What auto insurance coverages do I need so that my car is covered
if it's damaged due to a hurricane or tropical storm?
Collision and comprehensive coverages are needed as a part of your
car insurance policy if you want your auto insurer to pay for the
of your car (minus your deductible amount).
covers your car if it's hit, or hits, another car or object, so if
the rain from the storm causes you to hydroplane and crash your
car, you could make a collision claim. However, the majority of
damage to vehicles from hurricanes and tropical storms is from
winds and water and thus would be covered under comprehensive
coverage, which is also known as "other than collision." (See
Is your car parked in disaster's path?
covers your car not only for theft, glass breakage and fire, but
also damages due to floodwaters, hail and other natural occurrences
-- such as hurricane-force wind gusts. (See "'Acts of God'
and your car insurance"). The exact perils covered by
comprehensive vary by insurer, so if you have this coverage (or
want to add it) you'll need to ask your auto insurance company
about what specific situations and damages you can place a claim
A car insurance policy that consists only of your state's
minimum coverages wouldn't be of any help if high winds tip a tree
onto your car or floodwaters seep into your vehicle since bodily
injury liability and property damage liability only cover others
that you cause damage to in an auto accident, and don't offer any
protection to your own vehicle.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says a hurricane or tropical
storm warning is issued when weather conditions (sustained winds of
74 mph or higher for a hurricane or sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph
for a tropical storm) are expected somewhere in the specified area
within 36 hours, and a watch is issued when these hurricane- or
tropical-storm-force winds are possible within 48 hours.
This NHC information is significant because if a hurricane is
forming, or already coming in your direction, and you want to place
physical damage coverages on your car (you may be able to add
comprehensive on its own, but many insurers will require that you
carry collision along with comprehensive coverage), then you need
to do so before a tropical storm watch/warning goes into effect --
or you may be out of luck since insurers can place restrictions on
changes to policies or new policies during a storm.
Important information to know about auto insurance and
- Most car insurance companies put temporary binding
restrictions into effect in areas that are under a hurricane or
named tropical storm watch/warning. When the restrictions go into
effect and how long they last vary from one insurance company to
the next, as is what is restricted.
- Restrictions typically can include not accepting any
applications for new coverage as well as not accepting requests
for the addition of physical damage coverages, increased limits,
or the lowering of deductibles on existing policies.
- In general, the restrictions will usually go into effect
as soon as an area goes into a tropical storm watch/warning and
lasts until 48 to 72 hours after the watch/warning
- If you have auto insurance in force that is set to expire
during hurricane season, it's best to renew or shop around
purchase a new auto insurance policy early; that way a binding
restriction won't come into play.
- If you are buying a new car, try to avoid purchasing it if a
storm is approaching and could restrict your ability to buy the
car insurance coverage that you need.
- An application, such as the Red Cross Hurricane App, may help
you monitor weather alerts so you'll be aware of when you are
able to start a new policy or add comprehensive and collision to
your current policy.
If you have comprehensive on your vehicle and it's damaged
during a hurricane or tropical storm, then I'd recommend that when
it's safe to go outside, take pictures of the damage and contact
your auto insurance provider to make a claim, if the damage looks
to be above your deductible amount. If the damage is less
than your deductible, then there is no reason to make a claim since
your auto insurance policy only starts to pay out after the
deductible has been met.
Your auto insurer will likely tell you to take steps to prevent
further loss (such as covering any smashed windows, or placing a
tarp on the car). Not doing so could result in more damage
being done that your insurer would deny coverage for due to your
failure to take action and keep additional damage from being