By Jeff Keleher | Updated Sep 23, 2022 10:05 AM
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Homeowners living in areas prone to earthquakes may feel like a cataclysmic disaster can happen at any time. An earthquake can cause significant damage to the structure of a home, potentially bringing down walls, compromising the foundation, and even destroying the house. The best way to cope with the threat of earthquakes is through emergency preparation. Planning for the inevitability of an earthquake doesn’t need to be limited to putting together a well-stocked earthquake kit, however. The best earthquake insurance can also provide some much-needed support and peace of mind when disaster strikes, helping policyholders pay for repairs and replace any items destroyed in a quake.
Even the best home insurance companies in California, Oregon, or other high-risk areas will not cover earthquake damage unless it results from a covered peril, such as fire, after the initial event. With earthquake insurance, homeowners can fill gaps in their coverage to protect their home and belongings in the event of a major ground tremor.
This type of insurance is highly specialized, and not all insurance companies offer it. Those that do offer earthquake insurance may have different terms and conditions that policyholders should be aware of, including coverage areas, deductibles, and covered perils. As such, it’s important that homeowners interested in getting insured for this kind of calamity carefully review their options and find the best earthquake insurance to fit their needs.
Despite the specialized nature of earthquake insurance, finding the right policy isn’t all that different from choosing the best homeowners insurance or auto insurance. Choosing the best earthquake insurance begins by reviewing various insurance companies and their offerings and then deciding which one offers the right combination of terms, price, and service for each policyholder. Because earthquakes are regional events, coverage area is a key factor to consider, along with common insurance concerns such as the deductible, AM Best rating, and claims process.
Unlike some other forms of insurance, earthquake insurance is often very limited in terms of coverage area. When searching for the best earthquake insurance, California residents may find more options to consider than someone living in the Midwest.
Coverage areas may also impact the cost of the policy. Insurance companies will likely charge a higher rate for earthquake insurance in areas that are at a greater risk for seismic activity. Homeowners searching for the best homeowners insurance in San Diego offering earthquake coverage may be quoted different prices than residents of Seattle or Portland.
When filing a claim, policyholders will need to pay a deductible before their earthquake insurance kicks in to cover any repairs or replacements. Deductibles often vary across insurance providers and are further influenced by specific policy terms, risk factors, and coverage amounts. Homeowners can usually expect earthquake deductibles to range anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent of the maximum coverage limit, although there will be exceptions.
It’s always important to assess the financial health and stability of an insurance company, no matter what type of coverage is being purchased. Customers need to know that their insurance provider has the liquidity to continue offering protection and to pay out claims for the foreseeable future. The average person won’t be able to make that assessment, but AM Best is one of the most respected credit rating agencies with a specific focus on the insurance industry. AM Best assesses the creditworthiness of insurance companies and assigns a rating ranging from A++ for the most financially stable organizations to D for the most vulnerable. The best homeowners insurance in California, Washington, or anywhere else will typically hold strong ratings from AM Best.
Insurance costs will vary depending on a number of factors that are specific to each customer. As such, it’s recommended that homeowners get multiple quotes from different providers to determine what exactly will be covered and how much a policy will cost. Some insurance companies may provide detailed quotes entirely online, while others may require potential customers to reach out over the phone.
Filing a claim for earthquake damage can be either a relatively straightforward process or very complicated depending on the insurance company used. Some providers may allow policyholders to file a claim online, while others will require a phone call. Having multiple claim options can be helpful in the aftermath of a seismic event if homeowners are without electricity or internet access. Representatives from some of the best homeowners insurance—California or otherwise—actually go to disaster sites to support affected communities and help policyholders in the area file a claim.
Accepted documentation could vary across insurance companies as well. For instance, customers may need to schedule a formal home inspection to document damages and verify that they were caused by an earthquake.
When selecting the best earthquake insurance providers, we looked at coverage areas, cost, policy options, AM Best ratings, and factors that could impact the customer experience such as the quote and claims processes. Each company brings different strengths to the table, giving plenty of options for homeowners looking for the best homeowners insurance—Washington State, Oklahoma, or anywhere else in the nation—and other insurance companies offering earthquake coverage.
Why It Made the Cut: GeoVera offers stand-alone earthquake insurance policies, along with competitive deductible options, convenient communication channels, and a generous amount of information available online before even requesting a quote.
Available in California, Oregon, and Washington, GeoVera stands out among the best earthquake insurance companies because it specializes in catastrophe coverage, making earthquake protection a core competency. Whereas other providers may include earthquake insurance as an endorsement added to an existing homeowners policy, GeoVera allows customers to purchase earthquake coverage as an entirely separate policy.
