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Floods can occur in any part of the U.S., including the Midwest, Southeast, Northeast, and Pacific Northwest. Therefore, it’s no surprise they’re one of the most common natural disasters in the country. So, what happens if your vehicle sustains damage in a flood? Will your car insurance policy cover it?

Your auto insurance policy will only pay for flood-related vehicle damage if you have comprehensive coverage. If you’re in the market for comprehensive auto insurance, check out this free car insurance quote comparison tool. You’ll receive personalized car insurance quotes in minutes so you can choose the ideal car insurance for your unique budget and needs.

Quick Facts

  • If you have comprehensive car insurance, your vehicle will be protected from floods.

  • You’ll be responsible for flood-related vehicle repairs if you don’t have it.

  • While FEMA may help you with flood damage to your car, it doesn’t replace insurance.

What type of damage can flooding cause?

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Floodwater can take a serious toll on your car. As water seeps into it, mold and mildew might form. Even worse, water may corrode the wires and lead to a variety of issues, such as foggy lights, airbag failure, transmission failure, and warped brakes. Your car’s computer might also malfunction.

Once your vehicle gets submerged in water, there’s a good chance you’ll never be able to drive it again. Keep in mind that flood damage often isn’t initially apparent. It may take months or even years for rust, corrosion, mold, and other issues to make their debut.

When Car Insurance Covers Flooding

To receive coverage for flood damage, you must have a comprehensive car insurance policy. Comprehensive insurance is an optional plan that protects your vehicle from other damages that liability coverage won’t pay for.

While liability insurance covers damage you cause to other drivers and vehicles, a comprehensive policy will cover costs in the case of theft, vandalism, animal damage, hail, lightning, water damage, and flood damage.

Even though comprehensive coverage isn’t required, it’s highly recommended if your car is under 10 years old and/or valued at $3,000 or more. After you pay your deductible, comprehensive insurance will cover repair costs or reimburse you for the actual cash value of your car if it’s deemed a total loss.

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What if I don’t have comprehensive coverage?

The harsh reality is that if you don’t have comprehensive car insurance and your vehicle faces flood damage, you’re out of luck. A basic liability plan is only designed to protect you against damage you cause to other drivers and vehicles, not your own car.

Also, if you have a homeowners policy or renters policy, don’t expect them to cover car flood damage. Even if you have flood insurance, it won’t protect your car. A flood insurance policy will only pay for personal belongings that were destroyed as a result of the flood, not the vehicle itself.

If you’re worried about flood damage to your car, it’s in your best interest to invest in comprehensive coverage. If your vehicle does sustain damage after a flood and you don’t have this type of insurance, you’ll have to cover the repair costs out of pocket.

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How to File a Car Insurance Claim After a Flood

The claims process for a flood damage claim is similar to that of any other type of claim. Depending on your car insurance company, you can fill out a claim form online or call their claims department and go through the process via phone.

Make sure you file a claim as soon as you notice the damage. The longer you wait, the more damage your vehicle may face. Also, if there was a major flood in your area, it’s highly likely that other drivers are filing claims as well.

Since claims are usually handled on a first-come, first-served basis, the sooner you file yours, the more likely that it will get processed quickly. While you wait for your auto insurance company to handle your claim, take photos and videos of your vehicle from various angles to document the flood damage.

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Ways to Minimize Flood Damage to Your Car

Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to reduce the extent of the flood damage once your vehicle has already sustained it. First and foremost, don’t start your car. Then, ask a qualified mechanic whether the oil, transmission fluid, or lube requires draining.

It’s also wise to request a towing service so they can move your vehicle to higher ground to prevent rust and protect its undercarriage. To remove the remaining water that has pooled in your car, use a vacuum or mop. You should also remove your seats and cushions. In addition, use fans and dehumidifiers to help dry out your vehicle as much as you can.

Can flood damage always be repaired?

