Earthquake Insurance: A Complete Guide for Homeowners (2024)

Adding earthquake insurance to your existing homeowners policy can better protect your property.

Kim Porter
Written byKim Porter
Kim Porter
Kim Porter
  • Co-authored the book “Future Millionaires’ Guidebook”

  • 13 years writing personal finance content

A former chief copy editor at Bankrate and past managing editor at Macmillan, Kim specializes in writing easy-to-understand, actionable personal finance content.

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Chris Schafer
Edited byChris Schafer
Chris Schafer
Chris SchaferSenior Editor
  • 15+ years in content creation

  • 7+ years in business and financial services content

Chris is a seasoned writer/editor with past experience across myriad industries, including insurance, SAS, finance, Medicare, logistics, marketing/advertising, and many more.

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Updated April 18, 2023 at 5:00 PM PDT

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About half of all Americans are exposed to the risks of earthquakes, according to U.S. Geological Survey data. Earthquakes can be powerful enough to collapse entire buildings, disrupt utility services, and even trigger flash floods, fires, tsunamis, and more.[1]

Yet standard homeowners policies won’t cover damage from natural disasters like earthquakes. If you live in an earthquake-prone area, you should consider earthquake insurance to protect your home and belongings. And, because earthquake insurance can be expensive, it’s important to compare quotes to find the best deal you can.

What is earthquake insurance?

Earthquake insurance pays to repair or replace your property after it’s been damaged or destroyed in an earthquake. You may buy earthquake coverage from private insurance companies either as a separate plan or as an endorsement to your homeowners insurance policy.

If an earthquake damages your home or belongings, you can file a claim with this coverage. You may need to pay a deductible, which is the out-of-pocket cost you’ll pay before coverage kicks in.

Depending on what’s included, your policy may also pay for temporary housing if the earthquake damage to your home forces you to relocate. If the earthquake sparks a fire or causes water damage to your home, then earthquake insurance won’t cover it. Instead, your regular home insurance policy should cover the fire damage, and flood insurance would cover water damage.

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What does earthquake insurance cover?

An earthquake insurance policy covers damage that results from seismic activity, which is usually defined as “shaking or trembling of the earth, caused by volcanic activity, tectonic processes, or any other cause,” according to the Nevada Division of Insurance. Depending on the policy, you may also be covered for events directly related to earthquakes, such as landslides.

Earthquake policies usually consist of three parts:[2]

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/100x100/c922a01b77/house.svg

    Dwelling coverage

    Pays to repair or rebuild your home and attached structures

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/100x100/32ed42213e/personal-property.svg

    Personal property coverage

    Pays to replace your damaged belongings, such as furniture and electronics

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/100x100/c61ab9bfc2/loss-of-use-2.svg

    Loss-of-use coverage

    Pays for temporary lodging expenses, such as a hotel, while your home is being repaired

Each type of coverage comes with a policy limit, which is the highest amount your insurer will pay for a covered claim.

Some insurance companies offer riders you can add to earthquake insurance. If your policy doesn’t feature the coverage you need, ask your insurer about adding it to your plan. Additional coverage can include upgrade replacements, repairs to your land, and emergency repairs for aftershock protection.

What does earthquake insurance exclude?

Earthquake insurance may exclude certain items or materials. And, if the earthquake causes another type of disaster, another type of insurance will typically cover it. For example: Homeowners insurance usually covers damage from a fire, while flood insurance covers water damage.

Here’s a list of what’s usually excluded in earthquake insurance policies:

What does earthquake insurance typically exclude?Does another type of insurance cover it?
VehiclesYes, comprehensive car insurance
SinkholesA separate rider to earthquake insurance
FireYes, homeowners insurance
FloodYes, flood insurance
Expensive itemsDepends
MasonryDepends
Other structures, such as your fence and poolDepends
Pre-existing damage to your homeNo

How much does earthquake insurance cost?

Earthquake insurance premiums may cost anywhere from $0.50 to $15 per $1,000 of coverage.[1] On a $200,000 home, for example, the price of an earthquake insurance policy may range anywhere from $100 to $3,000.

When setting rates, insurance companies usually take the following factors into account:

  • Your home’s location: Homeowners in earthquake-prone areas generally pay more for earthquake insurance.

  • The age of your home: Premiums are typically higher on older homes because they’re usually more prone to damage and may not comply with current building standards.

  • The construction of your home: Homes built with wood frames are cheaper to insure than brick buildings because they better withstand quake stresses. Large homes constructed with expensive materials cost more to insure because they’re costlier to rebuild.

  • The cost to rebuild your home: When setting your policy limits, you can choose between replacement cost and actual cash value. Replacement cost is more expensive because the policy pays to rebuild or repair your home using materials of similar kind and quality.

  • The deductible: Choosing a larger deductible can help you save money on premiums, though you’ll be responsible for covering more of the loss.

What to know about earthquake insurance deductibles

Deductibles on earthquake insurance are usually calculated as a percentage of your coverage limit rather than a dollar amount. The percentage usually ranges from 2% to 20%.[3] If your home is insured for $200,000, and your deductible is 5% of your home’s replacement value, the insurer would deduct $10,000 from your claim payment.

