Does Car Insurance Cover a Natural Disaster?

Storm Waves
••• Getty Images/Dan Barnes

Mother nature's wrath can be devastating and cause great damage to property, including cars. But whether or not your car insurance will cover the damage caused by a natural disaster depends on a couple of different factors: The type of insurance policy you have and the type of damage that occurred. You're most likely to be covered in a natural disaster if you have comprehensive coverage on your car insurance policy—but it won't necessarily cover you in every scenario.

Comprehensive Car Insurance Coverage

Most states will require you to have at least auto liability coverage, which pays for the costs of the other driver's injuries and property damage if you're found to be at fault in an accident. Along with collision coverage, comprehensive car insurance coverage is an optional type of coverage that you can choose to include on your car insurance policy.

Comprehensive coverage pays for losses beyond those that are caused by collisions with another car. That can include damage to your car caused by a natural disaster.

Beyond covering theft and vandalism, comprehensive auto insurance may cover natural-disaster-related damage such as that from fire, water, and falling objects (such as tree branches).

Are there any natural disaster-related cases that comprehensive coverage doesn’t cover? This will depend on the specifics of your individual policy. It’s important to understand what your comprehensive insurance policy does and doesn’t cover before you purchase it.

However, it is important to note that any accident-related damage won’t be covered, even if the accident occurred due to the weather, like if another driver slides into you while driving through a blizzard. It also usually doesn't cover medical and legal expenses.

Many comprehensive insurance policies will cover the damage caused by animals, such as deer or birds.

It can help to take a look at the different types of natural disasters that you're more likely to face and find a policy that provides the most coverage in those areas.

Types of Coverage for Natural Disasters

Storms can be devastating and unpredictable—damaging homes, cars, and other types of property. If you live in an area where there's a high probability of tornadoes or hurricanes, then you'll want to make sure that your policy provides coverage for the type of damage that they're likely to do.

Most comprehensive policies will cover damage from falling debris and glass, so you're likely going to be covered in the event of a tornado or hurricane if you have one of these types of plans.

Once a major storm is predicted to strike, most insurance providers can put restrictions on getting new plans or changing existing ones. These are called binding restrictions. So it's best to ensure that you get comprehensive coverage if you live in an area that's commonly affected by storms—and not wait until a storm starts brewing.

Comprehensive coverage also usually pays for water damage resulting from natural disasters such as floods, or even hail storms.

Floods can sometimes occur when you don't even live in a flood zone. They can do severe damage to the mechanics of vehicles—not to mention can carry bacteria and disease. But the only way to get compensation for such damage is by selecting comprehensive coverage on your car insurance, so if you live in a flood zone then it's a good idea to get this type of coverage.

Hundred of little dents all over your vehicle is a telltale sign a hail storm has hit. It doesn't matter if it's technically considered a natural disaster or not. Since mother nature caused it, hail is covered under comprehensive coverage. 

It is also a good idea to report your loss as soon as possible when a natural disaster is involved. Most likely, your car insurance carrier is going to be dealing with lots and lots of claims, so getting yours reported early would speed up your claim process and get you back on the road as soon as possible.

Deductibles and Limits

Of course, having coverage doesn’t mean you'll be off the hook for any amount of money in the event of inclement weather incident.

Expect to pay your deductible, unless you have a deductible-free policy. You usually choose your deductible amount, such as $500 or $1,500, when you choose a policy. Generally, plans with lower deductibles have higher premiums, and vice versa. Plans with higher deductibles mean that you'll pay more out-of-pocket expenses when you make claims for natural disasters.

Your insurance policy may also have a comprehensive coverage limit, which is the maximum amount of money you'll get toward a covered claim. This limit is often the actual cash value of your vehicle.