Does Auto Insurance Pay for Damage from Earthquakes?
Last Updated on April 1, 2021
You buy car insurance to cover unexpected events – like accidents and hail damage. But does car insurance cover damage from earthquakes?
Earthquakes are common in certain parts of the United States, although earthquakes that cause damage are relatively rare. Nevertheless, thousands of Americans experience earthquake-related vehicle damage every year.
Most car insurance policies cover earthquake damage if you have comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage is optional in all states, although it’s part of full coverage car insurance. It also covers hail damage, vandalism, theft, and other damage.
Today, we’re explaining how auto insurance pays for damage from earthquakes, including what damage is covered and how much.
Comprehensive Coverage Covers Earthquake Damage
Comprehensive coverage is an optional type of car insurance coverage. Although you’re not required to have comprehensive coverage, all full coverage car insurance policies include comprehensive coverage.
If you have comprehensive coverage, then your car insurance should cover damage from the earthquake.
Comprehensive coverage covers damage that occurs to your vehicle outside of a collision. If someone steals your vehicle, for example, then you make a claim through your comprehensive coverage. If your garage burns down, then comprehensive coverage covers the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle.
Comprehensive coverage is one of three main types of car insurance included in a typical full coverage policy:
Liability Insurance: Liability insurance is required by law in virtually every state. It includes bodily injury liability coverage and property damage liability coverage. It covers damage you cause to other people and property while driving. If you hit another car and cause the driver to pay $50,000 in medical bills and $20,000 in vehicle repair expenses, then your liability insurance covers this damage, which means you don’t have to pay out of pocket.
Collision Coverage: Collision coverage is optional in every state. It covers damage to your own vehicle after a collision. If you collide with another driver and cause $12,000 of damage to your own vehicle, then your insurance company covers the cost of repairing this damage.
Comprehensive Coverage: Comprehensive coverage protects your vehicle against hail damage, theft, vandalism, fire damage, water damage, and other circumstances. Comprehensive coverage is optional in every state.
If you have full coverage car insurance, then your policy covers earthquake damage.
However, if you only have a basic liability plan or a bare minimum car insurance plan, then you may not have comprehensive coverage, which means earthquake damage – and all other vehicle damage – is not covered by car insurance.
If you are owning or leasing a vehicle, then full coverage car insurance is not optional: it’s mandatory as part of your borrowing agreement. If you make car payments or lease payments, then you likely have full coverage car insurance.
If you’re unsure how much car insurance you have, then contact your car insurance company or check your policy.
How Comprehensive Coverage Covers Earthquake Damage
Most comprehensive coverage policies cover “weather-related incidents.” Earthquakes fall under this category.
Most car insurance companies in the United States cover earthquake damage just like they would cover fire damage or water damage: damage occurred to your vehicle because of an unexpected event, and your car insurance company covers the cost of this damage, compensating you based on the pre-loss value of your vehicle.
Car insurance companies do not typically exclude earthquake damage. However, it’s possible your policy has specific language relating to earthquake damage.
Most car insurance companies also have restrictions in the weeks leading up to an accident. You can’t upgrade your car insurance policy when a hurricane is three days from hitting the coast, for example. Although earthquakes are more difficult to protect, insurance companies have similar restrictions for earthquake coverage, wildfire coverage, flood damage, and similar situations.
How Much Earthquake Damage is Covered?
Car insurance companies cover damage up to the limits of your policy or the value of your vehicle, whichever is lower.
If your vehicle was totally destroyed in an earthquake, for example, then the insurance company will calculate the value of your vehicle at the time of the earthquake, then send you a check compensating you for that loss. If your vehicle was worth $12,500 at the time of the loss, then you receive a check from your insurance company for $12,500.
Insurance covers earthquake damage up to the limits of your policy. If you have $25,000 of coverage but experienced $35,000 of damage from the earthquake, then your insurance covers $25,000, and you pay the remaining amount out of pocket.
Can I Make an Earthquake Claim Through Homeowners Insurance or Renters Insurance?
When disaster strikes a home, you may be tempted to make a claim through homeowners insurance or renters insurance.
That may seem like the right idea – but it’s not. Virtually all homeowners and renters insurance policies exclude coverage for vehicles. Vehicle damage is covered by car insurance – not homeowners insurance or renters insurance.
This is also the case for house fires. If your house burns down and destroys your vehicle, then you make a homeowners insurance claim for the house damage and a car insurance claim for the car damage.
Homeowners and renters insurance policies cover earthquake damage differently. If you live in an earthquake-prone area, then you may need to purchase a special earthquake endorsement. Some insurers forbid earthquake insurance claims entirely, and you need to buy a separate policy. California homeowners, for example, buy insurance through the California Earthquake Authority, which is separate from homeowners and renters insurance.
Will an Earthquake Claim Raise Premiums?
Car insurance companies do not raise premiums for comprehensive car insurance claims. In fact, some states forbid insurance companies from raising premiums after a single comprehensive insurance claim.
Because earthquake damage falls under comprehensive coverage, it’s unlikely for an earthquake to raise premiums. Most insurers will not increase rates after you make an earthquake claim.
However, if you have made multiple comprehensive coverage claims within a short period of time, then it’s possible an insurer could raise your rates.
Do I Need to Pay a Deductible for an Earthquake Car Insurance Claim?
You need to pay a deductible for most comprehensive coverage claims. Typically, this deductible is smaller than your collision coverage deductible (the deductible you pay after an accident with another vehicle).
Expect to pay around $250 to $500 for your comprehensive coverage deductible after an earthquake car insurance claim.
Final Word – Earthquake Damage and Auto Insurance
Your car insurance will cover earthquake damage if you have comprehensive coverage, which is part of full coverage car insurance.
If you only have basic liability coverage or collision coverage, then car insurance will not cover earthquake damage.
Check your policy or contact your insurance company to verify your car insurance covers earthquake damage.