With hurricane season running from June 1 to November 30, here’s what you need to know about car insurance and these often damaging storms.
Two basics everyone should be aware of:
- You need to buy coverage before a storm warning is issued.
- If you want your auto insurance company to cover any damage to your vehicle after a hurricane, you’ll need collision and comprehensive coverage.
Collision covers your car if it’s hit, or hits, another car or object. So, if the rain from the storm causes you to hydroplane and crash your car, you could make a collision claim. However, the majority of damage to vehicles from hurricanes and tropical storms is from winds and water. In that case, your car would be covered under comprehensive coverage.
Comprehensive covers your car for damages due to flood waters, hail and other natural occurrences — such as hurricane-force wind gusts. That means if your car is flipped and damaged by strong winds, comprehensive coverage will typically cover that, too.
- How much do collision and comprehensive cost?
- Why do you need more than minimum liability to cover storm damage?
- Buy coverage before storm warnings go into effect
- How car insurance covers flood damage to your car
How much do collision and comprehensive cost?
The average annual cost for collision coverage is $723, and comprehensive costs an average of $263 a year, according to a 2022 analysis of rates.
According to NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division, the top three states for hurricanes are Florida at No. 1, Texas at No. 2 and Louisiana at No. 3. Other states where major hurricanes make landfall: North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, New York, Mississippi, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Comprehensive coverage rates in these states tend to be higher than the average. Here’s how much comprehensive coverage will cost you in the most hurricane-prone states:
- Florida: $204
- Texas: $310
- Louisiana: $466
See the table below for comprehensive and collision rates in each state.
Why do you need more than minimum liability to cover storm damage?
A car insurance policy that consists only of your state’s minimum liability coverages wouldn’t be of any help if high winds tip a tree onto your car or floodwaters seep into your vehicle. That’s because bodily injury liability and property damage liability only cover others’ injuries and property damage from accidents you cause — they don’t offer any protection for your own vehicle.
Liability insurance can play a role in helping you if someone is injured in a crash, but won’t likely help you if your car is damaged during a storm.
Buy coverage before storm warnings go into effect
The National Hurricane Center, or NHC, says a hurricane or tropical storm warning is issued when weather conditions are anticipated in an area within 36 hours. A storm watch is issued when hurricane- or tropical-storm-force winds are possible within 48 hours.
This NHC information is significant because you need to buy comprehensive and collision coverage before a tropical storm watch/warning goes into effect. Otherwise, you may be out of luck – insurers can place restrictions on policy changes during a storm.
Other restrictions to note:
- Most car insurance companies put temporary binding restrictions into effect in areas that are under a hurricane or named tropical storm watch/warning. When the restrictions go into effect and how long they last vary by insurance company, as is what is restricted.
- Restrictions can also vary by state but typically can include not accepting any applications for new coverage as well as not accepting requests for the addition of physical damage coverages, increased limits, or the lowering of deductibles on existing policies.
- Restrictions typically go into effect as soon as an area goes into a tropical storm watch/warning and lasts until 48 to 72 hours after the watch/warning ends.
- If you have auto insurance in force that is set to expire during hurricane season, it’s best to renew or shop around to purchase a new auto insurance policy early so a binding restriction won’t come into play.
- If you are buying a new car, try to avoid purchasing it if a storm is approaching and could restrict your ability to buy the car insurance coverage that you need.
If your car is damaged during a hurricane or tropical storm, take pictures of the damage once it’s safe to venture outdoors and contact your auto insurance provider to make a claim.
Your auto insurer will likely tell you to take steps to prevent further loss, such as covering smashed windows or placing a tarp on your car. Not doing so could result in additional damage that your insurer won’t cover.
How car insurance covers flood damage to your car
Often, hurricanes mean flooding. Here’s how the different types of insurance coverage come into play if you’re caught in a flood:
- Comprehensive coverage: If your vehicle sustains water or flood damage, you can file a claim under your comprehensive insurance coverage, which covers any type of damage to your car up to its actual cash value that’s caused by natural disasters.
- Collision coverage: Collision comes into play if you hydroplane and flip your car or hit another car or a tree. Your claim will pay to repair your car or will pay the actual cash value of the car.
- Gap insurance: This type of insurance comes into play if your car is totaled and you owe more money on your car than it’s worth — gap insurance will pay the difference. You can get gap coverage from your car insurance company or from your car financing company, but it’s usually more expensive from your lender.
- Rental car reimbursement: If you have a second car or a way to get where you need to go without your car, you don’t need rental coverage. But if you’d be left stranded for weeks while your car is being repaired, it may pay to have it.
– Michelle Megna contributed to this story.
Resources & Methodology
Statista. “Number of hurricanes that made landfall in the United States from 1851 to 2020, by state.” Accessed September 2022.
CarInsurance.com commissioned Quadrant Information Services to pull rates in 2022 for a 40-year-old male driving a Honda Accord LX with a good driving record and full coverage insurance (100/300/100 and a $500 deductible).