Insurance checklist

  • Do you have adequate motor vehicle insurance for your vehicle and for any damage you may cause to other people’s property?
  • Is your home and/or home contents insured? Is the insured value current?
  • Have you considered insuring your portable devices against loss or theft?
  • If you are travelling, have you taken out adequate travel insurance?
  • Before renewing a policy, search for similar policies in the market to make sure you are still getting value for money.
  • Always be completely honest with your insurer or you may find your cover is worthless and any future claim could be denied.
  • Read our personal insurance guide to find out what your statutory entitlements cover.


General insurance information

If you’ve ever had a car crash, a holiday flight cancelled or been robbed, you’ll know how stressful these incidents can be. If you have insurance, the cost of repairs, travel changes or theft can be softened.

Insurance provides the money you need when things go wrong. But with so many companies providing different types of insurance, it’s important to read the fine print, ask lots of questions and find the right policy for your needs.

Insurance is about managing risk. By taking out an insurance policy, you are transferring financial risk to your insurer, for a fee or ‘premium’. Without insurance, you’re taking the risk of meeting those costs yourself.

Common types of insurance

  • Motor vehicle insurance
  • Home and contents insurance, including storm, flood and fire cover
  • Insurance for portable devices, such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops
  • Life insurance, including death, disability and income protection
  • Travel insurance
  • Health insurance

Insurance tips

Here are some tips to help you choose the right insurance cover:

  • Shop around. Get quotes from different insurers and compare features not just cost. Comparison websites can help you compare different products.
  • Choose a policy based on your needs. Think carefully about what you want covered and choose the policy that best meets your criteria.
  • Check exclusions. Always find out what is and isn’t covered by your policy.
  • Check the costs. You will pay a regular fee, known as a ‘premium’, for your cover. And when you make a claim your payout will be reduced by an amount, known as the ‘excess’. Your excess may be reduced if you are prepared to pay a higher premium, or you may be able to lower your premium by agreeing to a higher excess.
  • Be honest with your insurer. Tell it like it is! Your ‘duty of disclosure’ means you must tell the truth when you apply. If you leave details out, a future claim may be denied.
  • Review before you renew. Before you renew a policy, make sure the insured value is current and compare similar products to see if you are still getting value for money. If you find a cheaper policy for similar cover, ask your insurer to match it. Don’t forget to review your policy whenever your circumstances change.

Making claims

If you need to make a claim on an insurance policy:

  • Inform your insurer as soon as possible and include as many details as you can
  • Tell the whole truth
  • Provide any evidence you have to support your claim
  • Cooperate with the insurer and the people they employ to help assess the claim, such as investigators or doctors
  • Remember your duty of disclosure when providing information to support your claim. If the information on your application or claim form is incorrect or misleading, your claim might be denied. You may also be committing fraud.

Motor vehicle insurance

Buying a car, or other motor vehicle, is exciting. You may have spent weeks test driving different models to find a vehicle that suits your budget, lifestyle and personality.

You’ll also need to think carefully about vehicle insurance. The type of cover you take out will affect the ongoing cost of owning the vehicle and determine how protected you are if something goes wrong. Always have insurance in place before you take possession of the vehicle.

Types of motor vehicle insurance

  • Compulsory third party (CTP) insurance covers death and injury to people if you are involved in an accident. Each state and territory has different rules relating to this type of cover, which you’ll find on your state or territory’s roads and transport website. You are required by law to have CTP insurance.
  • Third party property insurance only covers damage to other people’s property. It doesn’t cover your vehicle at all, unless the policy includes an ‘uninsured motorist extension’ that covers you if your car is damaged in accident where you’re not at fault.
  • Third party, fire and theft insurance covers you for damage to other people’s property, and provides limited cover for your car as a result of fire or theft.
  • Comprehensive insurance covers you for loss or damage to your car as well as damage to other people’s property if your car is in an accident. This is usually the most expensive type of car insurance.

When choosing an appropriate level of insurance, ask yourself:

  • Can I afford to repair or replace the vehicle if I get into an accident?
  • If I’m at fault, can I afford the cost of damage to other vehicles or property? (Few people could afford to replace a Maserati!).
  • How will I get around if my car is stolen or written off?
  • If my vehicle is financed, does the lender require me to have comprehensive insurance?
  • If I can’t afford the insurance, can I really afford the vehicle?

