Hurricane season starts in June and ends in November each year. This post addresses how to make sure you’re covered for a hurricane by your auto insurance carrier.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts an unusually active hurricane season this year. If you live in greater Houston, you may have concerns about the car insurance coverage necessary to cover damage to a vehicle from severe weather.
Collision and Comprehensive Coverage
Your car insurance policy should include collision and comprehensive coverages if you need the insurer to pay for repairs or the total loss of your vehicle, less the deductible:
- Collision coverage protects the vehicle owner if it’s hit by, or hits, another vehicle or object. For instance, if a rainstorm causes the vehicle to hydroplane and a crash results, the owner may submit a collision claim.
- Statistics show that most vehicular damage in tropical storms or hurricanes results from water and wind damage. In this scenario, the car is covered under the insurer’s comprehensive coverage.
Comprehensive coverage applies to theft, fire, glass breakage, and/or flood water, wind gusts, or other types of natural occurrences. For example, if the vehicle is damaged by a wind storm, the owner is typically protected by the comprehensive coverage in his or her car insurance policy.
Check Comprehensive Coverage Before Hurricane Season
Review your car insurance policy to know you’ve got comprehensive coverage in place. Most states require drivers to carry liability coverage to protect other drivers, but not all require drivers to carry comprehensive and collision insurance coverage.
Older vehicle owners may decide to drop these coverages to save money on premiums. However, the Insurance Information Institute reports that more than three-fourths of all auto policy insureds have comprehensive coverage:
- Reimbursement on a car insurance claim depends on the choices you made to balance the cost of insurance (premiums) and coverage.
- Higher car insurance deductibles make auto insurance more affordable. However, your decision to put a $1,000 deductible in place instead of a $500 deductible will mean you’ve agreed to foot a higher percentage of the cost of repairs.
- Consider your vehicle’s current value when reviewing car insurance options. Regardless of the vehicle’s damage, the insurer won’t pay for more than its total current value. If you’re driving an older vehicle, costs to repair your vehicle may be greater than the amount the insurer is willing to pay.
Minimum Liability Coverage
Understand that a minimum liability coverage policy can be a pennywise but pound foolish decision. If your car is damaged in severe weather, you need more than just property damage or bodily injury coverages.
Purchase comprehensive and collision coverage prior to an announcement that hurricane or tropical storm warnings are in effect. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) reports that tropical storm (39-73 mph) or hurricane (74+ mph) warnings are predicted to hit the area within a 36-hour period. Buy enough auto insurance before you hear storm warnings are in effect for Houston.
If you wait to purchase this coverage, the insurer may place restrictions to an existing or new policy in severe weather.
In a Hurricane or Tropical Storm
Insurers are likely to place certain binding restrictions on a car insurance policy if the insured’s area is under a tropical storm or hurricane warning. Restrictions may differ from one insurer to another:
- Plan ahead if your auto policy expires in hurricane season. Shop or renew your coverage early to avoid restrictions.
- Avoid buying new insurance if severe weather is imminent. Costs to insure the vehicle may be higher in hurricane season.
If your vehicle is damaged in a tropical storm or hurricane and you have comprehensive insurance coverage on it, take photos of the damaged vehicle as soon as possible after it’s safe to do so:
- Contact the insurer to submit a claim if the damage is higher than your deductible.
- Prevent additional loss to the vehicle by covering it with a tarp or covering broken glass.
Hurricanes and tropical storms often go hand-in-hand with rising waters or floods:
- Comprehensive insurance protects the vehicle owner when floor or water damage is present. This coverage includes any sort of damage to the vehicle (up to its cash value) caused by a natural disaster and not an accident.
- Collision coverage protects the vehicle owner if he or she hits another vehicle or hydroplanes. The insurer typically has the option to pay for repairs up to the cash value of the insured vehicle, less the policy deductible.
- Gap insurance coverage is important when the amount the driver owes is greater than its current market value. If the vehicle is totaled in a hurricane and the owner’s car loan is greater than the car’s current value, gap insurance pays the difference. For example, if the owner’s car loan is $20,000 but the cash value is $10,000, gap insurance reimburses the lender according to the policy’s terms and conditions. Gap insurance may be offered by your financing company.
- Rental car reimbursement is an important benefit if your car is damaged in severe weather. It may be redundant if you have a second car or it’s possible to access public transportation in your area.
Plan Ahead to Make Sure You’re Covered for a Hurricane
Plan ahead if you live in an area that’s likely to experience severe weather. If you live in greater Houston TX, it’s important to have comprehensive coverage. It’s essential to have comprehensive coverage if you owe money on the vehicle.
Realize that all insurers avoid issuing comprehensive auto insurance when a pending severe storm is on the horizon. There’s too much risk associated with writing new coverage and all insurers want to avoid it.
Avoid unnecessary costs by following the above advice. Stay prepared. If your vehicle isn’t ready for the hurricane season, don’t delay.
If you need a reliable used car as part of your hurricane preparedness strategy, check out Shabana Motors’ used car inventory. We’ll do our part to help you find a great new ride.