As with health insurance or car insurance, small business insurance is hopefully something you never have to use. But when something unexpected happens, having business insurance can be the difference between your business’s continued success or failure.
Unfortunately, a lot of businesses aren’t covered. According to Next Insurance, 44% of small business owners have never purchased business insurance, even after operating for at least one year. By purchasing the right types of business insurance, you can protect your company’s assets against damage and legal claims.
Many small business owners give up on purchasing business insurance because of how confusing the process can be. Every business will need a slightly different insurance package depending on the size of the company, the location, and the industry—and the choices can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve just started your business.
In this guide, therefore, we’ll break down the different types of business insurance, how much they cost, and the purchasing process to find the best small business insurance coverage for you.
What Is Business Insurance?
As an individual, you’ve likely dealt with insurance policies before—car insurance, renters insurance, health insurance, and more. Each of these different types of insurance, of course, helps protect you in the case of the unexpected, if you get in a car accident, if your apartment floods, etc.
In this way, business insurance operates the same way as personal insurance. Business insurance protects your business from financial, legal, or other claims in the case of an accident, lawsuit, disaster, or other unexpected occurrences.
This being said, like personal insurance, there are many different types of business insurance, and the specific types you need will depend on your business—what you do, how you operate, whether you have employees, what industry you’re in.
Nevertheless, although it will ultimately be up to you to decide which types of small business insurance you need and where to get the best coverage, there are generally nine essential types you’ll want to consider, including three that may be required by law if your business has employees.
With this in mind, then, let’s dive into the details.
Why You Should Purchase Small Business Insurance
First, why do you need business insurance at all? If your business is a sole proprietorship or you only have a few employees, you might feel like you don’t need small business insurance.
In reality, with the risk associated with starting a business, business insurance is a necessity to help protect your income and assets (both personal and business). After all, nearly one-third of businesses fail before their second year. This could be due to any number of reasons, such as a poor economic climate, a bigger competitor’s entry into the market, or difficulty obtaining business financing.
This being said, although having business insurance won’t stem the market risks that come with owning a business, it will safeguard your business (and your employees in some cases) against property damage and legal claims.
According to the SBA, between 36% and 53% of small businesses face litigation in any given year—and since most small business owners do not have the financial means to deal with such issues on their own, the cost of not having insurance is often a lot higher than the cost of purchasing coverage.
Moreover, as we mentioned, certain types of business insurance are required by law. For instance, most states require businesses with employees to purchase workers’ compensation insurance and unemployment insurance. In some states, disability insurance is required as well.
Beyond this, you might be obligated to buy insurance coverage when raising money from investors or getting a business loan. Plus, requirements also vary by industry: For instance, a real estate agent with a car will likely need to buy commercial auto insurance and a company that handles sensitive data online will want to purchase cyber liability insurance.
Types of Small Business Insurance
Now that we know a little more about what business insurance is and why it’s important, let’s talk about the different types of small business insurance.
Although there are additional types beyond our list, these are the nine types that you’ll likely want to consider first and foremost when you’re thinking about what kind of business insurance you need.
In the chart below, you’ll find these nine types of business insurance summarized—including what the insurance covers and roughly how much each type of policy will cost your business:
9 Essential Types of Business Insurance
|Type of Business Insurance||Cost||What It Covers|
Workers compensation (required)
$0.75 to $3 per month per $100 of payroll
Claims resulting from work-related injuries
Unemployment insurance (required)
Varies by state (0.6% federal tax rate for most businesses)
Guarantees a portion of employee’s wages after a job loss
Disability insurance (required)
0.25% to 0.5% of payroll
Guarantees a portion of employee’s wages after illness or injury
General liability insurance
$400 to $600 per year
Certain losses that your business causes to another company, client, or vendor
Commercial property insurance
$1,000 to $2,000 per year
Theft, fire, vandalism, and some weather-related property damage
Professional liability insurance
$900 to $1,800 per year
Financial losses arising from your business’s negligence or malpractice
Product liability insurance
$0.25 per $100 of product sales
Design flaws, manufacturing flaws, or insufficient product instructions
Employment practices liability insurance
$800 to $3,000 per year
Wrongful termination or discrimination claims
Key person insurance
Less than $1,000 per year
Replaces lost income from an owner’s or key executive’s death or disability
1. Workers Compensation Insurance (Required)
One of the three types of business insurance that, if you have employees, may be required by law is workers’ compensation. States require most employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance in case employees are hurt on the job. This is definitely a requirement that you don’t want to take lightly. Failure to purchase the required amount of coverage can result in fines and, rarely, even in criminal penalties.