In states with a higher-than-average risk of earthquakes, such as Washington, Nevada, and Utah, insurance companies often set minimum deductibles at around 10%.[1]

For coverage and deductible purposes, policies also specify the time frame of a single event. For instance, aftershocks that happen within 72 hours of the earthquake are usually considered one occurrence. So, if you need to file a claim against your earthquake coverage, you pay your deductible only once for damage that occurs within this time frame.

The best earthquake insurance companies

Insurify researched dozens of insurance providers to come up with a list of the best earthquake insurance companies. Here are some of the companies that came out on top:

Allstate

Allstate is a well-known company that offers various insurance policies in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. It provides earthquake insurance in select regions throughout the U.S., including California.

Pros
  • Can add earthquake insurance to any existing policy

  • A+ (Superior) rating from A.M. Best indicates strong financial health and credit profile

Cons
  • Coverage varies depending on where you live and the policy and coverage options you choose

  • Large insurer lacks boutique experience

American Family Insurance

American Family Insurance is a national insurance provider that allows customers to save money on their earthquake insurance premiums by taking advantage of a long list of discounts.

Pros
  • A (Excellent) rating from A.M. Best for 18 years in a row 

  • Offers coverage for condo owners and renters

Cons
  • Must speak with an agent to get a quote for earthquake insurance

  • Not accredited with the Better Business Bureau (BBB)

Amica Mutual Insurance

Amica Mutual Insurance allows customers to add earthquake coverage as an endorsement to a standard homeowners insurance policy.

Pros
  • Receives high marks for customer service

  • Offers a catastrophic coverage upgrade, which includes flood insurance and protection for property damage caused by seismic activity

Cons
  • Not available in every state

  • Low customer reviews, according to the BBB website

Nationwide

A typical earthquake insurance policy from Nationwide covers damage to your home, other structures on your property, personal belongings, and loss of use.

Pros
  • Bases your initial claim on the depreciated value of your covered items

  • Reimburses you for replacement items

Cons
  • Not available in every state

  • Poor customer reviews on BBB website

Liberty Mutual

With Liberty Mutual, you can buy and manage a policy and submit a claim all online. The company even offers earthquake insurance for renters.

Pros
  • Available in all states and Washington, D.C.

  • Covers damage from aftershocks within 360 hours after the initial earthquake in the same claim — a much longer time frame than some other companies offer

Cons
  • Poor customer reviews on BBB website

  • Large provider, lacks a boutique feel

Methodology

Insurify’s team of data scientists analyze millions of home insurance quotes and weigh publicly available reviews, claims payout rates, complaint indexes, financial strength scores, company reputations, and proprietary quoting data. Our editorial team applies this insight to inform our unbiased reviews and recommendations.

Should you buy earthquake insurance?

Like homeowners insurance, no state requires you to have earthquake insurance.

Whether you should buy coverage depends largely on the following factors:[4]

  • Your proximity to fault lines

  • Frequency of earthquakes in your region

  • How long it’s been since an earthquake hit your region

  • Your home’s structure, layout, building materials, and quality of construction

  • Local conditions, such as type of soil, slope of the land, annual rainfall, and nearby bodies of water

  • Value of your property and its contents

  • Cost of an insurance policy for your home

Across the U.S., residents in 42 states have a reasonable chance of experiencing a damaging earthquake. The nine states at highest risk of earthquakes are:

  • Alaska

  • California

  • Hawaii

  • Idaho

  • Montana

  • Oklahoma

  • Oregon

  • Texas

  • Washington

The risk of earthquakes is lowest in:

  • Florida

  • Iowa

  • Kansas

  • Louisiana

  • Michigan

  • Minnesota

  • North Dakota

  • Wisconsin

Helpful Tip

The best time to buy earthquake insurance is before you need it. Most insurers won’t sell new earthquake policies for 30 to 60 days after a seismic event hits the area.[5]

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Pros of earthquake insurance

The biggest benefits of earthquake insurance include:

  • Financial coverage: Your home and belongings are covered if they’re damaged in an earthquake, and your temporary housing is paid for while your home is being repaired or rebuilt.

  • Potentially low cost: If you live in a low-risk area, you may pay less for earthquake insurance. You may also raise your deductible to reduce your premium payments.

Cons of earthquake insurance

Two main drawbacks of earthquake insurance are:

  • High rates in some areas: Those who live in high-risk areas may pay high premiums for earthquake coverage.

  • May not cover some damage: Most homes experience damage that doesn’t exceed the cost of the deductible. Insured homeowners may not receive money from their policy to address the damage in this case.[6]

How to buy earthquake insurance

Unlike flood insurance, earthquake insurance isn’t available through the federal government. But you can buy earthquake coverage on the private market.

Every insurer has a different way of setting rates, so you might find different prices at two different companies — even for the same coverage options. That’s why it’s so important to compare earthquake insurance policies to find the best deal available to you.

