Turn Around, Don't Drown: Insurance Options for When You Use Your Car As A Boat

What happens when your car gets water damage?  Does your car insurance cover that?  Better yet, how do you prevent the damage from happening in the first place?

What happens when your car gets water damage?  Does your car insurance cover that?  Better yet, how do you prevent the damage from happening in the first place?

So it rained a little bit.

This week, the Triangle saw some of the most severe non-hurricane-related rain in recent memory.  We got nearly eight inches of rain, the rivers rose, and one unfortunate soul even drowned when she drove around a series of barricades and tried to drive through what turned out to be pretty deep floodwaters.  A goodly number of people saw their vehicles get damaged by floodwaters, either by leaving them parked in a floodplain or by trying to drive through.

Will my insurance cover flood damage?

Well, it really depends on what kind of insurance we're talking about.  Every type of coverage that we've talked about so far - be it liability, uninsured, or underinsured - is going to be "fault-based," meaning that it isn't triggered until somebody does something wrong.  Flood damage is going to fall under what we know as "comprehensive coverage," which kicks in to compensate the policyholder for damage caused by something other than a collision with another vehicle.  As we know from the No-Contact Rule, UM/UIM coverage won't apply if there isn't an actual collision, so it's very important to know that comprehensive coverage is available for these types of situations:

  1. Windshield damage;
  2. Civil unrest, theft or vandalism;
  3. Natural disasters, fires, and FLOODS;
  4. Damage from falling objects like tree branches and hail; and
  5. Damage from striking animals like deer and birds.

So what else should I know about comprehensive coverage?

The really important thing is that unlike liability and UM/UIM coverages, comprehensive coverage is not required by law in North Carolina.  If you didn't specifically select it when you bought your policy, then you don't have comprehensive coverage.  What I always say about insurance coverage is that it's like a good plunger; if you wait until you need it, you've waited too long.  You need to have good insurance coverage in place before you need it; otherwise, it's like going to buy life insurance after you've already kicked the bucket.

Any other advice for cars, floods, and insurance?

Sure thing!  

  1. First, don't drive through floodwaters, period.  Don't do it.  There's no way to know exactly how deep it is, and even if you think you do, you can't know whether the water has damaged the road.  You could get halfway across and get caught in a washout, which would definitely ruin your day.  
  2. If it's raining heavily, don't drive any faster than you're comfortable with, even if people start tailgating you.  Make sure that your speed is slow enough to allow you to see the road and other drivers, and that you won't hydroplane if you hit standing water.  Hydroplaning becomes a serious risk at around 35 miles per hour, so keep that in mind when the roads are wet.
  3. If you live in a floodplain, you might think about moving your car to higher ground in advance of any wet weather.  Even with comprehensive coverage in place, you'll have an easier time if your vehicle doesn't get damaged in the first place.
  4. Keep in mind that comprehensive coverage isn't the same for vehicles as it is for homes.  While your comprehensive auto coverage will cover flood damage, you will most likely be required to purchase a separate policy to provide flood protection for your house.

I hope this is helpful.  Stay safe and dry out there!