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Hurricane season typically runs from June to November, and depending on the year, the fallout of this season can be disastrous. For example, Hurricane Harvey, which occurred in 2017, 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.
The 2022 season is expected to bring more severe storms than in years past. But while most people equate the catastrophic damage from hurricanes with what occurs to homes and properties in coastal areas, the reality is that hurricanes can also do serious damage to vehicles. Fortunately, certain types of car insurance policies will typically cover vehicle damage that occurs from a hurricane due to issues like flooding or damage from flying debris. That said, not all car insurance policies will, so it’s important to understand how your car insurance may work in the event of a hurricane. Here’s what you should know.
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 that 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. However, the greatest risk during hurricane season typically occurs in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
For example, there are more than 2.8 million single-family homes in Florida that are at risk of being in the path of a category 5 hurricane, the most severe classification. In Louisiana, almost 850,000 homes are at risk of sustaining damage from a category 5 storm, should one occur, and more than 560,000 homes in Texas are at risk.
If you live in any of the states with high occurrences of hurricanes, understanding the specific car insurance coverage available to address the risk of hurricanes might be helpful. Without the right types of insurance, you might have to pay to repair or replace your vehicle out-of-pocket.
What to do if your car floods
It is common for cars to sustain flood damage from a hurricane. 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 likely pay for the repairs, minus your deductible. If the car is a total loss, your insurance company could help you replace your vehicle.
Here are the steps you should take if your car floods after a hurricane:
- Examine the damage: Before filing an insurance claim, you should examine the vehicle damage once it is safe to do so. You can 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.
- Have a mechanic inspect the car: If the car is driveable, you could take it to a local mechanic to have it inspected by a professional. The mechanic will create their own list of damages and parts that are not working. They can also give you an estimate for the cost of repairs, which can be helpful during the claim process.
- File a claim with your insurance company: The next step is to file a claim with your car insurance company. Explain the situation in as much detail as possible, including when and where the storm occurred and what types of damage your car sustained. Provide any photos and videos you took of the damages as well as the inspection documents from your mechanic.
- Get your settlement: Once the claim has been submitted, the adjuster will investigate the claim. Once your claim is approved, you will receive a payout for the cost of repairs or replacement, minus your deductible.