Published: March 31, 2021Updated: August 15, 2022

Does Car Insurance Cover Natural Disasters?

If your car gets damaged in a natural disaster, will you be able to cover the damages?

Floods. Hurricanes. Lightning strikes. Many natural disasters can happen anywhere in the U.S., although some areas are more disaster prone.

If you live in a state like Kansas, which is prone to tornadoes, or Florida, which is prone to flood and wind damage, home insurance to protect your assets is not enough. Natural disasters car insurance is necessary no matter where you live, covered under comprehensive coverage. Let’s dive deeper into natural disasters coverage.

Does Car Insurance Cover Natural Disasters?

Car insurance only covers natural disasters if you have comprehensive car insurance. Specifically, coverage for natural disasters is known as “act of God” coverage in the insurance industry. Comprehensive coverage also covers damages to your car from other events, like collisions, auto burglary, and car vandalism.

DID YOU KNOW?

Unfortunately, “acts of God” aren’t covered by homeowners insurance. You’ll need separate earthquake insurance or flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program. The cost will differ with private insurers.

Act of God Insurance

An act of God is an event outside human control, including natural disasters such as these:

  • Earthquakes
  • Floods
  • Hail
  • Hurricanes
  • Lightning strikes
  • Sinkholes
  • Wildfires1

Act of God insurance, as part of comprehensive coverage, costs an average of $184.14 annually2. And even though acts of God are no one’s fault, filing a comprehensive claim will usually make your premiums increase — although not as much as they would following at-fault claims.

Out-of-State Natural Disasters

It doesn’t matter where in the U.S. your car was damaged from a natural disaster; your insurance covers your vehicle. If your vehicle is damaged out of state, you’ll still be able to file a comprehensive claim.

What to Do if Your Car Is Damaged in a Natural Disaster

First keep calm, then follow these steps:

  1. Call emergency services. If there were any injuries, call 911. You’ll want to have a police report to file your claim, as it adds substantiated evidence.
  2. Assess the damages. Inspect your car for damages and write down any you see.
  3. Document the damages. Take pictures of the damages and note the exact date, time, and weather conditions in which they occurred.
  4. File a claim. File an auto insurance claim with your provider using all the evidence you’ve collected. An insurance claim is how you’ll get reimbursed for your damages. File the claim as soon as possible, as claims could take a long time to be processed. Also, make sure you’re within your state’s statute of limitations for property damage claims. If you wait too long, your insurance provider doesn’t have to issue you a check.
State Statute of limitations for property damage claims (in years) Statute of limitations for personal injury claims (in years)
Alabama 2 2
Alaska 2 2
Arizona 2 2
Arkansas 3 3
California 3 2
Colorado 3 3
Connecticut 2 2
Delaware 2 2
Florida 4 4
Georgia 4 2
Hawaii 2 2
Idaho 3 2
Illinois 5 2
Indiana 2 2
Iowa 5 2
Kansas 2 2
Kentucky 2 1
Louisiana 1 1
Maine 6 6
Maryland 3 3
Massachusetts 3 3
Michigan 3 3
Minnesota 6 2
Mississippi 3 3
Missouri 5 5
Montana 2 3
Nebraska 4 4
Nevada 3 2
New Hampshire 3 3
New Jersey 6 6
New Mexico 4 3
New York 3 3
North Carolina 3 3
North Dakota 6 6
Ohio 4 4
Oklahoma 2 2
Oregon 6 2
Pennsylvania 2 2
Rhode Island 10 3
South Carolina 3 3
South Dakota 6 3
Tennessee 3 1
Texas 2 2
Utah 3 4
Vermont 3 3
Virginia 5 2
Washington 3 3
Washington, D.C. 3 3
West Virginia 2 2
Wisconsin 6 3
Wyoming3 4 4
  1. Meet with an adjuster. An insurance adjuster will assess your damages, either through pictures or in person, and will determine your payout.
  2. Repair or replace your car. Get your car repaired or, if it’s declared a total loss, replaced.

TIP

In a large natural disaster, many people are filing insurance claims at once, so file your claim as soon as possible to receive timely compensation.

How to Obtain Car Insurance That Covers Natural Disasters

It’s important to be prepared with comprehensive coverage, as we can’t always prevent damage to our vehicles from natural disasters. If you don’t already have comprehensive coverage, here’s how to add it:

  1. Get quotes. If you’re searching for car insurance, get quotes from multiple auto insurance companies to compare pricing. Even if you already have insurance, switching auto insurance providers could save you money.
  2. Talk to an agent. Speak to either an insurance agent or a insurance broker about obtaining comprehensive coverage, along with your state’s minimum coverage. Not sure whether to use an agent or a broker? Compare the pros and cons of agents vs. brokers.
  3. Choose your deductible. Your comprehensive coverage will come with an insurance deductible, which averages $500 but can range from $0 to $2,000. The way deductibles work is that you’ll be responsible to pay this fee before your insurance provider contributes to a claim, so ensure this money is available in case of an accident or damage occurs.
  4. Choose your limit. Also choose a limit, which is the maximum amount your provider will pay for damage in a covered comprehensive claim. It could range from $10,000 to $100,000 or more, depending on your premium.
  5. Pay your premiums. Pay your premiums to begin coverage on your policy’s effective date.

