When a tornado touches down, it can cause severe destruction to anything in its path. Over 1,000 tornadoes a year are recorded in the U.S., and Texas, Alabama and Mississippi were the states with the most tornado activity in 2021. However, tornado activity isn’t limited to these states. If the weather conditions are right, tornadoes can occur in almost every part of the country.
When a tornado touches down, it’s likely to cause at least a small amount of damage to the homes or property in the area — or worse. The destruction left behind by tornadoes can come with a huge price tag for those who are forced to repair their homes or vehicles after the fact. As such, you may be wondering if your car insurance covers tornado damage. The short answer is that it depends on the policy. But if you know how your car insurance policy protects your vehicle, it may help you decide on the right type of coverage before a tornado hits.
Does car insurance cover tornado damage?
Most states require drivers to carry at least a minimum amount of liability car insurance to drive a vehicle legally. 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 covers:
- Broken windows and windshields
- Hitting an animal
- Theft of the vehicle
- 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
- Hail damage
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Write down your claim number so you can easily track your claim.
- Be patient. It may take time for a claims adjuster to be assigned and contact you to proceed with the claim. If you have a preferred repair shop, have the information ready to go to speed up the process. You can even reach out to the shop to see if they can do an estimate to send to the insurance company directly.
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
- Store it in an enclosed structure or garage.