Case study: Jack’s costly mistake

Jack came back from deployment and decided to spend his deployment money on a brand new V8 Ute. Jack had $50,000 but bought a $60,000 car, taking out a personal loan for the difference. Jack thought his driving skills were excellent, but being a young driver, comprehensive car insurance was expensive, so he took out third party fire and theft, convinced he was unlikely to have an ‘at fault’ accident.

But Jack did have an accident. Driving back to base one day, he failed to see the car in front stop, and crashed into the back of it at high speed. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt, but Jack’s car sustained nearly $20,000 worth of damage and was not drivable.

Jack’s insurance covered the damage he caused to the other vehicle but he was left with a wreck he couldn’t drive and a loan he still had to repay.

If Jack had bought a cheaper car and paid for comprehensive insurance, his car would have been repaired or replaced and he wouldn’t have a debt draining his finances.

Choosing a car insurance policy

Car insurance policies are based on either ‘agreed’ or ‘market’ value. An agreed value policy has a set dollar value for your vehicle. Market value policies value your car based on the make, model and condition. The agreed value is usually higher than the market value.

Most insurance policies have an excess, which is the amount you will have to pay if you make a claim, unless another person can be identified as being at fault. You may be able to lower your insurance premium by agreeing to a higher excess, or lower your excess by agreeing to a higher premium.

Make sure you understand the level of cover before signing up. Some typical car insurance exclusions to watch out for include:

  • Damage from mechanical failure, modifications, rust, and wear and tear
  • Damage caused because your car was unsafe or in a race
  • Intentional damage
  • Damage caused if the driver was unlicensed, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • The driver wasn’t covered by the policy

Be honest with your insurer

Always tell the truth because making a mistake in the information you give your insurer, whether it’s deliberate or not, can affect the premium you pay. If you’re not completely honest with your insurer they could refuse to pay if you try to make a claim.

Tips for saving on car insurance premiums:

  • Drive safely to keep a clean driving record
  • Compare premiums and excesses of policies that suit your needs
  • Bundle your insurances with one insurer to get discounts
  • Add security devices to your car
  • Don’t make unnecessary modifications to your car

You must also inform your insurer if your circumstances change. For example, if you:

  • Modify your car (e.g. rims, tinted windows, woofers and kits)
  • Move house
  • Allow other drivers to use your vehicle
  • Use your car for work

Making a claim

If you have an accident, contact your insurer straight away. Use your smart phone to take pictures of damage to your vehicle and any other property involved, vehicle licence plates and the driver’s licence of any other drivers involved. This can provide a handy reference if there are any disputes following an accident.

Depending on how serious the accident is, you may need to fill out a police report. If you suspect another driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or they are refusing to provide their licence details, ask the police to attend the accident scene. When you’re making the actual claim, put in as much detail as possible.

Young drivers

The cost of insurance is determined by the level of risk your insurer is taking on. As young drivers are involved in more accidents than older drivers, most insurance companies charge a higher premium for drivers under 25.

Young drivers may have to pay an additional ‘age excess’ when making a claim. Always check your policy carefully to see what excesses might apply.

Insurance and finance from a car dealer

Car dealers will often try to sell you a range of additional products. Here are some tips on what to look out for:

  • Vehicle finance. Ask what the interest rate is and what your actual repayments will be. Compare this with what other lenders are offering.
  • Comprehensive insurance. Lenders can insist you take out comprehensive insurance as part of the loan, but they can’t tell you which insurer to use. Comparison websites are a good place to start when comparing policies.
  • Gap insurance. This pays out your loan if your car is written off and there is a gap between what the car is worth and what you owe on the loan. Gap insurance can be expensive and you’re unlikely to need it if you reduce your loan by paying a large deposit. You may be better off spending your money on agreed value insurance.
  • Consumer credit insurance. Covers your loan repayments for a set amount of time if you can’t work due to illness or unemployment. Consider whether you really need this, given your current employment / insurance arrangements.
  • Breakdown insurance. Covers the cost of repairs to your car and can be expensive. If you are buying a new vehicle, this may be included free for the first few years. You may be better off putting this money towards a better car or building up an emergency fund.