When a flood damages your car, you may file a claim for the damage amount and collect a payout. If the flood damage is extensive, the repairs may cost more than the car’s value. In this case your car may get totaled, and you’ll receive the actual cash value of your car minus your deductible. This is likely if your car doesn’t get dried out in time.

Since flood damage isn’t always repairable, gap coverage may make sense, especially if you live in an area prone to floods. If your vehicle is deemed a total loss due to a flood and you owe more than it’s worth, it will help pay the difference.

Be Cautious of Flooded Cars

You may be surprised to learn that it’s common for flood-damaged cars to enter the market. If an auto insurance company decides to total a vehicle after a flood damage claim, it will have a salvage title. A salvage title means that nobody will be able to legally drive the car until it gets repaired, passes a rigorous inspection, and gets retitled.

Salvage title cars are often sold at auctions to junkyards for parts or to dealers who plan to rebuild them. However, they may also be sold to private buyers. Since many states are lenient about salvage title cars, you may end up with a flood-damaged car that has been retitled over several sales.

Since the car will likely be fixed up and the damage won’t be disclosed, you probably won’t know it was in a flood. The good news is there are telltale signs that show a vehicle has been flooded.

If you notice a musty odor, damp carpets, and rust around the doors and pedals, it’s highly likely you have a flooded car in front of you. Before you buy any vehicle, check its vehicle history report and ensure it’s been free of flood damage and other issues.

Protect Your Car from Flood Damage

Ideally, you’d be proactive and take steps to protect your vehicle so that it doesn’t sustain any flood damage in the first place. To do so, you might want to download a weather app like the Weather Channel, Carrot Weather, or Dark Sky. This way, you can receive early flood warnings and real-time updates when a flood does hit.

Once you find out your area is under a flood warning or watch, move your car right away. You may want to relocate it to the upper floor of a parking garage near your home or anywhere else with a higher elevation that’s less susceptible to flooding.

Also, make sure you have the right car insurance if you’re worried about flood damage to your vehicle, compare quotes today on Insurify.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • If the flood damage in your vehicle occurs during a declared emergency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can be helpful. The Other Needs Assistance (ONA), part of its Individuals and Households Program (IHP), may offer financial assistance. However, you must meet certain requirements to qualify, and it’s not a replacement for comprehensive insurance.

  • Yes, it can be a challenge to repair a flood-damaged car. This is especially true if it was exposed to water for a long period of time. For this reason, insurance companies often declare vehicles with flood damage totaled. The sooner a vehicle receives repairs from a reputable, qualified body shop, the more likely the repairs will be successful.

  • Unfortunately, liability car insurance, which is the minimum requirement in most states, won’t cover flood damage. It’s designed to pay for injuries and property damage if you’re liable for an accident. You will need to invest in comprehensive auto coverage to protect your vehicle from flooding.

  • Even if you have comprehensive car insurance, there may be some exclusions for flood damage. If your vehicle flooded because you left its windows, doors, or sunroof open, for example, you won’t be reimbursed by your insurance company. Also, some types of electronic equipment that you installed in your vehicle may not be covered.

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  • Data scientists at Insurify analyzed more than 40 million real-time auto insurance rates from our partner providers across the United States to compile the car insurance quotes, statistics, and data visualizations displayed on this page. The car insurance data includes coverage analysis and details on drivers' vehicles, driving records, and demographic information. Quotes for Allstate, Farmers, GEICO, State Farm, and USAA are estimates based on Quadrant Information Service's database of auto insurance rates. With these insights, Insurify is able to offer drivers insight into how companies price their car insurance premiums.

Anna Baluch
Anna BaluchInsurance Writer

Anna Baluch is a Cleveland-based personal finance and insurance expert. With an MBA from Roosevelt University, she enjoys writing educational content that helps people make smart financial decisions. Her work can be seen across the internet on many publications, including Freedom Debt Relief, Credit Karma, RateGenius, and the Balance. Connect with Anna on LinkedIn.