Editor’s note: This article first appeared at NerdWallet.com.
If you buy a home in a flood-prone area, you probably need to find flood insurance.
Standard homeowners insurance covers damage from rain that hits a home before reaching the ground, such as if a tree limb falls on a roof, creating a hole, or if water enters through a blown-out window or door. Damage from flooding, which occurs when water rises up outside the home, will only be covered if you have flood insurance.
The federal government administers the National Flood Insurance Program and partners with around 80 companies, including the nation’s largest insurers, to sell and service policies. The government requires owners of homes in a high-risk zone to buy flood insurance if they have a mortgage from a federally regulated or insured lender, which includes almost anyone with a mortgage. Coverage is a good idea for everyone who lives in a high-risk zone and many in moderate-risk areas. Policies averaged about $700 per year in 2014, according to the National Flood Insurance Program.
[Related: 8 tips for cleaning up after a flood]
Flood insurance generally covers a structure and possessions, with important exclusions, such as finishings and furniture in basements. It’s available to owners of homes and commercial properties, along with renters. Coverage is limited to $250,000 for a structure and $100,000 for possessions. Going beyond these limits requires excess flood insurance, available on the private market. There is generally a 30-day waiting period before the policy goes into effect.
Because the federal government sets rates and coverage levels, shoppers should focus on service when choosing the best flood insurer. You also may choose to go with the insurer you use for home and auto coverage.
NerdWallet checked service ratings on homeowners policies provided by J.D. Power and Consumer Reports to come up with the following recommendations for the best flood insurance:
Best for military members: USAA
Consumers give USAA top marks overall, and in satisfaction with handling the first notice of a loss, the estimation process, damage estimates, agent courtesy, the repair process and payment of claims, according to J.D. Power and Consumer Reports ratings. USAA serves military members and their families. It has top-level A++ financial strength ratings from rating company A.M. Best.
Best for service
Consumers give Amica the highest rating overall, and top marks for handling the first notice of a loss, agent courtesy, a problem-free claims experience, estimates and claims payment. Amica has 44 offices across the country. It has A++ ratings from A.M. Best.
Consumers give Nationwide top ratings for the estimation process, the repair process and claims payment. Nationwide is a Fortune 500 company, with more than 30,000 associates in locations across the country. It is a mutual insurance company, meaning it is
owned by policyholders. It has A+ ratings from A.M. Best.
3. The Hartford
The Hartford gets high ratings for the estimation process, estimates, agent courtesy and claims payment. The company primarily sells policies through independent agents. It issues and services flood policies through several companies, including Hartford Fire Insurance Co., Hartford Insurance Co. of the Midwest and Hartford Underwriters Insurance Co., each of which has an A+ rating from A.M. Best.
MetLife gets high marks for agent courtesy, damage estimates and claims payment. The company has 90 million customers in more than 50 countries. MetLife has A+ ratings from A.M. Best.
[Related: Do I need flood insurance?]