If your home is damaged or destroyed in an earthquake, your homeowners insurance policy won't cover it. Earthquake insurance is a separate policy you can purchase to provide coverage to the structure of your home, your belongings and even living expenses if you have to relocate during repairs or a rebuild. Whether or not earthquake insurance is worth it to you depends on a few different factors, such as your ZIP code and the age of the house.
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What is earthquake insurance?
Earthquake insurance is a type of coverage that takes care of damages that happen to your home and personal property due to an earthquake. It is a separate insurance policy from homeowners insurance. While a home insurance policy covers a lot of the types of damage that can happen to your home, earthquake damage is one of the types that is excluded from coverage.
That's where earthquake insurance comes into play. It provides coverage to repair or rebuild your house, replace damaged belongings, and temporarily relocate, if needed.
What does earthquake insurance cover?
In the event of earthquake damage, an earthquake insurance policy covers the following:
The dwelling portion of earthquake insurance covers repairs to or rebuilding of the structure of the house. If the walls, ceiling or foundation of the home are damaged in an earthquake, the policy covers it. Attached structures such as a shed or garage can fall under the coverage as well.
The content coverage section of an earthquake insurance policy covers your belongings if they're damaged or destroyed in a quake. This includes clothing, furniture and electronics. Expensive items such as artwork may need additional coverage.
Additional living expenses (ALE)
If you need to relocate to another living space while your home is repaired or rebuilt after a quake, earthquake insurance provides for additional living expenses. ALE covers the extra costs that arise from such a relocation, including:
- Moving and storage fees
- Restaurant meals
- Extra transportation costs
- Furniture rental
It should be noted that ALE only covers costs beyond your regular standard of living during the relocation. For example, if your regular monthly commute cost is $60 and the relocation requires you to spend $75, ALE will only compensate the extra $15.
The additional living expenses coverage limit of an earthquake insurance coverage is tightly regulated. The dollar limit can be downwards of $1,500.
Earthquake insurance policy exclusions
Earthquake insurance doesn't cover everything in the event of an earthquake. A policy would be cost-prohibitive if it did. For example, after a quake, secondary disasters such as landslides, fires, floods and tsunamis can occur. Unfortunately, earthquake insurance only covers damages resulting directly from the quake.
However, this does not mean that these other disasters aren't covered by insurance. If a fire happens after a quake, your home insurance policy will cover that. Flood insurance is there to provide coverage against external water or tsunami damage. Landslide insurance is also available as a separate insurance rider.
Other earthquake insurance exclusions include:
- Damage from previous earthquake
- Car damage
Is earthquake insurance worth it?
Whether or not earthquake insurance is a good investment for you depends on the earthquake risk where you live. Chris Long of Longevity Insurance Brokers states, "Earthquake insurance is worth it for anyone that has a moderate to high risk of earthquakes. I recommend anyone who is in a yellow area or worse on the simplified USGS Hazard Map to get at least a basic earthquake policy."
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, states at the highest risk of earthquake include:
- South Carolina
You are not required by any state law to have earthquake insurance. However, if you own a house in a state with a high risk of earthquakes, you should certainly consider it.
How much is earthquake insurance?
According to AAA, the average cost of earthquake insurance is $850 a month. This rate can be much higher in states at high risk for earthquakes. Glenn Pomeroy, the chief executive officer of the California Earthquake Authority (CEA), states, "Earthquake insurance can cost anywhere from $730 to $2,000."
A key factor that can affect your rate is the house itself. Older houses weren't usually built to withstand earthquakes. Brick houses are at considerably higher risk of earthquake damage. Whether or not your house has been retrofitted against earthquakes will also affect your rate.
The foundation of the house plays a role in the calculation of your earthquake insurance rate, too. If your house is built on fill instead of bedrock, you can see higher premiums.
Earthquake insurance deductibles
An earthquake insurance deductible is the amount you agree to pay before your policy covers the damage. There are different deductibles for dwelling coverage and content coverage:
Dwelling coverage deductible
The dwelling coverage deductible of an earthquake insurance policy is usually between 10% and 15% of the policy limit. For example, an earthquake insurance policy with $350,000 dwelling coverage and a 15% deductible means you would pay a $52,500 deductible before the earthquake insurer covers the rest. Some states with a lower risk of earthquake may have lower deductible percentages.
Content coverage deductible
A content coverage deductible is often set at around $5,000, but you can usually increase that limit up to $200,000. Expensive items like china, crystal and other fragile valuables are not covered under an earthquake insurance policy. However, you can add breakables coverage as a supplement.
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