burglary, the police told us the thief likely took those items for their resale value and because they are very difficult to track. But there are a few things you can do to protect items like these.

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First, whether you are a renter or a homeowner, you need to keep a catalog of your belongings. When you got engaged, did you insure the ring? It's a common practice and one you should apply to your tech items too. This is called a Personal Articles Policy and common coverage items for this category include:


  • Jewelry

  • Cameras and Lenses

  • Silver/Gold/Precious Metals

  • Fine Art (This can include furniture that is considered artistically valuable)

  • Collectibles

  • Computers

  • Home Entertainment Equipment

  • Musical Instruments

  • Fitness/Sports Goods (e.g. Treadmills)

Now that you know what can be covered, create a spreadsheet with the following information for all your valuables:
  1. Name and Brand of Item
  2. Model Number
  3. Serial Number
  4. Identifying Features (e.g. engraving on an iPod)
  5. Retail Price
  6. Date Purchased
  7. A List of Any Accessories and their Worth (e.g. CF Cards for a Camera)

Don't be afraid to ask your insurance agent if there is any other information that might be helpful for them while building your policy. They may ask you to keep receipts, for example, if you have them.

Next, take lots and lots of pictures. These photos are important because they confirm that the item was in your home and can be used when negotiating your insurance coverage, especially if your agent doesn't know what something is. (For example, I ran into this with a Bose Sound Bar, which was eventually categorized as stereo equipment.) Photos are also helpful to police should something get stolen. Once you have taken all these photos, go back to your spreadsheet and add a column for photo ID. Type in the corresponding photo number (e.g. IMG_6504) so you can keep the records fluid and easy to track.

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According to the Insurance Information Institute, only 31% of renters have renter's insurance. Renter's Insurance is often used as a form of Personal Articles Insurance, because you aren't adding it onto a Home Insurance policy. Be smart and get the renter's insurance added onto another policy. You will save money on your policies, such as car and life, if they are combined with renter's insurance.

If you do all this and one of your belongings is stolen, you will be glad you did. Not only will you be financially covered, but the police can use those serial numbers to search pawn shop databases and even eBay in some cases, so you may be able to get your stolen camera back after all.

(Images: Chris' Crafty Home Office Makeover, EE's Ray of Light Studio, Tolga and Gulin's Illuminated iLife)

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Liz is a writer and filmmaker from Minneapolis. She was nominated for a Webby and won an Emmy for Science of Watchmen, a documentary short about the physics in the comic book movie. She’s a tech obsessive, verified nerd and total Anglophile.

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