Instrument insurance question

September 30, 2020, 6:46 PM · Hi everyone, a question about instrument insurance: how do you decide to purchase musical instrument insurance for your instrument? Is it based on a value threshold or some other factor? Also, for those with experience, how do you handle insurance for the bow and case as well? Thanks for the input....Ken

Replies (30)

September 30, 2020, 7:32 PM · Having spent a considerable amount recently on the repair of my beloved violin (it was not insured), I would say it is worth it for peace of mind, even for lower priced instruments worth several thousands, though perhaps nothing too cheap or easily replaced will be worth it. Fine, expert repairs are not inexpensive, and unless you are ready to abandon your old instrument for a new one should an accident happen, the insurance will make it just a temporary inconvenience. $200-$250 isn't that much all things considered, and especially if you love your current instrument (plus most good music instrument insurance provide plenty of coverage for all sort of real-life mishaps.)

So really, do not take your violin's health for granted. Weird things can happen at home, traveling, or at a performance venue.

Bows are also covered under insurance-just get them all appraised.

Perhaps others can chime in, but maybe $4,000+ violins "should" be insured, unless you are OK with just purchasing another instrument should a nasty accident occur. I know it is tough to find great sounding instruments at that price point, so if you have something special that low priced, IMHO the insurance will be well worth it.

(Consider how much we spend on strings per year! Saving yearly for insurance is not a bad idea.)

Best wishes, and hope you find an insurance program that fits your needs.

Edited: September 30, 2020, 8:39 PM · The general rule amongst insurance companies in the US is that anything valued above $5,000, needs to be inspected by a professional appraiser of instruments and bows (you can’t self appraise for legal reasons). A knowledgeable specialist will inspect your instrument or bow’s condition and its provenance. They will also look at the fair market value of the instrument maker/bow maker and determine an appropriate appraisal amount to present to the insurance company for coverage. For any item $5,000 and below, you can simply tell the insurance company you’d like to insure a bow for $4,999 yourself (without appraisal). Most dealers and auction houses will write you a free appraisal if you purchased an instrument or bow from them.
September 30, 2020, 8:38 PM · You can normally cover your violin and bow using your homeowner's or renter's insurance; no extra charge, just part of the value of the goods in your home.

However, if you use your instrument professionally, you can't cover it using that policy, and you must get musical instrument insurance. If you're an AFM union member, they probably have a discount deal with one of the insurers (Heritage, Clarion, etc.) that you can take advantage of.

Also, those home policies will pay for instrument repair, but they won't cover the situation of "I did so much damage that I don't think I'll like how it sound post-repair". Standalone musical insurance normally covers scenarios like that by offering you the full insured value and you can go out and hunt for a new instrument while they deal with the aftermath of the damaged one.

That means that you probably want standalone insurance if you can't afford to just write off the value of your instrument. That probably varies based on your income and how expensive your gear is.

Your policy covers whatever you apply for it to cover. Violin(s), bow(s) and case all need their own separate documentation of value.

Edited: September 30, 2020, 9:57 PM · Thank you for the responses so far, I find it helpful.

My violin is by a modern maker and while I don’t know how much his instruments are currently, but quite a fair amount last I checked and most likely more now. Same for my bow. Given these figures I would feel more comfortable having some form of replacement protection for them.

Good point by Lydia, and when we first setup our home insurance they said the same thing. To be frank the reason I want to consider specialised coverage is that I don’t feel like they’d really cover the full value of my instruments should it come to that - or at least it would be a lot of trouble to get them to do so.

With the current virus situation I imagine it’ll be a while before I feel safe enough to go somewhere for the appraisals so it’s all a matter for the future, but this was a thought that just came to mind recently.


September 30, 2020, 10:14 PM · Mr. Choo,

I would insure-my accident was in someone else's home, but I was alone at the time, and the violin just slipped off my neck while I was tuning while standing, and a peg went off. Very freaky accident, but also very expensive. Your violin is worth it.

Be well, and glad everybody else chimed in.

September 30, 2020, 10:18 PM · The insurance is not that bad, cost wise. I use heritage which is what the many people in town use. I insured all of our family’s instruments (several violins and guitars, amplifiers and effects pedals, clarinets, etc).

The move was precipitated by the acquisition of a cello. They are more accident prone in my experience.

October 1, 2020, 12:10 AM · Choosing insurance for an instrument depends on the amount you’re willing to pay out of pocket to replace and on the intended use of the instrument. If your violin is generally used at home and the value isn’t too high, a homeowner’s policy will likely be able to cover it, as suggested already. You do need to provide documentation to justify its value to satisfy the insurer. The bow and case can be covered as well as long as they’re also appraised professionally. Above a certain limit (the parameters may vary between insurers), you might need to pay a nominal rider fee.

If you’re using the instrument to play mostly outside your home, such as on tour or at other professional engagements, you may want to take out a policy from a company that specializes in insuring instruments. The plans available are better tailored to the needs of a professional musician.

