The right insurance can shelter your car from winter-related mishaps

If you live in a snowy area, you're probably covered from head to toe in warm clothes during the winter. But is your car covered?

Many drivers have state-required minimum liability auto insurance, which covers the damage they inflict on other cars and the injuries they cause during a crash. But what if your car gets damaged by a pothole that forms during a cold snap? What if melting snow creates a flood that causes water damage?

Drivers need two kinds of insurance to cover their cars for these risks. According to the Insurance Information Institute, drivers might need both collision and comprehensive auto insurance to be covered for all possibilities.

  • Collision insurance is best known for covering damage to your car if it is involved in a collision with another vehicle. This insurance also usually will cover “collisions” with potholes and the resulting damage.
  • Comprehensive coverage insures a vehicle against non-collision damages like fire, flood damage and vandalism -- or a falling tree branch weighed down by snow.
  • Damages incurred by hitting a deer (a greater risk during their fall and winter migration season) fall under comprehensive coverage.
  • With sudden temperature drops, barely noticeable chips in a windshield can develop into cracks. Comprehensive coverage may cover a cracked windshield, although additional “glass coverage” may be needed in some cases.

Although all of that is true for many comprehensive and collision policies, ask your insurance company about what's covered under each policy provision.

In addition to looking for insurance coverage, drivers should think about keeping a winter emergency kit in the car trunk. While many drivers remove these materials in the summer to save space or increase fuel economy, they can come in handy during the winter, when a driver may be stuck in a snowy traffic jam on a highway, lost on a wintry rural road or stalled out in a remote place in extremely cold weather.

AAA recommends that the following items be included in a winter road emergency kit:

  • A flashlight
  • Jumper cables
  • Flares and other emergency indicators
  • A blanket and heavy clothes
  • An ice scraper and shovel
  • Non-clumping kitty litter (to help create tire traction)
  • Tire chains

Now also is a good time for any required maintenance to give vehicles a better chance of slogging through snowy slush, freezing rain or other winter conditions.

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