Floodwaters wreak havoc on vehicles. As water seeps into the car, mold and mildew can develop. The liquid can also corrode wires, causing electrical problems. And once an engine gets submerged, it may never drive again.
Since water causes so many problems, flooded cars are often a total loss. But if you don’t have comprehensive coverage on your plan, the cost of fixing or replacing your flood-damaged vehicle is your responsibility.
Here’s a look at the types of insurance that cover flood damage. You’ll also find tips for filing a claim so that if the worst happens, you’re prepared.
- If your car is damaged from flooding, you need comprehensive coverage to pay for it.
- FEMA can help pay for flood damage but is not a replacement for insurance.
- File a flood-related claim as soon as possible once damage has occurred.
- Water damage from leaving your windows down during a storm probably won’t be covered.
- You may be able to get insurance coverage for a previously flood-damaged vehicle—check with your insurer to find out.
What Type of Insurance Covers Flood Damage to Your Vehicle?
Comprehensive insurance covers flood damage to your vehicle. While lenders may require this type of coverage if you finance your car, it’s optional insurance for others. This means not everyone has it.
The additional policy premium you pay for adding comprehensive coverage depends on the deductible you choose, your car’s value, where you live, and other factors. For example, Progressive customers pay an average of $23 a month for comprehensive coverage. But you might pay a higher premium for a lower deductible and/or if you have an expensive car.
Alternatives to Comprehensive Coverage
Comprehensive coverage is the only insurance plan that covers flood damage to your vehicle. Your home flood insurance policy doesn’t cover your vehicles. If you decide not to add comprehensive coverage to your policy, you’ll be responsible for any repair or car replacement costs that the flood causes.
Some people may choose to forego comprehensive insurance if they have the money to repair or replace a damaged car. Then if a flood occurs, they’d cover the costs without insurance.
Comprehensive and collision coverage both protect your vehicle, but under different circumstances. Collision insurance covers damage when your car collides with other vehicles or objects. Comprehensive covers flood, theft, hail, and other damage (events that can happen when you’re not driving).
If the flood damage occurs during a declared emergency, FEMA might help through its Other Needs Assistance (ONA) under its Individuals and Households Program (IHP). However, there are restrictions on this program, and not everyone who applies gets approved. FEMA isn’t an insurance replacement, so make sure you have the coverage you need to protect your vehicle from flooding.
How Do I File a Claim on a Flooded Vehicle?
If your car is damaged in a flood, you’ll want to file a claim immediately with your insurer. During this process, you may be asked to provide additional information about the incident to your insurance company. To prepare for this, take photos of your car and the flood damage you see.
Comprehensive insurance won’t cover all types of water damage. Insurers will likely deny your claim if your car has damage because you left your window down during a rainstorm or because of a slow leak that never got fixed.
If you want to add comprehensive coverage to your policy so that you’re protected from flood damage, do it before a storm watch is issued. Many states prohibit you from making changes to your plan during an active storm watch.
Inspect the Damage
After you file a claim, your insurer assigns an insurance claims adjuster to see how much damage the water did to your car. As a part of this process, the adjuster looks for signs of water in your engine and checks for corrosion. This helps them tell if a mechanic can repair your car or if it’s a total loss.
More insurance companies are opting to use virtual claim adjusters instead of sending someone to inspect the damage in person. For instance, Allstate offers Virtual Assist to allow policyholders to start a video call. Then, an agent walks you through what they need to see to determine the damage.
No matter which adjustment method is used, insurers will let you know what to expect once they reach a decision. During this process, ask questions to make sure you understand the decision.
If you disagree with the decision the insurer makes, start by discussing it with your agent and ask if the insurer has a process to appeal the decision (it may not). Review your policy to confirm your coverage. If you still feel your claim was wrongly denied, file a complaint with your state’s department of insurance. You may need to seek legal counsel if you want to dispute the decision further.
Take Care of Repairs or Start Looking for a Replacement
If your vehicle isn’t totaled, repairs can begin as soon as the insurance company approves them. Your insurance company will reduce the amount they pay for covered repairs by the amount of your deductible.
But flood damage often totals vehicles. If your vehicle is a total loss, your insurance company pays you the car’s fair market value, less your deductible. You can use this money to purchase a different vehicle if you choose.
How Do You Get Insurance for a Flooded Car?
If you’re going to continue driving your car after it's been flooded or you’re considering buying a car with flood damage, you’ll need insurance on it. But getting coverage for a flood-damaged vehicle isn't always easy.
In some states, your car is given a flood title if damage to the car was caused by water deep enough to fill the engine compartment. But some cars that have flood damage may have a more generic “salvage” title. It’s even possible, in some cases, that a car with flood damage could be ultimately issued a clean title.
Not every insurance company provides coverage to vehicles that have been damaged by flooding. Check with your insurer to see if they insure salvage cars or flood-damaged cars. If you’re considering purchasing a used vehicle that may have been flooded, provide your insurance agent with the VIN so they can check your coverage options.
Not every vehicle with flood damage is totaled. If the flooding incident resulted in minor repairs, you can file a claim, pay your deductible, and get it repaired. However, filing a comprehensive claim may raise your rates.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do I tell if a car has flood damage?
If you suspect flood damage, always review the car’s history. Also, check for unusual musty odors, stains on the carpeting, a rusty undercarriage, and mud behind wire harnesses.
What’s the most effective way to prevent flood-related damage?
If there are flood warnings in your area, park on higher ground if possible. If your car does get flooded, let it dry before you try to start it. While waiting, remove as much as you can from the inside of the vehicle to allow the vehicle to dry more quickly (seats, and center console, for example). If you have a wet/dry vacuum, use it to remove water from all absorbent surfaces.
How much does FEMA pay for flood damage?
FEMA’s monetary benefits vary based on each individual’s needs and the amount of money available for the disaster. FEMA payments aren’t a substitute for flood insurance.