Buying a second hand car

A new car loses considerable value in the first few years. It will start to decrease in value the minute you drive out of the showroom. You can save a lot of money by buying a second hand vehicle, but there are a few extra things to consider.

Go to your state or territory’s roads and traffic authority for helpful information on what you need to do when buying a car privately. It’s also important to call your insurer before you buy to find out everything they need to know about the car.

  • Registration and insurance. When working out the cost of the vehicle and how much you need to borrow, don’t forget to factor in the cost of transferring the registration into your name, vehicle insurance and CTP cover.
  • Roadside assistance. If you’re driving a vehicle that’s no longer under warranty, consider becoming a member of a roadside assistance program.
  • Register of Encumbered Vehicles (REVS) check. When you’re buying a car privately, always do a REVS check to make sure the car you are thinking of buying is not carrying a debt (and could be repossessed) or was previously written off in an accident. REVS is a free service run by State and Territory governments.
  • Mechanical check. Spending a small amount of money to have a qualified mechanic go over the vehicle thoroughly could be money well spent if it saves you from buying a lemon.

Home and contents insurance

Your home is a place to feel safe and secure. Choosing the right insurance for your home and your possessions should add to your sense of security and lessen the pain and cost of repairing your home or replacing stolen or damaged goods.

Home insurance covers costs associated with loss or damage to the building you own. Contents insurance covers costs associated with loss or damage to your possessions. For homeowners, these are often bundled together as a ‘home and contents insurance’ package. Keep in mind that they are separate when working out how much cover you need.

Home insurance

Home insurance helps protect you against things that are out of your control, such as damage from natural disasters like storms, floods and bushfires. It covers the cost of replacing or repairing your home, including fixtures such as lights and built in appliances.

If you are part of a strata title, building insurance is usually organised by the body corporate and paid as part of your strata levies.

Choosing home insurance

If you have a home loan, it is likely a condition of the loan that you maintain an appropriate level of building insurance. If you couldn’t afford to rebuild your home if it was destroyed, it’s important to consider your home insurance options.

Typically you have a choice of ‘total replacement’ cover or ‘sum-insured’ cover.

  • Total replacement cover includes all the costs to rebuild your home to the standard it was prior to an insured event.
  • Sum-insured cover is more common and will cover you up to a set amount. There are a number of variations to these two basic models, so read the fine print and ask questions if there’s something you don’t understand.

Insurers often have calculators available on their website to help you estimate how much cover to take out. Results from different online calculators can vary considerably, so try a few before making a decision. Keep in mind that the best calculators ask the most questions.

Make sure your home is properly maintained and that you meet the requirements of your insurance policy, otherwise a claim may be denied. Voluntarily installing deadbolts, an alarm or security doors and screens is likely to reduce your premiums.

Get enough home insurance

If you ever need to rebuild your house, you not only have to pay the costs of labour and materials but will also be faced with a range of extra costs including:

  • Alternative accommodation while your house is repaired or rebuilt
  • Removal of debris from the site
  • Architects or other professionals to draw up plans
  • Services to make your property safe for workers
  • Lodging plans with your local council

Find out if supplementary costs are paid from the sum insured or on top of that amount, as these costs can add up quickly. For example, you lose your home to fire or flood you may be out of your home for more than 12 months after the event.

Insurers cover supplementary costs in three ways:

  • The costs are included in the figure nominated for the sum insured
  • The costs are paid in addition to the sum insured
  • A combination of these approaches

Contents insurance

Contents insurance covers the cost of replacing or repairing your unfixed household items and possessions. This includes items such as furniture, clothes, appliances, tools and jewellery. There are contents insurance policies available that are separate from home insurance to cover people who are renting or in service accommodation.

To work out how much contents insurance you need, start by listing all your belongings and working out how much it would cost to replace them. Go room to room and take photos of unique or expensive items. It’s also a good idea to keep copies of receipts electronically in a safe place outside your home.