If you’re not sure which way to go, you can always get quotes and compare. Just answering the questions your insurer asks can help narrow it down.

October 1, 2020, 3:45 AM · Read the small print.
Home insurers insure things taken out of the home, but the extra premium can be exorbitant. Last time I checked, it was more annually (for a ukulele) than the instrument was worth. So I insured with Newmoon.
I was just about to add a Breton Breveté to my policy until I skimmed the wording and noticed this at the bottom: -
"We will pay up to the amount insured shown in the schedule unless limited below.
The most we will pay for any one item is £1,500 and the most we will pay for all insured equipment is £2,000." I'd better phone them to ask.
October 1, 2020, 4:04 AM · Went with Anderson after being with Clarion. 3 year policy was about $300 after joining ACMP. Covers bow and violin, don't care about case value. Well worth it, but hopefully never use it.
Edited: October 1, 2020, 5:03 AM · Update - I was on their "Natural" (amateur - limited) policy. Now, at no extra charge (apart from £10 for the Breton), I am on their "Harmonic" (unlimited professional) policy.

You will perhaps have to itemise everything. You may have two violins worth 5000 each and only ever go out with one of them at a time, but an insurer won't necessarily let you insure for 5000. You'll have to insure for 10,000, but the actuaries might not double your premium for that, I don't know.

Edited: October 1, 2020, 7:52 AM · Musical instrument insurance is maddening. Our homeowners insurance (Allstate; policy rider) will cover theft and mysterious disappearance. That is primarily what concerns us, so that's what we went with.

Clarion covers theft (a police report must be made) but not mysterious disappearance (you left your instrument at Burger King). My attorney told me that if you leave your instrument at Burger King, and you return an hour later and it's not there, then that's theft. Clarion doesn't see it that way. The example of mysterious disappearance that Clarion likes to use is "you went boating with your violin and when you returned to shore your violin was not with you."

The take-home message is that if you really want to understand your insurance policy, ask a lawyer to read it.

Professional use -- what if I play LIKE three gigs a year? Does being an AFM member automatically make me a pro? What if I'm an AFM member because I play 2-3 gigs a month on the piano (during pandemic only 1 or 2)?

Dalton Potter did my appraisals. It took him about 15 minutes per instrument. He gave me a small discount since I was having two violins and a viola appraised at the same time.

Edited: October 1, 2020, 8:47 AM · I recently got an insurance policy with Clarion for 2 violins, 2 bows, and a Musafia case. After I submitted my official appraisals from the maker of one of the violins and a luthier for the other one (and bows), the process was quick, easy, and seamless. $260 a year :)
October 1, 2020, 9:04 AM · Paul, I did not realize that about the theft with Clarion, now I'm concerned :(
October 1, 2020, 11:14 AM · @Paul: "Our homeowners insurance...will cover theft and mysterious disappearance."

Alien abduction?

Edited: October 1, 2020, 2:04 PM · Gordon yes as long as it's the violin and not the violinist.

Jamie just call your rep and ask them under what conditions they pay out for theft. What does the policy holder have to do, what conditions need to be met, etc.

I'll tell you something else very interesting about Clarion. I asked their rep (someone who has been with them for a long time) what they do when a stolen violin is recovered after they've paid out on it. She said that never happens. That struck me as really weird also.

Edited: October 1, 2020, 4:41 PM · Paul,
As a shop owner, I will tell you what happens because it has happened to me!

I purchased 2 instruments that it turned out were stolen. We knew the owner, who had been paid out already, and we had the instrument. Simple, no? Wrong. The instruments went to auction to recoup any money that they could. They were offered to me, and I had the choice of keeping them as settlemet for my claim of loss or getting paid for my loss.

So, it does happen, and I have asked the same question.

Regarding the OP question: I use Heritage and have for years. Nothing against Clarion or Anderson. I suggest Instrument insurance instead of a rider on your home policy for the possibilities of repairs and depreciation. Simple example: Fine viola was dropped, post crack in back. I repaired the crack. Instrument sounds great-maybe better than before...Heritage/Clarion/Anderson will pay the cost of repair less the deductable, and mom and dad got a check for depreciation-50% of the value of the instrument before the damage. Your homeowner's policy will usually not pay for repair or depreciation, and some policies allow for the "replacement with an instrument of like-kind"-a direct quote from a national insurance company that will insure many of your homes and cars.
Regarding value, a friend has always suggested that if you can replace it with what you have in the bank that you are OK, but if you couldn't come up with enough money to replace the instrument/item when lost or stolen, then maybe you need insurance.

Edited: October 1, 2020, 5:43 PM · It sounds simple to say that you should go with an insurer that will repair your violin if you drop it. But one that will not replace your instrument if you leave it in a cab or a restaurant or the hallway at your gig, unless the police determine that there was a theft with B&E? Allstate will do that, Clarion will not -- as far as I understood their policy and my discussion with their agent. So I had to ask myself: Which is the greater threat to my wallet? And being somewhat forgetful and frequently rushed, I went with Allstate to cover both theft and mysterious disappearance.

