South Carolina Earthquake Insurance Rates Rise as Risk Heightens

23 Mar
Earthquake Insurance

According to a report from the College of Charleston, South Carolina will experience a similar earthquake event in the next 50 years as a fault lines shifts.

In 1886, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit Charleston, South Carolina causing massive damage to roads, buildings and homes. The earthquake killed 60 people and left the local water supply damaged, the shaking could be felt all up and down the eastern seaboard.

Experts at the U.S. Geological Survey believe a similar event will occur soon. According to a report from the College of Charleston, South Carolina will experience a similar earthquake event in the next 50 years as a fault lines shifts. They estimate that it will cause billions of dollars in damage to homes, roads, infrastructure and buildings.

Unfortunately, the earthquake will just be the beginning of the problem for South Carolina residents as most of them are underinsured and do not carry earthquake coverage.

According to data from the S.C. Insurance News Service, less than 10 percent of South Carolina residents carry earthquake insurance. Earthquake damage is never covered by a standard homeowners policy.

The number of households carrying earthquake insurance is even lower than the percent carrying flood insurance as most residents don’t think or don’t realize that they may be at risk of earthquake damage some day.

Earthquake Rates Headed Up

When the Geological Survey highlighted South Carolinas vulnerability to earthquakes, three of the major insurers writing policies in the state requested rate hikes for earthquake coverage.

State Farm, Liberty Mutual and Farm Bureau all requested rate increases for earthquake coverage once the report was released. While they did not receive the exact rate increases they requested, the Insurance Department did sign off on somewhat higher rates after conducting an “in-depth review and actuarial analysis.”

As an example, State Farm who is the largest insurer in the state requested a rate increase of 175.6 percent for earthquake coverage in 2014. The Insurance Department approved a 22.2 percent increase. Liberty Mutual asked for a 65.7 percent increase and received approval for a 40 percent jump in rates.

The Insurance Department estimates that a 20 percent rate hike would cost the average policyholder about $40 a year but this figure can vary dramatically depending on the type of home they are insuring as well as its age and location. The higher rates will help cover additional expenses, claims and reinsurance costs.

While rates have gone up, the number of people actually buying earthquake coverage has remained mostly the same.

Earthquake Coverage is Fairly Affordable

While a 40 percent increase in rates sounds expensive, earthquake insurance is fairly affordable, especially when compared to the cost of repairing or rebuilding your home if an earthquake destroys it.

As a general rule of thumb, expect to pay about $1.75 per $1,000 of home value in the highest risk areas. The price can drop to only 50 cents per $1,000 in lower risk areas according to data from

Data from the Insurance Department shows that in 2016, residents of South Carolina paid out $41.4 million for earthquake insurance premiums, which was the highest amount on record.

A number of factors can impact earthquake insurance rates. Houses built out of brick or masonry tend to cost more to insure as do houses with multiple stories or ones that are sitting on a raised foundation.

Earthquake insurance differs from normal homeowner insurance in a specific way. In most cases it comes with a percentage deductible instead of a straight deductible. This means that your deductible is a percent of the total coverage level. As an example, if you have your home insured for $300,000 with a 15 percent deductible you would be on the hook for the first $45,000 in losses.

While this many sound like a lot it is far less than having to completely rebuild your home on your own. Deductibles vary and as with all insurance products, the higher the deductible you choose, the lower your premium will be but you must be able to cover the deductible in the event you have to make a claim. If forking out $45,000 is out of reach it is possible to choose a lower deductible but expect the premium to rise.

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