A tornado typically means bad news for homes, cars and other personal property in its path. Each year, more than 1,000 tornadoes are reported in the U.S. — Alabama, Mississippi and Texas had the most activity in 2022. Still, tornadoes can occur in almost every part of the country and damage your belongings, including your vehicle. If you’re wondering if car insurance covers tornado damage, the short answer is it depends on the coverages you select.

Does car insurance cover tornado damage?

Most states require drivers to carry at least a minimum amount of liability car insurance to legally operate a vehicle. However, liability coverage will not repair your vehicle if it is damaged in a tornado or other storm. Liability insurance covers the other person if you cause injury or property damage during an accident.

Collision is an optional coverage drivers can purchase to help cover repair costs if involved in an accident.

If you want tornado or storm damage coverage, then the right coverage to help repair or replace your vehicle is comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive protection covers:

  • Broken windows and windshields
  • Fire
  • Hitting an animal
  • Theft of the vehicle
  • Vandalism
  • Weather-related damage

When adding comprehensive and collision coverage to your auto insurance policy, you choose a deductible for these coverages. A deductible is the amount you pay out of pocket from a covered claim. The higher the deductible, generally the less expensive the auto insurance premium, but the more you have to pay if you file a claim.

Types of tornado damage covered by comprehensive insurance

  • Damage caused by downed power lines
  • Electrical damage
  • Falling tree limbs
  • Flying debris
  • Flooding
  • Hail damage
  • Lightning

A tornado can cause significant damage to your vehicle, with some being totaled based on the severity of the damage. Strong tornadoes can easily pick up a car and carry it away from its original location. Debris flying around inside a tornado can also cause damage to your car, like gravel, tree limbs, furniture or even other cars caught in the funnel.

Tornadoes can also bring large amounts of rain to an area in a small amount of time, which can cause flooding. If this is the case and water from the tornado and resulting storm damages your car, comprehensive coverage covers flooding as well. Lightning is another weather hazard that could cause electrical and other physical damage to your car, also covered by comprehensive.

Will a tornado claim increase my car insurance rates?

Any claim you file with your car insurance company has the potential to increase your rates. Comprehensive claims are generally not penalized as heavily as collision claims, since car insurance companies understand a comprehensive claim is usually out of the driver’s control.

If there is a lot of damage caused by a storm or tornado in your area, auto insurers may increase rates for everyone, even if you did not file a claim for damage. This is called a rate revision and must be approved by the state before an insurance company can change the rates.

Filing a tornado insurance claim

If you have comprehensive coverage and find damage to your car after a tornado or other storm, consider filing a claim as soon as possible. The storm has likely damaged hundreds of other vehicles and homes, which can cause insurance companies to become inundated with filed claims.

Car repair shops may also become backed up, which could cause long wait times to get your vehicle repaired. If you want to file a claim for tornado damage, we recommend taking these steps.

  1. Before cleaning up any debris, take pictures of the scene. Get close-up pictures or videos of the damage to your car to supply to the insurance company.
  2. File a claim over the phone, online or using the car insurance company app. Provide supporting documentation, including the pictures or video you took in the first step.
  3. Write down your claim number so you can easily track your claim.
  4. Be patient. This is not always easy to do when you’ve been through a traumatic event, but it may take some time for a claims adjuster to contact you about the claim. To expedite the process, you may want to contact your preferred repair shop to see if they can do an estimate. They may be able to send the information directly to your insurance company.

Protecting your car from tornado damage

If an impending storm is being reported, especially if a tornado is expected, protecting your car before it hits can prevent tornado or storm damage. Here are a few things you can do to protect your car:

  • Avoid parking in low-lying areas prone to flooding.
  • Do not park near:
    • Gravel driveways or parking lots
    • Near loose furniture or other debris, heavy winds could pick that up
    • Telephone poles
    • Trees
  • Store it in an enclosed structure or garage.

Frequently asked questions

    • Yes, if the home or car has coverage in place for storm or tornado damage, insurance companies will pay claims. Homeowners policies with dwelling and personal belongings coverage usually cover storm damage, but it depends on the policy type. If you have comprehensive coverage on your car insurance, any storm or tornado damage should be covered.
    • If damage occurs to your vehicle or home due to a storm, tornado or another type of weather event, it may benefit you to contact your homeowners or auto insurance company to inquire about filing a claim. Each insurance company has its own process for claims filing, so the best course of action may be to have the adjuster walk you through the right steps.
    • Tornadoes can cause serious destruction to anything in their path, including vehicles. When you file a claim with your insurance provider to report tornado damage, the adjuster may conclude that the vehicle is a total loss. If that happens and you have adequate car insurance coverage, the insurance company may reimburse you for the loss of your vehicle. The amount you’ll receive is based on the current market value of the car, minus any deductible you owe.