If an employee experiences a work-related injury, workers comp will cover their medical expenses and pay them with a portion of their wages while they recover. For example, workers comp would cover an employee’s back pain that stems from poor ergonomic desk setup. If an employee sues your company for work-related injuries, workers’ compensation insurance usually covers the cost of defending the lawsuit.
You can purchase workers’ compensation insurance through a broker or private carrier. Business insurance quotes for workers comp typically run from $0.75 to $3 per month per $100 in employee wages.
Many states, such as New York, offer a state-run insurance fund that sells workers comp insurance at regulated rates. Larger businesses might even have the option to self-insure. You can learn more information by contacting your state’s insurance department or workers’ compensation board.
2. Unemployment Insurance (Required)
Unemployment insurance is another government-required type of insurance coverage. This small business insurance covers your employees in case of a job loss or termination. Unlike workers comp or many of the other types of business insurance we’ll discuss, unemployment insurance is not something that you purchase from an insurance carrier.
Instead, along with other payroll taxes, employers pay federal unemployment taxes (FUTA) and state unemployment taxes (SUTA). The state administers this program for employers and employees. Your tax burden depends on the number of employees you have, your employee turnover, and whether you’re a new or established business. While an individual is out of work, they can apply to receive unemployment benefits.
Employers can calculate and make SUTA or FUTA tax payments on their own, but it’s often easier to let your HR software or payroll service take care of the calculations for you. Just don’t forget to contact your state’s unemployment agency and sign up for an employer account when you hire your first employee.
3. Disability Insurance (Required)
Disability insurance provides guaranteed payments to employees at a percentage of their income if they’re unable to work due to an illness or injury. Unlike with workers’ compensation, the illness or injury does not have to be work-related. For instance, a pregnant employee can receive disability benefits after giving birth.
Currently, five states—New York, California, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Rhode Island—require employers to provide some level of short-term disability insurance (SDI). SDI covers employees for three to six months after they’ve been injured or fallen ill.
Even if you’re not in one of those five states, short-disability coverage can provide peace of mind to your employees and make you a more competitive employer. Long-term disability coverage, which is more rarely provided, lasts until the expiration date stated in the policy or until the employee is able to return to work. The typical cost of disability insurance is 0.25% to 0.50% of your payroll.
4. General Liability Insurance
Although businesses are not legally required to purchase general liability insurance, this is one type of small business insurance every company should have. General liability insurance protects your business if a third party—such as a client, vendor, or customers—get injured from your business’s property, products, or services.
The following specific types of losses are covered:
- Physical injuries on business property
- Property damage to another individual or business while carrying out your work
- Advertising injuries (libel, slander, misappropriation, etc.)
This is a must-have type of coverage, particularly if you’re in an industry where accidents are more likely to occur—e.g. landscaping businesses, manufacturing companies, and construction companies. Typically, business insurance quotes for a general liability policy range between $400 to $600 per year, although this cost can vary significantly based on the level of risk in your industry.
5. Commercial Property Insurance
Commercial property coverage insures your business’s inventory, equipment, office space, and other property against loss or damage. Commercial property insurance is a must-have for many types of businesses, especially those with a brick and mortar location.
This type of small business insurance covers incidents of small business theft, fires, vandalism, and some weather-related damage. Most commercial property insurance will cover flooding damage and damage from accidents, like a burst pipe. However, not all policies will cover natural disasters like earthquakes or tornadoes.
Depending on where your business is located and the specific likelihood of different types of disasters there, you might have to add on specific coverage for these at an additional cost. Generally, however, this commercial property coverage will range from $1,000 to $2,000 annually.
With this in mind, you might also look for business interruption insurance as a rider or add-on to your commercial property policy. This type of business insurance protects against lost income when you experience property damage or an accident.
