How Much Is Earthquake Insurance in California?

Since the Golden State frequently experiences seismic activity, residents may want to know, “How much is earthquake insurance in California?” Policyholders can expect to pay an average annual rate of $3.54 per thousand dollars of coverage.

By Catherine Hiles | Updated Mar 2, 2023 1:34 PM

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how much is earthquake insurance in california

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Highlights

  • The typical annual cost of earthquake insurance in California is $3.54 per thousand dollars of coverage.
  • The exact cost will depend on the earthquake risk level in the policyholder’s area, the type and amount of coverage they choose, their deductible percentage, and the construction of their home.
  • Policyholders can opt for several types of coverage, including dwelling, personal property, loss of use, and other structures.
  • Although earthquake insurance isn’t required by law, it is strongly recommended for California residents due to the heightened risk of seismic activity in the state.

California is home to numerous active fault lines, which means the Golden State experiences more than its fair share of seismic activity. Since earthquakes have the potential to cause substantial damage, it’s advisable for California residents to make sure they have the correct type of insurance to help cover the costs to rebuild their home or replace their belongings if an earthquake were to occur. However, homeowners insurance and renters insurance does not provide coverage for earthquakes. That’s why it’s important for Californians to look into earthquake insurance.

But just how much is earthquake insurance in California? The exact answer will depend on the risk of seismic activity in the policyholder’s area, the type and amount of coverage required, and the deductible on the policy, among other factors. However, California residents can expect to pay an average of $3.54 per thousand dollars of earthquake insurance coverage. For a home with $500,000 of coverage, that means earthquake insurance in California costs the homeowner around $1,770 per year. To better understand the cost of earthquake insurance and what it covers, California residents can learn more about the factors that affect the total cost of coverage, the types of coverage they can get, and the ways they can save money on premiums.

What is the California Earthquake Authority (CEA)?

The California Earthquake Authority, or CEA, was created in 1996 by the California Legislature to help homeowners and renters in the Golden State find earthquake insurance coverage. This was in response to a massive 6.7-magnitude quake that struck the San Fernando Valley in 1994, causing around $20 billion in damage. After the earthquake struck, insurance companies largely stopped writing earthquake policies because of the extremely high expenses they would incur should a similar earthquake strike again.

how much is earthquake insurance in california

Photo: portal.earthquakeauthority.com

The not-for-profit CEA works with participating insurance companies to provide earthquake insurance coverage to Californians, as well as provide seismic retrofit grants of up to $3,000 to help qualified homeowners bolster their home against earthquake damage. Homeowners whose homes have had a seismic retrofit can get a discount on their CEA insurance premiums of up to 25 percent. The CEA also aims to better educate California residents on how they can take action to minimize the risk of damage to their property should an earthquake hit their region, and on how they can stay safe during an earthquake by using a survival kit stocked with several essentials.

Although customers can get an earthquake insurance quote from the CEA’s website, their coverage won’t be provided by the CEA. After getting an estimate, the customer will work with their insurance company to purchase coverage, which will be administered by the CEA. As of 2024, the CEA provides insurance for over 1 million policyholders and has 22 participating residential insurers.

Factors in Calculating Earthquake Insurance in California

There are several factors that can determine how much a homeowner or renter will pay for a California earthquake policy, including risk level, coverage type and amount, policy type, the home’s age and construction, the deductible, and the home’s geographic location. The best California earthquake insurance providers will take all these and more into account when determining the total cost for a policy.

how much is earthquake insurance in california

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Earthquake Risk Level

One of the main factors affecting earthquake insurance cost in California is the home’s risk level. In general, a home close to an active fault line will cost more to insure than one located farther away. As such, earthquake insurance coverage in Alameda has an average cost of $3,233 per year for $500,000 of coverage, while a home in Fair Oaks will cost around $1,230 per year for the same amount of coverage. The following table shows the cost per $1,000 of coverage in several California cities.

