Deciding on the right home insurance deductible amount can be tricky. A higher deductible will lower your premiums, but you’ll have to pay more out-of-pocket if you file a claim. A lower deductible costs more upfront but saves you money on repairs and replacements. What’s the optimal balance for your situation? This guide examines the pros and cons to help you make the best choice.
What is a Home Insurance Deductible?
A home insurance deductible is the amount you pay out-of-pocket toward a covered loss before your insurance kicks in. For example, let’s say a storm causes $5,000 in damage to your home. If your deductible is $1,000, you would pay the first $1,000 for repairs and your insurance would cover the remaining $4,000.
Deductibles apply per event, so you would pay another $1,000 if a separate incident occurs later in the year. Some policies also have separate deductibles for certain types of claims, like hurricane damage.
How Does the Deductible Affect Premiums?
Insurance companies offer different deductible amounts, usually ranging from about $500 to $5,000. The higher your deductible, the lower your premium.
That’s because you’re agreeing to cover more of the cost if you file a claim. This makes you less of a risk for the insurance company, so they charge you less for coverage.
For example, let’s say the annual premium for a $500 deductible is $1,200. Bumping the deductible up to $1,000 could drop the premium down to $1,000. Raising it to $2,500 may reduce the premium to $800.
The exact savings will vary based on your policy, location, and other factors. But in general, expect a higher deductible to substantially lower your premium.
Choosing the Right Home Insurance Deductible
So how do you decide what deductible to get? Here are some things to consider:
How much can you afford to pay out-of-pocket if you need repairs? Opting for a $2,500 deductible instead of $500 could save over $400 per year in premiums. But could you cover that higher amount in the event of a major incident?
Evaluate your finances to find the sweet spot between premium savings and potential out-of-pocket costs. Just make sure you have enough savings set aside in case you need to pay the deductible.
Your Home’s Value
The value of your house also helps determine the best deductible amount. The higher the home value, the more you stand to lose in a worst-case scenario. So it may be worth paying more in premiums for a lower deductible.
For an expensive property, you probably want extra protection with a deductible in the $500 to $1,000 range. For a lower value home, you may be comfortable with a $2,500 or $5,000 deductible to maximize premium savings.
Do you live in an area prone to hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, or wildfires? Then you’ll want to prepare for a higher likelihood of needing to file claims.
In high-risk regions, a lower deductible like $500 is probably a smart buy for protection. But if you’re in an area with minimal threats, you can likely get by with a higher deductible without much added risk.
What deductible makes sense also depends on your history of filing claims. If you’ve submitted multiple claims over the past few years, you may benefit from a lower deductible moving forward. Even just one major incident can justify paying a bit more each month for extra coverage.
On the other hand, if you rarely or never file claims, you can safely opt for a higher deductible to maximize savings. Just make sure to reevaluate if you do end up filing a claim later on.
Some insurance companies offer discounts for choosing a higher deductible, which can increase your savings beyond just the lower premiums. Make sure to ask your agent about any available discounts for raising your deductible.
Bundling With Your Auto Policy
Another way to potentially lower your deductible is by bundling your home and auto insurance with the same provider. Most companies offer a multi-policy discount, which can give you leverage to reduce your deductible.
For example, let’s say you currently have separate home and auto policies, each with a $1,000 deductible. By combining them with one insurer, you may qualify for savings that allow you to decrease your deductibles to $500 each.
So when choosing a deductible, be sure to get quotes both individually and bundled. See if the multi-policy savings give you more flexibility with the deductible amount.
Adding a Separate Wind/Hurricane Deductible
If you live in hurricane-prone states like Florida, Texas, or the Carolinas, consider a policy with a separate wind deductible. This requires you to pay a specified amount if you file a hurricane or wind damage claim, before the regular deductible kicks in.
The wind deductible is usually a percentage, like 5% of the home’s insured value. So for a $200,000 house, you’d pay the first $10,000 (5%) toward a hurricane claim before the policy pays out. This helps insurance companies control costs in high-risk areas.
Having a separate wind deductible allows you to keep your main deductible lower for non-hurricane claims. Just be prepared to pay more out-of-pocket for storm damage.
How to File a Claim and Pay the Deductible
When you need to use your home insurance after a covered incident, the claims process typically goes like this:
- Report the loss to your insurer, usually by phone or through their website. Provide details about what happened and the type/extent of damage.
- An adjuster inspects the damage and determines the repair costs covered under your policy.
- The insurance company sends payment for the total minus your deductible amount. So if repairs cost $5,000 with a $1,000 deductible, they’ll send a check for $4,000.
- You pay the deductible directly to the contractors doing the repairs. The adjuster’s report will specify the amount.
- If the damage exceeds your coverage limits, you’ll pay those excess costs out-of-pocket too.
- For major damage, your insurer may release partial payments throughout the claims process. But they’ll subtract the deductible from the total before sending any money.
Tips for Choosing a Home Insurance Deductible
Picking the optimal home insurance deductible involves carefully weighing premium costs against potential risk. Keep these tips in mind as you evaluate options:
- Don’t just default to a low deductible – crunch the numbers to see where you get the most savings relative to risk.
- Consider bundling with auto insurance to potentially qualify for a multi-policy discount.
- In disaster-prone regions, lean toward a lower deductible for extra peace of mind.
- Review the deductible annually and when you file a claim – you may want to adjust it over time.
- Understand exactly how deductibles work if you need to file a claim to avoid surprises.
- Home insurance deductibles range from about $500 to $5,000. Higher deductibles lower premiums but increase out-of-pocket costs.
- Consider your budget, home value, disaster risk, claims history, and discounts when choosing a deductible.
- In high-risk hurricane regions, add a separate wind deductible for lower costs on non-storm claims.
- Pay your deductible directly to repair contractors – the insurer covers any additional approved costs.
- Review your deductible regularly to make sure it’s optimally balancing savings and coverage.
Carefully weighing all the factors, costs, and risks will lead you to the best deductible for your situation. And remember to reevaluate it from time to time as your home, budget, and risk exposure evolve. With the right deductible in place, you’ll have essential home insurance protection at an affordable price.