Flood insurance in California: How much is it & what does it cover?

The average cost of NFIP flood insurance in California is $850 per year. With sea levels expected to rise in the coming years, coastal California residents will want to consider protecting their home with flood insurance.

Pat Howard 1600

By

Pat Howard

Pat Howard

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard is a managing editor and licensed home insurance agent at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

Updated|4 min read

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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). [1]

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. [2]

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.

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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. [3]

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.

CityAverage annual cost
Elk Grove$458
Sacramento$461
West Sacramento$472
Yuba City$526
Alameda$540
Marysville$541
Merced$550
Santa Paula$576
Arvin$584
Stockton$638

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.

CityAverage annual cost
Malibu$3,533
San Rafael$1,833
Garden Grove$1,806
Santa Ana$1,473
San Mateo$1,426
Menlo Park$1,412
Watsonville$1,389
Napa$1,374
Long Beach$1,329
Palo Alto$1,261

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 zoneAverage 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)

  • Detached garages 

  • Debris removal

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

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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.

NFIPPrivate flood insurance
Maximum home rebuild limit$250,000Typically up to $500,000 or higher
AvailabilityEvery county except MariposaMay be limited in high-risk areas
Waiting period30 daysAs little as two weeks
Accepted by mortgage lendersYesYes
Replacement cost building coverageYesYes
Replacement cost contents coverageNoYes
Loss of use coverageNoYes
Loss avoidance coverage (sandbags, etc.)NoYes
Debris removal coverageYesYes

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. [4]

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.

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References

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Policygenius uses external sources, including government data, industry studies, and reputable news organizations to supplement proprietary marketplace data and internal expertise. Learn more about how we use and vet external sources as part of our

editorial standards.
  1. The Pudding

    . "

    How is flooding affecting your community?

    ." Accessed July 01, 2022.

  2. Risk Factor

    . "

    Does California have risk?

    ." Accessed July 01, 2022.

  3. Risk Factor

    . "

    Elk Grove faces greatest risk from wildfire.

    ." Accessed July 01, 2022.

  4. Federal Emergency Management Agency

    . "

    Low Risk Flood Zones?

    ." Accessed July 01, 2022.

Author

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

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Pat Howard is a managing editor and licensed home insurance agent at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

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