Do You Need Comprehensive Coverage?

Comprehensive coverage is what you need to fix damages that natural disasters caused, but some people may opt out, as it’s not a requirement anywhere in the U.S.

Get comprehensive coverage if your car is …

  • New
  • In storage
  • Broken down

Don’t get comprehensive coverage if your car is …

  • Old

For older cars, the damages will most likely cost more than your vehicle’s actual market value (AMV), meaning the car will be declared a total loss. In this case, it makes sense to skip comprehensive coverage on your old car. However, in all other cases, comprehensive coverage is necessary, even if you’re not currently using the vehicle. For any new vehicle you plan to drive in the future, keep comprehensive coverage active.

More Coverages for Disaster-Prone Areas

Comprehensive coverage isn’t the only insurance that will compensate you for damages from a natural disaster. If it’s in your budget, we recommend these supplemental coverages:

Rental Car Coverage

If you are car-dependent and have no carpooling or public transportation options, you’ll want to add rental car coverage, which will pay for a rental car while your car is being repaired under a covered claim.

Windshield Coverage

Some comprehensive coverage includes coverage for glass, while windshield coverage is supplemental with others. Windshield coverage includes not only windshields, but sunroofs, rear, and side windows.

Medical Payments Coverage

Medical payments coverage is necessary if you become injured from a car accident and need to pay for rehabilitation treatment or hospital fees — especially if you don’t have health insurance or your health insurance has a high deductible. It would also cover lost wages or funeral costs.

Gap Coverage

Say the damage was so bad that your car was declared a total loss. In that case, you’d be reimbursed for your car’s AMV – its value if you sold it tomorrow. Your AMV will most likely be less than what you paid for the car originally due to depreciation. Gap coverage would ensure you get back what you still owe on the car, not its current worth.

Optional Basic Economic Loss (OBEL)

For the most protection, you can opt to add Optional Basic Economic Loss (OBEL) of $25,00 to $50,000, which you can apply to physical therapy, income loss and rehab, among other costs4.

Custom Equipment Coverage

Standard car insurance only applies to the car’s original equipment. If you added any electronics, navigations, or custom equipment, comprehensive coverage won’t reimburse you for it. Instead, you’ll need custom equipment coverage.

How to Mitigate Further Damage

Whether you’re protecting your car from the next natural disaster or you just experienced damage, follow these steps to mitigate further damages:

  1. Avoid trees and power lines. While you’re driving after a storm, avoid driving over road hazards like fallen power lines or trees.
  2. Cover your car. Ideally, park your car in a garage or under a carport.
  3. Fill your tank. Sometimes, natural disasters cause gas shortages or traffic, so fill your tank beforehand.
  4. Make an emergency supply kit. In case you’re in the car during a natural disaster, make an emergency supply kit with the following items.
    • Booster cables
    • Flashlights
    • Matches
    • Shovel
    • Spare tire
    • Tire repair kit
    • Tools
    • Traction mats
  5. Watch out for missing signs and broken traffic signals. After a storm, traffic lights may be broken and traffic signs may be missing, so take extra care when driving5. The last thing you want is a collision.

 

WE RECOMMEND

Report any broken traffic lights or missing signs to your county or city’s transportation department. If you’re unsure where to call, try 311.

Recap

Unlike homeowners insurance, which typically excludes acts of God, car insurance covers acts of God under comprehensive coverage. Your state’s minimum coverage won’t include comprehensive coverage, so you won’t be insured for natural disasters if you only purchase the legal requirement. That’s why we recommend purchasing full coverage, which includes comprehensive coverage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Keep reading for more information on how car insurance intersects with natural disasters.

Car insurance only covers natural disasters if you have comprehensive coverage. If you lack comprehensive coverage, your provider won’t cover damages from natural disasters.

Collision insurance does not cover natural disasters. Rather, it only covers damages from collisions in which you were at fault. Natural disasters are known as acts of God, and they’re covered by comprehensive — not collision — coverage.

Insurance companies pay for natural disasters through comprehensive claims. The propensity for natural disasters has an effect on auto insurance premiums. Auto insurance is more expensive in areas that are more prone to natural disasters, such as Florida. Therefore, the insurance company has calculated the likelihood of damage and has raised premiums to cover these claims while still making a profit.

GEICO covers natural disasters under comprehensive coverage. While this coverage isn’t a requirement anywhere in the U.S., policyholders can opt to add comprehensive coverage to obtain coverage for natural disasters.

Citations

  1. Act of God Insurance Lemonade. (2022). https://www.lemonade.com/car/explained/act-of-god-insurance/

  2. NAIC Releases 2017-2018 Auto Insurance Database Report. NAIC. (2021, Mar).
    https://content.naic.org/article/news-release-naic-releases-2017-2018-auto-insurance-database-report

  3. Car Accidents: Statutes of Limitations. Enjuris. (2022).
    https://www.enjuris.com/car-accident/statutes-of-limitations.html

  4. PIA. (2022). https://pia.org/

  5. How to Protect Your Car During Severe Weather Chubb. https://www.chubb.com/us-en/individuals-families/resources/how-to-protect-your-car-during-severe-weather.html