In 2017, Hurricane Harvey destroyed up to one million cars across Texas and neighboring states. Each year, hurricane season brings additional destruction to property, including vehicles, and the losses accumulate. With hurricanes, storm surges and flooding is common. It is estimated that over 446,000 flood-damaged cars were on the road in 2020.
As it approaches hurricane season in the U.S., you may feel a heightened risk if you reside near the gulf coast or in the southeast. As a driver, it can be greatly beneficial to understand if your vehicle is covered for hurricane loss. If it is not, consider taking the necessary steps to obtain this coverage 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 typically covers hurricane damage. The two types of car insurance could help repair your vehicle if damaged during a hurricane are collision and comprehensive coverage.
Common examples of hurricane damage to vehicles and the auto insurance coverage that can apply include:
- Falling debris damage – If your car is parked in the driveway when a hurricane strikes, comprehensive coverage will most likely pay for damages if, for example, debris falls on your car and cracks your windshield.
- Strong winds – If hurricane winds flip your car over, comprehensive coverage could take care of it.
- Water damage – Comprehensive auto insurance will cover most instances of vehicle flooding and damage during a hurricane.
- Damage while driving – If you are driving in heavy rains during a big storm and cause an accident, collision insurance could cover the damages to your vehicle.
Almost every state requires drivers to carry a minimum amount of car insurance. However, most of these requirements apply only to liability insurance and do not set minimums for coverage that affects your car.
What insurance covers hurricane damage?
Depending on the causes and circumstances surrounding hurricane-related vehicle damage, either collision or comprehensive auto insurance may cover the loss. Collision coverage pays for damage to your car caused by an accident with another vehicle or a stationary object. In a hurricane, you may have less control of your driving and be more likely to cause a collision. Comprehensive insurance covers damage to your vehicle caused by something other than an accident. This may include losses from things like flooding, falling trees or debris.
When to buy coverage
If a hurricane is on the horizon and you try to get coverage right before the storm hits, you may be out of luck. Insurance companies may have restrictions on when you can purchase insurance if a storm warning is in effect. The time frame is usually based on forecasts from the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
According to NHC, a hurricane warning is issued 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 issuing new policies or increase coverage to existing policies for those who reside within the projected hurricane target area.
Purchase restrictions vary among insurers. For example, when a hurricane approaches, some providers may stop issuing new car insurance policies or modifications altogether, while others may permit increases or decreases to existing limits.
Ultimately, planning ahead to purchase comprehensive and collision coverage well before a storm could be crucial. As with all types of insurance, it is generally better to have it before you need to use it.
What states are hurricane prone?
Hurricanes typically occur in the U.S. in the coastal and gulf states stretching from Massachusetts to Texas. The greatest risk during hurricane season occurs in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. If you live in any of these states, understanding the specific coverage available to address the risk of hurricanes might be helpful. Hurricane data from some of the three states with the most hurricanes from 1851 through 2018 highlight the significant risk:
- Florida (120 hurricanes) – The deadliest hurricane on record in Florida was Hurricane Irma in 2017, with 87 deaths. Irma was also the costliest hurricane in Florida’s history, with over $50 billion in damages.
- Texas (64 hurricanes) – In 2017, Hurricane Harvey caused $125 billion in damages in Texas. In a tie with the 2005 Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, this is the costliest storm in U.S. history.
- North Carolina (55 hurricanes) – In 2018, Hurricane Florence caused $22 billion in damages in North Carolina, alone.
What to do if your car floods
It is common for cars to sustain flood damage from a hurricane. Texas and Florida have the highest state-wide rates of car floods. If you have comprehensive car insurance, it will likely cover your car if it gets flooded after a hurricane. If the car is salvageable, insurance will pay for the repairs, minus your deductible. If the car is a total loss, your insurance company could help you replace your vehicle.
If your car gets flooded, consider examining the damage before filing a claim. When it is safe, you might want to try turning on the car to see if the main panel lights are still working. You could also test your head and tail lights, air conditioning, radio and sound system, turn signals, heater, windshield wipers, windows and any other automatic functions. At the end of your examination, consider creating a list of damages and take photo and video proof to show your insurance company.
If the car is driveable, you could take it to a local mechanic to have it inspected. They will create a list of damages and parts that are not working. They can also give you an estimate for the cost of repairs.
The next 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?
Your insurance premium may increase after filing a claim. Generally, comprehensive claims do not affect your rate as much as collision claims. After three to five years, the claim will usually be removed from your record and that claim will no longer affect your rate.
Will my homeowners insurance cover flood damage to my house?
Homeowners insurance covers the physical structure of your home and your belongings inside that could get damaged by a hurricane. Standard homeowners insurance policies do not cover flood damage. If you live in a flood zone or high-risk hurricane area, you may be required to purchase a separate flood insurance policy.
Do I need comprehensive and collision insurance?
Legally, you only need to carry your state’s minimum liability limits. The requirements vary by state. You are only required to carry comprehensive and collision coverage when your vehicle is financed or leased. However, some insurance experts may recommend having both types of coverage even if your vehicle is paid off, 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.
How do I find the best car insurance for hurricanes coverage?
There is not one single car insurance company that can provide the best coverage for hurricane insurance for everyone. The best auto insurance companies will likely provide similar coverage in this area.
The best approach may be to research several companies, assure that each provides good coverage for hurricane damage and obtain several quotes. Comparing these results could give you several desirable insurance options that meet your needs.