Choosing contents insurance

The type of cover you choose will affect the premium you pay. Some policies cover you for defined events (e.g. burglary and fire) while others cover you for any accidental event. Others give you limited cover if you take an item (e.g. a laptop) outside your home.

Contents insurance can cover you for the current (second hand) value of your possessions, or on a ‘new for old’ basis. ‘New for old’ policies tend to be more expensive, but it’s important to consider the type of cover you want, not just the cost.

You can save money on contents insurance by choosing a higher excess. Conversely if you want a lower excess, you will pay a higher premium. If something goes wrong, think about how much you are prepared to be out of pocket and work on that as your desired level of excess.

Contents insurance for collections or valuables

Most home contents polices ask you to declare ‘collections’ separately. A collection can be anything, for example, coins, number plates or artwork. Ask your insurer what can, or should, be identified separately. If you don’t declare your collections, then you may not be able to claim the full amount of your loss if they are stolen or damaged.

Most insurers only provide limited cover for valuables, such as jewellery, unless you list them as separate items on your policy.

Extended Leave of Absence

If you’re going to away for an extended period and your home will be vacant, be aware that most home and contents insurance policies only cover you for a limited period of time while your home is unoccupied. This is important to remember if you are leaving your home to go on a deployment or other activity.

Policies may automatically lapse if the house is vacant longer than a specified period. Always contact your insurer if you’re going to be away for an extended period of time. If they agree to continue cover, get the agreement in writing, as it may constitute a variation to your contract.

As with any insurance policy, always be completely honest with your insurer and don’t forget to update them if your circumstances change.

Making a claim

Tell your insurer of any damage or loss immediately. This can often be done online or by phone. You may be asked to complete a claim form. Include as many details as possible of the incident, even if they are personally embarrassing.

Keep and provide all documents supporting your claim. Don’t be tempted to add fictitious items to your list of lost or damaged goods. This may be fraud, which is a serious criminal offence.

Cooperate with your insurer and the people they employ to help assess the claim, such as investigators.

Protecting portable devices

Portable electronic devices are easy to damage, misplace or steal. Insurance can offset the cost of repair or replacement if something happens to your device.

Choosing mobile phone, tablet & laptop insurance

Insurance on electronic devices can vary greatly in price and cover, for example, some providers do not cover accidental loss or mechanical damage. Consider what you want to be covered for and how much you are prepared to pay before choosing a policy.

Electronic goods lose value quickly, so insurance is most useful when the device is new. Before you take out insurance compare the cost of premiums per year plus the cost of the excess with the real value of the product.

If you change your mind after you buy the insurance, you can cancel it within the cooling-off period, which is usually 14 days. Check your insurance contract for the exact cooling-off period and conditions.

Types of personal effects cover

There are a number of ways you can insure your portable electronic devices, including: cover through your phone plan provider, adding it to your contents policy, getting cover direct from an insurer or you could try on-demand insurance.

Insurance through your phone provider

If you purchase your device and/or phone plan from a phone provider you may be offered insurance as part of your plan. This may be convenient, especially if you don’t have contents insurance, but it can be a more expensive option. Check what else is available before signing up.

Add to your contents insurance

If you already have contents insurance, it may be cost-effective to add your portable electronic devices to your existing policy. Ask your provider for specific mobile phone or device cover because most general ‘personal effects’ or ‘portables’ extras cover may not insure these devices. You will usually have to specify the make and model of your device and check if the cover includes accidental loss.

Adding these devices may increase the cost of your premium and may affect your no-claim discount if you need to make a claim. Check the policy wording carefully.

Separate portable device insurance

You can buy a policy direct from an insurance company, but it can be more expensive than adding it to a contents policy. Separate cover may be suitable if you don’t have existing contents insurance.

This type of cover may only be available if your device is brand new. You should also check if you are covered for overseas travel if you are planning on taking it out of the country.

On-demand insurance for portable devices

Some providers offer insurance for your portable devices, such as your mobile phone, tablet or laptop only when they are in use. This is called ‘on-demand’ insurance. For example, if you decide to take your laptop to a coffee shop, you can switch ‘on’ the insurance as you leave the house and switch it ‘off’ when you return home.