CityAnnual Rate Per $1,000 of Coverage
Fair Oaks$2.46
Yuba City$2.47
Lake Tahoe$2.54
San Diego$2.90
Irvine$3.22
Corona$3.65
Long Beach$4.11
Santa Clara$4.31
Calexico$5.82
Alameda$6.47

Coverage Type

The type of coverage a policyholder chooses will also affect the total cost of earthquake insurance in California. In general, policies will have dwelling coverage, which will help pay to repair or rebuild the structure of the home (plus any attached structures) following an earthquake. Most policies for homeowners will also offer personal property coverage either as a standard part of the policy or as an optional add-on. This coverage will help cover earthquake damage to a policyholder’s belongings. Personal property coverage is the main type of coverage offered by a renters earthquake insurance policy—renters don’t need dwelling coverage because they don’t own the property, which means a landlord’s earthquake insurance policy will cover repairing or rebuilding the structure of the home, but will not cover the renter’s belongings inside the home.

In addition, homeowners and renters earthquake insurance policies usually offer some loss of use coverage. This is designed to cover additional living expenses the policyholder is faced with if they are required to temporarily relocate while repairs are made to their home as part of an earthquake insurance claim. Other types of coverage might include building code upgrades (covers the cost to rebuild the home to current building codes) and breakables (covers the cost to repair or replace breakables such as china, crystal, and glassware).

Coverage Amount

In addition to the type of coverage offered by an earthquake insurance policy, the amount of coverage chosen will affect the cost. The dwelling coverage limit on an earthquake insurance policy will typically match the limit set on the homeowners insurance policy. Therefore, if the home is insured for $750,000, the earthquake insurance policy will also have a dwelling coverage limit of $750,000. Homes with a lower value will typically cost less to insure than more expensive homes.

Personal property coverage will also have a limit, which the policyholder may be able to increase or decrease in order to change the cost of a policy. The more personal property coverage a policyholder has, the more expensive their earthquake insurance policy will be.

CEA vs. Private Insurer

California residents are faced with a unique factor that can affect the cost of earthquake insurance: the choice between getting a policy through the CEA or through a private insurer. While many will choose the former, customers whose homeowners or renters insurance provider doesn’t work with the CEA might need to look into getting a policy through their current company. Customers can use the CEA’s premium calculator to get an estimate of how much an earthquake insurance policy would cost them, and then compare that to a quote from their current insurer to see which offers the most comprehensive coverage for the best price.

California homeowners will want to note that several major insurance providers (including Allstate, Farmers, State Farm, and USAA) now offer limited or no homeowners insurance coverage in the state, which may limit their options for earthquake insurance. That’s why it’s important for homeowners to use the resources provided by the CEA and shop around to find the right coverage.

Building Materials

The materials used to build the home can also affect earthquake insurance cost in California. A house with a wooden frame generally has more flexibility than one built using stucco, concrete, or masonry. That means a stick-built home will be able to better withstand an earthquake, and can lead to lower earthquake insurance premiums since the insurer will be less likely to be faced with a complete rebuild.

Foundation Type

In addition to the home’s building materials, its foundation type will have an effect on the total earthquake insurance cost. A home with a slab foundation is more likely to sustain damage from an earthquake than one built on a raised foundation. In addition, a home that’s bolted to the foundation can better withstand seismic activity, which could lead to lower insurance costs.

Home Age

A home built before 1980 is typically more susceptible to earthquake damage since it was constructed before modern seismic codes were introduced. That means premiums for earthquake insurance coverage will likely be higher for an older home. However, homeowners can retrofit their older home to better withstand seismic activity, and the CEA offers a discount of up to 25 percent for homeowners who choose this route. A seismic retrofit involves bolting the home to the foundation, bracing the chimney and large appliances such as the water heater, and installing automatic gas shut-off valves.

Soil Type

A home built on a soft surface such as sandy soil is more prone to earthquake damage than one built on a hard surface such as clay or rock. That’s because rocky surfaces can absorb seismic waves more efficiently than soft surfaces, reducing the damage to any structures built on top of them. Therefore, a home built on a soft surface will likely cost more to insure than one built on a hard surface.

Stand-Alone Insurance vs. Endorsement

There are generally two ways to get earthquake insurance coverage. The first is to take out a stand-alone policy that only covers earthquakes. There are several companies in California that offer stand-alone earthquake insurance policies, and these options have several benefits including specialization in this type of coverage, which can give policyholders greater peace of mind. Alternatively, policyholders may be able to add an earthquake insurance endorsement to their current homeowners or renters insurance policy, allowing them to manage all aspects of their home insurance through one main point of contact.

