Does your car insurance cover hurricane damage?

John Egan

When a storm like Hurricane Sandy comes bearing down on you, your first thoughts probably gravitate toward protecting your home or apartment. But what about your car? Does your car insurance policy cover hurricane damage?

The answer: Yes, but only if your policy includes comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage is optional, but most auto lenders require it. Aside from natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes, the comprehensive part of your car insurance covers:

  • Broken or shattered windows and windshields.
  • Damage from animals like deer.
  • Damage from falling objects, including trees.

Here are some tips to protect your car – and yourself – if you’ve got to get out of the path of a hurricane:

  • Park your car in a garage or under a carport, or park it on higher ground in case of flooding.
  • If you’ve got to leave your car outside, park as close to a building as possible. Move your car away from trees or poles that may fall onto it. Make sure the car’s windows and sunroof are closed tightly.
  • Replace old garage doors and tracks with a system approved for both wind pressure and impact protection.
  • Make sure you fill your car’s gas tank.
  • Install new windshield wipers, or at least freshen the existing ones by wiping with a paper towel that’s moistened with window cleaner.
  • Check the pressure of your tire’s cars, including the spare tire.
  • Before the hurricane hits, snap a few pictures of your car in case you need to prove damage was caused by the storm.
  • Use a hurricane planning guide/map or listen to the radio to pinpoint your evacuation route.
  • Place your car insurance documents, vehicle registration, vehicle title and other important documents in a waterproof bag and keep them with you.
  • Take along a flashlight and extra batteries, a first aid kit, cash, credit cards, snacks and other food. You may end up camping out in your car for a day or more.
  • Never drive over a downed power line.
  • Avoid flooded streets. Underlying currents could sweep your car away and your car could stall, trapping you in rising floodwaters. Inland flooding causes more than half of all hurricane deaths; of those, one-fourth of the victims drowned in cars.
  • If you’re forced to evacuate in your car, don’t speed, especially if rain is falling. The faster you drive, the greater the risk of hydroplaning (when water causes a car’s tires to lift off the road surface).
  • If you and your car become trapped in rising water, immediately abandon it for higher ground. If you aren’t able to safely escape the car, start the car and drive it out. If the car won’t start, call 911.
  • If a hurricane damages your car, don’t put off calling your insurance company. The sooner you call, the sooner you can file a claim and get the damage fixed.

Sources: Allstate, Consumer Reports, Insurance Information Institute, Progressive

 

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