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You need flood insurance if you live in a high-risk flood area, but floods can and do happen anywhere, so even outside of those areas, you should consider it. Standard home insurance doesn’t cover flood damage, and floods are one of the most common – and costly– natural disasters, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). 

FEMA reports that flooding has affected 99% of U.S. counties — almost every part of the country — causing billions of dollars in damage. The only way for homeowners to offset some of this financial damage is with flood insurance.

Depending on where you live, flood insurance might be required by law for government-backed loans. Some private mortgage lenders require you to carry flood insurance on your home. 

Key Takeaways

  • Floods happen everywhere, so homeowners should consider flood insurance.
  • Flood insurance is required by law in high-risk flood zones. Some mortgage companies require flood insurance as well.
  • The average cost of flood insurance in the U.S. is $859 a year or $72 a month.

Which flood zones require flood insurance? 

According to FEMA, if you live in an area marked A or V on their flood zone map, you’re in a high flood-risk area. In these regions, if you have a government-backed mortgage, you’re required by law to have flood insurance. These are mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Even if you don’t have a government loan or live in a flood zone, many private mortgage companies still require flood insurance. Their reasoning? Floods happen everywhere, and they want their investment in your home to be protected.

When can a lender force place flood insurance?  

If you do not buy flood insurance as required, your mortgage lender may notify you that it will purchase it on your behalf. This is called force-placed insurance. 

If you live in a high flood-risk zone, flood insurance is either required by law for government-backed loans, or by your lender. The bank will do it for you if you don’t obtain it alone. 

Standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding, and flood insurance is the only way to protect your home. Without it, you leave your home vulnerable to huge financial losses. If your home is still owned by the lender, which most are, the lender will insist that it be fully insured to protect its investment.

When force-placed insurance is applied, you won’t be able to shop around for the best rate – you have to pay for whatever coverage the bank buys. The cost is often rolled into your mortgage payment and can be more expensive than a policy you could find on your own. Force-placed coverage also protects only the lender, and not you.

It’s in your best interest to shop around, compare quotes and secure a flood policy well ahead of time.

How do you know if you need flood insurance in your state? 

To determine if you need flood insurance in your state, look at FEMA’s flood zone map. You can put in your ZIP code and street address to see what flood zone you’re in.

The zone will determine your flood risk. Zones A and V are the highest risk, and government-backed loans require flood insurance in these areas. Mortgage lenders will also generally require flood insurance in these areas. However, they sometimes require it no matter where you live, so always check.

All other flood zones are still at risk, but it’s your call whether or not to purchase flood insurance. It’s always recommended, as flood insurance is the only way to protect your home from some of the financial losses caused by flooding. Your standard home policy doesn’t cover damage caused by floods.

How much flood insurance do I need? 

You need enough flood insurance to repair and rebuild the structures of your home and also replace the contents if flood waters damage them. 

“With flood insurance, it’s always better to be safe than sorry,” says Cassie Masone, vice president of flood operations at Selective Insurance in New Jersey. “Policies are individualized based on many factors, including location, structure size and construction date. The best way to determine how much insurance you need is to sit with an independent insurance agent and evaluate your options together.” 

For policies bought through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), coverage generally caps at $250,000 for your home’s structure. If that doesn’t seem high enough, you should increase the coverage via private flood insurance. 

The same goes for your personal belongings – if the default coverage limits of $100,000 don’t seem high enough to replace all your furniture, appliances, art, etc., then increase them accordingly. 

If you require higher limits than what is available through the NFIP, you can buy supplemental coverage on the private market or shop for a private policy that fully insures your home.

You should also look into the difference between actual cash value (ACV) coverage for your personal belongings vs, replacement cost coverage. ACV pays claims for the value of your items minus depreciation, while replacement cost coverage allows you to purchase brand-new items at today’s prices.

Where to buy flood insurance

Most flood policies are sold through the NFIP. Dozens of private insurers also sell this type of coverage.

To purchase an NFIP policy, the NFIP has a list of providers around the country. 

The NFIP has the Write Your Own Program (WYO), a collaboration between private insurers and FEMA. It allows standard flood policies to be written by private companies while the federal government covers the underwriting losses. This is how most flood policies are written. There are dozens of participating companies, including national companies like Allstate and Farmers.

This differs from private flood insurance underwritten directly by a private insurance company. These private policies have nothing to do with FEMA or the federal government and you can find a provider on your own, shopping around for the best rates. With a private policy, you can find higher coverage limits and sometimes a lower deductible.

Companies that write private flood insurance include:

  • Chubb
  • Neptune
  • Wright Flood
  • Palomar
  • National General

Federal flood insurance through NFIP is unavailable in communities that haven’t met the federal government’s requirements for adequate floodplain management. Check out FEMA’s community status reports to find out if your community participates in NFIP.  

How much does flood insurance cost? 

The cost of flood insurance varies greatly depending on where you live. The national average annual flood policy premium is $859, which is about $72 a month. However, this could vary by hundreds of dollars. 

Take a look at the table below to see the average flood insurance cost in your state for an NFIP policy. Indiana and Wisconsin are close to the national average, while Massachusetts, Hawaii, and Connecticut are over $1,400 per year.