Deductible

Earthquake insurance deductibles are usually expressed as a percentage of the total dwelling coverage limit. CEA earthquake insurance deductibles range between 5 and 25 percent of the coverage limit, which means a homeowner will likely need to pay quite a lot out of pocket if they make a claim. For example, if the deductible is 20 percent and the dwelling coverage limit is $500,000, a homeowner making a claim for the full coverage amount would pay $100,000 and the insurer would pay $400,000. The following table outlines the insurer’s and policyholder’s responsibility for a $500,000 claim for a variety of deductible amounts.

Deductible AmountInsurer’s ResponsibilityPolicyholder’s Responsibility
5 percent$475,000$25,000
10 percent$450,000$50,000
15 percent$425,000$75,000
20 percent$400,000$100,000
25 percent$375,000$125,000

Policyholders without substantial savings can opt for a lower deductible percentage, but this will generally result in higher premiums. Therefore, it’s important for a homeowner to determine whether they would prefer to save on insurance premiums and pay a higher deductible or pay more in premiums in exchange for a lower deductible.

Types of Earthquake Insurance Coverage in California

Just like there are several types of homeowners insurance coverage, there are four main types of earthquake insurance coverage California residents can take out: dwelling, other structures, personal property, and loss of use. Homeowners will want to make sure they understand each type of coverage, what is and is not covered, and who is eligible.

how much is earthquake insurance in california

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DwellingOther StructuresPersonal PropertyLoss of Use
Covers the main home and attached structures such as garages and decksCovers detached structures such as sheds and fencesCovers personal items in the home such as clothes and electronicsCovers additional living expenses if temporary relocation is required
Does not cover vehicles, pools, floodingDoes not cover landscaping damageDoes not cover valuable or collectible personal propertyDoes not cover regular living expenses
For homeowners onlyFor homeowners onlyFor homeowners and rentersFor homeowners and renters

Dwelling

Dwelling coverage is designed to cover the main structure of the home, as well as any attached structures such as an attached garage. The dwelling coverage limit of a homeowner’s earthquake insurance will match the limit on their homeowners insurance policy. Therefore, if a home is insured for $500,000 through homeowners insurance, it will also be insured for $500,000 through the earthquake insurance policy.

Other Structures

Although dwelling coverage pays to repair or rebuild attached structures, it will not cover unattached structures such as a detached garage, garden shed, or fence. If a homeowner has these structures on their property, they’ll want to take out “other structures” coverage to ensure that their policy will pay for the repair or rebuilding of these structures.

Personal Property

Personal property coverage is designed to protect a homeowner’s or a renter’s personal belongings that are damaged or destroyed by an earthquake. This includes items such as clothing, furniture, and televisions, up to an agreed-upon limit that typically ranges from $5,000 to $200,000. To cover items like china and crystal, the policyholder will likely need to take out optional breakables coverage, which they can add onto their main policy.

Loss of Use

If a home is unsafe following an earthquake, the residents will need to temporarily move elsewhere. Loss of use coverage helps pay for additional living expenses that a homeowner or renter incurs during this temporary relocation, such as hotel bills, meals out, and additional travel expenses.

Do I need earthquake insurance in California?

According to the CEA, there are more than 500 active faults in the state of California, and most residents of the state live within 30 miles of an active fault line. Therefore, earthquake insurance is worth it for most Californians. As with other types of insurance, there are several California earthquake insurance pros and cons, but the pros largely outweigh the cons for most Californians. Homeowners and renters who aren’t sure whether they need to add earthquake coverage are encouraged to review the following reasons they might need this type of coverage.

how much is earthquake insurance in california

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Frequency of Earthquake Activity

The CEA reports that two-thirds of earthquakes in the United States occur in California. But that doesn’t mean every area in the state has the same amount of seismic activity. Generally, homeowners and renters who live in areas that experience frequent seismic activity are more likely to experience damage to their home and belongings than those who don’t.

Proximity to Active Fault Lines

The California Earthquake Authority has a map showing the risk of earthquakes by county across California so residents can determine the likelihood of an earthquake affecting them directly. In general, residents who live in areas that are close to an active fault line will want to strongly consider earthquake insurance coverage.

