Earthquakes are a concern to homeowners on the West Coast, and Oregon is no exception. Many residents have felt the rumbles of earthquakes and aftershocks in their lifetime. Ensuring your home has proper coverage is essential.

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Oregon homeowners who have insurance to protect their homes and belongings may assume earthquakes are covered in the standard policy. While some homeowners insurance policies offer add-on coverage, it is not automatic, and there is typically an additional premium for earthquake protection.

Why Oregon homeowners might want earthquake insurance

Earthquake insurance provides coverage for any direct physical loss to your building and personal property caused by an earthquake. It does not provide coverage for erosion, landslides, tsunami or volcanic eruption, even if caused by an earthquake or aftershock.

While most of Oregon is at risk, the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation has noted that most earthquakes have been reported around the Portland metro area and Klamath Falls in the last two decades. Between 2010 and 2015, there was an average of 2.8 earthquakes per year of a magnitude three or higher in Oregon. Earthquakes have the potential to cause extensive damage to your home and even destroy it, requiring the need to be rebuilt, which typically isn’t covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy.

Other reasons someone might want earthquake insurance

Earthquake insurance might be a good investment if:

  • You can’t afford to repair or rebuild your home after an earthquake.
  • You don’t have the additional money to cover living expenses to live elsewhere while your home is being rebuilt.
  • You still have a loan on your home and would struggle to pay it in addition to the cost to rebuild and live elsewhere while reconstruction occurs.
  • You live in an area of Oregon with the most seismic activity.
  • You live close to a fault line.
  • You live in an older house or one made with frame construction.

Home considerations for earthquake insurance

How close you are to the many fault lines running through Oregon and how your home is constructed are key elements to consider when deciding if earthquake insurance is worth the cost for you.

The United States Geological Survey interactive fault line map shows all the known and documented fault lines within Oregon’s borders. New fault lines are still being discovered, which could impact your home in the future, even if you aren’t near one now.

Some homes are constructed better than others, allowing them to withstand higher magnitude earthquakes. Because of increasing seismic activity worldwide, the state of Oregon introduced more stringent building code requirements for newly built homes and buildings in 2012. Some homes have been retrofitted to meet the new standards, while new construction must comply when built.

Older homes, multi-level homes, wood frame constructed homes and those with crawl spaces are at the most risk of having severe and devastating damage if a large magnitude earthquake shakes Oregon. Brick and masonry homes have been shown to withstand the shock of an earthquake better.

Where to get earthquake insurance in Oregon

The first place to look for earthquake insurance in Oregon is with your current insurance company that handles your condo, homeowners or renters insurance policy. You may be able to add coverage onto your existing policy or purchase a separate policy as you can with flood insurance.

If the insurance company you currently work with doesn’t have the option for earthquake coverage, consider requesting and comparing home insurance quotes from different carriers. Many of the best home insurance companies in Oregon also offer earthquake insurance options.

If you’re on the fence about purchasing earthquake insurance on your Oregon home, be aware that after any significant seismic event, most insurers will put a stop, or moratorium, on the purchase of earthquake insurance. It’s a good idea to purchase a policy before an earthquake happens so you’re covered and on the other side of any policy waiting period before coverage becomes effective.

Cost of earthquake insurance in Oregon

The cost for earthquake insurance coverage in Oregon varies, but a 2009 survey in Portland found the cost to insure a wood-frame home with building coverage of $300,000 and personal property coverage of $150,000 to be $200 to $300 per year. An updated study in 2017 found that premiums ranged from about $126 to $1,043 annually for policies with a 10% deductible. Since home insurance premiums are generally based on current construction costs, those costs will likely be higher today. If your home is brick or masonry, the price may also be higher.

With more than one option for earthquake insurance, you may want to get several quotes to compare coverage options, deductibles and cost, just like finding the best price for homeowners insurance.

The damage an earthquake may cause to your home may be devastating. Earthquake insurance can pay to rebuild or repair your home, replace your personal property and additional living expenses if you can’t live there while it’s being repaired. Though technology has given us the ability to predict earthquakes — often before they happen — waiting for a prediction likely won’t give you enough time to purchase coverage to financially protect your home. Consider weighing the benefits and drawbacks of the additional cost ahead of time to put yourself in the best financial position.

Frequently asked questions

    • Finding the best homeowners insurance company comes down to your coverage needs and budget. If you’re considering purchasing earthquake insurance coverage, ask if there is an option for add-on coverage or if the company offers a stand-alone policy. It’s always a good idea to shop around and compare quotes before purchasing any insurance policy, especially if your aim is to find the cheapest home insurance company that offers earthquake coverage.
    • Even if you have add-on coverage for your standard home policy, there is usually a separate deductible for earthquake insurance. Expect a deductible of 10% to 15% in Oregon, which is a percentage of the coverage amount, not the loss. For example, if your dwelling coverage is $150,000 and you have a $10,000 deductible, you are responsible for the first $15,000 before the insurance company will pay.
    • How much earthquake insurance you should purchase depends on a variety of factors, such as the size of your home, the value of your personal belongings, and the amount you could comfortably pay out of pocket as a deductible. The dwelling and personal property coverage amount on your homeowners insurance policy could be a useful starting point. To understand how much earthquake insurance you need, you can also speak with a licensed insurance agent who is familiar with the risk levels in your area for their professional advice.