Although this means bundling options are limited, buying earthquake insurance as a stand-alone policy could give customers more flexibility to customize their coverage by pairing GeoVera’s earthquake protection with another best-in-class homeowners insurance policy (which is not offered by GeoVera). While coverage is limited to homeowners, GeoVera offers flexible deductible options, and policyholders may be able to select a deductible as low as 2.5 percent.
GeoVera also distinguishes itself by providing a wealth of information about policy terms and options online where it can be easily found by prospective customers. Anyone interested in learning more about the company’s offerings can visit the website to learn more without needing to reach out to a live representative.
Why It Made the Cut: Allstate is a top option for saving with several discount options, including earthquake insurance and bundling discounts, which can help homeowners reduce the cost of their coverage.
With a multitude of discounts available, Allstate provides plenty of opportunities for customers to save on their earthquake insurance. A distinguishing feature of Allstate’s coverage is a discount on earthquake endorsements for customers who retrofit and reinforce their home’s structure. Houses built on a slab will automatically qualify for this discount. The insurance giant also offers competitive discounts when bundling different policies—up to 25 percent in some cases—allowing customers to potentially save even more money on their earthquake coverage.
While Allstate’s earthquake insurance is currently only available to California residents, customers can take advantage of a streamlined claims process so they are able to file a claim whenever necessary. Additionally, Allstate offers an online chat function to help customers with specific queries, although finding the chat function may be challenging for some. Allstate also offers more hands-on support to customers following a natural disaster. The company’s Mobile Claims Centers can quickly respond to catastrophes, answering questions of those affected by earthquakes and helping policyholders file a claim without delay.
Why It Made the Cut: With a wide array of deductible options to choose from, Amica gives customers plenty of ways to customize their policies and find the right terms for their needs.
Based in Rhode Island, Amica may not be the most obvious purveyor of earthquake insurance. However, the broad range of policy options—and deductible options, in particular—may offset any questions about the company’s coverage area for this type of peril. Customers can choose from five different deductibles, ranging from 5 percent to 25 percent, giving them the flexibility to balance their deductibles, premiums, and coverage limits as needed.
Earthquake coverage can be limited based on the age of the home—homes built before 1975 are not eligible—but customers who qualify can take advantage of bundling auto, life, flood, and many other types of insurance through Amica. By doing so, policyholders could simplify their insurance needs by working with a single company.
Why It Made the Cut: Farmers Insurance offers some of the most customer-friendly claims processes, balancing hands-on support with varied outreach options.
When it comes to earthquake coverage, the biggest strength of Farmers Insurance may be its versatile claims process. Customers can start a claim by sending a text message, calling a representative, or filling out an online claim form. The ability to file a claim via text, in particular, can be extremely helpful for policyholders who may not have reliable phone or internet access in the aftermath of an earthquake.
Anyone looking for specific details about coverage options will need to request a quote, but that process should be fairly quick for existing customers since Farmers will have all the policyholder information needed to get started. Although Farmers’ A- AM Best rating is relatively low for this space, it still falls within the credit agency’s “excellent” range, so policyholders can feel confident that the company will be in a position to pay out claims following a catastrophe.
Farmers can also offer hands-on support to policyholders following a natural disaster. The company operates a fleet of Mobile Claims Center vehicles, sending them to affected areas and helping policyholders file a claim from the site of the event. Those vehicles also provide food, water, and telephone services to any residents affected by such catastrophic events—policyholders and non-customers alike.
Why It Made the Cut: Aftershock coverage and varied customer support options make Liberty Mutual a strong choice for renters looking for earthquake insurance to protect their belongings.
Liberty Mutual offers policy options that can make a lot of sense for renters who want to protect their personal possessions from earthquake damage but don’t need full dwelling coverage. A notable option included in its best renters insurance policies is aftershock coverage, which is not always offered by insurance companies. Liberty Mutual covers damage stemming from aftershocks up to 15 days after the initial seismic event. Other providers may consider each aftershock to be a distinct covered event, necessitating separate claims to be filed.
Liberty Mutual requires insurance shoppers to contact an agent directly and go through the official quote process to learn more about coverage areas. Once becoming a Liberty Mutual customer, however, policyholders can reach representatives online, over the phone, or via text message, allowing them to ask questions about their policies and follow up on claims whenever the need arises.
We chose GeoVera as our Best Overall choice because it focuses specifically on earthquake insurance, offering a stand-alone product rather than an endorsement added onto an existing policy. Allstate gets our nod for Best Discounts because of the availability of discounts on earthquake endorsements as well as opportunities to bundle policies for additional savings.
Because only certain areas of the country are at risk for earthquakes, earthquake insurance is not as common as flood insurance or policies covering wind damage from hurricanes. This selectivity narrowed our pool of potential candidates, but we reviewed several insurance companies that do offer earthquake coverage in some capacity. We looked for providers offering earthquake insurance as either a stand-alone policy or an add-on endorsement to existing homeowners insurance.
