Just 4% of California homes are located in a high-risk flood zone, or an area where homes have at least a 25% chance of being flooded over the next 30 years, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). 
While this would appear to be good news for Golden State residents, FEMA’s flood maps may greatly underestimate the state’s actual flood risk. In fact, the percentage of homes at high risk of flooding may actually be double that of FEMA’s projections, according to First Street Foundation. 
A typical home insurance policy in California won’t cover water damage caused by natural flooding, so Golden State residents in high-risk areas along the coast or inland areas that see rapid snowmelt during the spring months should consider purchasing flood insurance. Though not required by law in California, your mortgage lender may require this coverage if you live in a high-risk FEMA flood zone.
How much is flood insurance in California?
The average cost of flood insurance in California is $850 per year through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the federal government entity that provides the vast majority of flood insurance policies in the U.S.
Looking at the 50 California cities with the most NFIP policyholders, the average cost of flood insurance is as high as $1,833 in San Rafael, a city that sees frequent flooding given its location on the San Francisco Bay; and as low as $458 per year in Elk Grove, a city with relatively minor flood risk, according to Risk Factor. 
Here’s a look at the average cost of flood insurance in California cities with at least one active FEMA flood insurance policy.
Your flood insurance costs are generally calculated based on the following factors:
Your home’s location
Your home’s age, size, and construction type
Your home’s elevation
Your policy deductible amount
The amount of coverage in your policy
In addition to the above factors, the amount you pay for flood insurance will also depend on how your flood insurance provider calculates your rates.
10 cheapest cities in California for flood insurance
Of the 50 California cities and towns with the most NFIP policyholders, these areas have the cheapest average flood insurance premiums in the state, according to our analysis.
10 most expensive cities in California for flood insurance
These cities and towns have the most expensive average flood insurance premiums in California, according to our analysis.
|City||Average annual cost|
NFIP flood insurance rates are going up in California
Flood insurance premiums are expected to go up for most California homeowners under Risk Rating 2.0 — the NFIP’s new method for calculating rates. Roughly 73% of active flood insurance policies saw an average increase of $88 when the new rates went into effect in April 2022.
Flood insurance rates by flood zone in California
Flood insurance rates in California will generally vary depending on where you live and whether or not your house is in a FEMA flood zone, which it determines based on the likelihood of flooding over a period of time. Any A or V zone, for example, has at least a 1% chance of flooding during any given year. Also referred to as a 100-year flood plain, these areas have the highest flood risk, according to FEMA flood maps.
Here are the average flood insurance rates in areas with a high risk, moderate to low risk, and undetermined risk, according to an analysis of NFIP premium data.
|Flood zone||Average annual cost|
|High risk (A or V)||$1,161|
|Moderate to low risk (B, C, or X)||$622|
|Undetermined risk (D)||$1,121|
How to find out if your home is in a high-risk flood zone
To find out if your current or future house is in a FEMA-designated flood plain, consult the agency’s Flood Map Service Center. These maps can help you make an informed decision about where to live, what to build, and can help you determine whether or not you’ll need flood insurance.
What does flood insurance cover in California?
Flood insurance helps cover the cost of flood damage to your home and belongings. That means if your house is damaged due to coastal flooding, a river overflow, or rapid snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada, flood insurance can pay to repair or replace your property.
A standard flood insurance policy through the NFIP comes with two main coverages that can be purchased together or individually.
Building property coverage: Pays to repair or rebuild your house or garage if they’re damaged in a flood. The maximum building property coverage limit with the NFIP is $250,000, meaning that’s the most the NFIP will reimburse you for repairs, regardless of the damage amount.
Personal property coverage: Pays to repair or replace your belongings if they’re damaged in a flood. This includes your furniture, electronics, clothes, and any other items you own. The maximum personal property coverage limit with the NFIP is $100,000.
Each coverage also comes with its own separate out-of-pocket deductible, which is the amount you’re responsible for paying on each claim. Choosing a higher deductible will lower your flood insurance premium, but it will also reduce your claim payment.
Covered by NFIP flood insurance
Your home’s structure, including electrical and plumbing systems
Built-in appliances like refrigerators and dishwashers
Personal belongings like clothing, furniture, and electronics
Expensive valuables (up to $2,500)
Not covered by NFIP flood insurance
Home or personal property damage caused by mold, mildew, or moisture
Currency, precious metals, and valuable papers
Belongings outside of your home, such as trees, plants, decks, hot tubs, etc
Any belongings in your basement
How to buy flood insurance in California
California residents can buy flood insurance in one of two ways: through the NFIP, which is regulated and backed by the federal government and sold by insurance companies, or private flood insurance.
Private flood insurance vs. NFIP coverage
Private flood insurance generally gives you the option for higher coverage limits beyond the relatively low $250,000/$100,000 in coverage you’re limited to with the NFIP.
Additionally, private flood policies include coverages and perks that aren’t available through the heavily regulated NFIP. This includes loss of use coverage to help cover the cost of lodging or restaurant meals in the event your house is badly damaged and you’re forced to evacuate; or replacement cost coverage for your personal belongings.
Here’s a look at what California residents can expect with NFIP and private flood insurance.
|NFIP||Private flood insurance|
|Maximum home rebuild limit||$250,000||Typically up to $500,000 or higher|
|Availability||Every county except Mariposa||May be limited in high-risk areas|
|Waiting period||30 days||As little as two weeks|
|Accepted by mortgage lenders||Yes||Yes|
|Replacement cost building coverage||Yes||Yes|
|Replacement cost contents coverage||No||Yes|
|Loss of use coverage||No||Yes|
|Loss avoidance coverage (sandbags, etc.)||No||Yes|
|Debris removal coverage||Yes||Yes|
Flood insurance helps fill an important coverage gap
Most homeowners insurance policies do not cover water damage caused by flooding, so if you live in a flood-prone area of California, you should consider purchasing flood insurance.
Do I need flood insurance in California?
While you aren’t legally required to buy flood insurance in the Golden State or anywhere else in the country, if your home is one of the approximately 506,137 in California in a FEMA-designated high-risk flood zone, your mortgage lender may require it as a stipulation in your loan agreement.
But even if your lender doesn’t require it, homeowners in flood-prone areas of California will want to consider this important piece of financial protection. While only around 4% of California homes are located in Special Flood Hazard Areas, around 25% of all flood insurance claims come from moderate- to low-risk areas, according to FEMA. 
Here’s a look at the total number of housing units and the percentage of all homes in high-risk flood zones for each county in California.
Regardless of which flood zone you live in, you’ll want to make sure you’re finding the best flood insurance at the most affordable rate. For the best flood insurance policy comparison, consider comparing both NFIP and private flood insurance plans with Policygenius.
Our team of licensed insurance agents at Policygenius can help you compare policies and find the best option for you. Click the calculator to get started.