This type of insurance typically runs through an app on your mobile or tablet. It can save you money by allowing you to decide when you need your portable personal belongings covered. However, there are risks, for example, if your device is stolen or damaged while your insurance is switched ‘off’, you may not be able to claim on your policy, and will probably need to replace the device yourself.

You will usually be billed monthly and refunded for any days that the insurance is not active. It is important to remember that you may only be covered for certain types of damage under on-demand insurance. Read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) carefully before you sign up.

Check what’s covered

Not all policies cover the same things. It is important to find a policy that suits your needs. Check the PDS to see if you are covered for:

  • Replacement if the device is stolen (with a police report – usually within 48 hrs)
  • Reimbursement of unauthorised calls (usually only up to a couple of hundred dollars)
  • Worldwide short-term travel cover
  • Mechanical failure (only some policies cover this)
  • Accidental loss or damage (some separate portable insurance policies don’t cover this)
  • Accessories, like earphones, headsets, cases or your mouse (this feature is fairly rare, but can provide cover up to a couple of hundred dollars)

Most policies do not cover:

  • Phones that are: stolen from an unlocked vehicle, visible in a vehicle, or left unattended in a public place
  • General wear and tear, gradual deterioration or developing flaws
  • Restoration of electronic records
  • Loss of stored files from a claimable event or a virus or hacker.

Making a claim on your insurance

If your portable device has been stolen, you will usually have to notify the police within a set timeframe, for example, within 48 hours and your insurance provider within 14 days. Proof of purchase such as a receipt should be enough to prove your ownership of the device.

You should also:

  • Call your phone or internet provider to disable SIM or internet cards.
  • Ask your phone provider to clear your personal phone data (if you have anti-virus software on the device).
  • Locate your phone via GPS (if you have this facility on the phone).
  • Remember that if someone steals your phone, laptop or tablet, they can get more information from it than they can from your wallet.

To keep your electronic devices safe:

  • Don’t leave them lying around in plain sight. Keep them as safe as you would your wallet.
  • Don’t save passwords on your devices. Try to create passwords that you can remember but no one else can work out.
  • Activate the password or PIN security on your devices.
  • Use mobile networks rather than free wireless when accessing your bank accounts.
  • Always check the authenticity of the sites you visit – a smaller screen can make it hard to identify fake sites.
  • Check your phone and bank statements for any unusual charges in case someone has accessed your mobile without you knowing.

Personal insurance

Personal insurance includes death, invalidity, income protection and trauma insurance. ADF members have statutory entitlements. Please see the separate personal insurance money guide for more information.

Travel insurance

Travel insurance covers things like loss of luggage, medical emergencies, theft and travel delays while you’re travelling, and may also cover you for unexpected events before you leave that may disrupt your travel plans. Most important are medical emergencies, because the cost of medical care in some countries for uninsured people can be very high.

Policies will state dollar limits for each event covered. Travel insurance will cover you for a set period or, if you travel often, you can purchase an annual travel policy.

We recommend purchasing travel insurance as soon as you book your trip so that you’ll be covered for events that may disrupt your travel plans before you have even left home.

Travel insurance usually does not cover:

  • Injury from extreme sports (e.g. bungee jumping or white water rafting)
  • ‘At risk’ activities like parachuting, abseiling, riding a moped or motorbike
  • Any injury sustained while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Illness or injury caused by a pre-existing medical condition
  • Pregnancy-related costs (not all insurers will automatically cover women over 22 weeks’ gestation)
  • Loss or injury from acts of terrorism, war and some natural disasters
  • Loss or theft of unattended luggage (check your insurer’s definition of ‘unattended’)
  • Claims for travel to areas where an official travel warning has been issued
  • Losses incurred due to the financial failure of an airline, hotel, other travel operator, or your travel agent.

Read the product disclosure statement (PDS) to find out what’s covered and what’s excluded, especially if you’re planning any unusual activities or you have any pre-existing conditions. Cover can differ between insurers so compare policies for the cover you want at a price you can afford.

Mental health

When you take out a travel insurance policy you need to let the insurer know of any pre-existing conditions, including any mental health issues. Some policies cover you if you need to cancel or change your travel plans due to a mental health issue that you suffer after buying the policy.

