Flood insurance may feel like a strain on your wallet, but it can spare you from much larger expenses if a flood ever damages your home or belongings. If your home is in a high-risk flood zone, you have to get flood insurance for a mortgage, and flood insurance is often worth considering when it’s not required. Here’s a look at how your home’s flood zone influences your flood insurance rate.

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What is my home’s flood zone?

Your home’s flood zone reflects its risk of being damaged by a flood in any given year, as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

FEMA analyzes historical weather data and the drainage capacities of floodplains in communities across the nation to map their flood risks.

Areas that have a 1% chance of flooding each year, or fall within the boundaries of a 100-year flood, are designated as Special Flood Hazard Areas (SPHAs). On a FEMA flood map, SPHAs, or high-risk flood zones, are identified with the letter A or V at the beginning of their label.

You typically need flood insurance to get a mortgage for a home in any high-risk zone. Most flood insurance is purchased through the FEMA-managed National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), but some private companies also offer it.

If you are not sure of your home’s flood zone, or the flood zone of a home you want to buy, you can look it up online in FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center.

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How do flood insurance rates vary by flood zone?

In high-risk flood zones, the average cost of NFIP flood insurance ranges from $554 a year in Zone AH to $3,372 a year in Zone V.

However, flood insurance rates vary by state. For example, the average price of NFIP flood insurance in Zone A areas ranges from $674 a year in Alaska to $1,236 a year in Connecticut.

Since private flood insurance companies use a different system than FEMA to determine your rates, you may be able to get private flood insurance for less than an NFIP policy. The only way to find out for sure is to compare quotes.

Flood zone Annual rate Risk level
V $2,272 High
A $952 High
AE, A1-30 $922 High
AR $888 High
VE, V1-30 $823 High
AO $641 High
A99 $582 High
AH $554 High
B, C and X $582 Low to moderate
Source: FEMA, based on actual rates charged for policies in force. *Flood insurance is required for mortgages in high-risk flood zones.

How to read a flood zone label

While any flood zone that begins with an A or V is considered high risk, the labels for many high-risk zones include additional letters or numbers that provide a little more information.

For example, AH zones have a high risk of shallow flooding, while the flood risks in AO zones come from rivers or streams that may overflow.

Many high-risk flood zones also include a one- or two-digit number that indicates its base flood elevation (BFE). A BFE is the height, in feet, that surface waters rise during a 100-year flood.

In an A6 flood zone, waters are expected to rise by six feet in a 100-year flood.

Although FEMA now uses the labels AE and VE to identify flood zones where any BFE has been identified, many older flood maps still include specific BFEs.

Here’s how FEMA’s describes its most common flood zones:

  • Zone A: Areas with a 1% annual chance of flooding.
  • Zone AE and Zones A1-30: Areas where a BFE has been identified for a 100-year flood.
  • Zone A99: High-risk flood zones that will be protected by a flood control system that is under construction.
  • Zone AH: Areas with a 1% annual chance of shallow flooding, usually in the form of a pond.
  • Zone AO: Areas where rivers and streams pose high flood risks.
  • Zone AR: Areas with a temporary increase in flood risks due to the building or restoration of a levee, dam or other flood control system.
  • Zone V: Coastal areas with a 1% or greater chance of flooding and an additional hazard from storm waves, with no BFEs determined.
  • Zone VE and Zones V1-30: Coastal areas where BFEs for a 100-year-flood have been determined.
  • Zone B, C and X: Areas with low or moderate flood risks.
  • Zone D: Areas with possible but undetermined flood risks due to an absence of analysis.

How do flood zones determine my flood insurance rates?

Your flood zone plays a large role in determining your insurance rates. This is because it reflects the likelihood and potential severity of flood damage to your home and belongings.

In general, flood insurance costs more in areas with greater risks. For example, NFIP flood insurance is considerably more expensive in coastal areas with potential storm surges than it is in areas where shallow flooding is more common.

However, when FEMA rolled out Risk Rating 2.0 in 2021, it incorporated additional factors into its pricing formula for NFIP flood insurance. These factors include:

  • Your home’s distance from water sources
  • The elevation of your home, in relation to flood elevations in your area
  • The estimated cost of rebuilding your property
  • Characteristics of your home, including number of floors and first floor height

If these and other characteristics of your home reduce your flood damage risks, you are likely to pay less for flood insurance than those with higher-risk homes in your zone.

Additionally, FEMA offers lower rates or discounts for taking certain steps to reduce your risks. You may qualify for lower flood insurance rates if:

  • Your home is set on posts, piles or piers without enclosures
  • You add openings to your crawl space that allow flood waters to pass through
  • You set major appliances and equipment in areas above your home’s first floor

What is the difference between my home’s flood zone and Flood Factor?

Although your home’s Flood Factor is a useful tool to help you decide if you need flood insurance, when you have a choice, it is different from your FEMA-designated flood zone.

Your Flood Factor is an assessment of your home’s individual flood risk, as calculated by the non-profit First Street Foundation. First Street Foundation incorporates changing climate conditions and the type of flooding that may impact your home into its flood assessments.

A home’s Flood Factor is rated on a scale of one to 10, with 10 representing the greatest risk of at least one inch of flood water reaching the footprint of the home within the next 30 years.

The difference in methodologies means your home’s Flood Factor may indicate a higher or lower level of risk than your flood zone. However, your lender only looks at your FEMA-designated flood zone to determine if you need flood insurance for your mortgage.

Frequently asked questions

The average price of flood insurance in AE flood zones is $922 a year, nationwide. However, Zone AE prices range from $416 a year in Alaska to $1,482 a year in Pennsylvania. Other factors, including your home’s value and distance from water sources, also impact your rate.

Flood insurance is typically required for mortgages on homes in any flood zone that begins with the letter A or V, which denote high-risk areas. There are many reasons to consider purchasing flood insurance if you don’t have a mortgage and/or live in a low- or moderate-risk area, such as zones B, C or X.

The average rate for flood insurance in X zones is $582 a year. On flood maps, X zones are identified as shaded or unshaded. Shaded X zones are considered moderate risk and tend to have higher flood insurance rates than unshaded X zones, which are considered low risk.

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