Q

Does car insurance cover flood damage?

A

Your car insurance policy covers flood damage if you have comprehensive coverage. Depending on the damage, you'll be paid for repair costs or the value of your totaled vehicle.

Zack Sigel

Zack Sigel

Published September 10, 2018

When you purchase car insurance, you’re getting protection from the financial liability you incur when you hit someone with your car and cause bodily injury or property damage. If you also want coverage for flood damage, you need to purchase comprehensive coverage.

Comprehensive coverage is a type of car insurance within your overall car insurance policy. It’s also optional unless you lease your car or purchased it within an auto loan. Comp can be expensive, but it protects your car from damage or loss caused by something other than a collision, such as vandalism, falling objects, theft, or the elements.

Flood damage is included in your comp coverage, with some caveats. Unlike renters insurance or homeowners insurance, you don’t need to buy additional flood coverage if you already purchased comprehensive insurance for your auto policy.

Read on to learn more about how to get protection from flooding for your car:

How does car insurance cover flood damage?

Your basic auto insurance policy doesn’t include protection for damage to the structure of your car. If someone hits you, his or her car insurance will pay for damage to the car under the policy’s property damage liability coverage.

To get coverage for flood damage, you need to have a policy with comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive car insurance coverage complements collision coverage and pays for damages from instances that aren’t collision. That includes things like flooding.

Your property damage coverage is equal to the value of the car. That means you pay more for coverage for a high-value car than for a lower-value car, but you can save on your premiums if you choose a higher deductible.

Any car insurance company, like Geico or Progressive, will be able to provide coverage for flooding. To make sure you’re getting the right amount of flood damage coverage, talk to a licensed representative at Policygenius. He or she can help you choose a policy with the protection you need at a rate that fits your budget.

Note that your comprehensive coverage only covers the structure to the car, not so much any items you keep inside of it. However, depending on the insurer, you may receive a small amount of coverage for personal effects inside the car that are destroyed by a flood (as well as a handful of other covered perils).

How much each insurer offers in coverage will vary, but it’s generally around $200. Additionally, some insurers use a narrow definition of “personal effects” that limits coverage to certain items, like clothing and luggage.

Gap insurance

Gap insurance pays for all or part of the difference between what you still owe on a lease or auto loan and how much you recovered from the car insurance company after a total loss. That’s because most car insurers determine the value of a car by factoring in depreciation – the actual cash value of the car.

If you’re figuratively underwater in addition to being literally underwater, you owe more to the lienholder or creditor than the insurer pays out under your basic comprehensive coverage. To make sure you’re not still paying for a car destroyed in a flood, you need gap insurance.

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Can a flood-damaged car be repaired?

When a flood causes damage to the car, you file a claim for the amount of the damage caused, whether that means the total loss of your car or only partial damage to the car. Whether or not your car can be repaired will have an insurance implications.

Your car may be considered totaled if it repairs are so extensive that it would cost more to repair than the vehicle is worth. Insurers divide the actual cash value of the vehicle by the repair costs to come up with a total loss ratio. If the loss ratio exceeds guidelines set by the insurer or the state,

Salt water can be especially damaging to cars, as can particularly deep water, but just because a car was flooded doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed. If it can be dried out quickly, it may be salvageable.

If your vehicle is repairable, you’ll receive a payout from the car insurance company to pay for the damage, minus your deductible. If the car is totaled, you’ll be paid the actual cash value of the vehicle, minus your deductible.

Exclusions for flood damage

While damage caused by flood to your vehicle’s structure is usually covered, some types of flood loss are excluded.

Negligence

If your car flooded because you left its windows or sunroof open, then you may not be eligible for reimbursement from your insurer. Likewise if you failed to make reasonable repairs that let water in.

Damage to driver-installed electronics

Certain types of electronic equipment installed in your car may not be eligible for coverage unless they were installed by the manufacturer of the car. These include:

  • Radios, stereos, tape decks, CD players
  • Scanners, two-way mobile radios, citizen-band radios
  • TVs, video game systems, computers, systems for accessing the internet
  • GPS devices or other navigation systems
  • Car phones

However, your home insurance could cover those items under its property damage provisions, regardless of whether you rent your home or own it outright.

What to do after flood damage

If your car is damaged by a flood, you need to take action: dry out the interior, look under the hood for any water, and use the oil dipstick to check for excess moisture. If water got into the fuel tank, you may need to empty it. You may need to get your oil and transmission fluid changed.

Flood damage can affect everything in your car, and what needs fixing isn't obvious, especially to the untrained eye.

Don’t start the car until you’re sure that no water remains in the engine, because that water could cause even more damage. If the floodwaters reached the top of the tires, it’s possible that your car is completely inoperable and needs to be towed to a mechanic.

After preserving what you can of the car, file your claim. In the meantime, document any damage for use when dealing with the insurance company. The insurer will use state guidelines and its own procedures to determine what it owes you for the loss.

Other types of water damage covered by car insurance

Water damage in general is covered by your car insurance, whether it’s a deluge or a leak (as long as you took the necessary precautions).

Hurricanes

Because windstorms are covered, your property damage coverage also protects you from hurricanes; however, car insurers typically don’t let you add property coverage if there’s a hurricane imminent, so be sure to add this protection in advance if you live in a hurricane-prone area.

Hurricanes tend to bring lots of saltwater onto land. Saltwater can be especially corrosive to your car’s internals, so be sure to let the insurer know if you think the floodwater had a high salt content. The car might be a total loss.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.