Insurance through your airline

Some airlines offer you insurance when you’re buying tickets online. It may seem convenient, but it’s smart to make sure the cover suits your needs and the cost is competitive, before you agree to buy it. Also watch out for travel websites that automatically select insurance for you, especially if you’re travelling domestically.

Credit card travel insurance

Some credit card providers also offer insurance for overseas travel. The cost may be called ‘complimentary’ but is often included in the credit card’s fees (like the application fee or annual fee) or its interest rate.

To be covered, you will usually need to pay for some, or all, of your travel costs with your credit card. Each policy is different, so check with your provider how to activate it.

As with all types of insurance, it’s important to check the terms and conditions to make sure this kind of policy suits your needs. Insurance through your credit card may only cover the cardholder (not your spouse, children, or additional cardholders), and will generally only cover you for the trip you have paid for on your card and only for overseas travel.

Making a claim on your travel insurance

Before you leave home, take photos of any expensive items you’re taking with you, record the serial numbers, copy purchase receipts and make sure they’re covered under your policy. Also make a copy of your passport and any other identification documents you are taking with you.

If you need to lodge a claim, be completely honest about events and any mitigating circumstances. There can be serious consequences for making a false claim.

Register your claim or inform your insurer that you intend to make a claim as soon as possible. Some insurers require you to inform them of any incidents within 24 hours.

Your travel insurance policy should include the policy number, details of what is covered and contact details of the insurer for assistance. Always keep a copy of your insurance policy with you when you are travelling.

Preparing a travel insurance claim

Your claim is more likely to be accepted if you have the relevant documents:

  • Proof of travel – to verify the details of your trip, e.g. flight details, itineraries and hotel confirmations.
  • Doctor’s report – to prove you became sick or injured while travelling. Written confirmation should be provided by a qualified member of the medical or dental profession.
  • Police report – if something was stolen, you were injured in an accident or you were the victim of a crime. Your insurer is likely to ask for proof that the incident was reported to the police.
  • Valuations and proof of purchase – to prove that you own the item that was lost or stolen and verify how much it cost. This applies to items you’ve brought with you on your trip and anything you purchased along the way.

Don’t forget to keep a copy of your claim that includes all the attachments and proof of submission (like your sent email or registered post details).

Renewing an insurance policy

When you receive your insurance renewal notice, it’s tempting to just treat it like a bill and pay it, but this could be costing you money. All customers are not equal. Insurers typically offer the best rates to new customers without telling their existing customers that better deals are on offer.

If you want to save money on insurance:

  • Don’t leave it until the last minute – give yourself time to compare your policy with others in the market to see if you can get similar cover cheaper.
  • Consider the value of what’s being covered – it’s important to have the right amount of cover so consider whether anything has changed since you took out your insurance policy. For example, has the value of your home contents increased or the value of your motor vehicle decreased?
  • Check the market – use a comparison website to see what other insurers are offering, including cost, excess should you need to make a claim, as well as what is and isn’t covered.
  • Pretend to be a new customer – use your current insurer’s website to get a quote as if you were a new customer. You may be surprised to find the quote is cheaper than your current renewal notice.
  • Ask your insurer to price match – when you’ve found a good price for comparable cover, either with your current insurer or with a different insurer, call your provider and ask them to price match. This could save you hundreds of dollars off some policies.

Smart tips

Here’s a few more tips that could save you money when taking out or renewing an insurance policy:

  • You may be able to save on your premium by increasing your excess, decide whether you would rather have lower premiums of a lower excess.
  • Insurers often give discounts for online renewals or for paying the premium annually instead of monthly.
  • Security measures like putting deadlocks on doors and windows or installing a car alarm may reduce the cost of your premium.
  • No claim bonuses in the form of reduced premiums are typically offered to customers who have had insurance for a number of years without making a claim.
  • You are likely to get a better deal on car insurance if you have a good driving record.
  • Multi-policy discounts are often available if you bundle more than one policy with the same insurer. Just make sure that the cost is still competitive after the discount is applied.
  • Be wary of automatic renewals. It may be convenient but it could be costing you money if you don’t take the time to find out whether you’re still getting a good deal.


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