The average cost of flood insurance in California is $916 a year. If you live in one of California's high-risk flood zones, you can expect higher premiums from either the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or private insurers.

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Cost of flood insurance in California

The average cost of flood insurance in California through the NFIP is $916 a year, or $76 a month. This is $145 higher than the national average. The NFIP is managed by FEMA, which is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The table below shows rates for NFIP flood insurance policies by flood zone.

  • Areas in California with a 1% chance of flooding are classified as high risk. A Special Flood Hazard Area, which is a high-risk flood zone, is usually designated by the letters A or V.
  • Zone X (shaded) is a moderate-risk area, while Zone X (unshaded) is a minimal-risk area.
  • Zone D indicates areas where there are possible but undetermined flood risks.
Flood zone Average annual rate
All A zones $1,062
All V zones $3,990
D zone $2,217
X zone $603
Source: National Flood Insurance Program

Zone X, which is a moderate- to low-risk area, has the lowest average premium at $603 a year. Depending on different factors you could be paying more or less for flood insurance than the state average. These factors include:

  • The home's construction type
  • How close you are to water
  • The elevation of the house

Flood insurance coverage in California

Flood insurance protects your home's structure and your belongings from damage resulting from a declared flood. NFIP flood insurance policies offer up to $250,000 in building property coverage and up to $100,000 in contents coverage.

NFIP flood insurance will cover your dwelling structure at replacement cost or actual cash value, while your belongings are covered at actual cash value. Replacement cost means that damages to your home will be repaired up to policy limits without depreciation being a factor. Actual cash value means your possessions will be replaced based on what they're worth after depreciation.

In order for your home to qualify for replacement cost coverage, the following criteria needs to be met:

  • The house is a single-family home.
  • You live in the house at least 80% of the year.
  • Your flood insurance dwelling coverage meets at least 80% of the replacement cost of your home, or the max amount available for the home under NFIP limits.

If your home does not meet these three criteria, your flood insurance will pay out dwelling claims at actual cash value.

Do I need flood insurance in California?

Every county in California has had a flood disaster declared more than once in the history of the state. The Central Valley frequently floods due to river overflow. Aging dams are a prime danger in California as well. There's also a high chance of flooding along the coast of California when high tides and large storms or tsunamis occur. In 2011, the 9.0 earthquake in the Tohoku region of Japan created tsunami currents that did over $100 million in damage to 27 harbors along California's coastline.

According to States at Risk, flooding in California will only get worse due to climate change, with an additional 200,000 people projected to be at risk of flooding due to sea level rise.

The best way to see what kind of flood risk your home is at is to check the FEMA flood map online for California.

Flood insurance requirements in California

California's state government does not require homeowners to have a flood insurance policy. However, depending on the type of flood zone your home is in, your mortgage lender might. You can be required by the government to purchase flood insurance if you live in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) and you have a federally backed mortgage. If you don't live in a SFHA zone, your mortgage lender may still require you to purchase flood insurance.

Where to get NFIP flood insurance policies in California

When buying flood insurance, you can contact your home or auto insurance company and check to see if they write and service NFIP flood policies. Here's a list of some insurance providers that write NFIP flood insurance policies:

  • Allstate
  • Assurant
  • Farmers
  • Hartford
  • Liberty Mutual
  • USAA

Private flood insurance vs. NFIP

Private flood insurance providers have more leeway than NFIP providers. Private insurers can offer flood insurance at higher coverage limits, which sometimes have lower premiums. Private flood insurance policies aren't underwritten or backed by the government.

You should keep in mind, however, that mortgage lenders are hesitant about accepting flood insurance from private insurance companies. A key reason for this is that private flood insurance can be dropped or canceled, or even become nonexistent if the private insurer goes bankrupt.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, Zurich Insurance Group, AIG and Assurant are the biggest writers of private flood insurance companies nationally.

How to save on flood insurance in California

Although California has an average flood premium that is higher than the national average, you can still take several steps to lower your premium.

  • Increase your deductible. Your premium and deductible have an inverse relationship. If you choose a high deductible, you can lower your premium.
  • Provide an Elevation Certificate. An Elevation Certificate provides information on the location of your home, the lowest floor elevation, your home's building characteristics and its flood zone. You can submit the certificate to your insurance agent to find out if you can lower your premium.
  • Install flood openings and fill in the basement. You can lower your premium if you install flood openings on the walls of your basement.

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