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How we review home insurance

We scour dozens of policy documents so you don't have to.

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Whether you own a house on a quarter acre block, live in a strata unit, or rent, there is a home insurance policy to protect your property from fire, theft, flood and more.

Our team of data journalists, analysts and verifiers trawl through dozens of complex policy documents so you don't have to, separating the good cover from the duds. Read our home insurance buying guide to learn more about what to look for. Renters and strata homeowners can find more information in our contents insurance buying guide.

How we choose what we review

We review insurance policies that are available as retail products (ie not through brokers), and try to include products from the following groups:

  • The Big Four insurance firms and their major brands (Suncorp, IAG, Allianz, QBE)
  • The insurance arms of the Big Four banks (Comminsure, ANZ, Westpac, NAB)
  • National insurers that market heavily on TV or through commercial comparison websites (eg Youi, Budget Direct, Woolworths)
  • The insurance arms of state motoring associations (eg. RAC, RACT, RAA)

How we review home insurance

We compare home insurance across three areas: the cover and additional features that the policy offers, the cost, and ease of use.

Product features

We assess the amount of cover offered by a policy, as well as the complexity of the individual product features. Policies score highly if they have straightforward, easy to understand cover with few exclusions or complicated limits.

We collect information on a policy's cover for twelve commonly insured events, as well as legal liability, and additional features included under building or contents cover. The information we collect comes mostly from public sources, including Product disclosure statements and the insurer's website. We collect over 150 data points per product, in the following categories:

Insured events

  • Action of the sea
  • Animal damage (including damage caused by pets)
  • Earthquake and tsunami
  • Fire and explosion
  • Flood
  • Impact damage
  • Escape of liquid
  • Storm, cyclone and rain
  • Storm surge
  • Theft and attempted theft
  • Vandalism and malicious damage
  • Accidental damage
  • Legal liability

Building features

  • Building underinsurance safety net
  • Choice of repairer
  • Temporary accommodation
  • Motor burnout
  • Gardens
  • Key and lock replacement
  • Demolition and debris removal
  • Cost to comply with building regulations
  • Mortgage discharge fees
  • Professional fees (eg architect)

Contents features

  • Contents underinsurance safety net
  • New for old replacement
  • Cover for unspecified portable contents
  • Motor burnout
  • Artworks
  • Collections
  • Digital contents (eg software)
  • Jewellery
  • Tools of trade
  • Money
  • Spoiled food
  • Vet bills
  • Visitors contents
  • Contents in the open air
  • Contents cover while travelling
  • Cover when your are moving home
  • Temporary accommodation*
  • Debris removal*
  • Key replacement*

* We only consider these when reviewing contents-only policies as they are also included in building cover.

Scoring

Each of the categories above is individually scored. The category scores are then weighted and used to calculate the Features Score. There's no one-size-fits all method for scoring each category, but we generally ask the following questions:

  • Is this feature covered by default, or is it an optional extra? Default cover scores higher.
  • Are there sublimits for individual items? (eg, some policies cap how much you can claim for a single piece of jewellery.) A policy with no item limits scores higher than one with them. When scoring limits we compare each limit to the average in our sample.
  • Is there a sublimit for the whole feature? (eg, some policies cap how much you can claim for all your jewellery items). Again, no limit is better. Some policies set limits as a percentage of your sum insured, which we score higher than a set dollar limit.
  • Is the sublimit for this feature combined with another feature? (eg some policies have a shared limit for mortgage discharge fees and professional fees). If this is the case we divide the limit by the number of features it covers, so we aren't scoring the same limit more than once.

Price

We compare policies using a range of hypothetical customer profiles at a range of test addresses around the country. For a national insurer we collect 126 quotes per product:

  • 14 per state and territory (plus Far North Queensland)
  • one address in a capital city, one in a high-risk (flood, fire, cyclone) regional area
  • 4 customer profiles at each address. We vary the ages, sums insured and house type. A fifth customer profile is used in contents insurance reviews, to capture apartment renters.
  • Each quote uses an excess as close as possible to $600
  • All quotes are collected in a single month so we can make a point-in-time comparison

Quotes are collected by CHOICE staff using the insurers' website, or are supplied by the insurer. For each product a sample of quotes is checked by CHOICE verifiers to make sure any outliers are not mistakes.

Scoring

Each quote is scored against others from the same customer scenario and address. The most expensive scores 0, the cheapest 100. The average score for each product in each state/territory is calculated. This figure is used to calculate the Price Rating.

The Price Rating is a score out of 5 dollar signs that indicates generally how expensive a policy is in a particular state/territory. These ratings are not comparable across markets: home insurance in Far North Queensland is much more expensive than in, say, South Australia. A rating of "$$$" indicates that our quotes fell in the middle range for each market.

State/territory price scores are then weighted according to the size of each market (ie the number of dwellings for which each type of home insurance is suitable for). We use this figure to calculate the overall score. We don't publish it, because we find a national indicator of price is less useful for comparing than the market-specific Price Ratings.

Ease of use

This score assesses the customer experience at purchasing and claiming. It considers

  • Whether you can purchase a policy online
  • Whether you can submit a claim online
  • Whether the insurer has a 24/7 phone line for emergency claiming and make-safe services
  • The length and number of disclosure documents you as a new customer are required to read to properly understand the policy. Few and short documents is what scores well.

The types of documents we consider are:

  • product disclosure statements
  • supplementary product disclosure statements
  • premium, excess and discount guides
  • statements put out following a regulator decision
  • terms and conditions for any additional non-insurance services bundled with the policy

Review criteria explained

The overall score is made up of:

  • Product features (70%)
  • Price (20%)
  • Ease of use (10%)

Why is my insurer not in your review?

There's two reasons why an insurer mightn't be included in this review.

One is that the insurance market is ever evolving and a new product might pop up after we publish a review. We're constantly researching the market, but if a product that you want reviewed isn't included, please let us know.

On other occasions, insurers may decline to participate, and we don't always have the capacity to include them without their assistance. Products such as fridges come with a recommended retail price and list of product specifications. Home Insurance however, is risk rated, so there's an endless variation in price, and the terms and conditions often require the insurers interpretation as to what it means. For this reason, we usually require the insurers co-operation to include their product in our reviews. Some insurers don't like our independent and unbiased assessment of their products, so they decline to cooperate. We still endeavour to include these products, especially if consumers demand it, and if we have the resources.

Why we no longer look at complaints

Your insurance policy might appear perfect on paper, but you can still be let down by an insurer's claims process, or a complaints department that isn't interested in solving your issue.

Our members often ask where they can find information about an insurer's claims handling — how long on average does it take for claims to be processed, what is the average claim acceptance rate? Unfortunately this information is not publicly available for most insurers.

As an indicator of the quality of insurers' complaints handling, we previously used annual data published by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). This data captured the rate of complaints escalated to the external dispute resolution service, allowing us to compare large companies with small ones. There were also statistics that gave us an indication of how willing the insurer was to negotiate with aggrieved customers during the ombudsman's process.

In 2018 FOS was replaced by the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA). AFCA's complaints data has some shortcomings that prevent us from using it. Only the raw number of complaints are published, without useful information about the number of policyholders. Firms are categorised by size, but this takes into account all of a company's business, not just their insurance arm. We've made our concerns known to AFCA, but until they publish suitable data we are unable to compare insurers on complaints.