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Should You Insure Your Camera Equipment?
By Sue Wright in Paris, France

“What sort of price tag do you put on your livelihood?” That’s the question I usually ask readers that call me to register for one of AWAI’s live workshops when they ask me whether or not they should ensure their camera equipment before they leave.

Truth is, it adds up quickly — $700 for a camera, $200 for a lens, $900 for a laptop…

Granted, most readers start out with a small point-and-shoot, but it doesn’t take long before they write to say that they’ve upgraded to something new. And, of course, they’re scared. Who wouldn’t be? For some a camera is just a toy. But to those of us hoping to sell our images to newspapers, magazines, stock agencies, and more, it’s our livelihood… it’s an investment in our future.

So, in my quest for answers to all these inquiries, I spoke with State Farm(r) agent Tom McKinney, who has worked in the insurance industry for 29 years…

Tom is based in Pacific Grove, California. Keep in mind that policies vary (as do state laws regulating the industry). You should check with your insurance agent to make sure you have the coverage you need… no more, no less.

And, of course, what’s right for one won’t necessarily work for another. That said, my aim here is to give you enough information that you can efficiently do your own research and make a sound decision about when and how to insure your photo equipment.

Let’s start by detailing the different types of insurance you can get (some, you may already have)…

**TRAVEL INSURANCE**
Travel insurance will cover your losses for airline tickets, hotel, and conference fees. Depending on the policy, it often also covers medical expenses while you’re away from home.

It’s not designed, however, to cover the damage or loss of personal property like your laptop, camera, or accessories.

**HOMEOWNER’S, CONDOMINIUM or RENTER’S INSURANCE**
These insurance policies provide coverage for “named perils” that are specifically listed in the policy, such as fire, theft, or vandalism. There is usually a deductible that you’ll have to pay out of pocket in the event of a claim.

**”FLOATERS”**
Floaters are policies that cover personal articles such as jewelry, musical instruments, fine art, sports equipment like golf clubs, cameras and accessories, and laptops.  Policy terms are usually one year, and they’re generally valid worldwide — whether you’re exploring your hometown or trekking in a far-off country.

Floater policies are based on the original value (usually determined by the purchase price) of the item, and are “all risk” policies, meaning the claim could be due to damage, theft, even a “mysterious disappearance” where you don’t even know what happened… it’s just gone.

A policy like this provides for replacement or repair up to the amount of insurance you purchase. This means, for example, if your $400 zoom lens falls off the cruise ship, you’ll get $400. The good news is there’s generally no out-of-pocket deductible.

Pricing varies according to company and where you live, but here’s a sample for where I live in California. Different rates apply, by the way, for professionals and non-professionals. (How do they determine who is professional and who’s not? A primary consideration is the value of your photographic equipment.)

Camera equipment:
$1.25 per $100 of value (non-professional)
$1.82 per $100 of value (professional)
(Example — if you’re a pro, and your camera body cost $750, you’ll need $800 worth of insurance, which would cost $1.82 X 8 = $14.56 to cover the camera body.)

Laptops are covered at a rate of $1.00 per $100 of value.

Note — Sometimes insurance companies have a required minimum. For example, State Farm(r) has a minimum policy amount of $30 per year, which translates to about $1,650 of coverage for a professional.

Depending on the company, you may be able to purchase a floater policy even if you have no other insurance with the company — so shop around for the best deal.

HOW TO SHOP FOR INSURANCE

First, gather the following information for each piece of equipment you want to insure:

* Brand, model, and brief description of the equipment
* The serial number
* Receipt or bill of sale
* Price paid

Add up all of the prices for the photographic equipment you want to insure. This total represents the amount of insurance coverage you’ll wish to acquire.

If you travel with a laptop, gather the same information for it, but keep this figure separate.

QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN SHOPPING FOR QUOTES

Grab the phone book and look up “insurance” in the Yellow Pages. You may want to start with the company that handles your current insurance policies, or ask friends and family to recommend a reputable agent.

Here are questions you should ask:

* Do you offer “floater policies”?
* Is the floater policy a stand-alone policy, or must it be attached to another policy (e.g., homeowner’s insurance)?
* Is there a discount if I add the floater to some other, existing policy (“bundling”)?
* Is there a deductible?
* Is this worldwide coverage?
* Are the rates different for professionals and non-professionals? (Make sure you’re getting quotes for the correct category.)
* Is the term — as is typical — one-year?
* Are there any exclusions (exceptions) to what’s covered?
* Is there a minimum amount your company will write the policy for? If so, how much?
* What is the premium amount to insure all of my equipment?
* What is the effective date of the policy?

There you go… Armed with this information, you’ll be ready to decide on a course of action.

For me, the choice was pretty simple. As a “beginning pro” — even if I went with a minimum policy amount of $1,650 at a cost of $30 a year, I figure I’m way ahead. The ability to protect the investment I’ve made in my camera and lenses is definitely worth less than a dime a day… not to mention peace of mind!

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]

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