If you have a personal laptop or a notebook computer, there's a good chance your homeowners insurance will pay up if it's damaged. Unfortunately, there are multiple exceptions and special cases that could give your insurer grounds not to pay you a penny. It depends, in part, on what you use the laptop for and what caused the damage.
Business or Personal
Homeowners insurance covers computers you keep at home for personal use. It also covers laptops and tablets when you take them away from home. Most policies have limits on how much they'll pay for a piece of computer hardware, so you may not get reimbursed in full. If your laptop is a business tool, you may get no coverage at all. Homeowners policies often exempt business property from coverage, or limit it to say, $250.
If you lose your computer in a fire, to a burglar or because a tree fell on your house, you have a legitimate claim. If you drop your laptop or spill coffee on the keyboard, that's not so good: homeowners insurance doesn't protect you from your own errors. It also doesn't pay for defective workmanship or an aging computer finally giving up the ghost. Paying for an extended warranty can cover some of those problems.
Your policy has either a list of "perils" -- damages it insures against -- or it covers any damages not specifically excluded. While exact coverage varies, no policy protects against flooding or earthquakes. Unless you have federal flood insurance or separate earthquake coverage, there's no chance of reimbursement. Another limit is if your policy provides "actual value" coverage rather than replacement value coverage. Replacement value pays enough to get a replacement, but actual value pays what the laptop was worth. For an older machine that may be much less than what it costs to buy a new one.
If you want to protect your laptop, there are steps you can take, most of them costing money. You can add business coverage to your regular policy, or take out separate business insurance so that your work computers are protected. If your laptop is expensive, you can pay extra to extend normal homeowners coverage beyond your policy limits. You can get some quotes and then decide whether it makes more financial sense to pay for added coverage or to save money to buy a replacement down the line.
- American Institute of CPAs: Insuring Your Personal Computer or Laptop
- EInsurance: Insurance Information and Answers to Home Questions
- Insure.com: I Dropped my iPad at Home and Broke it ...
- Allen Financial Insurance Group: Actual Cash Value vs. Replacement Cost
- Insure.com: Water Damage: Seven Home Insurance Scenarios
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.