Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Earthquakes?
While most earthquakes that occur in the states have little impact, with only mild ground shaking, all it takes to wipe out an entire community and destroy homes is a single big quake.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, residents in 42 states are at risk for earthquakes and related damage.
Therefore, it’s highly recommended to get an earthquake policy in place before an earthquake occurs and causes your roof to collapse and destroy all contents within your home.
If you live near an active fault line or in a high or moderate risk area, earthquake insurance may be a necessity.
Earthquake insurance covers damage to your home, personal belongings, and additional living expenses if you need to temporarily live at a hotel or motel while your home is being rebuilt after an earthquake damaged it.
And while earthquake insurance can be very expensive, doing without it means you may have to rebuild your home out-of-pocket.
To save you some time, we’ve put together a list of the best earthquake policies by looking at their unique coverage options, their financial strength, and their ratings by rating sites such as AM Best and JD Power.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Earthquakes?
Home insurance protects homeowners from damage to their home and property from covered perils.
Covered perils are named events that are specifically listed in your homeowners policy that may cause damage to your home or your personal belongings and which you could have not foreseen.
A standard or basic homeowners insurance policy will protect you from covered perils such as theft, vandalism, explosion, fire, lightning, hail, ice, snow, sleet, wind, windstorm, hail, smoke, hurricanes, tornadoes, extreme cold, and volcanoes.
A standard homeowners insurance for the most part does not cover earthquakes, as well as other natural disasters such as natural floods, tsunamis, or nuclear disasters.
If you would like to be covered, you need to purchase an additional earthquake insurance policy that will pay to rebuild your home or replace your belongings after a quake hits your area.
Where Do You Buy Earthquake Insurance?
Usually, you purchase earthquake insurance through your homeowners insurance.
California residents usually purchase earthquake insurance through the CEA (California Earthquake Authority), which is the most trusted source for earthquake protection.
CEA offers coverage for the structure of the house, building code upgrades, and emergency repairs.
It also provides separate coverage options for belongings (with a separate, lower deductible) and for additional living expenses (with no deductible).
Who Should Purchase Earthquake Insurance?
If you live in a state where earthquakes are frequent, you should definitely get earthquake insurance.
In fact, because of the damage they leave behind, purchasing earthquake insurance is a must.
Earthquakes are unpredictable however and tremors can be felt for miles and miles away from where they begin, meaning damage is possible virtually in all fifty states.
So, even if you do not live in a high-risk area, your home could still be damaged by an earthquake.
And even if your state only has one or maybe two earthquakes per year, it takes only one large seismic shift to significantly damage your home or destroy it completely.
That means if tremors are less frequent where you live, it may also be a good idea to get an earthquake policy.
Or use this guideline:
If you live within 30 miles of an active fault, you should consider insuring your home against earthquake damage.
Which Companies Are the Best for Earthquake Home Insurance?
Allstate: Best Overall
Allstate is best overall due to its discounts that can lower your premium, its variety of add-on options and insurance products, and its easy claims process.
Also, Allstate’s mobile app and website make it easy to check your policy, make payments, and file claims without having to waste time by calling customer service where you may be put on hold for a long time.
Allstate’s homeowners insurance allows you to easily add earthquake coverage to your existing policy.
You don’t have to worry if the insurer will pay out if you file a claim for earthquake damage.
That’s because the insurer has great financial strength and will not delay payments no matter how much the damage costs.
AM Best rated Allstate A+ for their stellar reputation of having strong financials.
In addition, according to JD Power, Allstate received a score of 829 out of 1,000 for having one of the best home insurance policies in the nation.
The average JD Power score is 823.3.
Allstate offers earthquake insurance nationwide, including California.
And, unlike other earthquake policies, Allstate covers structures on your property, such as pergolas, fences, sheds, and detached garages.
