A standard homeowners insurance policy covers you and your home against certain disasters, ranging from fire to theft. However, what homeowners insurance doesn’t cover is damage caused by earthquakes.
If you live on a fault line or in an area prone to tectonic activity, you’ll need to purchase additional insurance to have coverage that will pay to repair or rebuild your home when it’s damaged by an earthquake. Earthquake insurance is available as either an endorsement added to your homeowners insurance or an entirely separate policy.
What Does Earthquake Insurance Cover?
If your home or possessions are damaged or even destroyed in an earthquake, earthquake insurance covers the cost of:
- Repairing or rebuilding your home.
- Replacing your possessions.
- Removing debris.
- Living expenses if you’re displaced.
Earthquake insurance policies typically come with three main categories of coverage:
- Dwelling coverage. This covers the cost of repairing or rebuilding the home’s physical structure.
- Contents coverage. This covers the cost of repairing or replacing damaged belongings in the home, including appliances, furniture, and personal items.
- Loss of use. If you’re displaced while your home is being repaired or rebuilt, this covers additional living expenses, like temporary housing.
What Does Earthquake Insurance Not Cover?
Here are some exclusions from earthquake insurance:
- Vehicles. If your car is damaged during an earthquake, it would be covered by your auto insurance instead.
- Fire. Homeowners insurance, not earthquake insurance, covers damages and losses caused by a fire — even if the fire started because of an earthquake.
- Land. If an earthquake causes sinkholes, erosion, or cracks in the land, this won’t be covered by earthquake insurance.
- Water damage from external sources. You’ll need flood insurance to cover water damage from a nearby lake or sewer line.
- Brick veneer. If there’s damage to the brick, rock, or stone veneer on the outside of your home, this isn’t covered by earthquake insurance.
- Preexisting damage. Your coverage can’t be applied to damage that was already there before an earthquake.
How Much Does Earthquake Insurance Cost?
Earthquake insurance costs more in areas where earthquakes are more likely to occur. For most states, the average cost of earthquake insurance is between $100 and $300 per year.
Earthquake insurance typically comes with a percentage deductible, which is the amount you’re responsible for paying out of pocket before insurance kicks in. This deductible typically ranges anywhere from 2% to 20% of the total insured property value. So, if your home would cost $500,000 to rebuild and your deductible is 5%, then you’d be responsible for the first $25,000.
The downside to a higher deductible is you’ll have to pay more if you need to file a claim, but the upside is that it lowers the cost of your premium. A lower deductible means a higher cost to insure your home, but you’ll be on the hook for less if disaster strikes.
Both deductibles and premiums tend to be higher in areas that are more at risk. California is one of the most expensive states for earthquake insurance because it’s a higher-risk area. On average, the annual rate of earthquake insurance for a single-family home in California costs $3.54 for every $1,000 of coverage.
Here’s a look at how that shakes out for different homes based on property value:
Average Cost of Earthquake Coverage in California
|Home Value||Annual Cost of Earthquake Insurance|
In addition to location, some other factors that affect the cost of earthquake insurance include:
- The age of your home. Older buildings typically cost more to insure because they tend to be less structurally sound.
- How much your home would cost to rebuild. More expensive homes cost more to insure.
- Your deductible. A larger deductible means you’ll have a lower premium.
- The materials used to build your home. Homes built on a wood frame typically are less expensive to insure compared to brick buildings because they tend to be better at withstanding stress.
How Do I Get Earthquake Insurance?
Earthquake insurance is offered by most insurance companies in most states. California legally requires homeowners insurance companies to offer earthquake coverage.
After the 1994 Northridge earthquake triggered a crisis for California insurers and the state’s housing market, the state Legislature established the California Earthquake Authority in 1996. The publicly managed, privately funded entity has gone on to become the largest provider of residential earthquake insurance in the United States.
Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about earthquake insurance.