Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States, and when these types of disasters occur, they can have devastating results. For example, when a hurricane or flash flood hits, the flood waters can cause extensive damage and losses to homes and properties in the area. But while the flood damage that occurs to homes from these natural disasters can be extensive and extremely costly, so can other types of flood-related damages.


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Take, for example, the damage that can occur to cars when a hurricane or flash flood hits. Water damage to vehicles is relatively common during floods, and can include both external and internal damage. For example, flood waters can cause mechanical issues, electrical damage, rust and mold spores, and may also leave a layer of moisture or residue in your vehicle, all of which can result in major issues or losses. The good news is that certain types of car insurance may cover flood damage related to your vehicle. Here’s what you should know.

What kind of insurance covers flooding?

While there are two types of automobile insurance that cover damage to your vehicle, comprehensive coverage is the only protection that will cover flood damage to your car. Comprehensive coverage offers broad protection for most damage or loss caused to your vehicle by some factor other than a collision. In addition to flood damage, comprehensive insurance will pay for such things as repair or replacement costs if your car is stolen or vandalized or damaged from fire, hail, falling objects and even damage caused by animals.

Collision coverage, on the other hand, is designed to protect you from financial loss arising from vehicle damage caused in a single or multi car accident.

It is important to note that other types of policies, such as your homeowners insurance, do not typically provide coverage for flooding or other vehicle damage. Additionally, while almost every state requires minimum coverage to allow you to drive legally, this is usually just some type of liability coverage – making comprehensive coverage optional. However, often lenders or car lessors will require you to carry a certain level of comprehensive coverage until you have paid off your loan.

When does flooding cause damage?

Flooding from any weather source can cause significant damage to a vehicle, with water having the ability to cause damage to your car’s engine, electrical system and most other mechanical components of your vehicle.

Some insurance companies will attempt to work out a repair solution before declaring the vehicle is totaled. It is important to understand and discuss with your carrier the many other problems flooding can cause for vehicles that may not appear initially. For example, water infiltration can eventually lead to rust, corrosion, mold and other issues that may not appear for months, or even years.

When does insurance not cover flood damage?

Many people attempt to save some money by purchasing the minimum limits of insurance required by state law. Unfortunately, because these requirements only involve liability insurance, purchasing this type of coverage will not provide any coverage to your vehicle from flooding. Only comprehensive coverage offers coverage from flood damage.

How do I file a claim after a flood?

As with any claim, it is important to notify your car insurer as soon as you become aware of flood damage. You don’t need to have all of the details gathered or even understand the extent of damage to provide this initial notice. You can make this initial report by calling your insurance representative or, in many cases, online or with an app. You will be given a claim number.

As soon as possible, gather all information that will document the vehicle damage. This will include photos and a timeline of the flooding that caused the damage. Submit this material to your auto insurer as it is gathered.

At some point, an adjuster will be sent to assess the damage to the vehicle and based upon this appraisal and your input an offer will be made by the insurer. It is always wise to obtain your own assessment of the damage and cost of repair from your own automobile mechanic. Remember that you are under no obligation to accept the first insurance offer and you should feel comfortable making a counter proposal based upon your own assessment.

Frequently asked questions

    • It is very difficult to repair a vehicle that has been damaged from serious flooding. After a car has been damaged by water, it’s common to have issues with mold, corrosion and even damage to the electrical systems, which can get worse over time. If an adjuster says your car can be repaired, the best way to go about it may be to ensure that the repair shop you choose is experienced with this type of damage, and you should make it clear that the damage is due to water before any repairs are completed.
    • Because insurance companies also realize the difficulties in repairing flooded vehicles, they may be more inclined to declare a flooded car totaled. This is particularly true if the vehicle was exposed to water that rose several inches or more and remained in the vehicle for a longer period. You should also raise this issue with your insurer and stress that most flooding damage likely will appear later.
    • It may be worth repairing a flooded car in some cases, but it likely won’t be worth repairing a car that has extensive flood damage. The first step in determining whether it’s a good idea to repair a flooded car is to understand the extent of the damage. If the water has damaged critical parts of the car, it may not be a good idea to try and repair the vehicle. For example, if you drive through high floodwaters and the water seeps into an engine through the vehicle air intake, the engine can hydrolock, which will likely ruin the engine beyond repair.
    • Car insurance will not cover damage or loss that is caused by driver or owner negligence or intentional acts. Also, car insurance is not designed to cover normal wear and tear such as tire or brake wear. And remember that minimum levels of coverage required by state law only cover bodily injury or property damage you cause to others. These policies will not cover your own injuries or damage to your vehicle.

Correction, Feb. 10, 2023, 1:45 pm ET: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to leaving a sunroof or window open during a storm as negligence. It has been updated by removing this reference and clarifying that, generally, water damage to a vehicle is covered under comprehensive coverage.