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Earthquake damage is not covered by standard home insurance policies. And although most people think of earthquakes as a California problem, they can happen anywhere.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), nearly 75% of the United States is at risk for a damaging earthquake. The highest risk is found on the West Coast and in the New Madrid Seismic Zone which includes Missouri and part of Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Illinois.

Without earthquake insurance, you will have no coverage for any damage to your home and property. You can purchase earthquake insurance as an endorsement on your home insurance or as a standalone policy.

Key Takeaways

  • Standard home insurance doesn’t cover earthquake damage.
  • Earthquake insurance can be purchased as an endorsement on your home insurance or as a standalone policy.
  • Per the USGS, 75% of the U.S. is at risk of a damaging earthquake.

Do I need earthquake insurance?

Most parts of the U.S. are at some risk for earthquake activity. The higher your risk level, the more important it is that you purchase coverage.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides resources – including a hazard map – that can help you gauge your risk.

The USGS suggests considering the following:

  • proximity to active earthquake faults
  • seismic history of the region (frequency of earthquakes)
  • time since last earthquake
  • building construction (type of building and foundation)
  • architectural layout
  • materials used
  • quality of workmanship
  • extent to which earthquake resistance was considered by the designer
  • local site conditions (type and condition of soil)
  • slope of the land
  • fill material
  • geologic structure of the earth beneath
  • annual rainfall
  • value of the building and its contents
  • cost of the insurance and restrictions on coverage (i.e. the deductible).

How much earthquake insurance coverage should I buy?

If you decide to purchase earthquake insurance, buy enough to cover the costs of rebuilding your house and replacing damaged possessions at today’s prices. That amount, known as replacement cost, is different from the market value of your property and possessions.

What does earthquake insurance cover?

Earthquake insurance covers damages to your home or personal possessions resulting from earth movement. That can include earthquakes, landslides and mudslides and other types of sudden land movement; read your policy for details.

However, earthquake insurance does not cover all losses. For example, if an earthquake triggers other types of damage – such as a fire or flooding from a burst pipe – your homeowners policy will cover the damage, not your earthquake policy. Read more about what homeowners insurance covers.

Earthquake insurance also does not protect your car. If an earthquake damages your car, you will need comprehensive coverage in your auto insurance policy to cover the damage.

What are the basic components of earthquake insurance?

Earthquake insurance can be broken into several components. A policy typically includes:

  • Dwelling coverage. This protects you if your home is damaged. It does not cover landscaping, pools, fences, masonry or separate buildings.
  • Personal property coverage. This covers things inside your home, including furniture, appliances and electronics. Most policies have limits on personal property.
  • Additional living expenses coverage. This reimburses you for costs if you must live somewhere else while your damaged home is rebuilt or repaired.

Coverage varies depending on where you buy your policy. Before purchasing a policy, discuss the coverage in detail with an agent.

How does earthquake insurance work?

Earthquake insurance works like most types of insurance. If an earthquake damages your home, you should file a claim with the company that sold you the coverage.

Like most types of insurance, you need to pay a deductible before your coverage kicks in. Earthquake insurance often carries a percentage deductible, which may range from 2% up to 20% of the dwelling coverage on the policy.

So, if you have $300,000 in dwelling coverage on your home with a 2% earthquake deductible, you will be on the hook for $6,000 before your coverage takes care of the rest.

If your deductible is 20%, you would have to pay $60,000 out of pocket before insurance begins to cover your repair costs. 

Where do you get earthquake insurance?

Many private insurance companies offer earthquake insurance either as an endorsement or as a standalone policy.

If you live in California, you can also purchase a policy through the California Earthquake Authority (CEA). It is privately funded but publicly managed. Most earthquake insurance in California is purchased through the CEA.

How much does earthquake insurance cost?

The cost of earthquake insurance varies depending on where you live – and how much your home is at risk.

The CEA offers an earthquake insurance cost calculator that you can use to obtain an estimate of your cost for a policy through that program.

The type of house you own also impacts costs. For example, premiums are likely to be lower if you own a wood-frame home than a brick home. Wood-frame structures typically can handle the stress of an earthquake better.

Per the Insurance Information Institute, the cost of earthquake insurance is calculated on a per $1,000 basis. In a high-risk area like the Pacific Northwest, the cost for a brick home might range from $3 to $15 for $1,000, while a lower-risk area like New York would cost less than a dollar per $1,000.

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Michelle Megna


Michelle, the former editorial director, insurance, at QuinStreet, is a writer, editor and expert on car insurance and personal finance. Prior to joining QuinStreet, she reported and edited articles on technology, lifestyle, education and government for magazines, websites and major newspapers, including the New York Daily News.