Sometimes, yes. Your auto insurance policy will cover most hurricane damage if you have comprehensive coverage.
Still, even with a comprehensive coverage policy, some types of damage – specifically glass windows and windshields – might not be covered unless you have a rider. (We’ll talk about that more in a moment.)
And your car insurance policy will not cover hurricane damage if you have a liability-only policy.
This article explores everything you need to know about auto insurance and hurricanes.
Let’s dive in!
What Kind of Hurricane Damage is Covered by a Car Insurance Policy?
There is no easy answer to this question.
Remember that every auto insurance contract is a unique agreement between the insurance company and the customer. Car insurance rules and standards vary a little from one state to the next, but they’re all built on the notions of indemnity and liability.
Indemnity is the idea that the owner of a car should be made financially whole again after a covered loss. If you have full coverage car insurance, you should be made whole – your auto repaired – after most hurricane damage.
Liability is your legal, financial responsibility for damage you cause to others. This part of your insurance doesn’t come into play for damage caused by the tropical storm. That’s not your fault. But, if you lose control of your vehicle while driving during a hurricane, liability coverage would help pay for damage you cause, up to policy limits.
Common Types of Hurricane Damage to Vehicles, and Insurance that Covers Them
|Type of Hurricane Damage||Is it Usually Covered?||Portion of Insurance Policy|
|Falling tree limbs||Yes||Comprehensive|
|Debris blown by wind||Yes||Comprehensive|
|Water damage from flash floods||Yes||Comprehensive|
|Damage caused by driver during a storm||Yes||Liability|
|Broken windshields and windows||Maybe||Some insurers don’t include glass coverage. They may require you to buy an added endorsement.|
“I carry the minimum amount of auto insurance required by my state. Will my car insurance cover hurricane damage?”
No. While most states require that a car has insurance to be on the road legally, those requirements pertain to liability. If you only carry liability insurance, your auto insurance will not cover damage caused by the storm. It will only cover damage caused by you, to others.
If you’re not sure which type of car insurance policy you have, it’s time to read your policy and upgrade it if needed.
How to Read an Auto Insurance Policy
If you’re worried that a hurricane is going to cause damage to your car, you should check on your insurance policy.
The Declarations Page
The first page of the car insurance policy is called the declarations page, or “dec page.” It will show some basic information, like your name, the VIN, and the coverages.
- If you have a “comprehensive / collision” package – these are sold by many insurers – you’re covered for most hurricane damage.
- Your deductibles will also be shown (we’ll talk more about those in a moment.)
- If you only have liability coverage, you aren’t protected against hurricane damage to your car.
Looking deeper into your policy, you can look for specifically excluded perils. Glass damage to windshields might be specifically excluded.
If you need to upgrade or update your policy, now is the time! Call your insurer and ask them about comprehensive coverage. Yes, you will need to pay for it.
Car Insurance Endorsements for People in Hurricane-Prone Areas
This is a good time to discuss roadside assistance and towing endorsements with your insurer, too. That way, if your car is damaged by a falling tree limb, or swept into a ditch by flash flooding, you’ll have help.
Just remember that emergency vehicles and tow trucks are usually quite busy after a hurricane, so it might take some time to get the help you need. Be prepared!
Can My Insurance Company Deny Additional Coverage if a Hurricane is Coming?
Yes. If a hurricane is about to hit your town, insurance companies can place a “moratorium” on new policies or policy additions. Insurers are in business to make money, and they’re very good at it! They may not accept your request at once if a hurricane is imminent.
Since you’re studying your car insurance policy and updating it, this is the perfect time to adjust your deductibles, too.
About Car Insurance Deductibles
A deductible is a set amount of money you’ll pay when filing a claim. They can range anywhere from $50 to $10,000, but in 2022 the most common deductibles are $500, $1000 or $2,500.
The higher your deductible, the less your car insurance will cost. That sounds attractive, right? However, you will have to pay that deductible when your car goes into the shop for repairs after hurricane damage. So, if you don’t keep $2,500 on hand for emergency auto repairs, choose a smaller deductible!
If you make a car payment to a lienholder (a lender or bank) they may have specific requirements about your deductible. Most lienholders want you to have a $1,000 deductible or less.
Read More: How to Choose Your Car Insurance Deductible
Now, let’s illustrate everything we’ve explored here with a story about hurricane damage and car insurance. We’ll also introduce a new concept: that a car can be totaled after storm damage.
Three Drivers, One Hurricane
Three drivers are on their way home from work when a hurricane strikes in Jacksonville, FL.
The first driver, Adam, has a 2010 Honda Accord that he owns outright. Blue Book value on the car is about $8,000, and Alex only has basic liability coverage required by the state.
Our second driver, Steven, has a 2022 Ford Bronco, valued at $35,000. It’s brand new, only two weeks old! He has full coverage, all the bells and whistles (glass coverage, towing and a rental car endorsement) and a $1,000 deductible.
Finally, there’s Josh. He drives a 2005 Toyota Corolla worth $7,000, and he maintains full coverage insurance, too. His deductible is $500.
