- Most standard homeowners insurance policies don’t cover damage from earthquakes.
- Earthquake policies cover damage to your home and personal property due to the effects of the quake, but not from any resulting fire, flooding or other hazards.
- Earthquake insurance costs an average of $800 per year, but can exceed $2,500 in areas that are high risk.
- High-risk areas include states like California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Hawaii and Alaska.
If you own a home, you probably have a homeowners insurance policy that protects you from financial loss in case of damage. But have you thought about coverage specifically in the event of an earthquake?
If not, you’re not alone: Even homeowners in risky areas like California often overlook it—only 10% of California homeowners are insured against earthquake damage. And it’s not just homeowners on the West Coast that should consider earthquake insurance policies, since earthquakes can pretty much occur anywhere, with big jolts recently felt in Colorado and Virginia.
“Regular homeowners insurance policies do not cover earthquake or other natural disaster damages to your home,” says Ari Shpanya, CEO of LoanBase, a property financing company.
So if your home is damaged or destroyed when the earth moves and you don’t have the right type of insurance, you might be out of luck—and out a lot of money. Read on to learn more about what earthquake insurance covers and doesn’t cover, how much it can cost, and more, to help you decide whether a policy is right for you.
Inside this article
What is earthquake insurance and what does it cover?
“Earthquake insurance typically only covers direct damage from the quake; so structural damage to your home from the shaking,” says Ian Gutterman, CEO of Informed Group, a company that educates consumers on the insurance industry. Like homeowners insurance, this could include a variety of losses to your home and other structures, as well as your personal property and the loss of use of your home after an earthquake.
Below is a breakdown of the three distinct components of a standard earthquake insurance policy:
Dwelling coverage: First and foremost, earthquake insurance covers the cost of repairing or rebuilding your home if it’s damaged by an earthquake. It also covers attached structures, such as a garage, and may cover unattached structures, such as a shed or detached garage.
Personal property coverage: You’ll be covered for the cost of repairing or replacing personal property that was damaged in an earthquake. Personal property includes anything in your home like appliances, furniture, clothing, electronics and more. You may have to purchase a special rider to get coverage for expensive items like electronics, collectibles or jewelry.
Loss of use coverage: Your policy will also reimburse you for expenses you incur due to the loss of use of your home and personal belongings after an earthquake. For example, if your home is damaged or destroyed and you have to temporarily stay in a hotel, you would be reimbursed for your hotel costs.
What’s not covered?
Just as it’s important to understand what an earthquake insurance policy covers, it’s important to know what it doesn’t cover.
For instance, “it does not cover secondary effects such as flood or fire,” says Gutterman. These may or may not be covered by your standard policy, so it’s a good idea to check your policy to be sure.
Here’s a more detailed list of a few hazards that are not likely covered by a standard earthquake insurance policy:
Fire: If there’s a fire in your home that’s caused by an earthquake, your earthquake insurance policy won’t likely cover it. But that doesn’t mean you won’t have coverage—fire damage is usually handled by a standard homeowners insurance policy.
Land: In most cases, an earthquake insurance policy won’t cover damage to the land that you own. For example, suppose you use your land to farm and an earthquake has made part of your property unfarmable. Unfortunately, it probably won’t be covered by standard earthquake insurance.
Vehicles: If your car is damaged during an earthquake—even if it’s parked inside your attached garage—an earthquake insurance policy usually won’t pay for repairing it. However, your standard homeowners insurance policy or auto insurance policy may cover that.
Flood: An earthquake could damage a pipe in your home, leading to flooding. There could also be a nearby body of water that floods your home as a result of an earthquake. In either of these cases, earthquake damage won’t provide coverage. And, unfortunately, your standard homeowners insurance policy probably won’t cover the damage unless you have flood insurance.
How much does earthquake insurance cost?
According to the insurance company Lemonade, the average cost of earthquake insurance is about $800 per year. However, the cost depends on many factors, including your risk of experiencing an earthquake and the cost to rebuild your home in case of an earthquake. In California, where both earthquake risk and home values are higher, the cost of earthquake insurance can easily exceed $2,000 per year.
Factors that will affect the cost of your earthquake insurance policy include:
The age of your home
Your proximity to a fault line
The type of foundation you have
Your construction type (masonry vs. frame)
Your roof type
The cost to rebuild your home
Keep in mind that in addition to your insurance premiums, you’ll also be responsible for a deductible when you file a claim. The deductible is the amount you’re responsible for paying out of pocket before your insurance coverage kicks in.
Earthquake insurance deductibles typically range from 5% to 25% of the coverage amount. For example, if you have $250,000 worth of earthquake insurance, your deductible will be between $12,500 and $62,500. You’ll notice these deductibles are significantly higher than you’d expect from a standard homeowners insurance policy. However, when you buy your insurance policy, you can often adjust your deductible to either increase or decrease your premium.
Should I get earthquake insurance?
Whether you need earthquake insurance depends primarily on your location. Some parts of the country are at high risk of experiencing an earthquake, while others are quite safe. If you live in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Hawaii or Alaska, then you’re at an increased risk of earthquakes.
The map below from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) shows the frequency of earthquakes around the United States.
“Even if you don't live in any of those high-risk areas, your home could still sustain damage from an earthquake as tremors can be felt several miles away from the epicenter,” says LoanBase CEO Shpanya.
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), there are a few factors to take into account when deciding if earthquake insurance is right for you and how much you should purchase:
Your proximity to active earthquake faults
The seismic history of your region
The amount of time since the last earthquake
The type of building construction on your home
Your home’s architectural layout
The materials used in your home
The quality of workmanship in your home
The extent to which earthquake resistance was considered by your home’s designer
The local site conditions
The slope of your land
The fill material
The geologic structure of the earth beneath your home
The annual rainfall in your area
The value of your home and its contents
The cost of insurance and restrictions on coverage
Where to buy earthquake insurance
How earthquake insurance is sold can vary. “Earthquake insurance means different things in different states,” says Gutterman. “In most places it is an option to add to your policy. However, in states like California, it is a separate policy with different levels of coverage.”
Contact your homeowners insurance company and ask what earthquake insurance options they can provide. They may either offer separate earthquake insurance policies or the ability to add earthquake coverage as an add-on to your existing policy.
If you live in an area that’s at high risk for an earthquake, your state government likely has resources available to help you purchase earthquake insurance. For example, California residents can buy insurance through the California Earthquake Authority (CEA).