Allstate’s earthquake insurance also offers loss of use coverage, which means you don’t have to pay out-of-pocket if you have to stay at a hotel while your home and property are being repaired after earthquake damage.
|Founded in 1931, which means Allstate has tons of experience in the insurance industry.||You must speak with an agent to get a quote.|
|Mobile app is easy to use.||Policy features are limited.|
|Earthquake insurance coverage available in select regions nationwide, including California.||Rather than covering your total loss, loss of use coverage after earthquake damage is capped at a set percentage of the dwelling coverage.|
Amica: Best for Covering California
Amica is a top pick for earthquake coverage in California because of its partnership with the California Earthquake Authority (CEA), the most trusted source to purchase earthquake protection in California.
The partnership covers the standard earthquake policy. But unlike other insurers, building code upgrades and emergency repair coverage come standard in the policy and not as an add-on.
Building code coverage is used on homes that have been destroyed by earthquakes to keep them up to code and, thus, up to date.
Emergency repairs coverage covers immediate repairs to prevent further damage after an earthquake.
To get earthquake coverage, you have to buy it as an add-on with Amica.
Despite the partnership, policyholders file claims not with CEA but with Amica.
This is a benefit because you have access to Amica’s highly-rated customer service and you can use its excellent online claims center that’s easy to use for everyone.
However, one drawback is that you can’t add earthquake insurance to your existing homeowners insurance online or on the app. You need to speak with an agent to get the coverage.
Still, talking to a rep can be helpful. You can ask any questions about the policy. In some ways, earthquake coverage can be confusing, and it may be hard to differentiate what it covers and what it does not, for example.
The rep can also give you more information about the deductible, which is special and is unlike your typical deductible and needs to be explained so the customer knows exactly its cost.
You should also note that Amica offers quite a few add-ons you can purchase with your homeowners insurance policy, including flood insurance coverage, personal property replacement coverage, valuable items coverage, and more.
|You have the option to bundle earthquake insurance with other Amica policies including homeowners insurance and auto insurance.||You need to speak to an agent to get an earthquake insurance quote.|
|Excellent rankings for customer service.|
|Online claims center available.|
|A+ rating from AM Best for its financial strength, which means you don’t have to worry about delayed payouts.|
American Family Insurance: Best for Covering Multiple Types of Properties
American Family Insurance, founded in 1927, is one of the most popular insurers in the United States and is highly rated by AM Best.
AFI has one of the best earthquake policies in the nation. It covers many things that are excluded in other policies and which you have to pay extra for if you want the protection.
These include coverage for detached garages or other structures on your property, such as fences, driveways, sidewalks, and other permanently-installed yard fixtures on your property.
But AFI is also top-notch because its earthquake coverage covers many types of homes.
In addition to protecting a traditional single-family home, the earthquake policy covers manufactured homes, condos, and rentals.
For condo coverage, the policy will cover damage to the unit, your personal property, your permanently-installed fixtures as well your major appliances, the last of which is uncommon in a standard earthquake policy.
For manufactured homes, insurance will cover them entirely, as well as your belongings stored inside.
For rental coverage, the earthquake policy will provide added protection to your personal property and any additions or alterations you made to the unit at your own expense, such as installing wallpaper or putting up built-in bookshelves.
|Save money by bundling all your insurance policies in one place.||You need to work directly with an agent to get a quote.|
|Earthquake insurance covers condos, which most policies exclude.||Earthquake insurance available in only 11 states: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.|
|Plenty of useful insurance discounts.||Noticeably absent in California.|
|Loyalty discounts, safe home discounts, and new home discounts are the most popular homeowners insurance discounts.|
|Price cut when other family members have insurance with AFI.|
Liberty Mutual: Best for Renters
Originally founded in 1912, Liberty Mutual offers high-quality insurance for diverse needs for more than 100 years and received an A grade by AM Best due to its high financial strength.
We chose Liberty Mutual because the insurer offers earthquake insurance for renters, not just homeowners.
This is a standout since most providers do not offer earthquake insurance for renters.
But renters may want earthquake coverage too to protect their personal belongings even if they do not own the apartment, condo, or house that they rent.
