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With up to 14 named storms and 10 hurricanes, forecasters have predicted 2022 to be an especially active hurricane season. This is on the back of the 2021 hurricane season, the third-worst ever recorded. If you live in a hurricane-prone area, you may experience storm damage to your vehicle at some point in the future. Bankrate breaks down what you should do after a hurricane damages your car and how your auto insurance may be able to help.
When hurricane damage is covered by car insurance
If you don’t already have auto insurance, you may not be able to purchase it prior to a hurricane. Insurance companies may institute a moratorium that prevents residents of certain ZIP codes from purchasing insurance policies ahead of a potential natural disaster. Moratoriums can also prevent policyholders who have insurance from adjusting their existing coverage. For example, suppose you already have an auto insurance policy. In that case, you may not be able to decrease your comprehensive insurance deductible (or add the coverage type), 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
How to deal with situations and problems caused by hurricane damage to your car
Your car could experience significant internal flood damage, or mild exterior damage from debris during a hurricane. Regardless of the level of damage your vehicle experiences, the following tips may help you handle the aftermath.
The car is totaled but insured
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 damage by taking notes and capturing photos is typically helpful, but make sure you watch out for broken glass and debris during the process.
The car is totaled without insurance
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.
The appraisal is too low
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 claim is denied
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.
The car was flooded but still starts
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.
The car is in the shop for repairs
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 minimize hurricane damage to your vehicle
The following steps may help you mitigate damage to your vehicle during a hurricane.
- 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.
- Take photos of the interior and exterior of your vehicle. Presenting your auto damage adjuster before and after pictures can help your insurance company see the difference between preexisting and hurricane-related damage. This may speed up the claims process.
- 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 large puddle is shallow enough to drive through, but looks can be deceiving. That puddle is often deeper than it looks 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.