Most flood insurance policies are administered and funded by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). However, more companies are now offering private flood insurance, which is provided and backed by private insurers, either in addition to or instead of the traditional NFIP plan.
Here's what you need to know about the pros and cons of the NFIP and private flood insurance and how to determine which policy option works best for your needs.
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What is the difference between the NFIP and private flood insurance?
Because flood damage isn't covered by standard home insurance policies and few private companies wanted to take on the risk at the time, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) set up the NFIP in the late 1960s to fill this massive coverage gap.
While the NFIP has done it's intended job for the most part, a combination of worsening floods, outdated flood maps, poor risk management, and a lack of adequate funding have increased the program's debt to over $20 billion  .
Meanwhile, more companies are beginning to offer their own private flood insurance because of updated flood probability models that more accurately predict a property's risk of flooding.
Private flood insurance
Private flood insurance helps cover the cost of flood damage to your home or personal belongings. Private flood policies also typically include coverage for additional living expenses to cover temporary expenses like hotel stays and restaurant meals if you're unable to live in your home after a flood.
Most policies are provided and financially backed by private companies, as opposed to the NFIP which is backed by the federal government. And while it still only makes up a tiny fraction of active flood insurance policies in 2023, private flood insurance has become an increasingly popular alternative to the NFIP due to its often lower cost, higher limits of protection, and availability of additional coverages.
Private flood insurance companies
To give you an idea of what private flood insurance options are available, we highlighted several companies that made our list of the best flood insurance providers of 2023. These carriers offer a mix of affordable rates, flexible policy options and coverage limits, high financial strength ratings, and industry-best customer service.
Neptune: As a private flood insurance marketplace, Neptune is our top pick overall thanks to the comprehensive coverages offered by the large mix of carriers it partners with. Through Neptune, you have access to up to $4 million in building coverage, up to $500,000 in personal property coverage, and up to $10,000 in coverage for belongings stored in your basement — rare among flood insurance companies.
Wright: Boasting the cheapest rates of all of the major flood insurance companies we looked at, Wright is a great choice for affordable coverage if you live in one of the 40 states it works in. Depending on the insurer you're connected with, you may be able to get up to $1.25 million in building coverage and $875,000 in personal property coverage.
Kin: This relatively new insurance company with innovative underwriting and risk modeling technology is our top pick for Florida and Louisiana homeowners looking to roll their home insurance and flood coverage in one. It offers a private flood insurance endorsement you can add on to your standard home insurance policy for an additional premium to save you both time and money.
Chubb: Our top pick for private flood insurance for high-value homes, Chubb flood policies include up to $15 million in building and personal property coverage, as well as up to $15,000 in coverage for belongings stored in your basement. Your home needs to be valued at more than $1 million to qualify for coverage, however, and it only works with homeowners in 41 states and Washington, D.C.
Palomar: If you're looking for additional flood insurance coverage to supplement your NFIP policy, Palomar is our top pick. The insurer offers up to $5 million in building coverage and $1 million in personal property coverage for homeowners who need an extra bit of coverage on top of their existing NFIP policy. However, you'll need to live in one of the 18 states it works in to qualify.
Learn more >> Best flood insurance companies of 2023
National Flood Insurance Program
NFIP flood insurance is administered and backed by the federal government, but the policies themselves are sold by private companies to homeowners in participating communities through the NFIP's Write Your Own (WYO) program. Given the NFIP's longevity, the fact that most communities in the country participate in the program, and private flood insurance still being relatively new, the NFIP still makes up the vast majority of flood policies in the U.S. 
NFIP flood insurance includes two types of coverage: building property and personal property coverage. Each coverage comes with its own separate out-of-pocket flood insurance deductible that you're required to pay before the NFIP will reimburse you for a building property or personal property claim.
Building property coverage: Pays to repair flood damage to your home or garage. The maximum building coverage limits for residential property is $250,000, which is often too low for more expensive homes.
Personal property coverage: Pays to repair or replace flood-damaged furniture, electronics, appliances, and other stuff you own. The maximum personal property coverage limit is $100,000.
Until recently, if you had a federally-backed mortgage and you lived in a high-risk flood zone, your mortgage company could require you to buy flood insurance exclusively through the NFIP. But as of July 1, 2019, lenders are required to accept private flood insurance as long as the policy includes at least the same quality coverage as the NFIP option.
Learn more >> How much flood insurance do you need?
Private flood insurance vs. NFIP: Which is better?
Since private flood insurance isn’t subject to the same restrictions and regulations as government flood coverage, insurers are able to offer coverage options not available through the NFIP. This includes payments for temporary living expenses — like hotel stays and restaurant meals — and coverage for personal belongings in your basement.
Private flood insurance also often offers higher protection limits for your home and belongings, and policy enhancements like replacement cost personal property coverage, limiting your out-of-pocket expenses after a flood loss.
Private flood insurance
Maximum home rebuild limit
Typically up to $500,000 or higher
Participating communities in all 50 states
May be limited in higher-risk areas
As little as two weeks
Accepted by mortgage lenders
Replacement cost building coverage
Replacement cost contents coverage
Loss of use coverage
Loss avoidance coverage (sandbags, etc)
Debris removal coverage
Additionally, private flood insurance has a shorter waiting period, which is the amount of time it takes for your policy to take effect after you’re approved for coverage. This makes it a preferred option during hurricane season for residents who need coverage right away.
But there is a downside to private flood insurance as well: Your policy can be canceled or nonrenewed if your insurer thinks your home is too high risk. With the NFIP, you generally don’t have to worry about losing your flood insurance coverage.
But if you're in search of cheaper or better flood insurance, it may be worth turning to private flood insurance instead. In fact, a 2017 study by Milliman found that 77% of single-family homes in Florida, 69% in Louisiana, and 92% in Texas could all see cheaper premiums with private flood insurance. 
Compare private flood insurance & NFIP rates
The average annual cost of NFIP flood insurance is $888 per year, while private flood insurance costs around $1,074 per year, according to our 2023 analysis of flood insurance pricing data from FEMA and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.   But your own rates will vary depending on factors like your home's flood zone, elevation, and how much flood insurance you need.
Here's the average annual cost of private flood insurance in each state and the percentage difference compared to its average NFIP flood insurance premium.
Average annual cost
Difference from NFIP average (%)
District of Columbia
Learn more >> What is the average cost of flood insurance?