For instance, if your shop burns down from a fire, you’ll lose a lot of income while rebuilding it. Business interruption insurance, therefore, will cover that loss of income. Along these lines, cyber insurance coverage is also an important add-on to any online business that handles customer data.
6. Professional Liability Insurance
Professional liability insurance, also known as errors and omissions insurance or malpractice insurance, is a type of business insurance that people normally associate with doctors, lawyers, and other professional service providers. For example, if a doctor makes a mistake during surgery, their malpractice insurance will cover the costs associated with an ensuing lawsuit.
This being said, however, doctors and lawyers aren’t the only ones who should have errors and omissions coverage. It’s possible for many types of business owners to commit professional negligence. For instance, a designer could fail to have a website ready to go for a client’s launch date. As a result, they lose thousands of dollars in sales and sue for the damages. The designer will be protected if they have professional liability coverage.
Therefore, if you offer professional services of any kind, you should plan on purchasing professional liability insurance. You’ll want to remember, though, that even if you have professional liability insurance, you’ll also want to have general liability insurance as these two types of small business insurance cover different things.
A general liability policy covers physical injury, property damage, and advertising injury. The professional liability policy, on the other hand, covers a client or other third party’s financial losses. Business insurance quotes for professional liability coverage tend to range from around $900 to $1,800 per year.
7. Product Liability Insurance
Any small business owner who sells a tangible product should consider purchasing product liability insurance. You can purchase product liability insurance as a stand-alone policy or as an add-on to your general liability policy.
One of the best reasons to purchase product liability insurance is that it covers the full product lifecycle. For instance, if your manufacturer defectively makes the product, or your packager defectively packages the product, a customer could still sue you since it’s your brand on the label. However, you’ll be protected if you have product liability insurance.
In the grand scheme of things, this type of business insurance is quite affordable, costing 25 cents for every $100 of retail sales. This means, for example, if you sell $50,000 worth of goods in one year, your annual premium for product liability insurance will be approximately $125.
8. Employment Practices Liability Insurance
Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) covers your business against a variety of employment discrimination or wrongful termination claims brought by employees. For example, the policy would insure against the cost of defending a claim of sexual harassment or racial discrimination.
The annual cost of EPLI coverage generally ranges from $800 to $3,000, but the expense ultimately depends on the size of your workforce, the level of turnover, industry, and whether you’ve been sued for wrongful termination in the past.
Of course, every small business owner tries to maintain a fair and equitable working environment, but that doesn’t make employment practices liability insurance coverage any less important. According to Hiscox, the average out-of-pocket cost to resolve an employee lawsuit without insurance is about $110,000. This being said, small businesses are typically the most vulnerable to wrongful termination suits because they don’t have a full-scale HR team or legal department. Therefore, EPLI can save your business thousands of dollars.
9. Key Person Insurance
Key person insurance is designed to ensure that a business can survive its owner. If an owner, or another key executive in the business, dies or becomes disabled, the ensuing toll on the business can be heavy. The business will lose income during the transition, as well as clients that the key person brought into the fold.
To stem these losses, therefore, small business owners can purchase key person insurance. With key person insurance, the business will receive a payout that helps the business stay on its feet after the owner or other key person passes away or becomes disabled. This type of business insurance makes your company more durable, and less dependent on the skills or charisma of a few people.
This being said, your business can use the proceeds of key person insurance to hire and train a replacement for the key person, pay employees, pay off debts, or take other steps to weather the blow of the loss. In order to figure out how much coverage you need, you’ll want to determine who’s essential to your business, how much money they bring into the business, and how long it would take to replace and train the key person. Generally, a rule of thumb is to purchase coverage equal to eight to 10 times the key member’s salary.
How Much Does Business Insurance Cost?
Ultimately, although the nine types of business insurance we’ve just reviewed are some of the most common and most important types of coverage, there are a variety of other insurance policies you might need for your business, such as stop-loss insurance, inland marine insurance, and of course, small business health insurance.
This being said, as we’ve seen based on the different types of insurance, there is no one overall cost of business insurance. At the end of the day, the amount your business pays is going to vary based on a number of factors including—the number of policies you have, the type of policy, the coverage of the policy—as well as the specifics of your business, including number of employees, years in business, industry, and location.
