Digital cameras can be relatively costly investments. Lose or break a camera or lens, and you might have to shell out hundreds of dollars for a replacement. For this reason, many camera owners wonder whether they can or should buy insurance that would cover them in the event of theft or damage.
To Insure or Not to Insure
The answer, alas, is maybe. It all depends on how much your equipment is worth, what sort of coverage you're looking for and whether you're an amateur or a professional photographer. It also depends on personal issues, such as how rough or absentminded you tend to be with equipment, where you go with it and how often you like to replace your technical toys.
If you have a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera with extra lenses and accessories, you are likely planning on holding onto it for a number of years. Any form of replacement would be expensive, so you should insure your entire system.
On the other hand, if you own a comparatively inexpensive point-and-shoot camera, or are the kind of person who buys a new camera on a regular basis, you may end up replacing what you have sooner than you would likely break or lose it.
Check Your Warranty First
Owners of most digital cameras, lenses and accessories are protected against any mechanical breakdowns or defects during the guarantee period, usually one year; however, your factory warranty doesn't cover damage due to accidents or equipment abuse, nor will it compensate you for loss or theft.
When you purchase a digital camera, the salesperson will probably try to sell you an extended warranty. Unless it's a DSLR camera, don't bother. Most non-SLR digital cameras become obsolete and are replaced before an extended warranty runs out, and, as with the original manufacturer's warranty, physical damage, theft or loss are not covered.
Your Homeowners or Renters Insurance
The most economical way to insure your camera is to cover it under your existing homeowners or renters insurance. We strongly suggest calling your agent and taking out an "all-risk floater" policy, in which you specifically list all the equipment you want covered. Most insurance companies sell camera floaters at a cost of only a few dollars per every $100 of equipment. You can insure for either market or replacement value. The latter compensates you with enough money to buy the same or a comparable camera; insuring for market value reimburses you for what the camera is worth, minus depreciation.
Even without an all-risk floater, you may still be covered under your homeowners or renters policy. All you have to do is put in a damage or loss claim. The claim, however, will probably be subject to a deductible, plus there may be additional exclusions.
If you use your camera for business, be sure to tell your agent this information. Your homeowner or renters insurance policy will likely not cover your camera at all, and you might not even be covered with a floater. In this case, you could need a business property insurance policy (see details below).
Tip: With all insurance, the rule of thumb is that the more expensive the premium, the smaller the deductible.
If you're going abroad, consider buying trip insurance, which may cover you against such things as medical emergencies and terrorist incidents. Depending on the policy, it may also protect you against breakage, theft or loss of your luggage and valuables, including photographic equipment. Trip insurance is expensive, but it can be a lifesaver if you run into trouble. Your insurance agent might have a less expensive alternative.
Be aware, however, that most travel insurance has a relatively low maximum coverage amount for loss and theft. Be sure to inquire about that first to be sure your camera's cost will be covered even with a travel insurance policy.
If you happen to be a diver, you can insure your scuba and camera equipment against damage and loss through the Divers Alert Network.
Pros need a commercial insurance policy that specifically covers all their listed photo equipment against breakage, theft or loss.
The Small Print
Before you buy, always read a policy's fine print to learn what's covered and what's excluded. For instance, many policies specify that items stolen from a car may not be covered unless the items were locked in the trunk or the car was parked in a lot with an attendant. Other limitations to coverage can be surprising and nitpicking.
Check With Your Agent
Of course, all of the information above is general. Check with your insurance agent to find out whether your current policies will cover your camera equipment and to what extent and with what limitations. Then, talk with the agent about what other policies you may want or need to protect your camera.