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California earthquake insurance

Updated Apr 16, 2024
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Coverage.com, LLC is a licensed insurance producer (NPN: 19966249). Coverage.com services are only available in states where it is licensed. Coverage.com may not offer insurance coverage in all states or scenarios. All insurance products are governed by the terms in the applicable insurance policy, and all related decisions (such as approval for coverage, premiums, commissions and fees) and policy obligations are the sole responsibility of the underwriting insurer. The information on this site does not modify any insurance policy terms in any way.

Do I need earthquake insurance in California?

California residents are often told to prepare for “the big one.” There is currently over a 99 percent chance that an earthquake of magnitude 6.7 or higher will strike California. While this figure seems high, it’s not so surprising when you consider the geology of the state. There are over 15,000 known faults in California, and more than 500 of them are active. Most residents live within 30 miles of an active fault. When it comes to earthquakes, being prepared may make a big difference in terms of your family’s safety and financial protection.

One proactive method for financial protection could be to obtain an earthquake insurance policy. While earthquake insurance is not mandatory in California, damage from earthquakes is excluded from standard home insurance policies. For this reason, if your home or personal belongings were damaged by an earthquake, and you didn’t have designated earthquake insurance, you’d be responsible for the cost of repairing your home or replacing damaged belongings out of pocket.

Some earthquake insurance policies extend coverage to other structures, like a pool, shed or fence. Earthquake insurance may also cover the cost of temporary living arrangements after a covered quake through loss of use coverage or additional living expenses.

How to purchase earthquake insurance in California

When it comes to obtaining California earthquake insurance, there may be a few different methods available. Here are two of the most common ways California residents typically obtain earthquake insurance:

The California Earthquake Authority

The California Earthquake Authority (CEA) is one of the biggest residential earthquake coverage providers. It is a not-for-profit organization, and its premiums reflect the latest science around earthquake risk in California. A CEA insurance policy offers the following coverage options:

  • Dwelling
  • Personal property
  • Loss of use
  • Building code upgrades
  • Emergency repairs
  • Breakables
  • Exterior masonry veneer protection

CEA earthquake insurance is available through many home insurance providers. There are currently 22 property insurance companies that sell CEA coverage. Keep in mind that CEA does not sell standalone policies. In order to qualify for CEA insurance, you must have a homeowners insurance policy with one of the participating insurance companies.

A perk of CEA insurance is that homeowners have flexibility in what coverage options and deductibles they want to choose. For instance, breakables and exterior masonry veneer are optional coverage types. Dwelling coverage is available with a deductible of 5 percent to 25 percent.

If you own an older home retrofitted to withstand earthquake damage, you could qualify for a discount on your CEA insurance. California homeowners may be eligible for a lower premium if their home meets the following criteria:

  • Was built before 1980
  • Is constructed with wood frames
  • Is built on a raised foundation or other non-slab foundation
  • Is seismically retrofitted based on California standards

Earthquake coverage through private insurers

The other option for buying earthquake insurance in California is to purchase a standalone policy through a private insurance company. A few private California earthquake insurers include GeoVera, Arrowhead and Jumpstart. When shopping for earthquake insurance policies, be sure to read through each company’s policy coverage and limitations carefully to ensure you know how you’ll be covered and what your deductibles are in the event of an earthquake.

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Advertising disclosure
This advertisement is powered by Coverage.com, LLC, a licensed insurance producer (NPN: 19966249) and a corporate affiliate of Bankrate. The offers and links that appear on this advertisement are from companies that compensate Coverage.com in different ways. The compensation received and other factors, such as your location, may impact what offers and links appear, and how, where and in what order they appear. While we seek to provide a wide range of offers, we do not include every product or service that may be available. Our goal is to keep information accurate and timely, but some information may not be current. Your actual offer from an advertiser may be different from the offer on this advertisement. All offers are subject to additional terms and conditions.

Coverage.com, LLC is a licensed insurance producer (NPN: 19966249). Coverage.com services are only available in states where it is licensed. Coverage.com may not offer insurance coverage in all states or scenarios. All insurance products are governed by the terms in the applicable insurance policy, and all related decisions (such as approval for coverage, premiums, commissions and fees) and policy obligations are the sole responsibility of the underwriting insurer. The information on this site does not modify any insurance policy terms in any way.

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How much does earthquake insurance cost?

The price of earthquake insurance may be different for every homeowner. When calculating earthquake insurance costs, there are a few factors you might want to consider. Your earthquake insurance premium may be dependent on the following factors:

  • The age of your home
  • The materials your home is built with
  • The type of foundation
  • The home’s proximity to a fault line
  • Reconstruction costs
  • Coverage types
  • Deductible amount

To get a sense of what you will pay for coverage, you can use the CEA’s earthquake insurance premium calculator. Unlike traditional home insurance, earthquake insurance rates are generally based on the home itself, rather than the homeowner. Generally speaking, the more risk your home faces, the higher your premium may be.

How to prepare your home for an earthquake

Preparing your home for an earthquake may reduce the chances of damage to your home and belongings as well as better protect the safety of you and your family. Some steps you may want to take to prepare for a potential earthquake include: 

  • Secure heavy items: This includes furniture, appliances, electronics, hanging objects and even ceiling fans. Keep tall and heavy objects away from areas where you normally spend time, like your living room couch or dining room table. Avoid hanging anything heavy on the wall behind your bed’s headboard, including framed photos.
  • Store breakable objects low: If you have breakable objects, like glassware, consider storing them in low or closed cabinets with latches. Also, keep heavy objects low to reduce the risk of injury from falling objects.
  • Identify safe spaces and make a plan for shelter: Identify spaces where you and your family could take cover during an earthquake. The spaces should be away from windows, mirrors or other heavy objects that could break or fall. If possible, seek shelter under sturdy furniture, like a table or desk. Practicing at-home earthquake drills with your family may help you stay calm during a real quake. While your instinct may be to run outside, this can often lead to injury due to falling objects and an unsteady structure, so it’s often better to remain inside.
  • Inspect your home: You might consider having your home inspected by a professional to assess its earthquake readiness. They might suggest improvements like reinforcing chimneys, retrofitting the foundation or adding seismic safety measures to an older house.
  • Have an earthquake kit: In the event of a serious earthquake, your home could lose power. Likewise, neighborhood stores could be out of operation. It’s smart to keep a disaster kit handy that will help you survive for a few days if necessary. The kit should include a radio or other device to receive updates. It should also include non-perishable food and water, necessary medications, a flashlight, extra batteries and a first aid kit.

The steps mentioned here are only basic, general recommendations. The steps necessary for you may vary based on your location, home type and family needs. Local emergency management organizations or national organizations like the American Red Cross or FEMA can provide additional guidance on how to best prepare for a potential disaster.

Frequently asked questions

Written by
June Sham
Former Writer, Insurance
June Sham is a former insurance writer for Bankrate. Before joining the team, she worked for nearly three years as a licensed producer writing auto, property, umbrella and earthquake policies.
Edited by Editor, Insurance