Does car insurance cover flooding damage?

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Provided you obtain comprehensive coverage, car insurance can typically provide protection against flood damage to your vehicle. And while you may think that water damage to vehicles is rare, it’s actually relatively common.

Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States and arrives with weather events ranging from simple thunderstorms to serious hurricanes. Flooding is also the most lethal weather event in the country, killing 83 people in 2018. By comparison, 10 people died from tornadoes in that period. Annual property damage from flooding is significant and data gathered by CARFAX reveals that there were 446,836 flood-damaged cars on U.S. roads in 2020.

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 protection from flooding. As mentioned, only comprehensive coverage will cover flooding damage.

Even comprehensive coverage will not provide protection from flooding or simple water infiltration if the damage was caused by negligence on the part of the insured. For example, if water enters a vehicle through an open sun roof or window during a storm, the car insurer will certainly attempt to deny coverage. If successful, the insured party will need to pay for necessary repairs.

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

How hard is it to repair a flood-damaged car?

It is very difficult to repair a vehicle that has been damaged from serious flooding. This is particularly the case with newer vehicles which have more sophisticated electronic systems and wiring that can be corroded and lead to damage that may appear at any point in the future. It is also virtually impossible to be rid of extensive mold.

Can your car be totaled from flood damage?

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.

Is it worth repairing a flooded car?

It may be, but it is important to be certain that the flooding damage was not severe enough to cause long term damage that may not appear initially. When water seeps into an engine, for example, through the vehicle air intake, an engine can hydrolock. This usually occurs from driving through high flood waters and will likely ruin the engine beyond repair.

What damage and loss does car insurance not cover?

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.

Written by
Rick Hoel
Insurance Contributor
Rick Hoel is an international business attorney and legal and insurance writer for Bankrate.com, Reviews.com and Accessibility.com. Over the last several years, he has covered topics dealing with personal and commercial insurance and technology and the law. Rick is General Counsel and Director of Risk Management and sits on the Board of Power Stow Americas Inc., a subsidiary of Power Stow A/S in Denmark, the world leader in the supply of tracked conveyor systems to the airline industry.
Edited by
Insurance Editor