If you don’t live in a flood plain, making sure your car insurance covers flood damage might be low on your to-do list. But consider the facts: Even after several years of severe drought, just a few days of non-stop storms can bring a region to officially drought free status. Vermont certainly isn’t known for its flooding, but in 2011, Hurricane Irene swept houses down rivers. And Hurricane Sandy brought the entire New York City area, and much of the east coast, to a screeching halt in the fall of 2012. While lots of rain is great news for crops, bodies of water, and, stepping just this side of hyperbole, all living things, we wondered what all that rain and flooding means for your car, and as always, your auto insurance policy.
Before the storm hits:
Make sure you’re prepared. If recent years are any indication, severe flooding and heavy rains can hit anywhere, even those places least likely to expect it. If you want flood and other water damage coverage, you’ll need more than your state’s minimum insurance requirements (liability insurance): you’ll need comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage covers damage to your vehicle in the event of all kinds of unexpected, non-accident types of blunders, including (but not limited to!) weather damage, theft, and fire. Even if you already have comprehensive coverage, you’ll want to look at the fine print (or call your agent and discuss it with them).
Take your personal circumstances into account:
Comprehensive insurance coverage will cover repairs after you pay the deductible. As is often the case with severe flooding, there’s a chance your car might be declared a total loss (or simply “totaled”), meaning the cost of repairs is higher than the value of your car. Comprehensive coverage will still cover expenses in the event of a total loss, and you’ll receive a check from your insurer for the value of your car, minus the deductible.
If your deductible is high, and your car value low, carefully consider whether comprehensive coverage would provide you any financial benefit—after all, your deductible might be more than the check your insurer would cut you.
Minimizing water damage where you can:
If you live in an area that expects heavy rains, or if your local weather forecasts big storms, get your car to high ground (cars can be carried away by fewer than two feet of water), make sure all windows, sunroofs, and trunks are closed, and you might even consider a water-resistant pump system for your garage. If water rises above the floorboards, you can generally expect your car will be declared totaled.
If you’re still not convinced how ubiquitous flooding is:
- 50: Number of states where flash floods can occur
- 90: Percent of all natural disasters that involve flooding
- 20: Percent of flood claims that come from outside high-risk areas
- 17: Number of major flood disasters in the U.S. in 2016
A final flood primer roundup on if car insurance covers flood damage.
Floods happen even in the most unexpected places, and water damage can occur even if the storm isn’t objectively that bad. If your car is worth something, consider adding comprehensive coverage to your policy if you haven’t already. And if you do have comprehensive, take this opportunity to confirm your policy covers flood and water damage.
Originally published in June 2015 and updated in August 2017.