If your son or daughter is headed to college for the first time this year, you might want to consider buying dorm insurance for all the electronics and other possessions your kid is taking along.

More for College Kids

Such policies usually cover not only laptopssmartphones, and wireless speakers but also bicyclessports equipment, musical instruments, and digital cameras.

But before you plunk down your money for dorm insurance, assess the risks and know your options. (Check our insurance guide for information on other kinds of coverage.)

What's the Threat?

Overall, the threat to your co-ed’s belongings is small. There were only about 90 burglaries and robberies for every 100,000 students enrolled at institutions of higher learning in 2015, according to the most recent data available from the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Education. 

That’s only about 15 percent of the number of incidents per 100,000 in the U.S. population, according to crime data from the FBI. 

However, rates vary widely by specific school. The University of California, San Francisco, had the highest crime rate in 2015, according to FBI data. Its 421 burglaries and larceny thefts for a student body of just 3,170 extrapolate to a rate of 13,281 per 100,000 students. By contrast, 14 of 658 reporting schools said they had no burglaries or larceny thefts.

You can assess the threat by finding detailed crime statistics at your child’s school on the latest FBI tally for colleges and universities. On these state-by-state lists, burglary and larceny theft are the crimes relevant to dorm insurance.

Finally, size up the level of maturity and responsibility your child will bring to the more public environment of campus living. Is she too trusting of people or street smart? Careless with belongings or mindful of their value? An easy mark or a hard target? 

Insurance Options

If you’ve concluded that your kid’s belongings face greater risk than you’re comfortable with, tote up the cost of replacing the valuables and shop for the best price from among these options:

  • Your homeowners policy will typically cover your offspring while they’re living in an on-campus residence at no extra cost. But the coverage is usually only 10 percent of your limit on the contents of your home. So if your policy covers up to $50,000 in losses, your student’s belongings are covered for only up to $5,000. 
  • A renters policy costing $11 to $22 per month on average, depending on the state, will be necessary if your child lives in an apartment off-campus because your homeowners insurance won’t extend there. Premiums vary based on the amount of coverage needed. 
  • A dorm insurance policy may be your best option because deductibles are as low as $25, vs. $500 to $1,500 on home insurance policies, and your home coverage should really be reserved for bigger claims involving damage to the structure and contents, not smaller losses like a purloined computer. A $5,000 policy with a $25 deductible might cost $140 per year. Two companies in this field and A+ rated by the Better Business Bureau are Arthur J. Gallagher and National Student Services.
  • A homeowners policy “floater,” or endorsement, is necessary if you want to make sure very high value possessions, such as computers, are covered.

When to Buy Insurance

On the 'Consumer 101' TV show, Consumer Reports’ expert Octavio Blanco offers tips on deciding when insurance is needed and how to get the most bang for the buck when it comes to coverage.