What to Do If Your Car Was Damaged by a Flood

After a flood, if your vehicle is damaged, there are a few steps you need to take right away, including filing car insurance claims.

Christine Lacagnina Written by Christine Lacagnina
Christine Lacagnina
Written by Christine Lacagnina

Christine Lacagnina has written thousands of insurance-based articles for TrustedChoice.com by authoring consumable, understandable content.

Cars in traffic during flooding. Car owners insurance steps after a flood.

Floods can cause catastrophic damage to homes and other property, including vehicles. Whether your car was partially or fully immersed in floodwaters, it could have extensive damage. There are a few critical steps to take after a flood damages your car, including filing a car insurance claim ASAP.

Luckily, an independent insurance agent can help you get the right type of car insurance to protect against losses due to flood damage. They'll get you covered fast. But first, here's a guide to the steps you should take after a flood damages your vehicle.

What to Do After Your Car Gets Damaged by a Flood

There are a few key actions to complete after a flood damages your vehicle. It doesn't matter if your car was fully submerged in floodwaters or only partially contaminated; the vehicle flood damage checklist is the same. Follow these four critical steps if your car gets damaged by a flood.

Step 1: Don't Start the Vehicle

The first step is critical: do not start the car. If floodwater is trapped in the engine or electronics, attempting to start the vehicle could damage it further, possibly beyond repair. Don’t even turn the key to open the vehicle's windows because that uses the electric system. Short circuits and worse damage can occur. 

If the windows are down and the car is unprotected from rain, cover it with a tarp instead. It’s possible your car can be restored to its former condition, but let experts determine that before you potentially cause more damage.

Step 2: Document Existing Damage and Prevent Further Damage

Take photos and video evidence of any damage to your car. Make sure to get photos showing the waterline left by mud and debris to demonstrate how high the water rose. This can help ensure that you’re able to recover the full car insurance proceeds available to you and possibly support tax write-offs for any uninsured losses.

Keep in mind that salt water can cause more damage to your vehicle than fresh water, which means the chances of corrosion are greatly increased after many types of flooding. Begin drying your vehicle ASAP, using strong shop fans or leaf blowers. 

If your vehicle is stuck somewhere after a storm, call a professional towing service to transport it somewhere safe. You may have coverage for this in your car insurance. Be aware that lubricant, transmission fluid, and oil might have to be drained before the vehicle can be towed.

Step 3: Call Your Independent Insurance Agent and File a Car Insurance Claim

Call your independent insurance agent ASAP and report the incident to them. Send them any photo and video evidence of the damage. They'll be able to contact your car insurance company and file claims for you, as well as keep you updated through every step of the claims process. Your agent can even provide you with ETAs for when you should receive reimbursement if your claim is approved. 

Before calling your agent, be prepared with your car insurance policy number, the incident report number from the police or fire department if one exists, the exact details of when and where the flooding occurred, your vehicle's registration information, and details of any lease or financing on the car. A claims adjuster will most likely need to see the vehicle, so leave it as is until they’ve had a chance to inspect it. You can remove personal items, however. 

Step 4: Keep Copies and Records

Record everything throughout this process. Keep copies of bids and estimates, repairs made, notes about discussions with the insurance company, and photos of damage and repairs in progress. If the adjuster determines the water reached the level of your dashboard, the insurance company may declare your car “totaled.” 

They may also declare your car is totaled if it was sitting in floodwater for several days. If this ruling happens, the carrier may pay you the market value of the vehicle, minus your deductible, rather than attempting to repair it.

Keep in mind that what the insurance company offers you to settle your claim is only an offer. You can negotiate with them and don’t have to accept it. This is another good reason to work with an independent insurance agent, as they can help you decide if the insurance company’s offer is reasonable and how to respond if not.

What Kind of Car Insurance Covers Flood Damage?

To have coverage for flood damage to your vehicle, you'll need to ensure your car insurance policy includes comprehensive coverage. This coverage is typically optional but essential for getting reimbursement after many different types of disasters, including collisions with large animals like deer, fire damage, theft and vandalism, and, of course, flooding. 

If you purchased only your state's minimum required coverage, you may not have comprehensive insurance, meaning you wouldn't be able to get reimbursement for a flood damage claim. In this case, you'd have to pay for the cost of repairs out of your own pocket.

Can I Rely on FEMA after My Car Takes Flood Damage?

You can't count on FEMA to provide help after your car suffers flood damage. FEMA doesn't guarantee assistance after all flooding disasters, and its help can be limited to only certain affected counties after a storm. 

Further, after a flash flood incident, it's probable that you won't get approved if you apply for ONA assistance or an SBA loan. So, the best bet is to be equipped with the right kind of car insurance before a flood disaster occurs.


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An Independent Insurance Agent Can Help You Find Comprehensive Car Insurance

Local independent insurance agents can provide you with a large selection of car insurance policies to provide the security you need to deal with any calamity, including floods. Independent insurance agents simplify the process of shopping for and comparing auto insurance. They'll explain the complex terms for you, cut through the jargon, and make sure you understand the fine print.

But perhaps most importantly, they work for you, not one insurance company. They shop and compare policies from many different car insurance companies and select only the policy options that are right for you at the best possible price. They’ll also be there for you in the future if your needs change or questions arise. Independent insurance agents work hard to keep you satisfied.

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