You already might have auto insurance that covers you if you're blindsided by a tractor-trailer. But what if you're blindsided by Mother Nature? Floods can cause costly damage to cars, and you'll end up footing the bill if you don't have the right protection.
Coverage for flood damage
The liability insurance your state requires will do nothing if your car gets damaged in a flood. To be protected against flood damage, you will need comprehensive insurance, which covers damage caused by theft, vandalism, animals and weather.
Comprehensive coverage is optional, and it will cost extra. Moreover, you will have to pay a deductible out-of-pocket before your coverage kicks in, whether you're getting the car repaired or getting a payout of its value because it's been totaled.
When purchasing a used vehicle, make sure you check for signs that it has sustained flood damage in the past. Flood-damaged cars might have telltale signs such as mold, rust or a musty smell. A flood-damaged car might have serious engine damage, which could render it unreliable -- and unsafe.
Driving in a flood
Floods and flash floods are the No. 1 cause of storm-related deaths in the United States, according to the National Weather Service. And most of those flood deaths occur at night and involve vehicles. Drivers of SUVs might think their cars are equipped to drive through flooded streets. In fact, their size can make them more buoyant and more easily swept away, according to the National Weather Service.
Driving on flooded streets is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. The National Weather Service recommends staying off roads if you can't see the road markings through the water. But if you're surprised by a flash flood, you may not have a choice. If you find yourself in your car surrounded by rising waters, follow these tips:
- Stop and gauge the depth first. Just 6 inches of water can cause your car to stall, while 12 inches of moving water can sweep a car off the road, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). If you're driving a little sports car and the SUV in front of you has water up to its bumper, you probably won't make it through.
- Drive slowly and evenly through the water, staying alert for items that could trap or harm you if they hit you.
- If your car stalls, abandon it and seek higher ground, according to the United States Search and Rescue Task Force. Restarting the car could cause major engine damage, and attempts to move stalled cars often result in injury or death.