You can apply for earthquake insurance as a renter by using Liberty Mutual’s website.
Liberty Mutual’s earthquake insurance also goes the extra mile. It not only covers damages caused by earthquakes but also covers aftershocks that occur within 360 hours.
This coverage is unique and does not come standard in most earthquake insurance policies.
In addition, the insurer also stands out because you can easily file and oversee a claim using its website or its highly-regarded and intuitive mobile app.
|Earthquake insurance for renters stands out due to easy online application and an even easier claims process.|
|Offers intuitive mobile app that makes it uncomplicated to pay the policy, track claims, or access insurance policy details.||Able to add earthquake coverage to an existing renters insurance policy; however, you must live in an area that Liberty Mutual covers.|
|Free quote online.||Won’t be able to see if coverage is available in your area until you finish the application process; some customers see this as a lack of transparency and a waste of time.|
Nationwide: Best Personal Property and Loss of Use Coverage
Nationwide offers exceptional earthquake coverage that you buy as an add-on to your homeowners insurance policy.
One reason is the company’s loss of use coverage. Loss of use is an integral part of earthquake insurance. It will pay you if you have to stay elsewhere, such as a hotel, while your home is being repaired after an earthquake damages it.
Another reason is that since seismic shifts can be very detrimental, your personal property will likely be destroyed or severely damaged.
But the cost to replace your belongings could exceed your policy coverage limit.
That’s why Nationwide steps in to help cover the costs. It offers a depreciated value on your covered items.
However, after you purchase replacements, Nationwide will pay the difference and all you need to do is to send the insurer your receipts.
Also, the insurer stands out because the earthquake insurance policy can be lowered if you choose a higher deductible, retrofit your home, or install seismic shut-off valves and other things to make your home less susceptible to earthquakes.
The larger the earthquake deductible, the less you will pay in premium.
This strengthens the structure of your home to help protect it from damages due to earthquakes. Foundation bolting and cripple wall bracing help. And so too does a seismic shut-off valve.
The shut-off valve will close gas lines when an earthquake hits. In this way, when that happens, it helps prevent further loss from an earthquake when, say, a fire occurs and causes the gas line to rupture.
Nationwide also partners with the CEA, just like Amica, because its earthquake insurance endorsement covers all states except California.
With this partnership, Nationwide and the CEA provide alternative solutions for earthquake coverage in California.
|One of the strongest diversified insurance companies in the U.S.||The insurer’s policy is high due to not that many people buying earthquake insurance.|
|Partnership with CEA is best solution for a company that does not cover California.||Covers all states but doesn’t do business in California, the state that needs the most protection.|
|Excellent claims handling.|
|Ensure for direct physical loss to property caused not only by earthquakes but also by volcanic eruptions.|
We thoroughly researched 20 homeowners insurance companies that provided earthquake coverage and narrowed the list down to those that had the best coverage, positive rating site grades, and useful technology.
When searching for the best insurers that offered earthquake insurance, we looked at the ones that had coverages that came standard in an earthquake policy and not as an endorsement so that people looking to be covered did not have to pay exorbitant premiums.
For example, if a policy covered not just damage to a home after an earthquake, but also structures on the property such as pergolas, fences, sheds, and detached garages, we put that insurer on our list.
There are two popular coverages, building code coverage and emergency repairs coverage, to take note of.
Again, if these coverages come standard in an earthquake policy and not as an endorsement, we looked at these coverages with favorable terms.
Rating Company Reviews
We also looked at insurers that were highly rated by rating company sites such as JD Power and AM Best.
If AM Best claimed that an insurer had a high financial strength, we took note of that. If JD Power stated that a company had good claims satisfaction, we also took note of that.
If a homeowners insurance policy offered a website and mobile app that provided convenience because you could make a claim, pay for your premium, or find information about your policy, any time you want, then we also put that company on our list.
How Earthquake Insurance Works?
Earthquake insurance provides coverage for your dwelling if an earthquake causes damage to it.
