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Best Flood Insurance Companies of 2021
Unless you live in an area prone to flooding, flood insurance isn’t usually on the minds of homeowners. However, flooding in the United States is a common occurrence. In 2019, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy estimated that about 14 million people were impacted by flooding.
Even if flooding happens irregularly in the area where you live, a flood insurance policy could save you thousands of dollars in home repair in the event of a natural disaster.
Best flood insurance companies
Is flood insurance required for homeowners?
Many mortgage lenders require home or building owners to have flood insurance. If the property you own is located in a place that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has designated as a high-risk flood area, flood insurance will be required under federal law.
FEMA flood maps, officially known as Flood Insurance Rate Maps, identify flood areas and level of risk. Lenders use these maps to determine flood insurance requirements, and FEMA uses them to determine costs for flood insurance.
But even if you live in a low- or medium-risk zone, buying flood insurance still makes a lot of sense. That’s where the National Flood Insurance Program comes in.
The NFIP is backed by the federal government with insight from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The NFIP sets rates nationally, so unlike shopping for homeowners insurance or auto insurance, you won’t be on the hunt for the lowest rates for flood insurance. They’ll be the same regardless of company or agent.
If you’re happy with your current insurer and it offers flood insurance, you don’t need to shop around. If you’re looking to move from your current insurer, though, or need to purchase flood insurance from another provider, we recommend Allstate, MetLife, Liberty Mutual or State Farm. They are all available in most states and, more importantly, have high financial ratings and equally high customer satisfaction ratings for claims.
NFIP direct policies vs. write your own program
Flood insurance is a little complicated. Regardless of the flood risk in your area, all flood insurance policies lead back to the NFIP. There are two paths you might take.
If you live in one of the thousands of areas across the country that has implemented the NFIP’s floodplain-management measures (what is referred to as a “participating community”), you can get flood insurance from the NFIP directly through one of the NFIP Direct Servicing Agents.
If you’re not in a participating area, flood insurance is available through one of 59 private insurers. This is known as the NFIP’s Write Your Own (WYO) program, a partnership between FEMA and the private insurance industry. “The Write Your Own companies issue and service federally backed flood insurance policies under their own names, and they collect the premiums and handle and pay the claims,” says Loretta Worters, vice president of communications at the Insurance Information Institute. “But the federal government retains the responsibility for underwriting the losses.” That means the rates for this program are set nationally, so they are the same regardless of the company or agent — of which there are about 80.
One isn’t necessarily better than the other. NFIP direct insurance provides just that — direct communication with NFIP. “Claim settlement is always a negotiation as opposed to a mathematical formula, so it’s very beneficial to be talking to the decision makers when there’s a claim with NFIP direct,” says Scott Primiano, an Amityville, New York, flood-insurance broker with more than 20 years of experience.
“On the other hand, where the WYOs are better is with general day-to-day service,” he says. “The service platforms are much, much better, and so is the service turnaround time.”
Another benefit to WYO companies is their convenience — you may already have a homeowners, life, or car insurance policy with one of the 80 participating companies. If your current insurance company takes part in the WYO program and you’re happy with its customer service, obtaining flood insurance may be as simple as contacting your agent.
Keep in mind, there are some well-known and well-regarded companies, such as State Farm and Travelers, that have exited the NFIP in recent years. Others work with separate WYO companies to provide flood insurance — Amica, for example, has teamed up with Wright and American Bankers. (This isn’t a bad thing; it just adds one more layer when accessing information or making a claim.)
With all that in mind, we recommend Allstate, MetLife, Liberty Mutual and State Farm for WYO flood insurance companies.
- J.D. Power Rating: 3 out of 5
- AM Best Rating: A+ (Superior)
Founded in 1931, Allstate offers flood insurance in 43 states and Washington, DC. The company has a longstanding reputation in the insurance industry, which helps to earn Allstate a financial strength rating of A+ from AM Best.
In terms of claims satisfaction, J.D. Power ranks Allstate three out of five across the board, including the categories of first notice of loss, claim servicing, estimation process, repair process and settlement.
- J.D. Power Rating: 3 out of 5
- AM Best Rating: A+ (Superior)
The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, commonly known as MetLife, was founded all the back in 1868. The company offers flood insurance in all 50 states. MetLife is one of the nation’s largest corporations, and AM Best rates them as superior in terms of financial strength.
Just like Allstate, J.D. Power ranks MetLife as “about average” with handling claims. The company scored three out of five in every category, making MetLife a solid choice when it comes to settling claims, but the satisfaction ratings are nothing to write home about.
