In college, it’s a common sight to see students carrying their laptops everywhere—to class, a friend’s dorm, a coffee shop. But by carrying your trusty electronics wherever you go, you run the risk of dropping it, spilling something on it, or even losing it.
That’s no small thing. With laptops ranging from $600 to more than $1,000, losing or breaking your computer can be an expensive—not to mention inconvenient—mistake. It can feel like a catastrophe because it likely holds an expansive amount of your work, photos, and other data.
Here’s what you should do if something happens to your laptop, plus ways to protect yourself from future mishaps.
Could I already be paying for protection?
Your laptop may be covered if it’s lost or damaged due to a named peril in your homeowners or renters insurance policy, such as fire, theft, or vandalism. Unfortunately, your policy likely won’t cover accidents like if your computer falls down the stairs or you spill a drink all over it.
“Students who live in a dorm are typically covered under their parents’ standard homeowners policy,” says Loretta Worters, a spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute. “They’re protected by off-premises coverage.”
If you live off campus in a house or apartment, your laptop would be included under your renters insurance. (You do have renters insurance, right?) But make sure you understand the fine print—your insurance policy might have a coverage limit on electronics.
Even if the damage to your laptop is eligible, you may not be fully reimbursed for the damage. “It would be subject to the deductible first,” says Erin Patton, an agency owner with State Farm in Urbana, Ohio. “If somebody has a $1,000 deductible and their MacBook c $2,000, they’re only able to get back $1,000.”
It’s important to note that using homeowners or renters insurance to replace a laptop may bump up the premium on the policy. In general, filing a claim isn’t the best approach unless the laptop is part of a larger loss, like a fire or home burglary.
But the damage happened in my car…
Your auto insurance premium is a big expense (to the tune of $230 per month in some states), but your policy likely only covers your car and its permanent fixtures if damaged. Even if your laptop was ruined or stolen from within your car, it’s still more likely that your homeowners policy would cover it than your auto policy.
What other options do I have?
If the laptop was a recent purchase, you may be able to purchase protection through the credit card that was used to buy it. Some cards cover accidental damage or theft of an item for the first three to four months after purchase.
These policies have terms and conditions around the circumstances in which they’ll reimburse you for the price of the item. For instance, some policies won’t reimburse you if the damage or theft is a result of you not taking reasonable care of your laptop, so be sure to read the fine print.
Your laptop probably also came with a limited warranty, but those warranties generally only cover damage to your computer during shipping (when you bought it) or manufacturer defects.
No protection on your device? You’ll have to decide whether you’ll try to fix it or replace it. If the damage is beyond repair, you may be able to sell the laptop or parts for a small sum—possibly very small. And always make sure you wipe or remove your hard drive before you sell your laptop.
If you’ve lost your laptop and you have no recourse, you’ll have to find a way to replace it out of pocket. Pro tip:once you do, make sure you purchase some kind of coverage for the next one.
How can I protect myself before my laptop is damaged or lost?
There are a few ways to protect yourself against the risk of laptop damage or loss. Some insurance companies now carry inexpensive standalone policies that will cover some personal items without a deductible that can cover things like bicycles, cameras, jewelry, musical instruments, and computer equipment.
In some cases, policy minimums can be as little as $5 a month and can cover a laptop and the software. It’s also covered regardless of cause, so if you could drop it, break it, or knock a drink on it, based on the selected plan, you’ll be covered.
Alternatively, you could buy a protection policy specifically for laptops in the form of warranty coverage. For a laptop costing between $700—$999.99, this option runs about $230 for two years (roughly the same cost as a monthly auto insurance premium).
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