Does car insurance cover hurricane damage? It depends on the policy.
If you bought the bare-bones, n0-frills, state minimum liability-only car insurance policy, then no. Your car insurance policy won’t cover hurricane or flood damage to your car. Liability insurance is designed to take care of damages you might cause to other people while driving. Not damage to your car from whatever source.
To enjoy coverage from hurricane-related damage to your car, you will need either comprehensive coverage or collision coverage.
Collision coverage is just what it sounds like: It will cover damage to your car due to collision while driving it. And that happens a lot in hurricane and tropical storm conditions: High winds, torrential rain, road debris, limited visibility, power outages knocking out street lights, and other distracted drivers combine to cause a lot of collisions related to tropical weather.
So if your car is damaged as a result of a collision with either another moving car or a stationary object, then your collision coverage policy will likely cover it – subject to your deductible, and in most cases, depreciation on your car.
However, collision coverage typically won’t cover other common hurricane or tropical storm-related damage to your car. If your car was damaged or destroyed by storm surge, flood waters, falling debris, wind-driven debris, and the like, collision-only coverage won’t cover that. For that kind of protection, you need comprehensive coverage.
If you’re still making payments on your car, chances are good you have comprehensive coverage as a condition on your loan. Auto finance companies don’t want to be left with the risk of you defaulting on the loan on a damaged or destroyed car.
The best time to buy comprehensive coverage is well before a storm hits. Car insurance companies won’t issue new policies in areas about to be struck by a hurricane or tropical storm. You need to get your coverage in place well before the Weather Channel vans start showing up in your county.
Hurricane season in the tropics is June through November. But there have been incidents of severe tropical events outside of that window as well.
Who Needs Comprehensive Coverage?
Many people buy collision coverage, which pays in the event of a car accident. But collision doesn’t protect you against flood, hail, wind, sinkholes, earthquakes, car theft, vandalism, falling trees or other objects, or any number of other non-collision hazards.
If losing your car to any of these hazards tomorrow would cause you a significant financial hardship – or even a major inconvenience – you probably need comprehensive coverage, rather than just liability only or collision. This is especially true if you rely on your car to get to work and earn a living, or to get your children back and forth from school.
Yes, comprehensive insurance costs more than liability-only or collision coverage. But you have to ask yourself: Is this a gamble I can afford to lose?
There are ways to limit the premium and save money, even with comprehensive coverage. These include:
- Maximize discounts for safety and security-related features
- Shop around at multiple competing carriers
- Increase your deductible
- Have your teenage drivers keep their grades up for a “good student” discount
- Take a “safe driver” course
- Take steps to improve your credit score
How to Add Comprehensive Coverage
If you want to add comprehensive coverage for your car, truck, or any other vehicle, it’s important to get competitive quotes from many different insurers. Go through an independent insurance broker rather than a captive agent who can only sell you insurance from one company. That way, you are more likely to get the best coverage at the most competitive premium.
Als0, when you use an independent insurance professional rather than one captive to a single company, you may find there are coverages, benefits, and other insurance products available to you that you may never have known about had you used a captive agent. Insurance companies are not all the same: They are constantly innovating to differentiate themselves in a competitive market. By using an independent car insurance professional, you give yourself more options and choices than any single insurance company can provide.
To add comprehensive coverage, or just to get some competing quotes from multiple insurance companies to keep your current insurance carrier honest, contact us today.
How To File a Car Insurance Claim After a Hurricane or Tropical Storm
As always, when filing a car insurance claim, it’s all about documentation. Here’s what you can do to expedite your claim.
- When you notice your car’s been flooded, or otherwise damaged, take loads of pictures from multiple angles.
- See if your car will start. Note any warning lights or indicators. Photograph them, too.
- Document your odometer reading. So your insurance company can’t overestimate wear and tear or mileage depreciation on your car. This is particularly important if you don’t drive the car very much (though if you have telematics, this isn’t an issue, as your carrier already has a readout of your car’s mileage.)
- Take steps to mitigate the damage. Move the car away from other hazards if it is safe to do so (d0 not put yourself at risk in the process.) Run a wet/dry vac in the interior. Open the hood to let the Sun dry out the engine compartment as much as possible.
- Take your car to a mechanic and have them do a mechanic’s inspection. Have them document the damage and list parts that would have to be replaced, together with labor.
- Contact your car insurance company, who will put an adjustor on the case. They will have a mechanic or shop they would like to use. Because of course they will. You should have your own independent mechanic who’s not beholden to getting a steady stream of business from the insurance company. In the event your insurance company lowballs your settlement offer, you’ll have something in hand to contest it with.
- Ask for a rental car while your car is disabled. Some policies cover it. Others don’t. But even if they don’t, your carrier may have a good discount worked out with a local car rental company.
Be aware that your settlement could take a while. After a major storm, there could be thousands of people filing car insurance claims at the same time. Insurance companies routinely fly adjusters in or drive them in from all over the country after a major natural disaster. But even with these reinforcements, it still takes adjustors time to get through the backlog. Be patient. Of course, having a rental while you wait makes being patient a lot easier.
And be sure to add a rental car benefit to your car insurance policy for next time. It doesn’t cost much extra. But at claim time, when it counts, it can mean the difference between getting to work and going unemployed!
And please do contact one of our car insurance professionals to add, drop, or just review your car insurance needs.
Thanks for reading. Good luck in your recovery. And I’ll see you on the road!
Steve “Mr. Insurance” Ludwig
CEO, Select Insurance Group