With flood events becoming more frequent and disastrous due to rising sea levels, heavier rainfall, and worsening hurricane seasons, it’s important to protect your home with flood insurance — especially if you live in an at-risk area.
Flooding is one of the most common and costly natural disasters, impacting 98% of U.S. counties, according to FEMA.  Yet it’s estimated that only around a quarter of homeowners have flood insurance, says Mark Friedlander, spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I).
“Many homeowners mistakenly think their homeowners insurance includes flood coverage, which is sold separately,” Friedlander says.
Here’s five things you should know about buying flood insurance in 2022.
Five simple steps to getting flood insurance
Determine whether you need flood insurance
Where to buy flood insurance
Learn about how much coverage you need
Compare flood insurance quotes
Finalize and buy your flood insurance policy
1. Determine whether you need flood insurance
Before going through the process of getting flood insurance quotes, you’ll first want to find out if you need flood insurance. And to do that, you’ll want to know which FEMA flood zone your house is in (you can use FEMA’s located tool here) as well as your home’s overall risk of flooding.
Mortgage lenders generally require flood insurance if your house is in a FEMA-designated special flood hazard area. However, because these maps are sometimes outdated and inaccurate, FEMA gives homeowners a process to appeal their flood zone-designation via a Letter of Map Amendment, or LOMA.
Flood zone designations, while important to find out for mortgage reasons, aren’t the best indicator of your home’s actual flood risk — that’s something you’ll want to use a tool like Risk Factor for.
When is flood insurance required?
If you live in an A or V flood zone and have a federally-backed mortgage, your lender will likely require flood insurance. If you live in a lower-risk area, like zones B, C, or X, your lender could still require flood insurance, but they aren’t required by the federal government to do so.
2. Where to buy flood insurance
Once you’ve established your home’s flood zone and risk, you’ll want to get familiar with all of the entities who provide it so you’re able to make a sound shopping decision. There are two main ways to get flood insurance
Through an agent or insurance company who participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a FEMA-backed program that accounts for most flood insurance policies in the U.S.
Through an insurance company that writes its own private flood insurance — these policies generally offer more coverage and shorter waiting periods than NFIP plans, but your provider is able to cancel or nonrenew your coverage if they choose.
How to buy FEMA flood insurance
According to FloodSmart.gov, you can buy NFIP flood insurance through an NFIP-partnering insurance company or independent agent.  The NFIP currently partners with around 50 companies, including Allstate, Farmers, and USAA. In fact, you can often purchase this coverage through the same company that provides you home insurance.
You’ll also need to live in a community that participates in the NFIP, of which there are currently 24,000. Find out if your community participates in the NFIP here.
How to buy private flood insurance
To buy private flood insurance, you’ll need to search online for companies that offer coverage in your area. Companies that sell their own private flood coverage include Aon, Chubb, Neptune, and TypTap.
While NFIP flood insurance is written by private companies or agents but backed by the federal government, private flood insurance is written and backed by private companies. This allows companies to take on more risk and offer higher coverage limits. With the NFIP, the maximum amount of flood insurance you can purchase is $250,000.
3. Learn about how much coverage you need
If your mortgage lender requires flood insurance, they’ll likely indicate how much you need to purchase. In most cases, you’ll need at least enough to cover your remaining loan balance. That means if you owe $200,000 on your mortgage, you’ll need at least that amount of building property coverage.
But depending on factors like your home’s location and elevation, you may want to consider more than just the minimum coverage amounts required by your lender.
To figure out your flood insurance coverage, you’ll want to get an estimate of:
The replacement cost of your home: This is the amount it would cost to rebuild your home from the ground up. Replacement cost is based on factors like your home’s square footage, build, and other factors like labor and construction costs in your area.
The value of your personal belongings: You’ll want enough personal property coverage to cover the value of your belongings inside the home, including furniture, electronics, and appliances.
4. Compare flood insurance quotes
Once you’ve evaluated your flood insurance options, be sure to compare flood insurance quotes from at least three companies through a marketplace like Policygenius. With Policygenius, you can compare NFIP and private flood insurance rates from multiple companies, including Neptune, Orchid, Palomar, and Progressive.
5. Finalize and buy your flood insurance policy
Once you’ve compared quotes and selected a policy, there are a few boxes you’ll want to check off before you pay your first premium.
Ask about community-wide discounts: NFIP policyholders who live in communities enrolled in the NFIP’s Community Rating System are eligible for flood insurance discounts of up to 45%, according to FEMA. 
Get an elevation certificate: An elevation certificate (EC) provides evidence of your home’s elevation relative to your area’s base flood elevation, which is the maximum height floodwaters can rise to during a flood event. If you recently mitigated your home’s flood risk by elevating your house or filling in your basement, an EC can provide the proof you need to get discounts on flood insurance.
Choose a flood insurance deductible: Your flood insurance deductible is the amount you’re responsible for paying on each claim before your insurance kicks in. A high policy deductible means lower flood insurance rates, but it also means you’ll be paying more out of pocket in the event of a claim.
Understand how your premiums are paid: If you’re required to buy flood insurance for your mortgage, you’ll likely need to purchase the policy before your home’s closing date. If you have an escrow account, your flood insurance may be paid as part of your monthly mortgage payment. Be sure to confirm this with your lender.
Once your first flood insurance payment is made, you’ll have a waiting period before your policy goes into effect. For NFIP flood insurance, the waiting period is around 30 days; for private flood insurance, waiting periods are as little as two weeks.
Frequently asked questions
Do I need to buy flood insurance?
Whether or not you are required to buy flood insurance depends on the specifics of your mortgage and the location of your home. If you live in a special flood hazard area and have a mortgage through a federally backed or regulated lender, you will be required to buy flood insurance.
How much does flood insurance cost?
The average cost of NFIP flood insurance is around $738 a year, or $62 a month, according to Policygenius’ analysis of FEMA rate data. Residents in high-risk flood zones pay an average of $1,167 per year. The cost of your own flood insurance policy will depend on your home’s location and individual flood risk.
Can I buy flood insurance directly from FEMA?
FEMA doesn’t directly sell flood insurance policies. To buy flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program, you’ll need to find a flood insurance provider in your area that sells it. NFIP flood insurance can often be purchased through your home or car insurance company.