Floodwaters wreak havoc on vehicles. As water seeps into the car, mold and mildew can develop. Water can corrode wires and cause even more electrical problems. And once a car 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 comes out of your pocket.
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 ready.
- 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 an insurance replacement.
- File a flood-related claim as soon as possible once the 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 car. While lenders may require this type of coverage if you finance your car, others might consider it optional. This means not all drivers have it.
The extra policy premium you pay for adding comprehensive coverage depends on the deductible you choose and your car’s value. Other factors such as where you live and who your provider is can affect your coverage and payments. For example, Progressive customers pay an average of $23 a month for comprehensive coverage and have a $500 deductible.
Alternatives to Comprehensive Coverage
Comprehensive coverage is the only type that covers flood damage to your car. Your home flood policy doesn’t cover your autos, even if they're parked in your garage. 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 on their own.
If the flood damage occurs during a declared emergency, FEMA might help through Other Needs Assistance (ONA), part of its Individuals and Households Program (IHP). There are constraints on this program, and not everyone who applies is chosen. FEMA isn’t an insurance replacement, so make sure you have what 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 right away with your agent. During this process, you may be asked to provide extra information about the event to your provider. 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 can deny your claim if your car has damage because you left your window down during a rainstorm or because there was a slow leak that never got fixed.
If you want to add comprehensive coverage to your policy, make sure you do it before any storm watch or weather warnings are 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 a 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 your car can be repaired or if it’s a total loss.
More companies are choosing to use virtual claim adjusters instead of sending someone to inspect the damage in person. For instance, Allstate offers a Virtual Assist to allow you to start a video call. Then, an agent walks you through what they need to see to figure out the amount of 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, start by discussing it with your agent. Ask if the insurer has an appeals process (it may not). Next, 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 they are approved. Your insurance 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 keep driving your car after it's been flooded, or you’re thinking about buying a car with flood damage, you’ll have to insure it. But finding a company that will insure a car with flood damage 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. Some cars that have flood damage may have a more generic “salvage” title. In some cases, a car with flood damage could be issued a clean title after repairs.
Not every company will insure cars that have been flooded. Check with your provider to see if they insure salvage cars or cars with flood damage. 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 car 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. Be aware that filing a comprehensive claim may raise your rates.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Tell if a Car Has Flood Damage?
If you suspect flood damage, review the car’s history. Also, check for musty odors, stains on the carpet, a rusty undercarriage, or 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 federal money that can be used for the disaster. It's important to know that it is best to be insured and not count on the government to help you. FEMA payments shouldn't be viewed as a replacement for flood insurance because there is no guarantee that the money will be there.