How to Protect Your Car From Hurricane Damage

November 28, 2017

Prepare for hurricane

After Hurricane Irma swept through Florida in 2017, it destroyed vehicles left and right. An estimated 200,000 to 400,000 vehicles were wrecked by Irma, whether they were flooded, smashed, swept away or even overturned by the storm.

While Irma may have been one of the worst hurricanes to hit Florida, it definitely won’t be the last. If you live in Florida, how can you protect your car from the next big storm? And how does car insurance cover flood damage?

What Can I Do Before the Next Hurricane Season?

First, figure out your personal risk. In hurricanes, one of the biggest threats is the storm surge, which can affect people who live miles from the coast. Take a look at the NOAA’s Storm Surge Hazard Map, and zoom in until you find your neighborhood. You’ll see the map is color-coded: blue means the storm surge should be less than three feet, while red is greater than 9 feet. Then, compare the five categories of hurricane for your location. If you live in Coral Gables, Miami, for example, you’ll see only limited storm surge in a Cat-1 Florida hurricane; but as the storm gets bigger, the potential flooding gets deeper and more widespread.

“If you discover via these maps that you live in an area vulnerable to storm surge, find out today if you live in a hurricane storm surge evacuation zone as prescribed by your local emergency management agency,” NOAA advises. If you do live in an evacuation zone, figure out how you’re going to escape in a hurricane, and where you’re going to park your car. Got a friend who lives on higher ground? Ask if you can come over during the next storm.

Second, make sure you have comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage is the 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 — you guessed it — a hurricane. A frequent hurricane state, Florida’s car insurance laws do not require you to carry this coverage, and if you drive an older car, you may decide to skip comprehensive coverage to save money on your car insurance. But if you do need comprehensive coverage, buy it now! If you wait until a hurricane’s approaching and your car gets flooded, the insurer may reject your claim. To find the cheapest comprehensive insurance (and other coverage) for your car, compare auto insurance quotes on Compare.com.

How Can I Protect My Car Before a Hurricane Strikes?

Don’t leave your car on a low-lying street, especially if you live in a storm surge area. Get it to high ground — a parking garage is ideal (but not the basement level). And don’t wait until the last minute! In Tallahassee, people were invited to park their cars in Florida State University’s garages, only to find a local Infiniti dealership had gotten there first.

Remember that flooding isn’t the only threat. Wind is another hurricane threat, so park well away from large trees and any objects that could become airborne. If you have a garage but it’s kind of flimsy, take Consumer Reports’ advice and park your car outside, “tight against the garage door—sideways—to block high-speed winds and hopefully preserve the door’s integrity.” If you don’t have a garage, seek out a spot between two sturdy buildings. It’s also smart to take a few pictures of your car, which can help streamline the insurance claim process if your car gets damaged. You may want to remove your registration and other documents you keep in the glove box, just in case.

If the hurricane has already begun, do not get into your car and drive around looking for a place to park it! It’s just not safe to be in a vehicle. The National Hurricane Center found that in 30 years of hurricanes, a quarter of deaths resulted from people drowning inside their vehicle, or when trying to abandon it. Your life is infinitely more valuable than your car.

If you’re caught in a hurricane while driving, try to avoid driving through water, even if it appears shallow. As little as 12 inches of water can move a car, and even a large SUV can get swept away in two feet of water. And if your car stalls out in water, get out and move to higher ground.

What To Do If Your Car is Damaged in a Hurricane?

Wait until the storm has passed before you go outside to check on your car. Be aware of potential hazards, such as leaning trees or downed power lines — you can be electrocuted if you step into a puddle that contacts live wires.

Check your car thoroughly, inside and out. If your car has been flooded, don’t start the engine. Instead, leave it where it’s parked (or call a tow truck) and photograph any damage that’s visible, including high-water marks. And file an insurance claim as soon as you can! If you’re the 199,999th person to file a claim after a Florida hurricane, you know you aren’t getting a check anytime soon.

One mistake many people make is assuming the insurance company will total your flood-damaged car. The adjuster may say it’s repairable, which means you should do your best to dry it out. Remove any fabric pieces you can, such as floor mats, the trunk carpet and seat covers. Wash them, if you can, and hang them to dry in the sun. Your car may smell funky, but at least you’re safe.

Make sure you have the best car insurance to cover any damage inflicted by a hurricane. Compare prices, packages and different coverage options for free on Compare.com today!

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Based on a survey of 100 California Residents. Average savings determined via a comparison of their selected policy against their self-reported annual premium.