What Californians Need to Know About Earthquake Insurance

24 Mar
Californians, this is what you need to know about earthquake insurance

Californians, did you know only 10 percent of California homeowers statewide carry earthquake protection?

Earthquakes are scary, frustrating and very expensive if your home happens to be in the path of a big one and you are not carrying earthquake coverage.

In California, premiums for earthquake insurance can be sky high, which has resulted in the majority of homeowners opting out of this extremely important overage. This can end up being a huge mistake.

The California Earthquake Authority (CEA) is a privately funded, but publicly managed organization, which sells earthquake insurance policies through participating carriers in the state of California.

According to statistics from the CEA, which writes roughly 75 percent of earthquake policies that are sold in the state, a mere 10 percent of California homeowers statewide carry earthquake protection. This percentage jumps up to 17 percent in greater Los Angeles and 20 percent in San Diego.

Unfortunately, these numbers leave a ton of homeowners unprotected.

What Earthquake Insurance Costs

There is no doubt that earthquake insurance can be expensive, but how much does it actually cost? Costs vary dramatically depending on the location, age and materials used to build the house. The CEA’s website has a cost estimator that is a great place to start when trying to determine how much an earthquake policy will cost at your specific address.

As an example, a $400,000 home in Santa Clarita with a slab foundation and built in 1990, would cost roughly $954 a year to insure. This breaks down to roughly $80 a month. It’s important to remember that earthquake policies come with a 5 percent deductible.

Earthquake policy deductibles are very different from other insurance types. Instead of a set amount that must be paid when a claim is filed, earthquake coverage comes with a deductible that is a percentage of the cost to rebuild the house. Remember, the deducible is not based on a percentage of the homes current value but a percentage of the cost to rebuild your home.

What this means is that if it costs $350,000 to get your house standing again, you will be responsible for $17,500 of that cost. While this may sound like a lot of money, it is nothing compared to the $350,000 you will need to pay if you are not carrying earthquake coverage.

It is possible to raise your deductible, which will lower the premium. If the deductible were boosted to 25 percent on the Santa Clarita home, the cost of earthquake protection would drop down to an extremely affordable $350 a year. The deductible amount you would need to cover though would jump up to an extremely expensive $87,500.

Costs for a policy will vary depending on the variables that you choose for your policy and the age of your home. Houses built before 1979 do not meet current earthquake building codes so the home would be more susceptible to earthquake damage, which will push up the costs of your policy. Retrofitting an older home can result in a discount of up to 20 percent.

Other cost factors are policy upgrades. One example would be adding building code upgrade coverage. This add-on coverage will help cover the additional cost to bring your rebuild up to the current building codes. There are many building codes and ordinances that must be adhered to when rebuilding a home, all of which can add a significant amount to your rebuilding costs.

If you have avoided earthquake insurance in the past, it may be time to look again. The CEA has been adding a variety of policy options and deductibles over the last few years, which has made earthquake coverage more flexible, and more affordable.


The state of California requires insurance companies operating in the state to offer earthquake coverage if they sell homeowner policies in the state. Due to cost of earthquake claims, many insurers drastically reduced the amount of homeowners policies that they write in the state.

According to industry statistics, in 1995, companies that represented 93 percent of the homeowners insurance market in California had stopped writing homeowners insurance in the state or seriously restricted their homeowner insurance activities. This caused serious issues in the market.

This led to the creation of the CEA in 1996 to provide homeowners with earthquake and homeowners insurance options that provide the necessary coverage at an affordable price.

Earthquake Insurance Buying Tips

If you have been sitting on the earthquake insurance sidelines its time to jump in the game. A great place to start is the CEA website to get an idea of what coverage will cost.

Here are a couple of tips when it comes to shopping for earthquake coverage:

Shop your coverage: As with all types of insurance coverage you should shop your coverage on a regular basis. Earthquake coverage is a bit different, as fewer insurers write policies shopping your coverage every few years (instead of annually) is optimal.  » Shop California Homeowners Insurance Now!

Determine your deductible: Obviously the deductible for these policies is much higher than other insurance types so make sure that you can afford the deductible that you choose. While the premium for a 25 percent deductible sounds great, if you cannot afford to pay it, your personal finances will take a severe beating if your house is destroyed in a quake.

Calculate your rebuilding costs: Calculate the cost to rebuild your home. Come up with a number to rebuild the house and replace all of your possessions. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of temporary housing while your home is being rebuilt. Check if your house meets the current required building codes that pertain to earthquakes. » Calculate Your California Dwelling Coverage

Take an inventory: Be sure to keep an up to date home inventory. Make a record of all of your possessions, recording the cost, serial number and date of purchase if possible. Your inventory should be kept offsite in a safety deposit box or in the cloud if you have used an app to do the inventory. » Start Your Home Inventory

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