In 2018, Hurricane Harvey destroyed up to 1 million cars across Texas and neighboring states. It destroyed more vehicles than any other weather-related event in history. As we approach hurricane season in the U.S., ensure your car is covered if you live in a high-risk hurricane area.
Will my car insurance cover hurricane damage?
Hurricane damage can be costly. The good news is that car insurance covers hurricane damage. The two types of car insurance that cover hurricane-related damage are collision and comprehensive coverage.
If your car is parked in the driveway when a hurricane sweeps through, comprehensive coverage would pay for the damages. For example, if debris falls on your car and smashes your windshield, comprehensive coverage would pay to replace the glass. Or, if the winds were so strong that your car flipped over, comprehensive coverage will take care of it.
On the other hand, say you’re driving home when heavy rains start to pick up right before a big storm. If you get into an accident or hit a stationary object, collision insurance would cover the damages to your vehicle. Typically, collision claims are less common than comprehensive claims during a hurricane.
Every state requires drivers to carry a minimum amount of car insurance. The amount varies by location, and it might be higher in states with severe weather. When a hurricane causes damage, the minimum amount of coverage may not be enough to fully cover the damages.
For instance, most states legally require all drivers to have liability insurance. Liability insurance covers your legal fees if you hit another driver and they sue you or if you accidentally damage someone else’s property. In the event of a hurricane, liability coverage alone won’t protect your car and help you pay for the damage.
This is one reason why it’s important to have coverage above the minimum amount required by your state. If you live in a high-risk hurricane area, it’s a smart idea to have both collision and comprehensive coverage.
When to buy coverage
If a hurricane is on the horizon and you try to get coverage right before the storm hits, you’ll probably be out of luck. Insurance companies have restrictions on when you can purchase insurance if a storm warning is in effect. The timeframe is based on forecasts from the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
According to NHC, a hurricane warning is declared when the storm is expected to hit within 36 hours. A storm watch is declared if high winds are expected within 48 hours. During any type of storm warning, many insurance companies place a temporary hold on new policies within the areas that are expected to get hit.
Every insurance company operates differently when it comes to the length and type of restrictions. For example, some providers may stop issuing new car insurance policies, but you can increase or decrease your coverage levels during that time.
Ultimately, it’s important to purchase comprehensive and collision coverage before a storm. As with all types of insurance, it’s better to have it before you need to use it.
If you’re avoiding purchasing car insurance because of the cost, remember this—the upfront cost of collision and comprehensive insurance is likely much cheaper than what it would cost to repair or replace your car entirely out-of-pocket.
What to do if your car floods
It’s common for cars to sustain flood damage after a hurricane. Texas and Florida have the highest state-wide rates of car floods. If you have comprehensive car insurance, it will cover your car if it gets flooded after a hurricane. If the car is salvageable, insurance will pay for the repairs. If the car is a total loss, your insurance company will help you pay for a new one.
If your car gets flooded, examine the damage before filing a claim. When it’s safe, turn on the car and see if the main panel lights are still working. Test your head and tail lights, air conditioning, radio and sound system, turn signals, heater, windshield wipers, windows and any other automatic functions. Make a list of damages, and take photo and video proof to show your insurance company.
If the car is driveable, take it to a local mechanic to have it inspected. They’ll create a list of damages and parts that aren’t working. They can also give you an estimate for the cost of repairs.
The last step is to file a claim with your insurance company. Explain the situation in as much detail as possible, including when and where the storm occurred, and how your car was damaged. Provide any photos and videos you took of the damages, as well as the inspection documents from your mechanic.
Frequently asked questions
Will my insurance premium go up after a hurricane?
Yes, your insurance premium will increase after filing a claim. Typically, comprehensive claims don’t affect your rate as much as collision claims. After three years, the claim will be removed from your record and your rate will start to decrease, assuming you have no other claims.
Will my homeowners insurance cover damage to my house?
Yes, homeowners insurance covers your home in the event of a hurricane. Homeowners insurance covers the physical structure of your home and your belongings inside that could get damaged by a hurricane.
Standard homeowners insurance policies don’t cover flood damage. If you live in a flood zone or high-risk hurricane area, you’ll need to purchase a separate flood insurance policy.
Do I need comprehensive and collision insurance?
Legally, you might not need to have collision and comprehensive insurance. The requirements vary by state. However, it’s a good idea to have both types of coverage, especially if you live in a high-risk hurricane area.
Without collision and comprehensive coverage, you would have to pay out-of-pocket to repair or replace your car if it got damaged. Even if you have the minimum amount of insurance required by your state, it might not be enough.