Assessing the probability of collapse is a computationally demanding component of performance-based earthquake engineering. This paper examines various aspects involved in the computation of the mean annual frequency of collapse (λc) and proposes an efficient method for estimating the sidesway collapse risk of structures in seismic regions. By deaggregating the mean annual frequency of collapse, it is shown that the mean annual frequency of collapse is typically dominated by earthquake ground motion intensities corresponding to the lower half of the collapse fragility curve. Uncertainty in the collapse fragility curve and mean annual frequency of collapse as a function of the number of ground motions used in calculations is also quantified, and it is shown that using a small number of ground motions can lead to unreliable estimates of a structure's collapse risk. The proposed method is shown to significantly reduce the computational effort and uncertainty in the estimate. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.