According to the U.S. Census Bureau, California has the highest number of households with over 13 million. As one of the largest individual insurance markets in the country, shopping for homeowners insurance in the Golden State can be a headache-inducing mirage of constant radio and television ads. 

Given California’s susceptibility to home-threatening natural disasters, sufficient home insurance coverage is necessary to protect your property. Read on for an all-encompassing guide to navigating California home insurance.

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How to get affordable home insurance in California

Purchasing a home will likely be one of the largest financial investments of your lifetime. With that investment, inevitably, comes risk. However, there are steps homeowners can take to minimize risk and protect their investment, including finding the right home insurance policy

The first step to protecting your property is homeowners insurance. Though not required by law, home insurance provides financial liability for your property and belongings from natural disasters or theft. Different coverage levels are available for different property types, locations, and other factors. 

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Homeowners insurance rates aren’t designed with savings in mind. That’s where Insurify comes in.

As of 2019, the average home insurance premium in California costs $986 annually—less than the national average. The median California home is valued at $561,325.

Rates in California can be relatively high or low compared to the national average—it all depends on which town you live in. Here are the most and least expensive ZIP codes in California to buy and insure a home. Average rates within these ZIP codes tend to increase relative to property cost. In wildfire– or earthquake-prone areas, rates are often higher.

Most Expensive California ZIP Codes Cheapest California ZIP Codes
City Median Home Price  City Median Home Price
Atherton $7.05 Million Death Valley  $203,200
Santa Monica $4.154 Million Big Bend $136,800
Beverly Hills $4.08 Million Winterhaven

$88,600

What does home insurance cover in California?

There are several types of home insurance. Specific terms of insurance policies may vary by state, but in general, the standard policy types are as follows:

HO-1

Basic

The simplest and least comprehensive type of homeowners insurance provides coverage for a handful of potential problems including natural disasters (storms, fires, wind lightning, volcanic eruption), explosions, theft, damage from vehicles, or civil commotion. 
HO-2

Broad Form

Broad form homeowners insurance policies includes all basic form coverage, plus falling objects, damage from weight of ice, snow, or sleet, freezing of household systems, including HVAC and pipes, sudden and accidental damage to pipes and other household systems or from artificially generated electrical current, accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam sudden and accidental damage HO-2 policies typically cover both dwelling protection and personal property. In some cases, Broad Form coverage may also include liability coverage. However, they still only cover the specific damages listed in the policy.
HO-3

Special Form

The most common forms of homeowners insurance are known as “special form” policies. While HO-1 and HO-2 policies are “named peril” policies, meaning they only cover dangers that are specifically listed in the policy, HO3 policies are “open peril” policies meaning they’ll cover all dangers except those specifically excluded in the policy documents.
HO-4

Tenant’s Form

HO-4 policies, also known as renters insurance, are for people who lease rather than own their homes. Tenant’s form policies typically cover all the same dangers as HO-2 policies. These policies include personal property coverage and liability coverage, but don’t cover the physical structure of the house. Some HO-4 policies may also include loss of use coverage for the tenants.
HO-5

Comprehensive

Comprehensive form policies are usually the broadest and provide the highest level of coverage; not surprisingly, they also tend to be the most expensive type of homeowners insurance policies.
The biggest difference between HO-3 and HO-5 policies is that most HO3 policies are “actual cash value” policies, whereas typically HO-5 policies are “replacement cost value” policies. An actual cash value policy will only reimburse you for the actual value of a damaged or destroyed item, while a replacement cost value policy will reimburse you for however much it would cost to completely replace or repair the damaged or destroyed item (up to the coverage limits on the policy). HO-5 policies also provide personal property coverage against a wider range of dangers than the typical HO-3 policy. Many HO-5 policies also have extra coverage for high-value personal property such as jewelry and artwork.
HO-6

Condo Form

Not surprisingly, condo form insurance is for condominium owners. HO-6 policies generally protect against the same types of dangers as HO-3 policies. They provide dwelling protection coverage with a twist: HO-6 policies cover the walls, floors, and ceiling of the condo unit but not the rest of the building. These policies also include personal property and liability coverage and may include loss of use coverage.
HO-7

Mobile Form

If you own a mobile home or manufactured home, you likely have an HO-7 policy. Mobile home form policies are typically identical to HO-3 policies, except they’re designed specifically for mobile and manufactured homes. Like HO-3 policies, they provide dwelling protection coverage, other structures coverage, personal property coverage, liability coverage, and possibly loss of use coverage as well. HO-7 policies generally only protect the home when it’s stationary; if you plan to move your mobile or manufactured home, you’ll need to get a special policy to cover it while it’s in transit.
HO-8

Older Home

Older homes have generally been built to less stringent code standards than recently built homes, and so insurers have designed a specialized type of homeowners insurance policy for them. HO-8 policies often only cover the basic perils listed in HO-1 policies and generally apply to homes that are registered landmarks or otherwise deemed historic homes. Owners of registered landmarks are typically forbidden from updating HVAC, electrical and other parts of the home to enable them to qualify for a standard HO-3 policy, so an HO-8 policy is often the only option for them.

Mobile Home Coverage in California

HO-7 type coverage is the best option for mobile homeowners. Even though home insurance is not mandatory in California, mortgage lenders will require some sort of proof of insurance as a prerequisite to a loan.

Similar to traditional home insurance, mobile home insurance protects your investment from a plethora of risks, including dwelling coverage, personal property, and liability protection in case of an accident or natural disaster. Mobile home coverage levels can be higher than those of a traditional home, likely because mobile homes are more susceptible to damage in times of storms or other circumstances. Depending on the level of coverage you choose when insuring your mobile home, your annual premiums may fluctuate.

Natural Disasters and Home Insurance Coverage

As California residents know all too well, natural disasters can be catastrophic to property and livelihoods. In California, especially, homeowners and renters alike face earthquakes and increasing wildfire risk each season. Earthquake damage? Flood insurance? Wildfire protection? Additional coverage?! What’s covered and what’s not when it comes to homeowners policies and natural disasters in California? Damage due to uncontrollable circumstances may still be covered- your level of coverage will determine how much your property is actually protected through your policy. 

With such risk, home insurance providers often charge higher premiums to cover potential disasters like the recent wildfires. That being said, with the right tools, you may still be able to find competitive home insurance rates in your area. To compare the best homeowners insurance companies, use Insurify to compare home insurance quotes all in one place.

Conclusion: How to find the cheapest home insurance in California

Just like groceries or clothes shopping, you can find a good bargain on home insurance, without sacrificing sufficient coverage to protect your investment. Protect your home from water damage to burglars, and everything in between. With a little research and the right tools, you’ll be on your way to big savings.

Use Insurify to compare free quotes for home insurance premiums for your property in California.

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Updated March 4, 2020

Jackie Cohen received her B.A. in Global Media and Public Relations from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Currently based in Boston, MA, she works as a content writer for Insurify. An avid globe-trotter and foodie, Jackie spends her spare time adventuring far and near.