State Average annual cost Average monthly cost
District of Columbia$562$47
North Carolina$812$68
North Dakota$593$49
New Hampshire$1,045$87
New Jersey$1,151$96
New Mexico$792$66
New York$1,130$94
Rhode Island$1,361$113
South Carolina$783$65
South Dakota$755$63
West Virginia$761$63

Periodically, FEMA issues maps that reveal the risk of flooding in communities across the U.S. Areas at greatest risk are designated as Special Flood Hazard Areas. You’ll pay more for coverage if your home is in one of these areas.

Other factors can impact costs, including: 

  • The year your home was built
  • The number of floors in the home
  • The location of the contents
  • The deductible amount and amount of coverage

Flood insurance from a private vendor will also range in cost, and generally, flood insurance through NFIP is cheaper. 

How does flood insurance work?  

Flood insurance covers losses directly caused by flooding and flood-related erosion. While your standard home insurance may cover siding and roof damage from high hurricane winds, it won’t cover water damage from overflowing creeks or rivers caused by the excess rain of the storm. That’s the job of flood insurance.

A flood is defined as excess water on land that is normally dry and covers at least two acres or damages at least two properties. Flood insurance doesn’t cover other types of water damage.

Your flood policy covers the structure of your home and your personal belongings but usually excludes any personal belongings in the basement.

“It’s also important to remember that if you wait to buy insurance until the threat of flood is imminent, it may be too late,” Masone says. “New NFIP flood insurance policies have a 30-day waiting period before they go into effect. It’s best to buy a flood policy well before the need arises.”

If you need to file a flood insurance claim, report your loss as soon as possible to your insurance agent. Remember, you will have one claim for storm-related damage on your home policy and one claim for flood-specific damage on your flood policy. 

Always start the claims process as soon as possible after a natural disaster. Insurance companies will be inundated with claims, and you want to get the process started. 

There will also be deadlines to meet to provide proof of the damage, so make sure to provide all documentation in a timely manner.

What does flood insurance cover?  

Flood insurance covers rebuilding the structure of your home. This includes things like siding, windows, plumbing and electrical– all the important stuff. With NFIP policies, the structure of your home is covered up to $250,000. You may want to look into a private insurer for more coverage – you can increase this with a private policy.

Your flood policy will also cover the contents of your home, such as furniture and appliances. NFIP policies are available to cover up to $100,000 in contents. However, they usually exclude the contents of your basement.

If you need additional coverage — or if your community does not participate in NFIP — you might be able to purchase coverage from a private insurer. These policies typically do not come with a deductible.

What doesn’t flood insurance cover?


  • Just one inch of water can cause $25,000 in damage
  • Nine out of 10 natural disasters involve flooding
  • The NOAA predicts sea levels will rise a foot by 2050, which will cause more flooding

Flood insurance has exclusions. It doesn’t cover certain items in the basement, like furniture and carpeting. 

Flood insurance policies do not reimburse living expenses should you temporarily relocate while your home is being repaired or replaced.

Flood insurance doesn’t cover water damage from burst pipes, but your regular home insurance generally does. It also doesn’t cover damage to things like swimming pools or other outside structures and excludes landscaping and patios.

However, flood insurance doesn’t cover mold or mildew – only the initial damage done by the surging water.

Who should get flood insurance? 

Are you in a high-risk flood zone?

To find out if you are in a high-risk flood zone, check FEMA’s flood zone map. You can search by address to find out what flood zone you’re in and whether flood insurance is required.

Everyone should consider purchasing flood insurance. Sometimes it’s required by law, and sometimes it’s required by your mortgage lender, but overall it’s the only way to protect your home from flood damage.

“Whether the property is in a flood-prone area or not, flood insurance should always be a consideration,” Masone says. “And just because an area hasn’t flooded in a while doesn’t mean it can’t happen. In fact, from 2014 to 2018, policyholders outside of high-risk flood areas filed over 40% of all National Flood Insurance Program flood insurance claims.”

You might think you can get federal relief funds if you have a natural disaster in your area. This aid is typically issued in the form of a low-interest loan from the Small Business Administration. That means you must pay back the money over time. There are caps to the money you receive. Flood policies are the only way to cover more substantial financial losses.

Flood insurance: The bottom line 

Flood insurance is a good investment for homeowners, whether or not they live in a flood zone. Every area of the U.S. experiences flooding and the only way to protect your home and belongings is to purchase a flood policy in addition to your regular home insurance. 

Frequently asked questions

Is flood insurance required by law?

If you live in a high-risk flood zone A or V and have a government-backed mortgage, you’re required to have flood insurance. Some non-government lenders require it to protect your most valuable investment.

Can you get flood insurance without homeowners insurance?

You can get flood insurance if you’re a renter. Your flood policy would only cover the contents of your home.

Should I get flood insurance if I don’t live in a flood-prone area?

Flooding happens all over the United States, so everyone should consider getting a flood policy, even if it’s not required.

Do I need flood insurance if I live in Zone X?

While flood insurance is not required if you live in zone X, flooding is still possible and is not covered by your regular home insurance. You should look into purchasing a flood policy for peace of mind.


What our expert says

Cassie MasoneVice president of flood operations at Selective Insurance in New Jersey.
“Whether the property is in a flood-prone area or not, flood insurance should always be a consideration. And just because an area hasn't flooded in a while doesn't mean it can't happen. In fact, from 2014 to 2018, policyholders outside of high-risk flood areas filed over 40% of all National Flood Insurance Program flood insurance claims.”


National Flood Insurance Program. “Do I Need Flood Insurance? What Are The Requirements?” Accessed March 2024.

National Flood Insurance Program. “What Flood Zone Am I In?” Accessed March 2024.