Should I insure my instrument? - Jan 2002
Your instruments are at risk of damage, theft or mysterious disappearance. While you must decide what constitutes a balance between risk & cost, insurance is generally a good idea for instruments with value greater than what you can afford to lose (especially if the insurance cost is small relative to the instrument's). Tremendously expensive, vintage, collectable, unreplaceable instruments usually have their own policies; homeowner's policies can cover personal instruments with more modest, yet significant, value.
While premiums vary, homeowner's insurance cost for an expensive instrument (non- professional player/owner) is about $1.75 to $2.00 for every $100 of instrument value. The annual premium for a $15,000 instrument (1934 Martin D18 Guitar) is $260 - 300. Less expensive instruments cost as little as 35: to $1.25 per $100 to insure; the premium for a $3,000 instrument (e.g., new Weber Yellowstone F-Style Mandolin) is $10 - 40. Because professional musicians' instruments have greater risk from regular public exposure, professionals' rates are higher. Even so, insurance costs are generally small compared to the cost of uninsured loss.
Because repairs on a damaged instrument (from dropping, crushing, wetting...) can cost thousands of dollars, insurance can easily save you more than either the premium or deductible cost. Repairs seldom restore badly damaged instruments to perfect condition. So find out if your insurance compensates for devaluation that damage causes.
Theft is another peril for which you can insure. A thief can break into your home or car, or take your instrument from a public place where it's exposed to many people, ready-to-carry in a nondescript case with a handle (jam session, music festival, campground or performing venue: bar, restaurant, concert hall, even church). Theft takes seconds & costs a lot in money & emotion. Insurance can reimburse the money.
While damage & theft are real perils, Mike Kilgannon of Penn Weber Insurance in Kutztown, tells us that neither is the most common type of loss. Mike gets more, "mysterious disappearance," claims like the one described below than any other.
A violinist, getting ready to drive somewhere with his violin, set it on the roof of the car while he packed the rest of his things inside. In the process, he was distracted, forgot the instrument on the roof & drove off. Two miles down the road, he realized his mistake, stopped, saw no violin on the roof, & retraced his path. Though he looked everywhere between his starting point & the spot where he realized what had happened, he couldn't locate the instrument. It mysteriously disappeared & insurance compensated its loss.
To decide if you should insure, talk to a qualified agent (if you need one, Mike Kilgannon is knowledgeable). If you do insure, you'll need the instrument's serial # (or equivalent ID), a written estimate of value from a qualified source (Meadowood can give estimates on many instruments, & can recommend sources for others) & a photograph of the instrument. Insurance can't replace your instrument, but it can make the loss a little less traumatic.