Earthquakes are not covered by most standard homeowners insurance.
To get earthquake coverage you must add it to your homeowners insurance policy as an endorsement or rider at an extra expense.
For example, if the seismic activity causes a crack in your foundation, your earthquake insurance will cover the damage after you pay the deductible, the amount you owe before your insurance kicks in.
Without earthquake coverage, you would be stuck with that foundation crack.
It is unsafe, to say the least, and would reduce your home’s value if you didn’t have out-of-pocket expenses to pay for repairs.
The amount of earthquake coverage you can buy will depend on your insurer.
But look out for what you are buying.
For example, if you purchase earthquake insurance with only $100,000 of dwelling coverage, that might not be enough to rebuild your home if it was completely or nearly destroyed.
What Does Earthquake Insurance Cover?
|Dwelling||Dwelling coverage helps you pay to repair or rebuild your home.|
|Personal Property||Personal property coverage pays to replace damaged personal belongings such as electronics like your laptop or TV or your clothes, to name a few.|
|Loss of Use||If your home is being repaired after damage from an earthquake and you can’t possibly live in it, loss of use will pay for your living expenses, which include stays at hotels and meals at restaurants.|
|Optional Coverage to Add to Your Earthquake Insurance||At an additional cost, your insurer may also offer optional coverages that you can tack on to your earthquake policy for more comprehensive coverage. Two of the most common add-ons are building code upgrades coverage and emergency repairs coverage.|
|Building Code Upgrade||Building code upgrade coverage may come standard in an earthquake policy but most of the time it is offered as an add-on that you must pay extra for on top of the policy. This means that if your property was not compliant with current building codes before an earthquake damaged it and the rebuild thus comes at an increased cost to make it up to code, the upgrade will pay for those expenses.|
|Emergency Repairs Coverage||This covers the cost of immediate repairs intended to prevent further damage after an earthquake. For additional coverage, the best thing to do is to ask your insurer about what types of riders they offer.|
|What Earthquakes Damage||The biggest liability caused by earthquakes is their unpredictability. You never know when an earthquake will strike, and how much damage it will cause to your home and your property.|
What Earthquakes Damage
The biggest liability caused by earthquakes is their unpredictability. You never know when an earthquake will strike, and how much damage it will cause to your home and your property.
Because earthquakes cause major ground movement, they often cause the following damages:
- Falling trees
- Structure collapses
- Dam or waterway breaches
- Roadways and other infrastructure
To protect yourself from earthquakes, you need to purchase it as an add-on with your homeowners insurance company or take out a separate policy or turn to a private insurer that sells earthquake insurance.
This means that if possible damage from an earthquake is a concern, you should go with a homeowners insurance company that offers the option of an additional earthquake policy.
With earthquake coverage, you get peace of mind that if an earthquake occurs and destroys or damages your home, you’ll be covered in full.
Which States Have the Most Earthquakes?
The states that tend to get the most earthquakes on average are California, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, and Kentucky.
But 42 states also get high amounts of seismic activity.
These include Alaska, Kentucky, Nevada, Hawaii, Washington state, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Oregon, Missouri, South Carolina, and the mountain areas of North Carolina.
Why Do Homeowners or Renters Skip Earthquake Coverage?
One reason is that, like flood insurance, earthquake insurance isn’t mandatory in all states.
Unlike homeowners insurance, your mortgage insurer won’t require it.
Also, very commonly people mistakenly believe earthquake insurance is covered by homeowners insurance.
Another reason is that people who don’t live near a fault line think that seismic activity can’t happen.
But take, for example, a state like Oklahoma, which is not prone to earthquakes, but due to recent constant oil drilling activity and industrial wastewater being injected underground to product, they now are an occurrence.
An additional reason is that an earthquake insurance policy is very high in cost, leading many homeowners to risk it and forgo coverage to save money.
Earthquake premiums are costly because the damage from earthquakes tends to be catastrophic, making them a higher risk for insurers.