Here are the basic steps you can take to buy earthquake insurance:

  1. Estimate the coverage you’ll need. Find out how much it would cost to rebuild your entire home and replace the belongings inside of it. You can set up a home inventory to keep track of these details.

  2. Compare insurance companies. Start by looking for insurers that offer earthquake policies in your area. Check each company’s premium costs, deductibles, discounts, policy limits, and special offerings.

  3. Gather details about the home you’re insuring. The insurance company will need to know your address, the age of the home, the age of the roof, and any protective devices installed. It may also ask about your own claim history.

  4. Get quotes. You can either call individual insurance companies, visit their websites, or use a comparison tool to gather and compare quotes.

  5. Buy a policy. Once you’ve chosen an insurance provider that offers the coverage you need at an affordable price, you’ll fill out the application and choose your payment method.

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How to file an earthquake insurance claim

If an earthquake causes damage to your property, here are the basic steps you can take to file a claim:

  • Document the damage. Take photos and videos of the damage and keep copies of any receipts for reimbursement. Make a list of damaged, stolen, or destroyed items with their approximate values.

  • Make emergency repairs, if possible. Making the home habitable can keep you safe and help prevent further damage.

  • Call your insurance agent. The insurance company will send a claims adjuster to inspect your home for structural and cosmetic damage and estimate the cost of fixing it.

What to do if an insurer denies your earthquake insurance claim

If you think your insurer has wrongfully denied your earthquake insurance claim or offered a low payout, you still have options.

  • Gather evidence. Collect any photos, videos, repair estimates, and receipts that show the extent of damage to your property and the cost of repairs. Based on this information, you can also estimate what you consider a fair payout.

  • Contact the insurance company. Ask if another claims adjuster can examine the damage and review your evidence. You may need to fill out a dispute form and follow steps provided by the insurer.

  • Get a third-party appraisal. A private appraiser can provide a second professional opinion of the damage. This will either confirm your insurance company’s original estimate or provide leverage in your argument for raising it.

  • File a complaint and hire an attorney. If you’re still unsuccessful in getting a higher payout, you may decide to file a complaint with the state and get legal help from an attorney.

Earthquake insurance FAQs

If you still have questions about earthquake insurance, the answers below may help.

  • Is earthquake insurance worth it?

    Your need to buy earthquake insurance depends on where you live and your tolerance for risk.

    If seismic activity is common in your area, and you’d struggle to pay for repairs after a damaging earthquake, then insurance may be a good idea. But if an earthquake is relatively unlikely in your area, you may instead focus on building up your emergency fund instead of investing in insurance you might not use.

  • Does FEMA cover earthquake damage to homes?

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, doesn’t offer earthquake insurance to cover damage to homes.

    But its Individuals and Households Program provides support for those who have been affected by a federally declared disaster. The program isn’t a replacement for insurance, but it may provide emergency financial assistance for things like temporary housing.

  • Which states require earthquake insurance?

    None. In the U.S., no state requires homeowners or renters to buy earthquake insurance.

  • Why wouldn’t someone buy earthquake insurance?

    Some people may not be aware that standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover damage from earthquakes. Additionally, deductibles can be relatively high, ranging from 2% to 20% of the cost of replacing a home. So, even if you’re insured, you wouldn’t be able to file a claim if the cost of the damage doesn’t exceed your deductible.

  • Can you get earthquake insurance for an apartment, condo, or mobile home?

    Yes. Some insurance companies offer coverage for people who rent or own a condo, apartment, or mobile home.

Sources

  1. Insurance Information Institute. "Background on: Earthquake insurance and risk." Accessed April 19, 2023
  2. Nevada Division of Insurance. "Nevada Consumer's Guide to Earthquake Insurance." Accessed April 19, 2023
  3. National Association of Insurance Commissioners. "Earthquake Insurance." Accessed April 19, 2023
  4. U.S. Geological Survey. "How do I decide whether or not to get earthquake insurance?." Accessed April 19, 2023
  5. National Association of Insurance Commissioners. "Do You Know What to Do Before and After an Earthquake?." Accessed April 19, 2023
  6. Federal Emergency Management Agency. "Earthquake Insurance." Accessed April 19, 2023
Kim Porter
Kim Porter

Kim Porter is a writer and editor who's been creating personal finance content since 2010. Before transitioning to full-time freelance writing in 2018, Kim was the chief copy editor at Bankrate, a managing editor at Macmillan, and co-author of the personal finance book "Future Millionaires' Guidebook." Her work has appeared in AARP's print magazine and on sites such as U.S. News & World Report, Fortune, NextAdvisor, Credit Karma, and more. Kim loves to bake and exercise in her free time, and she plans to run a half marathon on each continent.

Chris Schafer
Edited byChris SchaferSenior Editor
Chris Schafer
Chris SchaferSenior Editor
  • 15+ years in content creation

  • 7+ years in business and financial services content

Chris is a seasoned writer/editor with past experience across myriad industries, including insurance, SAS, finance, Medicare, logistics, marketing/advertising, and many more.

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