How to Buy Instrument Insurance
|Photo Credit: LARK Insurance|
What a special music policy costs, what it covers, when it makes sense for you by Erin Shrader
“You have to buy insurance when you don’t need it,” says Peter Anderson, president of the Anderson Group, one of a handful of companies specializing in musical-instrument insurance. That is, before disaster strikes.
At what value should you start considering purchasing a policy? “About $5,000,” says Ellis Hershman of Heritage Insurance. Even if your instrument isn’t quite that expensive, by the time you add a couple of decent bows to the list, plus a case, accessories, maybe a good microphone, even your sheet-music collection, the total value adds up surprisingly fast. At that value, insurance starts looking like a good idea, especially if you depend on your gear and can’t afford to repair or replace it.
There are a few things you’ll want to know before buying a policy. Each of the handful of companies handling musical-instrument policies offers similar services, but with a slightly different focus. For example Heritage specializes in professional-quality wooden instruments, dealers, and a unique workbench policy for makers and restorers. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Music Agency focuses on insuring school-aged children, schools, and rental fleets, and offers policies beginning at $9.60 a year with a $15 deductible.
Merz-Huber, insuring musicians since 1937, covers a lot of orchestras and develops group programs with such associations as the American String Teachers Association, where the risk is shared by a pool of members. Belonging to an association may also get you a break on an individual policy with Clarion Insurance. “If you belong to a group, you’re out there learning to play and take care of your instrument, [and you understand] how to be professional,” says Dan Schoenfeld, president of Clarion.
That makes you less of a risk, he adds.
Where to Start
Research these companies on the Web to get a sense of their specialties and services. Then follow up with phone calls to the company that you feel most comfortable with to discuss your particular requirements. “Our competitors are very good at what they do,” says Bill Calter of Merz-Huber. “I don’t know any you wouldn’t be happy with.”
Perils & Premiums
The details of minimum premiums and deductibles vary among companies. For example, Heritage has a minimum annual premium of $250, but no deductible. This insures instruments and bows up to $20,000 or possibly $35,000, depending on exactly what is being insured and the risks involved. There is no one-size-fits-all policy with Heritage, Hershman says.
Anderson Group’s $125 minimum premium is half that of Heritage, but there is also a $250 deductible. By and large, deductibles serve more as an incentive for the insured to be careful than as a money-maker for the insurer.
Peril-prone instruments, such as cellos and double basses, are more expensive to insure. Bows, with their fragile heads, are high-risk items, too. Want to be covered for leaving your gear in an unlocked, unattended vehicle? That will cost more than insurance that covers you only if there’s a sign of forced entry at the time of a loss—at least with Heritage. At Clarion, it’s included, “fortunately and unfortunately,” says Clarion president Schoenfeld ruefully.
Merz-Huber won’t charge higher premiums for that, either. But as Calter explains, their policy basically dictates that you will be careful with your instrument. Circumstances count. “If you don’t care, we don’t care,” Calter says.