How to Purchase the Best Small Business Insurance
Most small businesses don’t need to buy every single type of insurance listed above. Ideally, you should sit down with a broker or business attorney and figure out which of these types of business insurance you really need. If the odds of a particular event happening are so low or don’t apply to you, it obviously doesn’t make sense to purchase that coverage.
With this in mind then, let’s break down the four simple steps you can follow to ensure that you purchase the best small business insurance for your company:
Create a game plan – Review this guide, talk to other business owners in your industry, and get the lay of the land on what coverage is required and customary in your industry. Take an informal “audit” of your business in terms of the property you own, disasters that affect your location, and characteristics of your workforce.
Hire a broker – The next step is to hire a broker to help you get business insurance quotes that will meet your budget and provide the coverage you need. If you outsource some of your HR work to a professional employer organization (PEO), then check in with them. Some PEOs already provide business insurance that will cover your company. You also might choose to talk to insurance providers directly or use an online comparison site like Insureon.
Compare quotes – Once your broker comes to you with business insurance quotes, or you’ve received your own, you’ll want to ask questions and review the details, including coverage limits and the monthly premium. Most small business insurance policies have a deductible that you must pay before the carrier will begin insuring your losses. In general, the higher the deductible, the lower the monthly premium.
Stay current – Once you purchase your insurance policies, you need to keep them up to date. Your broker can help in these efforts, but you should also keep your small business insurance in mind any time you make an important business decision. For example, if you launch a new product line, you’ll likely want to expand your product liability coverage.
As a top tip for purchasing the best business insurance, you might be able to save money by bundling multiple types of insurance together into a single business owner’s policy. A home-based business owner can also add basic coverage to an existing homeowner’s insurance policy.
Throughout this process, you’ll want to keep in mind that most business policies have a one-year expiration date. You can either renew at the end of that period, or if you prefer, you can switch to a different insurance company. Most companies allow you to upgrade coverage and pay any premium difference mid-year. You’ll just want to make sure your business insurance coverage doesn’t lapse—you’ll want to be protected 100% of the time.
Finding the Best Business Insurance: What to Remember
Running a small business comes with a lot of unknowns. As an entrepreneur, you must take risks on a regular basis that may or may not pan out for your business, but your company’s best interests drive every decision. You should use that same mindset when researching and getting small business insurance.
Ultimately, although it might seem time-consuming to sort through the different types of business insurance and find the coverage and provider that’s best for your business—if something unexpected happens, you’ll be thankful you have small business insurance. Plus, by following the four steps that we outlined above, you’ll be able to work with the right resources to find the best business insurance for you.
- Next-Insurance.com. “44% of Small Businesses Have Never Had Insurance: A Risk to Business and Their Customers“
- SBA.gov. “Impact of Litigation on Small Businesses“
- Insureon.com. “How Much Does Workers’ Compensation Insurance Cost?“
- WCB.NY.gov. “Obtaining Workers’ Compensation Insurance Coverage“
- Eligibility.com. “State Disability Insurance“
- CoverWallet.com. “Disability Insurance for Small Businesses“
- Insureon.com. “How Much Does General Liability Insurance Cost?“
- HowMuch.net. “Commercial Property Insurance Cost“
- Insureon.com. “How Much Does Professional Liability Insurance Cost?“
- ProfitableVenture.com. “How Much Does Product Liability Insurance Cost“
- FoAgency.com. “How Much Does Employee Practices Liability Insurance Cost?“
- Hiscox.com. “The 2017 Hiscox Guide to Employee Lawsuits“
- NFIB.com. “How to Price and Choose Key Person Insurance“
Other Business Insurance Guides
Priyanka Prakash, JD
Priyanka Prakash is a senior contributing writer at Fundera.
Priyanka specializes in small business finance, credit, law, and insurance, helping businesses owners navigate complicated concepts and decisions. Since earning her law degree from the University of Washington, Priyanka has spent half a decade writing on small business financial and legal concerns. Prior to joining Fundera, Priyanka was managing editor at a small business resource site and in-house counsel at a Y Combinator tech startup.
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