Do You Need Earthquake Insurance in the Pacific Northwest? 

Homeowners Insurance
March 11, 2024
An image of a crack in the road showing an earthquake line.

PNW earthquake activity is a real thing and more common than most residents realize. Earthquake insurance is a good investment because your standard Washington homeowners insurance policy doesn’t provide coverage against earthquake-related damage. So, how do you make sure your home and financial security are at the top of the game? 

Let’s look at the risk of a large PNW earthquake hitting the area where you live, if you need earthquake coverage, and what it’s likely to cost. 

Living on the Ring of Fire: Earthquake Insurance for PNW Residents 

The Ring of Fire sounds rather poetic, doesn’t it? It’s a huge chunk of global real estate centered around the Pacific Ocean. It gets its fiery name for being a raging underground battleground of seismic activity. This constant grinding together of shifting rock plates far under the Earth’s surface triggers about two-thirds of the world’s volcanoes and 90 percent of our earthquakes. 

So, luckily or not, the PNW is located around the outer edge of the Ring of Fire. Various PNW faults, which are fractures in the subterranean rock plates, can lead to seismic activity. These faults are located around Seattle and Portland and run down the coast from British Columbia in Canada all the way to Northern California. Practically all of Western Washington is in this zone. 

Why You Need Earthquake Insurance in Washington and Oregon 

As a result of all this violent but unseen Ring of Fire activity, there are more than 1,000 earthquakes every year in Washington and Oregon alone. Of these, an average of some two dozen a year are strong enough to be felt here. 

Experts estimate that an 84 percent chance of a major quake — one strong enough to cause major structural damage to homes, buildings, and infrastructure — will hit the PNW within the next 50 years. 

This means there is the distinct possibility that one or more earthquakes in Washington or Oregon will be strong enough to do significant damage to your home. 

Even a relatively minor earthquake in Washington or elsewhere in the PNW can crack a home’s foundation. Even worse, a major quake could render your home uninhabitable for months or longer. This could wipe out your finances as you continue to make monthly mortgage payments on a home where you can no longer live. 

But Doesn’t My Existing Homeowners Insurance Cover PNW Earthquake Damage? 

No, it doesn’t cover earthquake damage. Your standard homeowners policy protects your home against fires, windstorms, and a range of other brutal weather events. But not earthquakes. Here’s why. 

In the 1990s, many insurance companies started to crunch numbers and found that just one major earthquake hitting a highly populated area could result in so much claims loss it could quickly bankrupt their operations. Furthermore, the possibility of such damage occurring in the PNW was deemed to be too high to risk. 

So today, earthquake damage is an exclusion on your homeowners policy. You need to either buy earthquake insurance for your Washington home as an add-on to your existing policy or buy separate coverage. 

You might even consider earthquake insurance if you’re a Washington renter. While you may not own the infrastructure of your home, you could lose thousands of dollars in valuable electronics, art, jewelry, and other possessions if a quake strikes. 

An illustration of an earthquake with a home tilted and on top of broken dishware.

Is Earthquake Insurance in the Pacific Northwest Worth the Investment? 

Earthquake insurance in Washington can prove itself to be worth much more than your investment in the coverage. It’s a reality that living in the PNW can cause earthquake damage to your home and personal property. 

In addition to covering the perhaps significant damage to your home, your earthquake insurance policy will also pay toward the weeks, months, or longer when you and your family might be forced to live in temporary housing while your home is being repaired. 

Additional coverage benefits include the loss of personal possessions due to quake damage and the cost of removing debris. Depending on your policy, it could also cover stabilizing the land under your home after the quake and “earthquake-proofing” your property against future threats. 

If you have other structures not connected to your main home, such as barns or other agricultural infrastructure, ask your agent about extending your coverage. 

It’s also important to check if you live in a part of Washington where an earthquake is likely to trigger a landslide, flood, tsunami, or tidal wave. If so, ask your insurance agent if your policy will cover such damage. Or see about adding it to your policy, and, if you own an RV, make sure you know how to keep your motorhome safe in a landslide. 

How Much Does Earthquake Insurance Cost in Washington? 

Earthquake insurance for a brick home starts at about three dollars per $1,000 in home value. The cost is about half of that for wood homes. That rate can be reduced by taking a higher deductible or a lower coverage limit. 

Discuss cost comparisons and ways to lower homeowners insurance costs with an independent agent. An independent agent can also help you find the most affordable coverage on the market. That’s because independent agents sell for multiple insurance companies rather than just one carrier, so they can consider several competitive offers before finding the one policy that best fits your budget and coverage needs. 

Safeguard Your Home: Earthquake Insurance Coverage Explained 

Earthquake insurance on your Washington home works just like your homeowners policy. While your standard policy won’t cover earthquake damage, your policy add-on will. 

Just like your home policy, you’ll set the deductible and coverage limits. Discuss this with your insurance agent, and let them show you how to control what you pay by raising or lowering deductible levels and limits. 

Naturally, the higher your deductible, the lower your premium. However, you’ll pay more out of pocket with a higher deductible, so you’ll want to crunch the numbers with your agent. 

Affordable Insurance to Protect You When the Earth Shakes, Rattles and Rolls 

Your home is likely to be the largest and most significant investment you ever make. As one example of what that investment can mean, the median cost of a home in Seattle exceeds $550,000. 

Even a relatively minor earthquake could cause damage at a prohibitive cost to you and your family. That’s why you need to think about purchasing affordable earthquake insurance. 

Start a conversation with our team at Vern Fonk! Our independent agents can help you determine if earthquake insurance is right for you — and then help you find the most affordable coverage. 

Call Vern Fonk Insurance at (800) 455-8276. You can also meet with a Vern Fonk agent at a Washington office location near you or get a quick quote online