Your child is headed off to college and you’re experiencing all kinds of emotions: pride, excitement and sadness, among others. And fear. You can’t help but think about all the things that could happen – break-ins or accidents or wrecks – while your young adult is away from home.
Planning for your baby to head to school is a whirlwind and you’re mostly focused on making sure they pick the right classes, acquire everything needed for dorm living and buy essential books and other school supplies. With so many other things to consider, you may overlook an important factor – insurance. Just because your child is leaving home doesn’t mean that your homeowners or renters and auto insurance policies stop covering him or her.
So what specific insurance coverages follow your child to college?
Homeowners or renters insurance
As long as your child’s primary address remains your home, he or she likely will be covered even if the college is located out-of-state. One warning: You should confirm this with your agent.
There are two reasons this is important. Standard home insurance typically includes contents and liability protection. Contents coverage kicks in if your possessions get stolen or damaged by a covered peril such as fire or wind. Liability coverage helps if you (or your student) causes injury to another or damages someone else’s property.
The average college student takes about $10,000 worth of belongings to college including furniture, clothing and electronics such as phones and laptops. If these items are damaged or destroyed due to a covered peril or stolen, your homeowners or renters insurance can help repair or replace them – up to your coverage limits.
The exception to this, however, is if your child goes abroad and leaves his or her belongings in a dorm, fraternity or sorority house for more than 45 days. If your child does decide to study abroad for a semester, be sure to move his or her belongings home or put them in storage near the college’s campus.
If your college student is living in an apartment or other type of rental space, you may need to get him or her a separate renters policy to ensure that he or she has liability coverage in case someone is injured while in the rental.
You may be surprised to know that your auto insurance follows your college student to school even if he or she opts to not take a car.
Here are a few scenarios in which your child would be covered:
- Say your child offers to be the designated driver for a few friends one evening but needs to borrow a friend’s car to do so. In the event that he or she gets into a wreck, your auto insurance can cover bodily injury or property damage liability costs if the owner of the vehicle doesn’t have coverage or lacks adequate coverage.
- Your college student is walking or riding his or her bicycle to class with headphones in and hastily crosses the street to make it on time. If he or she is struck by a car, your policy can help pay for medical expenses that result.
- Your baby comes home from winter break and wants to get together with friends from high school. He or she sits in the driver’s seat of his or her car for the first time since leaving home in August. The driver is protected while behind the wheel thanks to your coverage.
If your college student does take a car to school – even if he or she is attending a university in another state – he or she will be covered by your policy so long as his or her primary address remains as your home. One thing to check: If your child is in a different state, make sure your policy meets the minimum coverage requirements for both states.
You can continue to cover your child on your health insurance until he or she turns 26. Most colleges also offer health coverage. Students who for some reason or another can’t be on a parent’s plan or purchase coverage through their college can find coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s health-care exchanges or, in many states, Medicaid programs. As a parent, just make sure your child has coverage before he or she needs it.
Insurance won’t make all your fears go away, of course. But it can provide at least some peace of mind as you think about all the stupid stunts you pulled in your university time. Just remember: When your kid goes off to college, he or she could be protected by your insurance policy in many situations that arise, so you can relax and focus on mentally preparing to become an empty-nester.