So, to cover costs, insurers need to make earthquake deductibles high.
In California, where earthquakes are prominent, just 10% of homeowners have earthquake coverage while the rest of homeowners continue to live at risk.
This is according to the California Earthquake Authority (CEA), the country’s largest provider of earthquake insurance.
People don’t buy earthquake coverage because:
- They don’t think an earthquake would impact them.
- They mistakenly believe earthquake insurance is covered by homeowners insurance.
- They think the deductible is too high.
- It costs too much.
How to Decide if You Should Get Earthquake Insurance
If you don’t have earthquake insurance or think it’s not worth it, ask yourself the following:
Do you have out-of-pocket costs or enough money to rebuild your home entirely after an earthquake damages it or causes complete destruction?
Do you have extra cash laying around to replace your personal possessions that were destroyed by an earthquake?
Do you have money to stay at a hotel or a motel and eat meals at restaurants after an earthquake damages the structure of your home to the point that it is uninhabitable?
You should consider earthquake insurance if you answered “no” to all the questions.
What Should You Consider When Buying Earthquake Insurance?
You should consider the below factors when deciding whether purchasing earthquake insurance makes sense for you:
If you live near an active fault line.
The frequency of earthquakes in your area.
If you do not have enough money in savings to rebuild your home in the event of earthquake destruction.
If your homeowners insurance does not cover earthquake-related damages.
Your home’s construction type, layout, materials used, and quality.
Was your home built with earthquakes in mind?
The type of land your foundation sits on, including soil and the slope of your land.
The amount of annual rainfall.
The value of your home and its contents.
The cost to insure the home.
What is Not Covered by Earthquake Insurance?
Earthquake insurance has many exclusions.
As such, you need to read the fine print so you know what your earthquake insurance does not include or does not cover.
That way you’ll know what to purchase as add-ons for you to get the exclusions covered.
Some things that earthquake insurance do not cover include satellite dishes and antennas, personal property located outside of your home, animals, birds, or fish, decorative items or works of art, such as murals, sculptures, fountains, aquariums, stained or leaded glass, mirrors, chandeliers, and swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs.
Now here are the most important exclusions:
Earthquake insurance does not cover disasters caused by earthquakes, such as damage caused by fires or flooding.
Since fire is covered in a standard home insurance policy, you would have to file a home insurance claim to cover fire losses after a quake.
Floods are never covered by a homeowners insurance policy, and they are also not covered by earthquake insurance. You’ll need to purchase a separate flood insurance endorsement even if the flood is a byproduct of an earthquake.
If your car is damaged by an earthquake, your earthquake policy and your auto policy will not cover the repair or a replacement.
To get coverage for your automobile, you need to buy “comprehensive insurance” from your auto policy, which will pay for damage from hazards that are not related to collisions, such as earthquakes.
So, if a tree falls on your car, you’ll be covered.
Some states require insurers to offer sinkhole insurance, or you can tack it on to your homeowners insurance at a cost, or purchase separate coverage for sinkholes, also at a cost.
Masonry includes the brick, stone, or rock used for your home’s veneer.
Unfortunately, an earthquake policy does not cover homes with masonry veneers.
To get your earthquake policy to pay for the repair of this type of exterior, you’ll need to buy extra coverage.
So, the extra coverage would be again an added expense on top of the expense of earthquake insurance.
Key Takeaway: earthquake insurance doesn’t cover all damage caused by an earthquake. You may have to purchase add-ons to your policy to pay extra for the exclusions.
How Much is the Cost of Earthquake Insurance?
Earthquake insurance can be expensive.
If you need it, the more likely it will cost you.
The cost of earthquake insurance is mostly determined by risk.
If you live in a high-risk area, the cost of earthquake insurance may exceed the cost of your homeowners insurance.
The average cost of homeowners insurance nationwide is $1,680 per year or $140 per month.
So, you may be paying that or much more.
The average annual earthquake premium starts at $800 and can go up to $5,000 if you live in a quake-prone area.