Insufficient Savings

Without earthquake insurance coverage, the average homeowner or renter will likely not have the funds to pay to rebuild their home or replace their belongings. Home prices in California are higher than the national average, which means a homeowner will need to have more in savings to rebuild their home than they would if they lived in a lower-cost state. Even if a homeowner does have enough money saved to pay to rebuild their home and replace their personal belongings, they likely won’t want to have to spend all their savings on this. In addition, homeowners and renters generally underestimate the value of their personal belongings, and without personal property coverage they may not be able to pay to replace items damaged in an earthquake.

How to Save Money on Earthquake Insurance in California

Earthquake insurance premiums are relatively high in California, with the average annual cost of earthquake insurance around $3.54 per thousand dollars of coverage. That means a California resident will pay an average of $1,770 for $500,000 of dwelling coverage—and that’s in addition to homeowners insurance premiums. Since earthquake insurance is so important for Californians to carry, it’s smart to look into the different ways to save money while preserving coverage. The following are a few ways to save money on earthquake insurance premiums in California.

  • Consider a seismic retrofit. While there will be an up-front cost, homeowners may be eligible for a discount on their earthquake insurance coverage if they retrofit their home. The CEA offers a discount of up to 25 percent.
  • Opt for a higher deductible. The deductible percentage a policyholder chooses can have a major effect on their earthquake insurance premiums. Policyholders can opt for a higher deductible if they want to save money on their premiums—but they’ll want to be aware that this will result in a lower payout for an approved claim.
  • Bundle your policies. If a policyholder has multiple policies under one insurer, they might qualify for a bundling discount.
  • Ask about additional discounts. Private insurers may have unique discounts that policyholders can take advantage of to lower their premiums.

Questions to Ask About Earthquake Insurance in California

Before choosing an earthquake insurance policy, it’s a good idea for customers to vet their potential insurance providers by asking some or all of the following questions:

  • Do I need earthquake insurance?
  • What does a standard earthquake insurance policy cover?
  • How much coverage do I need, and what will it cost?
  • What deductible options do you offer?
  • Am I eligible for any discounts that can lower my premiums?
  • How often will you reassess the rates for my earthquake insurance policy?

FAQs

Understanding earthquake insurance can be difficult, especially for California residents who wonder if they can get away without this additional cost. After all, if a resident has done an online search for “Is earthquake insurance required in California?” they’ll know that it’s not a mandatory type of insurance—but that doesn’t mean it’s advisable for homeowners and renters to skip this coverage. The following frequently asked questions and their answers can provide clarity to California residents considering earthquake insurance coverage.

Q. How much earthquake insurance should I buy?

The answer to this question will depend on the policyholder’s unique circumstances. In general, a homeowner will want to have enough dwelling coverage to pay for the repair or rebuilding of their home if it’s damaged or destroyed by seismic activity. When it comes to personal property coverage, homeowners and renters will want to take an inventory of their possessions to determine how much it would cost to replace everything, and then make sure they have sufficient coverage.

Q. What is the California Earthquake Authority (CEA)?

The California Earthquake Authority is a not-for-profit organization that underwrites earthquake insurance policies for California residents through participating insurance providers. Although customers will get an earthquake insurance quote from the CEA, they will work with their homeowners or renters insurance provider to take out the policy.

Q. Is there earthquake insurance for renters?

Yes; renters can get earthquake insurance that covers their personal property and any additional living expenses they incur due to a mandatory evacuation. The best earthquake insurance companies may offer coverage for renters as well as for homeowners.

Q. What is the deductible on an earthquake insurance policy?

The deductible on an earthquake insurance policy is expressed as a percentage of the dwelling coverage limit. CEA deductibles range from 5 percent to 25 percent; a homeowner with $500,000 of dwelling coverage and a 20 percent deductible will pay $100,000 when making a claim for the full coverage amount, and the insurer will pay $400,000.

Q. Does car insurance cover earthquake damage?

Comprehensive car insurance covers damage the insured vehicle sustains from seismic activity. Other types of car insurance coverage, such as liability or collision coverage, will not cover earthquake damage.

Q. Does earthquake insurance cover tsunamis?

Although a tsunami is a byproduct of an earthquake, any tsunami damage will not be covered by an earthquake insurance policy. If a policyholder lives close to the coast, they will want to look into coverage from the best flood insurance companies if they want to make sure they are protected against tsunami damage. Flood insurance costs can add to a homeowner or renter’s premiums, but if the worst happens it’ll be well worth the investment.

Sources: ValuePenguin, California Earthquake Authority, California Department of Insurance, Policygenius