Does car insurance cover lightning strikes?

When lightning strikes your car, the damage is covered under your auto insurance policy as long as you have comprehensive coverage.

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Andrew HurstAndrew HurstSenior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance ExpertAndrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.&Rachael BrennanRachael BrennanSenior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance ExpertRachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

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Anna SwartzAnna SwartzSenior Managing Editor & Auto Insurance ExpertAnna Swartz is a senior managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

Updated|3 min read

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Your car insurance will cover any damage that’s caused by a lightning strike, as long as you have comprehensive coverage as part of your policy. And your insurance covers your car whether you were driving or if your car was parked when the lightning hit.

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If you don’t have comprehensive coverage, your policy won’t cover the damage that’s caused by a lightning strike. In this case, you’d be left to pay for the damage to your car — and even replace your entire vehicle if the lightning strike totals the car.

Key takeaways

  • Your comprehensive insurance would cover the damage from a lightning strike, whether it happens while the vehicle is parked or being driven.

  • You might be covered from lightning strikes and not know it, since you have to get comprehensive insurance if you finance or lease your car.

  • Lightning strikes can blow your tires, fry your car’s wiring, or injure you or a passenger.

  • If you are driving through a lightning storm, you should pull over to the side of the road and try to wait the storm out for as long as possible.

When does car insurance cover lightning strikes?

Your comprehensive insurance covers damage from lightning strikes as long as you added it to your policy before the lightning strike. Comprehensive coverage is the part of a car insurance policy that pays to repair or replace your car if it is damaged by something that’s not a collision, like a falling tree branch, animals, or lightning and other weather-related events.

Most drivers who get comprehensive insurance add it to their policies along with collision coverage. No states mandate that you get comprehensive and collision coverage (called full-coverage insurance when purchased together), but your lender or leasing company will probably require it.

If you don’t have comprehensive insurance, you’d be stuck paying out of pocket for any damage caused by lightning. Given how serious the damage that lightning can cause is, this could cost hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars to fix.

How do you file a claim for lightning strikes?

The insurance claims process after a lightning strike is the same as it is for other comprehensive claims. If you want to file a claim after lightning strikes your car, you must:

  1. Contact your insurance company: You’ll be required to let your insurance company know about your car’s damage as soon as possible after the lightning strike.

  2. Share any information about the event: This includes your location when the strike happened, your car’s damage (as far as you can tell), and any details about the scene that you can. Take photos and videos of the car, too.

  3. Ask about your coverage: Make sure you know that you can make a claim. It’s a good time to ask your insurance company whether you’re covered for lightning strikes, along with your policy’s deductible — which you have to pay before receiving coverage.

  4. Decide to make a claim: Even if you can make a claim, you might decide to pay out of pocket if the damage won’t cost much to repair. If lightning seriously damaged your car, it’s better to go forward with the claim.

  5. Stay on top of the claim: When you make a claim, you want to be sure to stay on top of the process to give it the best possible chance of success. That includes providing on-time information to the claims adjuster working the case, and staying in touch with any third parties involved, like a repair shop.

  6. Get your car repaired: When your claim has been approved, make sure you know whether your insurer will send the money to a repair shop or to you directly. If you’re not happy with the judgment, you can go through your company’s claims dispute process and try for a different settlement.

→ Read more about how filing comprehensive claims works

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When are lightning strikes not covered by car insurance?

Your car insurance won’t cover a lightning strike if you don’t have comprehensive coverage as part of your car insurance policy.

The other parts of your car insurance that you’re required to get by your state — like your liability insurance — only covers the damage that you do to other drivers, not damage to your own car.

Even though no states require drivers to have comprehensive car insurance, there’s still a good chance that you’d be covered from lightning strikes. That’s because lending leasing companies usually make drivers get full coverage to protect their (the company’s) stake in the car.

That said, if you own your car outright and don’t carry any physical damage coverage, your insurance won't cover lightning strikes. Even if you added more liability insurance than your state requires, you would be stuck paying for the damage after a lightning strike yourself if you don’t have comprehensive coverage.

What happens if lightning strikes a car?

Unfortunately, your car will almost certainly be damaged if it’s struck by lightning. The damage that lightning does to your car can range from minimal to severe — lightning can even total a car.

The popular belief that a car’s rubber tires protect the car from damage isn’t true. Instead, when lightning strikes a car, the charge travels around the car’s metallic outside. As it travels through the vehicle, the lightning can damage any vulnerable parts of the car it meets.

The electrical current from a lightning strike can melt your car’s antenna, destroy parts of your car’s electrical system, and can even damage your windows. The amount of damage your car takes after it’s struck by lightning can depend on chance, but it’s very possible the vehicle will become impossible to use.

What to do when driving through lightning

If you are driving and there is a lightning storm, there are a few safety precautions you can take to help keep yourself safe and avoid costly damage to your vehicle.

  • Pull off to the side of the road

  • Turn on your emergency or hazard lights

  • Turn your car off

  • Secure your doors and windows

  • Wait for the storm to pass

If lightning strikes your car, you should not stay in the open. It’s a good idea to leave your car and seek coverage by finding somewhere indoors that’s close by, like a restaurant or shop.

If you’re not able to find shelter, the Centers for Disease Control recommends staying low to the ground to lower your chances of getting struck. Avoid sheltering under things that can attract more lightning strikes, like rocks or trees. You should also avoid bodies of water.

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Frequently asked questions

How do you prove car insurance damage from lightning?

There are several ways to prove your car was damaged by lightning, including photos, videos, and having your mechanic give you something in writing explaining why the damage to your car was most likely caused by a lightning strike.

How can I tell if my car was struck by lightning?

A car that has been struck by lightning may have obvious damage, like scorch marks, peeled paint, and shattered windows. Other damage isn’t so obvious, like electrical problems, or the car not starting properly. If you think it is possible your car may have been struck by lightning you should have it looked at by a mechanic right away.

Can you survive a lightning strike in a car?

According to the National Weather Service, cars with metal frames and hardtop roofs can keep you safe from a lightning strike (as long as you aren’t leaning on the frame of the car) but convertibles and vehicles with fiberglass frames offer no protection from lightning.

Authors

Andrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

Rachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

Editor

Anna Swartz is a senior managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

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