Earthquake insurance isn't usually the first thing on people's minds when they buy a home. Although a few homeowner's insurance policies cover earthquake damages to your property, most of them don't. If you live in an area that is prone to earthquakes, you'll want to make sure that your property is well covered. Even if you don't live in a high-risk area, you may want to take advantage of this added protection, as the premiums will usually be quite low in low-risk areas.
To start, review your homeowner's insurance policy and find out if your home is already covered for damages caused by earthquakes. Unless you made a point of getting this coverage when taking out your homeowner's insurance, it probably won't be covered. Next, you should look into the cost of earthquake insurance in your area, as premiums for earthquake coverage change a lot depending on the risk factor. For example, earthquake coverage on the east coast of the U.S. will cost a fraction of the price of coverage on the west coast.
Unlike most homeowner's insurance policies that let you specify the deductible (the amount you pay for damages before the insurance coverage kicks in), the deductible for earthquake insurance is usually set as a percentage of the structure value, normally 15%. Deductibles in low-risk areas may be as low as 2%, but even the most costly insurance rarely has deductibles lower than 10% in high-risk areas. This means, that if your property in a high-risk area is valued at $300,000, the insurance will only cover damages above $30,000 (if your deductible is 10%). If your property is seriously damaged or even destroyed by an earthquake, you'll be glad to have this coverage, but you'll have to shoulder the cost of light damages up to the deductible limit yourself.
Best Specialized Insurance: Geovera
Geovera provides specialized earthquake insurance in Washington, Oregon and California and offers hurricane windstorm coverage in Hawaii. It has a 24-hour claims service, which can come in handy if a quake hits on the weekend or late at night, or if you just don't get around to sorting it out during working hours. Unlike other earthquake insurance providers that require you to pay a high deductible before benefiting from their coverage, Geovera only requires a 10% deductible (unless you live in a very high-risk area). If you live in California you can get a free instant quote, so you know exactly what their insurance will cost you. Because they offer full reconstruction cover, the premium you pay will be based on Geovera's estimated cost of rebuilding your home, which may be higher than its real value. If your property is destroyed you may receive a benefit that's even higher than what your home is really worth which is good, but you may also pay higher premiums because of their high estimated value. For this reason, I would recommend this insurance to you if you're looking for real peace of mind and don't mind paying a bit more for it.
Read our full review of Geovera insurance here.
Best For US Army Members: USAA
USAA offers earthquake insurance as an option with their homeowners and renters insurance policies in some states. In California they provide insurance issued by the California Earthquake Authority, which underwrites nearly 70% of earthquake insurance in that state. The premium you pay for this optional rider depends on a lot of factors, such as the city and state where your property is located, the materials your house is constructed with and of course its overall value. Although the lowest deductible they offer is 10%, you won't likely get one under 15% in most areas with any risk of earthquakes. They do provide good customer service and claims handling, membership is open to U.S. military service members, veterans who have honorably served, and their eligible family members. If you already have a homeowners or renters insurance with USAA then getting this optional rider may be more convenient than getting a separate earthquake insurance.
Find out more in our review of USAA here.