As natural disasters become more frequent, floods are becoming an ever-growing threat to vehicle owners. Floods can be devastating to vehicle owners as cars can quickly become submerged in large quantities of water. This type of water damage not only causes cosmetic issues but also puts the car’s vital components in jeopardy and can cause irreparable damage. As such, it can cost a significant amount to repair the car and make it safe to drive again.
Having the right car insurance coverage is essential for protecting your car from flood damage and making sure any repairs are affordable. In this article, we’ll look at how standard policies cover flood damage as well as any other options available so you can ensure that you’re properly protected against financial losses associated with flooding.
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Does Car Insurance Cover Flood Damage?
As long as your car insurance coverage includes comprehensive insurance, flood damage should be covered. Unlike liability and collision plans, which both primarily focus on car-to-car crashes, comprehensive insurance offers broad protections for vehicle damage sustained from other calamities outside your control.
What is Comprehensive Coverage?
Comprehensive coverage is an optional supplement to your auto insurance plan that protects you from non-collision events beyond your control, such as:
- Damage caused by animals
- Water and flood damage
Flood-related damage covered by comprehensive insurance typically includes:
- Moldy interior
- Foggy lights
- Airbag failure
- Transmission failure
- Corrosion from saltwater
- Warped brakes
- Computer malfunction
Unfortunately, comprehensive coverage may not reimburse you for aftermarket products like GPS systems or removable radios destroyed by a flood. Neither would it reimburse you for any damages sustained due to personal neglect, like leaving your sunroof or windows down before a storm.
Does Liability Auto Insurance Cover Flood Damage?
Liability auto insurance explicitly covers at-fault damages that you cause to other cars and drivers while behind the wheel. Liability, therefore, would not reimburse for flood damage under any circumstance. While states require all drivers to carry liability insurance, it offers little to anyone outside its specified purpose.
How Insurance Deals with Water-Damaged Cars
Your comprehensive plan will pay to fix any minor flood damage upon meeting your deductible. If your insurer deems your car a total loss–meaning that it’d cost more to fix the car than to buy one of the same value–you’ll get reimbursed the actual cash value of your vehicle. Every state abides by a different set of criteria in determining a car a total loss.
Does Car Insurance Cover Water Damage to an Engine?
Comprehensive car insurance covers water damage to the engine as long as a single event caused it, like a flood or hurricane. Water damage to the engine almost always results in a totaled car. If this were the case, your insurer would pay for the actual cash value of the vehicle minus your deductible.
Your insurance company could hold you liable for any engine damage that occurs when you’re behind the wheel. For example, say you drove through a large puddle you could have easily swerved around and avoided. Insurers might also regard engine damage as your responsibility if it results from slow leaks or poor maintenance.
What if Your Flood Damaged Car Is a Total Loss?
Suppose flood waters rise above the floorboards of your car. In that case, insurers would almost certainly see it as a total loss, meaning they’d forego paying for repairs and reimburse you the actual cash value your car held directly before the accident. Depending on your policy, your insurance company might temporarily fund a rental vehicle while you figure out your next move.
Half of the states in America observe state-specific damage thresholds in determining a vehicle a total loss. The remaining states utilize the Total Loss Formula (TLF); if the sum of the cost of repairs plus the salvage value of your car is worth more than your car’s standalone value, they see it as a total loss.
What if It’s Not Totaled?
If rainwater does not rise above the floor of your car, you might only sustain minor damages and get to hold on to your vehicle. Your insurance company would reimburse you for necessary repairs after meeting the agreed-upon deductible in your policy contract. Insurance companies factor in years of depreciated value when reimbursing you for a totaled car, so you should always advocate getting your vehicle fixed over receiving a cash value payout.
Keep in mind that floods may damage your vehicle in ways that may not be immediately obvious, so make sure to discuss this with your provider. Rust, corrosion, and mold could take months to appear following a flood.
Rental Car Reimbursement Coverage
Rental reimbursement coverage will help you pay for a rental car while your mechanic has possession of your vehicle for repairs. Insurers will only pay for a rental over a set amount of days, up to a certain price per day. File your claim, then find a rental agency and choose a car. Your insurer should pay the rental agency for you directly.
Will Your Insurance Rates Go Up?
While comprehensive claims impact insurance rates less than other policies, you may still see a spike in your premium following a new claim. Anytime you file a comprehensive claim, your insurer will take it as evidence that you live in a high-risk area and that the same type of accident could happen again.
Companies practice greater leniency around comprehensive claims since they cover incidents outside your control. Like all other accidents, not-at-fault claims remain on your record for a state-specific period of years. Your rates may eventually drop back to normal if you make it through without another incident.
How to File an Insurance Claim for a Flooded Car
If your vehicle has sustained damage worth more than your deductible to repair, call your insurance provider ASAP to start your claim and receive a claim number. They’ll want to see evidence of the initial flood damage, so start taking pictures and videos of your car as soon as you hang up the phone.
Once you gather evidence, dry up any remaining sitting water or wet spots in your vehicle. If towels prove inadequate, utilize a shop vac or dehumidifier to soak up as much moisture as possible. Do not start your car, for risk of worsening any unseen issues with the engine.
Document the Damage
Take photos and videos of your car from every possible angle as soon as you get off the phone with your insurance company. You’ll want to document the full extent of the damage before you start drying up the mess. You might also want to log a timeline of the flood to share with your insurance adjuster to provide additional perspective.
Submit Your Car Flood Insurance Claim Early
Floods typically affect many clients in the same area, resulting in a bottleneck of cases clogging up your insurer’s resources. Insurance companies only have so many adjusters on their payroll; if you don’t act fast, you’ll end up at the back of a very long line. Additionally, if you wait too long to file your claim, sitting water might inflict greater damage to your vehicle in the interim.
Meet with the Claims Adjuster
An adjustor will eventually show up to assess the damage and help determine the reimbursement your insurer should provide. Make sure to point out all the damage you know of to your adjustor, including potentially hidden long-term issues like engine rust or corrosion. It may be wise to seek out your own professional assessment to dispute any offer made by your insurance company that feels insufficient.
Pay Your Deductible
Comprehensive insurance requires a deductible, a set amount of money–typically around $500–you must pay out-of-pocket before your coverage kicks in. Deductibles exist so that insurance companies know you have something to lose, deterring anyone from filing a claim in bad faith. If your claim gets approved, your insurer automatically factors in and subtracts your deductible from your final payout.