- J.D. Power Rating: 3 out of 5
- AM Best Rating: A (Excellent)
Based in Boston, Liberty Mutual is one of the nation’s largest property and casualty insurers. The company has been selling insurance since founding in 1912, and Liberty Mutual offers flood insurance in all 50 states. AM Best awards Liberty Mutual an ‘A’ rating for excellent financial strength.
J.D. Power ranks Liberty Mutual as “about average”. The company scored three out of five in all categories except claims servicing, which Liberty Mutual scored a four out of five. So Liberty Mutual does do a better than most of the competition when it comes to customer service on settling claims.
- J.D. Power Rating: 3 out of 5
- AM Best Rating: A++ (Superior)
State Farm is the largest home and auto insurer in the United States. Founded in 1922, State Farm was originally created to offer Illinois farmers affordable auto insurance. The company offers flood insurance in all 50 states, and with an AM Best rating of ‘A++’, the company scores a little better than the other companies profiled here.
J.D. Power ranks State Farm as three out of five in the Property Claims Satisfaction Study. State Farm scored three out of five in every category except first notice of loss, which State Farm scored two out of five stars. That means State Farm is slightly lower than the other companies when it comes to claims satisfaction.
We excluded companies with special eligibility requirements. USAA was among them. The company consistently receives high praise, so if you’re eligible, we’d suggest you consider USAA as well.
Why do you need flood insurance?
If you’re like most people, your greatest asset is your home. So purchasing homeowners insurance that covers you against fire, theft and vandalism is a no-brainer. But there’s a common hazard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover: flooding. In fact, the 2018 Insurance Information Institute Pulse survey found that only 15 percent of American homeowners had a flood insurance policy.
Even if you don’t live near a river, lake or ocean, you’re not out of the water.
“When it rains, it floods,” says Primiano. Heavy rains and snowfalls, hurricanes and spring thaws can also cause flooding. Areas destroyed by wildfires are also at a greater risk for flooding because there’s no longer vegetation to absorb the water. Similarly, new construction and development can change natural drainage paths, thereby creating additional flood risks.
“We’ve had two really big floods in the past four years that hit areas that have never flooded before,” says Amy Bach, a co-founder and the executive director of United Policyholders, referencing recent floods in South Carolina and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “So thousands and thousands of people found themselves without an economic safety net.”
Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States.
Flooding is so common that people outside of high-risk flood areas file more than 20 percent of all NFIP flood insurance claims and receive a third of federal disaster assistance for flooding. And in case you thought the latter would bail you out, know that federal disaster assistance generally comes in the form of a loan to be repaid with interest and is only available if the president formally declares a disaster. (You should also note that flood insurance policies generally have 30-day waiting periods to prevent consumers from purchasing policies right before storms roll in. This includes all of our top picks.)
Why you should consider excess flood insurance
The standard NFIP policy only covers up to $250,000 on one- to four-family residential properties and up to $100,000 for your home’s contents. Unlike homeowners policies, NFIP policies don’t include additional living expenses.
“Let’s say your home has been totally destroyed and you have no place to live. Under a general homeowners policy, you have what’s called additional living expenses, and that will pay for your hotel and food up to certain limits,” Worters says. “But that’s not included for a basic policy through the NFIP. So, if your house burns down, you have additional living expenses. But if your house floods, no.”
If your house costs more than $250,000 to rebuild, we recommend you research excess flood insurance through your private insurance company. Our top picks offer excess flood insurance options on top of their NFIP-backed flood insurance policies.)
With excess flood insurance, “You can buy limits up to $5 million to rebuild your properties, above NFIP limits. You can also get replacement contents, which is valued up to $2 million in most states,” Worters says. “And there’s also money for additional living expenses, so it’s a much more comprehensive policy than an NFIP policy would be.”
There are a few reasons these companies are great options for flood insurance. First, they provide coverage in 43 or more states. We didn’t want to recommend a company that wasn’t available to most readers.
That being said, if you’re happy with your local or regional insurer, consider it for flood insurance if it’s available. Remember, your flood insurance rates aren’t going to change from provider to provider.
Second, we examined insurers’ financial stability. The purpose of flood insurance is to provide policyholders with an economic safety net, so it’s crucial that carriers have enough money to pay out claims. With that in mind, we looked into each company’s rating at AM Best, which focuses exclusively on insurance.
Filing an insurance claim is stressful under the best of circumstances. That’s why we also looked at customer satisfaction. To do so, we consulted J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. Property Insurance Claims Study. According to the study, the three most important components in settling claims are “how well customers are kept informed on the progress of their claim; time to settle the claim; and fairness of the claim settlement.”