Key takeaways

  • Hurricanes and other storms can cause major damage to vehicles, not just homes.
  • Purchasing the right coverage and levels of car insurance ahead of hurricane season could help protect you financially from serious damage due to a storm.
  • 2023 is expected to have more storms than average, making it even more important to buy proper coverage.

This August, the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service upgraded its prediction for hurricane season to “above normal.” Overall, the organization predicts between 14 and 21 named storms, of which 11 could be hurricanes. This comes after an already busy 2022 which featured eight hurricanes. If you’re in an area that’s at risk, your vehicle is at risk for damage as much as your home is, so it’s important to understand how auto insurance works if your car is damaged by a hurricane. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team explains which kinds of car insurance coverage might protect you from paying for costly hurricane damage to your vehicle.

Is hurricane damage covered by car insurance?

Most vehicle damage caused by a hurricane should be covered by comprehensive car insurance, which is part of what’s known as a full coverage car insurance policy. If you don’t already have this kind of auto insurance, you may not be able to purchase it immediately prior to a hurricane. Insurance companies may institute a moratorium that prevents residents in certain ZIP codes from purchasing car insurance policies ahead of a potential natural disaster.

Moratoriums can also prevent policyholders who have auto insurance from adjusting their existing coverage. For example, if you already have a full coverage auto insurance policy. You may not be able to decrease your comprehensive insurance deductible (or add the coverage type if you don’t have it), which covers certain damages caused by hurricanes, if a named storm is on its way to your residence.

Comprehensive coverage typically covers damages caused by the following hurricane-related concerns:

  • Falling objects
  • Flood
  • Hail
  • Wind

What to do if a hurricane damages your car

Hurricanes can cause a variety of damage to your car, including interior flooding damage or exterior damage caused by falling debris. Regardless of the level of damage your vehicle experiences, the following tips may help you handle the aftermath

    • Once the storm passes and the surrounding area is safe, you may want to contact your insurance company as soon as possible to begin the claims process. Documenting your vehicle’s state before the storm by taking photos, then doing the same for post-storm damage by taking notes and capturing photos is typically helpful, but make sure you watch out for broken glass and debris during the process.
    • If your vehicle is totaled by storm damage, but you don’t have comprehensive insurance, you will likely have to pay for repairs out of pocket. Sometimes disaster funds are available to help, so it might be worth contacting government agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or nonprofits to see if any financial relief is available.
    • During natural disasters like hurricanes, insurance companies may be inundated with claims, and appraisers may be more prone to clerical errors. If you think your vehicle’s value has been miscalculated, you can dispute it. It’s also possible to bring in a third-party appraiser, but you may want to start by speaking with the insurance provider to see if a resolution can be reached.
    • Your insurance company should not deny your claim if you have the proper coverage. Mistakes and misunderstandings can happen, however. If you feel your claim was denied in error, keep calm and contact your claims adjuster for further information.
    • If your car sustained water damage after heavy rain, the effects might be delayed. If you’re able to start up your vehicle after a flood recedes, it may not continue to run. Delicate internal instruments and computers may be damaged, so you may want a professional mechanic to take a look at it. You may want to call your insurance company and immediately document the vehicle’s damage and file a claim.
    • If the vehicle is damaged but is being repaired, it may be necessary to rent a car until the repairs are completed. While many auto insurance policies offer rental car coverage, it is typically an addition to a standard policy and will only be covered if the insurance company is already handling the claim on the damaged vehicle.

How to prevent hurricane damage to your car

It’s all but impossible to fully prevent damage caused by a natural disaster, but it still may be worth trying to limit the damage. Use these tips to try to protect your car as best as you can.

  • Park strategically. If possible, it’s best to park vehicles where they are at the least risk from flooding, wind, falling objects and debris. Sheltered, elevated terrain or an enclosed structure can be good options.
  • Remove valuables from the car. Personal belongings in your vehicle may fall under a personal property insurance policy or, in rare cases, under an auto policy. Whether or not you have insurance for these items, you may want to remove them from your vehicle, especially any valuables, to mitigate the risk of those items being damaged.
  • Tape the car windows. While it’s a myth that taping windows will prevent them from breaking, it may help keep the glass contained if it breaks. Taping your windows may also help keep water from seeping through a broken window.
  • Cover the vehicle. Covering your vehicle can help protect it from scratches or dents caused by flying debris. While custom car covers can be purchased, they may be expensive. Blankets, cardboard or any fabric you have on hand may help protect your vehicle during a storm. Be sure to secure any covering so it doesn’t blow away.
  • Keep vehicle documents safe. You may want to keep any essential vehicle documents inside, separate from the vehicle. If keeping documents inside isn’t possible, storing them in watertight bags or containers may help protect them against possible damage.
  • Never drive through standing water. You may think that a large puddle is shallow enough to drive through, but looks can be deceiving. Puddles are often deeper than they look and can cause significant damage to your vehicle. Additionally, driving through standing water can be an electrocution risk if a downed power line is hidden under the water.
  • Fill your gas tank. You may have difficulty finding a gas station in your area that has power after a hurricane. Fill up your tank before the storm. While this won’t help keep your vehicle safe, it can provide peace of mind if you have to evacuate, find help, or drive your car to a repair shop after the storm has passed.

It’s also good practice to take interior and exterior photos of your car before and after the storm. This won’t help prevent damage, but it can be good to have evidence of the car’s condition before the storm if you have to file a claim.

Frequently asked questions

    • The best auto insurance company depends on your individual policy needs and preferences. If you care most about getting the lowest price, you may want to obtain car insurance quotes from the cheapest car insurance companies. If you care most about top-notch customer service, financial strength and digital experience, you may want to get quotes from the best car insurance companies in your area. A licensed auto insurance agent may be able to help you nail down the best company for you by pointing you to the companies that carry your preferred coverage options at rates that work with your budget.
    • Since 2010, there have been an average of 7.7 hurricanes per year. Researchers are finding that warming global temperatures are causing a higher proportion of category three, four and five storms, with higher winds and more rain, spread out over a longer amount of time.
    • Florida is the state most at–risk of hurricane damage, with more than 2.8 million homes that could be damaged by a category five hurricane. Florida is especially vulnerable to these storms due to its proximity to the tropics, where most hurricanes form. Florida’s long coastline and warm waters also make it vulnerable, whereas the storms typically weaken as they reach the cold waters of the Northeast.
    • When an insurance company deems that a car would cost more to repair than the vehicle is worth, it will send you a salvage title. Vehicles damaged to this extent are also referred to as “totaled,” because the insurer deems them a total loss. Severe weather-related incidents, including flooding, often can total a vehicle.