Of course, if you live in a low-risk area, your earthquake policy will cost less, around only $300 a year.
It’s obviously better for those who live in low-risk areas or live on the East Coast.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, earthquake insurance costs as little as fifty cents per $1,000 of coverage.
So, if your home is worth $250,000, the cost of your earthquake policy will be only $125 per month.
What is the Deductible for Earthquake Insurance?
Your earthquake rider will have a separate deductible since it’s a separate policy from your standard homeowners insurance.
Your policy deductible can be high in cost if you live near an active fault line, often 10% – 20% of your coverage limit.
This deductible--what you are required to pay out-of-pocket before your policy kicks in--is typically determined as a percentage of your home’s insured value.
For example, say your earthquake deductible is 15% of your home’s value of $300,000.
Thus, your deductible will be $45,000.
That’s exorbitantly high, but the deductible can be far cheaper than if you had to spend $300,000 or more to rebuild your home.
How Much is Earthquake Insurance in California?
California is the riskiest state. Homeowners experience multiple earthquakes every year.
On average, the rate for earthquake insurance in California is $1.75 per month for every $1,000 of coverage.
Let’s say the cost of your home is $250,000. For earthquake insurance, it will cost you $437 per month.
That’s on top of your homeowners insurance policy. Using the national average quoted above and adding in the cost for earthquake coverage, you’ll be paying $577 a month.
At the end of the day, earthquake insurance for those who need it the most is always going to be high in cost.
But the cost of being not insured after a disaster could prove to be far greater.
How Much Does it Cost to Repair Earthquake Damage?
The average cost of home repairs after an earthquake is anywhere from $4,000 to $30,000.
What are the Factors Affecting the Cost of Earthquake Insurance?
Other factors can affect the cost of earthquake insurance outside of geography:
The age of your home
Newer homes tend to have better materials and can be designed with earthquakes in mind, so they typically cost less to insure compared to older homes.
The number of stories your home has.
Taller homes have a greater chance of toppling over, so they're usually more expensive to insure.
Homes with wood frames cost less to insure because wood is more elastic than other materials.
Raised foundations, or homes built on sandy soil like loam instead of clay or rock, give a home elasticity. This means your premium will be lower.
Making your home safe for earthquakes.
If you stabilize your home to circumvent the chance of damage from an earthquake, you’ll pay less.
A few examples include bolting your home to its foundation, bracing the chimney and water heater, installing automatic gas shut-off valves, and using plywood to make crippled walls stronger.
Are There Ways to Lower Your Earthquake Insurance Rate?
Just like homeowners insurance, you should check with your home insurer to see if it offers any discounts that can lower your rate.
For example, CEA offers discounts up to 20% for frame-constructed homes that were built before 1960 if they are retrofitted with earthquake-proof structural features like foundation bolting and crippled wall bracing.
If you own a newer home, your rate will already be low since it’s built up to code.
Should Renters Purchase Earthquake Insurance?
Even if you don’t own the apartment or home you are renting and your landlord will pay for exterior and structural damages from an earthquake, earthquake insurance is a good idea to have.
During an earthquake, your personal possessions will shift and fly around your rental, causing damage to your furniture and your electronics like your smart TV and your laptop.
If you can’t come up with the costs to replace your belongings, then renters earthquake insurance can be a necessity.
And what would happen if the earthquake causes serious damage to your walls, ceilings, and windows, or any structural parts of your rental that can make it uninhabitable?
You’d have to move elsewhere until your rental is repaired.
But where would you go?
If you don’t have family or friends nearby, or they can’t accommodate you because of a lack of space, then you may have to stay at a hotel or a motel.
Where would you get the money to pay for temporary living arrangements?
With renters earthquake insurance, you know that your belongings will be replaced and that your temporary housing and essentials like meals will be covered.
An added plus is that renters earthquake insurance is significantly cheaper than a homeowners insurance earthquake policy.
For example, in California, you may pay as little as $35 a year for a renters policy.