Flood insurance: What’s covered & do I really need it?

Flood insurance is separate from your standard home insurance policy and covers the cost of repairs and other expenses if your home is damaged in a flood. Coverage isn't mandatory, some mortgage lenders require it if you live in a high-risk flood zone.

Pat Howard 1600Kara McGinley

By

Pat Howard

Pat Howard

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard is a managing editor and licensed home insurance expert 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.

&Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is a senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

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Flood insurance covers your home and personal belongings against water damage caused by flooding, including high tides, hurricane storm surge, heavy rain, and other sources of natural flooding. A typical homeowners insurance policy does not cover flood damage, so if you live in a flood zone or close to a body of water, consider filling in this important coverage gap with flood insurance.

Key takeaways

  • Flood insurance can help cover the cost of cleanup, replacement, and repairs if your home is damaged in a flood.

  • If you live in a high-risk flood zone, your mortgage lender may require you to purchase flood insurance.

  • Most insurance providers offer flood insurance through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), though some companies sell their own private flood insurance.

  • The average cost of NFIP flood insurance is $738 per year, but your own rates will depend on your home’s location, size, build, and your deductible amount.

Compare rates and shop affordable flood insurance today

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What is flood insurance?

Flood insurance is a separate insurance policy you can purchase either through the National Flood Insurance Program that’s managed by the federal government or through a private insurance company like Allstate or Neptune. 

If you own your home, you’ll need flood insurance to cover the cost of water damage caused by flooding. Homeowners insurance covers certain types of water damage, like if your water pipes burst and flood your basement, but it won’t cover water damage caused by high inland or coastal tides, flash floods, mudflow, or other causes of natural flooding.

However, flood insurance doesn’t cover flood damage that originates in your home. So if your pipes leak or your sewer line backs up and floods your basement, you won’t be covered for cleanup or repairs. 

Flood insurance also won’t pay for damages to the following:

  • Precious metals

  • Cash

  • Trees and plants

  • Fences

  • Pools and hot tubs

  • Patios and decks

Is my basement covered by flood insurance?

There are also coverage limitations for the basement of your home. For example, if you have a finished basement and the walls and floors are damaged, your insurer won’t reimburse you for the repairs. Flood insurance also won’t cover any personal belongings stored in your basement.

How NFIP flood insurance works

Over 90% of flood insurance policies are written and financially backed by the National Flood Insurance Program, a government program run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). [1]

While these policies are managed by FEMA, they’re purchased through private insurance companies, so you can often purchase NFIP flood insurance from your home insurance company.

NFIP flood insurance includes two types of coverage with their own separate deductibles: building property coverage and personal property coverage.

Coverage type

How it works

Coverage limit

Building property

Pays to repair or rebuild your home or garage

$250,000

Personal property

Pays to repair or replace damaged furniture, electronics, appliances, and other stuff you own

$100,000

Building property coverage

Flood insurance covers flood damage to the structure of your home and any detached garages on your property through your policy’s building property coverage. In the event your house is flooded and your floors and walls are severely damaged, this coverage can pay to tear out and repair the damaged portion of your home. 

The following parts of your home are covered under building property coverage.

  • Your home’s structure and foundation

  • Built-in appliances

  • Furnaces and water heaters

  • Central air conditioners

  • Cabinets

  • Plumbing and electrical systems

  • Debris removal and cleanup  

Personal property coverage

Flood insurance also covers your personal property inside the home if it’s damaged by a flood. If your belongings or valuables incur water damage, flood insurance can cover the cost of replacement or repairs.

With personal property coverage, the following items in your home are protected against flood damage:

  • Clothing

  • Furniture

  • Electronics

  • Window air conditioning units

  • Portable appliances

  • Washer and dryers

  • Freezers

  • Artwork, furs, jewelry, and watches

Expensive valuables like artwork, collectibles, jewelry, and watches have a special limit of liability of $2,500 in a standard NFIP policy. This means your insurance company will reimburse you a maximum of $2,500 if they’re lost or damaged in a flood. Considering a single piece of jewelry can easily cost more than that, try to keep valuables in an elevated area of your home if possible. 

Learn more >> What flood insurance does and doesn't cover

NFIP personal property coverage considers wear & tear in your claim payout

With FEMA flood insurance, your personal property is only covered at its actual cash value. This means the amount you’re paid on a claim is based on the value of the property at the time it was damaged. So if you have a 10-year-old sofa that was severely damaged during a flash flood, you’ll be reimbursed for a decade-old sofa rather than a new one.

How does private flood insurance work?

You also have the option of purchasing flood insurance through a private insurance company that sells its own flood insurance independent of the NFIP. Private flood insurance often provides more comprehensive coverage with higher limits for your home and belongings. 

If the cost to replace your home is more than $250,000, it's worth considering private flood insurance over the NFIP to ensure you’re fully covered should a flood completely wipe out your home. You also might want to consider private flood insurance if everything you own adds up to more than $100,000. 

Learn more >> NFIP vs. private flood insurance

Compare rates and shop affordable flood insurance today

We don't sell your information to third parties.

How do flood insurance claims work?

If your home or any contents inside are damaged in a flood, you’ll need to file a flood insurance claim to get reimbursed. 

If your claim is accepted, you’ll receive your flood insurance payout only after you’ve paid your policy deductible, which is the amount you’re responsible for paying before insurance covers the remainder of the damage. 