Coverage area was an important consideration because of the regional nature of this type of insurance. The best homeowners insurance companies in California may not offer coverage in Oregon or Washington, for instance. Both the quotes and claims processes were reviewed to determine which insurance providers excelled at giving a satisfying customer experience. Companies that received high ranks from AM Best were given priority, too, as those ratings indicate strong financial health and long-term stability—important factors for achieving peace of mind as a policyholder.
Earthquake insurance is not a requirement for all homeowners. In fact, people living in low-risk areas such as New England may not need this type of coverage at all. Consider the likelihood of experiencing an earthquake and what kind of damage it could cause before securing this coverage. Keep in mind that while earthquakes are largely associated with California and the West Coast, there are fault lines in other parts of the country. Residents of Oklahoma, for example, may find that they want earthquake insurance in case of a seismic event.
Earthquake insurance costs can vary by company as well as the policyholder’s specific circumstances. The likelihood of experiencing costly damage from a catastrophic event is of particular importance when determining coverage costs. Proximity to fault lines, seismic history, building materials, construction methods, retrofitting, and home value may all impact the cost of earthquake insurance.
The total cost of coverage will also heavily depend on the exact policy terms selected by policyholders. Deductibles, premiums, and claim limits can all drive the price of earthquake insurance up or down. Taking advantage of discounts, such as bundling promotions, will allow customers to further reduce how much they spend on this type of insurance.
The best earthquake insurance companies provide peace of mind for customers facing one of the most traumatic events they will ever experience. Knowing they are covered by a financially stable insurance company with extensive coverage options, fine-tuned policy terms, and streamlined claim processes gives policyholders some much-needed confidence at a very uncertain time. The best homeowners insurance companies check most or all of the following boxes.
Finding the best earthquake insurance company can be complicated because of the many complexities that come with this type of coverage. Not all providers offer earthquake insurance, and those that do may only sell policies in select areas. For instance, the best homeowners insurance in California may limit earthquake protection to residents of that state. Beyond those regional considerations, there are a lot of variables that impact coverage amounts, policy options, and costs. It’s good to learn as much as possible ahead of time so homeowners can make informed decisions about the best earthquake insurance for their needs.
Anyone living near a fault line or otherwise at risk for ground tremors should consider purchasing earthquake insurance. When deciding whether to get earthquake insurance, take into account the region’s history of seismic activity, the area’s geologic conditions, and the construction of the home itself.
Earthquake insurance costs are based on numerous criteria, including local risk factors, the condition of the property, policy terms, discounts, and more. As such, it’s difficult to say for certain how much homeowners might pay for this type of coverage. California residents who purchase earthquake coverage through members of the California Earthquake Authority may be eligible for a 20 percent discount if their property has been properly retrofitted.
Standard homeowners insurance may cover perils that occur in the aftermath of an earthquake—such as fire—but homeowners policies generally won’t cover damage caused directly by seismic activity. Damage resulting from a burst water line following an earthquake, for instance, would likely be covered by homeowners insurance. A separate earthquake insurance policy will be needed to cover any structural damage to the home caused by an earthquake.
Coverage limits depend on the type of earthquake policy that is purchased. Many policies include dwelling coverage as a standard term, which often covers the property up to the amount listed in the policyholder’s homeowners insurance. Earthquake insurance may also include personal property and loss of use coverage. Even among the best earthquake insurance companies in California, personal property coverage may be as low as $5,000. However, California residents may have the option to purchase additional earthquake coverage up to $200,000.
The time needed to process and pay out an earthquake insurance claim may vary across different insurance providers. Know that some insurance companies require all earthquake insurance claims to be made within a year of the covered event. Any claims filed after that point may be denied.
Earthquake insurance cannot be retroactively applied to past incidents. As such, homeowners will not be able to claim damages caused by seismic events that occurred before the start of coverage. Furthermore, insurance companies may temporarily suspend extending new earthquake insurance policies following a catastrophe so only existing policyholders can file a claim.
Unlike flood insurance, which may be needed in some cases to secure a mortgage, earthquake coverage is never a requirement for home buyers. That being said, homeowners living in high-risk areas with frequent seismic activity may want to consider purchasing a stand-alone policy or adding an endorsement to their existing homeowners insurance.
Every earthquake insurance plan has policy limits capping the amount that can be paid out on a claim. In many cases, policy limits on earthquake insurance do not exceed the policy limit on the customer’s homeowners insurance. The reason for this is that homeowners insurance is often required to cover the cost of replacing the entire structure, so that amount would also meet earthquake insurance needs.
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