Does Car Insurance Cover Hurricane Damage?
The Atlantic hurricane season lasts a really long time — June 1 to November 30 — and has the potential to affect anyone living in the eastern or southern United States. If you live in an area that may experience hurricane damage, the most important thing you can do is make sure you have comprehensive coverage.
Comprehensive coverage is an optional part of car insurance that protects your car in case it’s damaged by something other than a collision, such as a falling tree, a flood or a hurricane. Some drivers opt to skip comprehensive coverage to save money on car insurance, but without it, you’re on your own if your car sustains hurricane damage. What else should you know about hurricanes and your car?
How to protect your car before a hurricane hits
- Park in a safe place. If you stroll through a neighborhood after a strong hurricane, you’ll probably see a parked cars crushed like aluminum cans by falling trees. Park in a garage, if possible (and if there are no large trees that may fall on it). If you have an older or flimsier garage, consider following Consumer Reports’ advice: park your car outside, “tight against the garage door—sideways—to block high-speed winds and hopefully preserve the door’s integrity.” No garage? Park between two buildings, which can offer protection from the wind. Or, at the very least, make sure your car’s not left on low-lying ground that will flood.
- Take a picture. Taking a few pictures of your car immediately before the storm can serve as evidence in case you need to make a hurricane-related car insurance claim.
- Roll up the windows. If your car has leaky window seals, you can also use tape (NOT duct tape) on the edges of windows, doors and the sunroof.
- Fill up your gas tank. In widespread power outages, gas pumps may not operate (and your debit card may be useless, too). Top up the tank, just in case.
- Pack some emergency supplies. Extra water, food, flashlights, blankets, cash, clothing, toiletries, a first-aid kit and an emergency phone charger are all good things to have in your car when a hurricane threatens to strike. Don’t try to ride out the storm in your car, however; it’s safer to stay inside a building. Get a full emergency-preparedness kit list from Ready.gov.
How to stay safe in your car during a hurricane
The first rule of driving in a hurricane is: Don’t. In a 30-year span, the National Hurricane Center found, a quarter of hurricane-related deaths resulted from people drowning inside their vehicle, or when attempting to abandon it.
If you must evacuate in a vehicle, or if you get caught in a hurricane while you’re driving, try not to drive through water, even if it appears shallow. As little as 12 inches of water can move a car, and two feet will sweep away even large SUVs. If your car stalls out in standing water, get out of the vehicle and move to higher ground.
Also, if you’re on the highway, don’t use cruise control. If you hydroplane on a wet road, cruise control can cause your vehicle to accelerate.
What to do if your car gets flooded in a hurricane
Once the storm has passed and it’s safe to go outside, check on your car for hurricane damage. If your car’s flooded, file an insurance claim immediately. Hundreds, if not thousands, of other people will be doing the same thing. You don’t want to be at the end of the line!
If your car has sustained some flood damage, don’t start the engine. That can move water through your engine or fuel system, making a bad problem worse. Leave it alone and photograph any damage that’s visible, including high-water marks.
Don’t assume your flood-damaged car will be totaled by the insurance company, either. It may be repairable, which means you should do everything you can to dry it out. Open the doors and windows. Take out the floor mats, seat covers and any other damp upholstery you can remove. Wash them, if possible, and lay them out to dry in the sun. Act quickly, or your car may smell like a swamp thing forever.
Be prepared the next time a hurricane hits and avoid hurricane damage! Compare auto insurance quotes on Compare.com to find the best and most affordable coverage.