Does Car Insurance Cover Water and Flood Damage?

Water damage can devastate your car. But does your insurer cover it? We'll tell you which types of water damage your car insurance will cover.
Car submerged in flood water

Water damage is expensive and can render your car undrivable. The damages could also make it a total loss. It can happen randomly, especially if you live in an area that has frequent floods. Fortunately, your auto insurance might be able to help cover the costs. Comprehensive coverage protects you from random events like floods and natural disasters.

Your comprehensive coverage won’t always come in to save the day, though. If the damage is your fault, your provider won’t pay for repairs. Insurers and attorneys refer to this as negligence on your part. This isn’t always the case. But if it is, your insurance can’t help you.

This article will break down the different kinds of water damage-causing events, and which ones your insurance will cover. You’ll also learn about what to do if the water causes your vehicle to be declared a total loss. Finally, we’ll explain how to file a claim following a flood.

When Your Insurance Will Cover Water Damage

When vehicles have water damage, floods are probably the first thing to pop into your head. But there are plenty of ways moisture can get into and wreck your car. Your comprehensive coverage should be able to handle most causes. If you have a full coverage policy, then you also have comprehensive. Liability and collision will not step in to pay for any water damage. Below are some of the most common causes of water damage that insurance covers:

  • Floods. This is, of course, the main reason water gets into vehicles. Hurricanes and intense rain can cause urban flooding and rising water levels on the road. Floods can ruin vehicle interiors and engines.
  • Leaks. Heavy rain can cause leaks to occur. This can cause serious problems to vehicle interiors.
  • Hailstorms. Hailstorms can shatter your windshield, causing rain to flood your car. Your comprehensive coverage can help cover the expenses from hail.
  • Vandalism. If a vandal broke your windows, causing water damage, your comprehensive should cover this. Comprehensive would cover both your windows and the flood damage. Keep in mind that you may have to file two claims – one for the water damage and the other for the windows.

The similarity between all of the above is that they aren’t your fault. Comprehensive will generally protect you from damage that you didn’t cause.

What Your Insurance Won’t Cover

There are some occasions when auto insurance won’t cover water damage. This is mainly where you’re at fault. Here are the common situations where you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket:

  • You left the windows open
  • You accidentally drove into a body of water
  • Poor car maintenance. For example, not addressing broken windshields or windows, resulting in water leaks

What Happens If Your Car Is a Total Loss

Flood and water damage can often be so severe that it will total your car. A total loss means that the repairs will cost more than what your car is worth. It’s common for floods to cause water to get into your engine and cause irreparable damage.

Water can also spread to your vehicle’s interior and ruin it. This is especially common in newer cars, where high-tech electronics are susceptible to damage. It’s best to prepare yourself for your car being a total loss if it’s been submerged.

What to Do If Water Damage Totals Your Car

This is a tough situation to be in. You only have a few options:

  • Keep the car. You can always spend the money and repair your car back to drivable status. You’ll need to get a rebuilt title to legally drive it again. Repairs could cost a lot and your premium will likely be more expensive.
  • Get a new car. This is probably the path that most people will take. If your car is a total loss, it might be best to just cut your losses and buy a new car.

After a total loss declaration, you’ll receive a payout equal to the actual cash value (ACV) of your car.  

Something else to keep in mind is that you might still have a loan on your totaled car. You’re still responsible for paying this off. Gap insurance will help you in this case. It will pay the gap between the car’s ACV and the balance of your loan.

How to File a Claim

If your car has water damage, you’ll want to file a claim with your provider. Filing a claim is fairly simple. Here are some tips you should consider if you go to report a claim:

  • Be sure to document any property damage if you can. The best way to do this is with photos and videos so that your insurer can see everything
  • Get the contact information of your insurance adjuster. This way you can ask questions, such as for an estimate of your payout
  • Understand that factors like vehicle make and model, age, mileage, damage extent, and type will affect how much you’ll receive in a payout
  • Try to assess the extent of water damage. If the damage is less than your deductible it doesn’t make a lot of sense to file a claim. Minor damage is best paid for out-of-pocket without involving your insurer.

Be sure to speak with your agent if you have any questions about filing a claim. They’ll help you make sure you’re doing everything correctly. This way you’ll receive the correct payout.

Other Helpful Types of Insurance for Floods

Comprehensive coverage will cover damages after a flood or leak. But there are other types of insurance that you might want to protect your vehicle in a flood. Here are a couple of coverage types that you should consider adding so that you don’t have to worry about flooding:

Rental Car Coverage

You’ll want to think about buying rental car insurance if you’re renting a vehicle. This covers damages to your rental car. Floods and other random destructive events can happen unexpectedly, so this type of coverage is a good idea.

Your policy may also include coverage for rental cars. Before buying rental insurance, make sure to check with your provider to see if your policy carries over to rental cars.

Roadside Assistance

This type of coverage is helpful if you find yourself stuck in a flood or are unable to drive. It’ll cover the expenses if you need roadside assistance or towing service. If you don’t have this and you’re stuck on the side of the road, you’ll end up paying for the service in full.

Roadside and towing services could cost hundreds of dollars. The cost will depend on what kind of service you need. Ask your agent or get a quote to find out how much adding this coverage costs.

Will a Water Damage Claim Raise Your Rates?

This is a common question that people ask before they file a claim. The answer is simple: it depends. You shouldn’t expect your rates to rise much or even at all after filing one comprehensive claim. It wasn’t your fault, after all.

You should expect your rates to go up if you have a track record of claims. It’s a good idea to speak with your provider or agent to find out if filing a claim will affect your rates.

Is It Worth It to File a Claim?

Flood and water damage will typically cost way more to repair out of pocket than something like your windshield. It may not be a good option to pay for the repairs yourself. This is especially true if your car is a total loss. Filing a claim will get you a payout and cover repair costs. With water damage, it’s generally worth it to file a claim.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Does insurance cover damage to my car from a flood?

A: Yes, it does. Your comprehensive coverage will pay for expenses after a flood. However, comprehensive won’t cover damage to your car that’s your fault. For example, driving into a flood zone that your city has warned drivers about could result in your insurer not paying out your claim. Driving into a body of water you could’ve avoided is your fault.

Q: Does flood damage total a car?

A: Flood damage can total a car. Water can get into your car’s engine or interior. If it does, all of the technology that goes into modern vehicles could be ruined. If so, that’s enough reason to total it.

Don’t worry, insurance still covers cars that are declared a total loss. You would receive a cash payout that’s equal to the car’s actual cash value. Then it’ll be up to you to pay off any loans (if you have them) and decide whether or not you want to keep the car. Cars with flood or water damage are often difficult to repair back to roadworthy status because of how significant the damage can be.

Q: Will my insurance cover water damage from leaving the window open?

A: Unfortunately, your policy won’t cover any damages that were your fault. Leaving the window open falls under this category. In this case, you’ll have to pay for the repairs in full.

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