Here is another interesting thing -- I mentioned to Clarion that I could maybe buy their insurance to cover damage and depreciation (and theft), and also purchase the Allstate rider which covers theft and mysterious disappearance but not damage or depreciation. The Clarion rep was quite forthright that they would not pay a cent toward any claim if they found out I had another insurer, even if the other insurance policy didn't cover what I'm claiming.

October 1, 2020, 5:55 PM · I agree, it is difficult to decide who and what but if we did a poll of who has dropped and damaged their violin vs who has left their instrument on the train, plane or automobile, I am guessing that almost all of us have dropped, banged or smacked an instrument inadventently, but very few have left their Montagnana in the trunk of a taxi, or the equivalent.

Some policies don't cover the instrument when it is out of your hands-as in checked luggage or shipped. I ship violins weekly. When I travel, I sometimes check my fiddle, but as a violin maker I have removed the fittings and put it in a shipping case in my larger suitcase, but checking a cello is a dicey proposal, only to find that your insurance won't cover the damage incurred.

October 1, 2020, 8:12 PM · I have Clarion for all of our instruments. The cost for a lot of coverage is surprisingly economical, and it is definitely worth the peace of mind.
October 1, 2020, 8:50 PM · Duane, I agree that it's quite possible I've evaluated risk incorrectly. You do make a compelling case on that account. I just don't understand why NO insurer will cover EVERYTHING. Do they just assume that we can't or won't pay the premium? How much more would Clarion need to charge to cover mysterious disappearance? The fact that they won't cover it -- maybe THEY know something that is not apparent from your polling data after all?
October 1, 2020, 8:55 PM · My guess is the potential for fraud with mysterious disappearance is pretty high, if you have a police report, that's different.
Edited: October 1, 2020, 10:12 PM · Yes that occurred to me, too, Lyndon. It's reasonable.
October 1, 2020, 11:16 PM · Paul, a sage Economics professor once told us that banks are institutions designed to make money with our money, they are not our friends. Insurance companies are designed to make money, the adjustors are trained to give up as little as possible. I have a friend who is an Actuary. He explained things like this to me some years ago, and didn't understand the maths (he was a Fulbright in Math...) but it is complex, complicated and geared toward minimizing risk. Their risk, not our risk.
October 2, 2020, 12:01 PM · What you are paying for is peace of mind that your investment in your instruments is secure. I didn't bother with insurance until about 30 years ago. We were on a break, I was still in my chair, my instrument (bassoon) was safely in its stand, and the horn player on the riser behind me knocked his music stand off the riser into my instrument. I barely caught it before it fell to the lower riser in front of me. I got insurance for everyones instruments after that. You need an "All Risk" policy. Total Dollar offers excellent coverage. Also, Huntington T Block (formerly Mertz-Huber) offers excellent coverage. We have many string instruments/bows insured with Huntington, who also gives a discount to ASTA members. We've only had to make one claim in many years. Bow tip broke while shipping for a rehair. Mertz paid with no problems encountered along the process.
October 2, 2020, 4:01 PM · No insurance company will cover "mysterious disappearance."
October 2, 2020, 11:22 PM · It's not true. Allstate covers it.
October 3, 2020, 7:41 AM · I talk about insurance and some things to think about in this article:
October 3, 2020, 9:52 AM · People do accidentally forget valuable instruments. I recall Rachel Barton Pine leaving her Amati in the back of a taxicab at one point.
Edited: October 3, 2020, 10:01 AM · Lydia suggested (and others chimed in) " You can normally cover your violin and bow using your homeowner's or renter's insurance; no extra charge, just part of the value of the goods in your home."

There is a big caveat here. If you claim for an item on your home insurance it may affect the entire premium as your liability has gone up. Thus, the insurance company can recover everything they gave you for the violin and more so - just as happens with car insurance.

It was for this reason that I insured my violin as a separate rider on my home insurance. I was so glad I did - I was putting my violin (~$20K) on its stand and it toppled with the stand support poking a large hole in the face. An independent appraisal basically totalled it and the insurance company paid for its full value. The violin loss was of course traumatic - but the recovery was as stress-free as it could be.

Having it as a rider has two advantages: the liability is limited to the instrument - they could put up the rider rate but thankfully did not - and the company treats you as a valued customer in part (I suppose) because they don't want to jeopardize the rest of your insurance package.

To me house insurance is just that - protection against loss or major damage to the house (such as fire). It is not a grab-bag for minor claims.

Edited: October 5, 2020, 11:36 AM · Lots of home insurance policies also expressly exclude musical instruments. Pianos are still covered, generally, because they are considered furniture, and they're more easily evaluated (you just buy another one of the same model, so they're fungible). Generally, rarities like violins, fine art, valuable stamp collections, and the like should be protected by riders.

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