From frigid polar vortexes to tornadoes and hurricanes, Texas has seen some severe weather events in the recent past. More severe weather is coming, too. Texas state climatologist Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon predicts that hurricanes will get more intense, and extreme rainfall will increase urban flooding in Texas by 30-50 percent. When you’re making contingency plans in case of natural disasters, it’s natural to have questions about protecting your car. Will your insurance cover severe weather damage to your car? Should you add to your policy to get more protection before a storm? Let’s explore how comprehensive car insurance can help you recover after weather damages your car.
Types of damages covered by comprehensive auto insurance
Comprehensive car insurance covers sudden damage to your car that’s not from a collision with a car or structure. Insurance policies with comprehensive coverage pay to repair or replace your car if it’s damaged or lost. For example, comprehensive coverage kicks in during situations like:
- A tree branch shattering your windshield during a storm
- A thief driving away with your truck
- Wildfire ash clogging your air filter
- Vandals slashing your tires
- Floodwaters sweeping your car into a building
- A collision with a bighorn sheep crushing your front bumper
- A UFO abducting your car (ok, we’re not sure about this one…)
Liability coverage – the only type of coverage most states require – will not cover storm damage. It only covers damage and injuries you cause to others in auto accidents. If you’re looking for protection from storm damage, comprehensive car insurance is your new best friend. It covers damage from lighting, earthquakes, storms like tornadoes and hurricanes, floods, and hail.
To learn more about how to choose a policy, see our article about what first-time buyers need to know about car insurance.
How can I prepare for storms and ensure coverage for my vehicle?
Having an up-to-date disaster preparedness plan could make all the difference in an emergency, especially if you live in an area that’s prone to hurricanes and flooding. Most areas of Texas are vulnerable to hurricanes. Parts of the coast are at risk for hurricane storm surges of six feet or higher during Category 1 hurricanes. It’s always good to be prepared!
Routine severe weather readiness
Keep your car in working condition
In a severe weather evacuation, you’ll be relying on your car to carry you to safety. You might need to drive a long distance or idle for a long time, two things that put stress on your car’s engine. Keep your vehicle in good health by staying up to date on your inspections, changing your oil as often as your car’s manufacturer recommends, and getting regular tune-ups. Your battery, tires, coolant system, and windshield wipers are the most important things to check for storm preparation.
Create an emergency kit
An emergency kit keeps you prepared for storms and other problems that come up on the road. Keep a bag or bin in your trunk with emergency essentials like:
- A first-aid kit
- A flashlight with extra batteries
- A gas can
- Jumper cables or a jumper battery pack
- A tool kit
- A tire jack
- Motor oil and a funnel
- A change of clothes, a raincoat/jacket, and a blanket
- Nonperishable food and drinking water
- An emergency radio
- A cell phone and charger
- A hammer to break the window if your car is submerged
- Road flares
- Waterproof matches
- A small shovel to dig your car out of the mud
- Small books and toys to entertain your kids while you deal with the emergency
If you or your passengers have lifesaving medication like insulin, an EpiPen, or an inhaler, don’t forget to bring them with you whenever you get on the road.
During hurricane/storm season
Check your insurance policy
Make sure your insurance information is easy to access during a storm. Carry your insurance card in your wallet. Keep your insurer’s phone number handy (it’s probably on the card!) and make sure you remember your username and password for your insurer’s website. Check your policy to see what kind of damage it covers. If your policy isn’t clear, you can always call your insurance company and ask, “Does my policy cover damage to my car from weather-related incidents?”
The second the National Weather Service issues a hurricane watch or warning, drivers get nervous and start filling up on gas. Avoid getting stuck in line, or stranded with an empty tank, by keeping your gas tank at least half-full during hurricane season. You can also add a full gas can to your emergency kit so you’re less likely to run out of fuel.
If you have an electric vehicle (EV), demand for charging might be less extreme, but it’s still a good idea to top up your battery regularly during the season. Some EV models let you draw on the battery for emergency power for your home, so having a full battery is an asset during a power outage.
When a storm is coming
Document your vehicle
It’s a good idea to take pictures of your car from the inside and outside when severe weather is on the way. Then, if you need to file a claim, you can show that any storm damage to your car is new.
Park somewhere safe
Your home garage, an underground garage, or other parking structure is the safest option when a hurricane hits your area. If you’re parking in your home garage, close the door and board up any windows. If you must park in the open, park as far uphill as you can, avoiding trees, telephone poles, and other things that high winds could knock onto your car.
Know how to drive safely during a flood
Read the National Weather Service’s advice for flood safety and remember the slogan “Turn around, don’t drown!” Your safest option is to get to high ground and avoid driving into floodwaters. Even six inches of water is enough to cause problems, and one to two feet of water can set your car afloat and sweep it away.
Stay up to date on the storm
Before and during a storm, get updates by listening to the NOAA Weather Radio on an emergency radio, checking your local weather channel on your phone or a TV, or downloading the NOAA app to your phone or tablet. You can also get updates on the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service websites.
When can I add comprehensive coverage to my policy?
Most insurance companies will let customers add comprehensive coverage to their insurance policies at any time, even in the middle of a policy’s term. However, they usually won’t let you add extra coverage while a hurricane watch or severe weather watch is in effect. From their point of view, you won’t have been paying premiums long enough to justify the cost of a claim related to the storm. If you only have liability coverage but want to add comprehensive coverage to protect yourself from storms, the best time to add it is at the beginning of hurricane season. Insurers often let you cancel coverage mid-term too, so you could add comprehensive coverage at the beginning of the season and cancel it at the end if you can’t afford comprehensive coverage year-round. Speaking of which, how much does it cost to add comprehensive coverage to your insurance policy?
Cost of liability, collision, and comprehensive coverages
As is often the case with insurance, the cost of adding comprehensive coverage varies significantly from car to car and person to person. Many factors affect the cost of adding different insurance coverage options to your policy, including:
- Where you live
- What type of car you have, its age, and mileage
- How much you drive
- How many drivers are on your policy
- The dollar amount of collision and comprehensive coverage you want, or your lender requires
- The deductibles you choose
Just remember, liability coverage doesn’t cover damage to your car from natural disasters. If you’re worried about severe weather damage, adding comprehensive coverage to your policy is a smart move.