If your flood insurance deductible is $2,000 and your home incurs $20,000 in flood damage, your insurance company will pay you the difference between your deductible and the total flood damage — in this case, $18,000.

Learn more >> Flood insurance facts & statistics

The higher your deductible, the lower your flood insurance rates

Your flood insurance premiums are directly affected by your policy deductible amount. If you raise your flood insurance deductible, your rates will go down. If you lower your deductible, your rates will go up. The National Flood Insurance Program offers deductible options ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.

How much does flood insurance cost?

The average cost of flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program is around $738 per year, according to an analysis of FEMA policy data. Your flood insurance premiums are based on multiple factors, including:

  • Your home’s flood risk: Flood insurance rates are mostly based on your home’s flood risk, so its location, size, and build will all factor into your policy premium.

  • Your coverage types and amounts: Your flood insurance rates are directly impacted by the amount of building property and personal property coverage in your policy. 

  • Your policy deductible: Your rates are also directly impacted by your policy deductible amount. The higher your deductible, the lower your rates will be.

Keep in mind that as of October 2021, FEMA changed how it prices flood insurance. The changes will increase flood insurance costs on roughly 77% of existing policies. The rate changes kick in for existing policies once they renew on or after April 1, 2022, so the cost of some active flood policies is still based on the old rating method.

Learn more >> Step-by-step guide to buying flood insurance

Do I need flood insurance?

Although flood insurance is not required by law, most mortgage lenders will require it if you have a federally backed mortgage and your house is in a FEMA-designated floodplain. You can check your home’s flood zone using FEMA’s flood map tool

If the following apply to your house or mortgage, you’ll likely need to purchase flood insurance:

  • Your home is located in a Special Flood Hazard Area — an area with the highest risk of flooding, according to FEMA. If your house is in a zone that starts with an A or V, then you’re in an SFHA. 

  • You have a federally insured mortgage through the FHA or VA, or a mortgage backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

  • You live in an NFIP-participating community. Around 22,000 communities across the U.S. participate in the National Flood Insurance Program — you can check to see if you’re in an NFIP community by using FEMA’s tool.

When you go to purchase flood insurance, you'll likely need to get a flood elevation certificate if you live in one of the above-mentioned high-risk flood zones. This helps insurance agencies determine your home's risk of flooding — and in turn how much to charge you for premiums.

If you don’t have a mortgage or your lender doesn’t require it, you should consider flood insurance anyway. This is because flooding isn't covered by standard home insurance policies. And it's the most common and costly natural disaster in the U.S. — just a single inch of water in your house can cause up to $25,000 in damage, according to FEMA [2] .

Learn more >> How much flood insurance do you need? 

Where to buy flood insurance

Below are three of the best insurers to buy flood insurance from, according to the Policygenius Best Flood Insurance Companies of 2022 analysis. 

1. Neptune

Neptune won “best overall” flood insurance company by Policygenius. The insurer offers private flood insurance options, with building coverage limits as high as $4 million. The average annual cost for a flood insurance policy through Neptune is $749 and policies are available in 48 states. 

How to get a quote

Online through Policygenius or Neptune

2. Allstate

If you’re looking to buy flood insurance through the NFIP, Allstate has some of the best customer satisfaction ratings around. An NFIP policy through Allstate costs an average of $738 a year and you can get a policy in all 50 states. 

How to get a quote

Online through Policygenius or Allstate

3. Wright

Wright offers both NFIP and private flood insurance policies. The insurer offers some of the most affordable flood insurance options around, with the average policy costing $470 per year, according to our analysis. 

How to get a quote

Online through Wright or by calling a Wright agent

Learn more >> The best flood insurance providers in the U.S.

Compare rates and shop affordable flood insurance today

We don't sell your information to third parties.

Frequently asked questions

What is the waiting period after buying a flood insurance policy?

After buying a flood insurance policy through the NFIP, you'll need to wait 30 days from the purchase date until your policy is active. However, if you buy coverage from a private insurance company, the waiting period is shorter — typically between 10 and 14 days.

What can I do if my home was damaged by flooding but I don't have flood insurance?

The U.S. government provides grants through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA) to help homeowners without flood insurance get back on their feet after a natural disaster. You can learn more about your options with our guide to assistance available to homeowners without flood insurance.

Can I get flood insurance for my mobile home?

Yes, many insurance companies offer flood insurance specifically for mobile homes. Just like with standard homeowners insurance, you'll need a separate flood insurance policy on top of your mobile home insurance policy to ensure you're fully protected after a natural disaster. You can learn more with our guide to flood insurance for mobile homes.

Does flood insurance cover damage from tsunamis?

Flood insurance covers water damage caused by a tsunami, including flooding. However, since tsunamis are typically triggered by earthquakes, you might also want to consider earthquake insurance as well if you live in an area at high risk of tsunamis. You can learn more with our guide to flood insurance and tsunamis.

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

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  1. Wharton Risk Center

    . "

    Overview of the National Flood Insurance Program

    ." Accessed November 03, 2021.

  2. Federal Emergency Management Agency

    . "

    Why Buy Flood Insurance

    ." Accessed November 03, 2021.

Authors

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 expert 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.

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

gray linkedin icon link

Kara McGinley is a senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

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