The hurricane hits hard! Winds are blowing at 120 miles an hour, rain in coming down in sheets and huge chunks of dangerous debris – tree limbs and roofing – fly through the air. Our three drivers pull over to the side of the highway.
Each vehicle is pummeled by the flying debris. Each one suffers tremendous damage to the roof, doors and glass. Finally, the storm blows through, and thankfully, all three drivers are unharmed.
Liability Coverage Does Not Come into Play, Adam Must Pay for All His Repairs
Adam doesn’t have comprehensive insurance. He might drive the battered car as is or pay for the repairs himself.
Adam heads to his favorite garage, and the quote to repair the Honda Accord is $6,000. Rather than invest $6,000 into a vehicle only worth $8,000, Adam decides to put that money down on a brand-new vehicle, instead. HE SELLS.
Steven’s Repairs are Covered, Minus Deductibles
The hurricane caused about $12,000 worth of damage to his Bronco, but Steven has comprehensive coverage and more.
He calls in a claim to his insurance company and ends up paying a $1,000 deductible for the body damage, a $50 deductible for the windshield, and a $50 deductible for towing to the nearest shop. His total expenses are $1,100, but after a few weeks of repairs his Bronco looks as good as new.
During those weeks, Steven takes advantage of his rental car coverage. His insurance company helps him pay for a rental car because his car is getting repaired after a covered loss.
Josh’s Car Gets “Totaled” after Hurricane Damage
Josh has full coverage car insurance. But when he gets a repair estimate he learns the cost to repair his Corolla is $7,200, more than the value of the car. In this instance, his insurance company will cut him a check for the value of the car, less a deductible.
In the end, the hurricane-damaged Corolla is towed to a junk yard, and Josh walks away with a check for $6,500.
This leads nicely into our next section, what it means when a car is totaled after storm damage.
What Does it Mean if a Car is Totaled After Hurricane Damage?
An insurance company will “total” a car if it is a complete loss. In other words, it would cost more to repair this vehicle than to replace it with an identical vehicle.
Is it Common for an Insurance Company to Total a Car After Storm Damage?
Absolutely! According to Kelley Blue Book (KBB.com), in 2021 Hurricane Ida destroyed 250,000 vehicles. Hurricane Harvey in 2017 destroyed 500,000.
Thinking back to our notion of indemnity, mentioned above, the purpose of comprehensive car insurance is to make you financially whole again after a covered loss. So, for example, if your car is worth $10,000 and it’s totaled after a hurricane, expect to receive a check for $10,000 less your deductible.
Once a car is “totaled,” it’s towed to a junkyard and the DMV is notified. Sometimes, “totaled” vehicles still run. They might even run well! But in our age of modern technology, the intricate computer chips and other tech in your car are very costly to replace.
How Much Damage Can a Hurricane Cause to a Vehicle?
In short, a hurricane can easily cause enough damage to “total out” a car. Exteriors are damaged by flying debris, glass is shattered.
Water damage can be particularly expensive. The plush carpeting, seating and expensive computer chips might all be trashed by torrents of rainwater pouring into your car after a windshield or roof are damaged.
Preparing a Car for a Hurricane
Park your car thoughtfully, in a garage if possible. Don’t park it under old trees. Be sure the windows are rolled up tightly and remove any important paperwork or belongings from the vehicle. That’s about all you can do to protect your car from hurricane damage.
“My Car is Special. Can I Buy my Totaled Car Back After Hurricane Damage?”
Sure. You can cash your insurance check, head to the junkyard, buy back your storm-damaged car and pay for repairs yourself. Just know it will come with a “salvage” title.
Auto insurance companies all share records and communicate with the DMV. All the databases they use will show this car is “totaled.” You won’t be able to get comprehensive insurance on it again, because from the insurer’s point of view, it’s junkyard material and worth nothing.
The only exception might be a rare, classical vehicle that is professionally restored after the damage. In that case, you might want to seek a special insurance policy and an agreed-value policy with a company like Haggerty.
But we realize that a totaled vehicle might still mean something personal to you. Perhaps you inherited it from a beloved family member, or maybe it was the first vehicle you ever bought. Whatever your personal reason, you’re welcome to buy it back. Just don’t pay more than a few hundred dollars for it or expect to fully insure it.
Now let’s talk a little about the claims process after a hurricane damages your car.
The Claims Process After a Hurricane
Hurricanes are dangerous events! They cause billions of dollars in damage, and your insurance company will be very busy.
Start the claims process by contacting your insurer. Have your policy number handy if possible and take pictures of the damage with your cell phone. You can email these to the insurer while you wait for a claims adjuster to arrive.
After a major storm event, adjusters are very busy. You may need to meet with them and show them your vehicle. Be sure to point out all the damage. In some cases, your insurer will be so busy they only ask for a repair estimate. In that case, head to your favorite shop.
You can get multiple repair quotes if you like.
Ultimately, the best defense against hurricane damage is a full-coverage policy and thoughtful behavior before the storm. Make safety your top priority and avoid driving unless it’s an emergency.