Why Comprehensive Coverage Is Necessary For Your Car in Case of a Flood

Flood insurance is part of comprehensive coverage on a standard auto policy.

Car driving through flood
••• Krashkraft Vincent/ Moment/ Getty Images

If a catastrophic flood damages or destroys your vehicle, it’s important to know what kind of auto insurance coverage you have. It might surprise you to know that auto insurance does cover flood damage to cars—as long as you have selected comprehensive coverage on your car insurance policy. It is the only way to get your insurance company to pay for the repairs or a total loss due to flood damage. Comprehensive coverage can be crucial if you live in a high-risk flood zone.

Protect Your Vehicle With Comprehensive Coverage

Comprehensive coverage is an election. It's not automatically a part of an auto insurance policy, and it is not part of the minimum coverage options required in any state. It covers you if your vehicle is stolen, if a tree falls on it, or if it's flooded in a storm. 

Comprehensive coverage is for damages that occur from something other than a vehicular accident. You're most likely required to carry both comprehensive and collision coverage if you're financing your vehicle because it acts as collateral for your loan. 

A lender can repossess your vehicle if you default on the loan. They want to make sure your vehicle will be in working order when and if that occurs, so you're required to carry coverage for physical damage as a precaution.

Paying a Deductible

Most car insurance policies come with a deductible on comprehensive coverage. The deductible is the amount you are responsible to pay when the damage has occurred. The deductible was determined by you when the vehicle was added to the car insurance policy. The higher your deductible the lower your cost of insurance.

It is common to see a lower deductible on comprehensive coverage such as $100. Check your declarations page to find your deductible or ask your insurance agent.

Purchasing Restrictions During a Hurricane

Insurance companies typically restrict the purchase of comprehensive coverage if a hurricane is on the way and your vehicle is located in an area that's in the hurricane’s path. Insurance companies are within their rights to freeze coverage prior to tropical-storm-force winds striking when reported by the National Hurricane Center.

This restriction prevents fraudulent claims by people who want to pay for the coverage for just a few days in the event of emergency versus always carrying it just in case. Claims cannot be filed until damage has occurred so no getting ahead of yourself or the storm.

After the Damage

Time is of the essence when you're reporting a flood damage claim. Contact your insurance company directly as soon as possible if your insurance agent’s office is not available. You want to be first in line to get your claim processed, especially in a catastrophic situation. Ask the claim representative what to do next. Depending on the extent of the flood damage it is usually recommended not to start the car and have it towed to a repair shop.

Dry the vehicle as soon as possible. The sooner you accomplish this, the better your chances become of avoiding a total loss situation. Begin soaking up the water with towels, use a shop vac, and use high-powered fans from a distance along with a dehumidifier if possible. Contact the repair shop and find out if there is anything else you can do to help the process along.

Use your insurance carrier’s preferred body shop to make the process faster. One of the major problems with a flood-damaged vehicle is the potential for future problems. Using your insurance carrier’s preferred shop usually guarantees the work and may not require a claims adjuster to look at the damage. Often the preferred shop can handle the claim which saves a lot of time in the insurance claim process. Using your own repair guy or an alternate shop is a possibility, but it is up to you to verify what guarantee is offered and it could take longer waiting on a claim representative.

Check your policy for rental car coverage. Your policy might provide coverage for a rental car while your vehicle is being repaired. Call your car insurance agent for details if you cannot locate your policy.

Comprehensive Coverage on Older Cars 

Older vehicles can make it more difficult to decide if comprehensive coverage is of value to pay for on your car insurance. Technically, you can drop comprehensive coverage as soon as your last car payment clears the bank and you take title to the vehicle. The reason one would want to remove coverage is to save money on car insurance.

If you believe your vehicle is at risk for flood damage and it still holds value, you will want to carry a low deductible and continue with comprehensive coverage. If you are able to adequately protect your vehicle by parking it out of harm's way in case of an emergency, then you are less likely to need the coverage and pay the premiums.

Protect Your Property to Save Time and Money 

Do what you can in advance to protect your vehicle against flood damage. Identify the risk level for a potential flood in your area and weigh the value of your vehicle against the cost of comprehensive coverage. Speak with your insurance agent to determine the best coverage for you and your family.

Of course, even if you have comprehensive coverage, you should take appropriate precautions to protect your vehicle so you can avoid the costly, time consuming, and draining process of filing a claim and fighting for the work to be completed. Parking your vehicle inside or in an elevated area with good drainage can help you avoid most flood damage.