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What to Do if Your Car Gets Flooded

May 27 2016

You live in Houston, and though floods are not uncommon, your car has been caught in floodwaters. What should you do? Ask any mechanic about flood damage repair, and most will say it’s impossible. Because flood water is harmful to all cars, the answer is complicated. Most Houston car insurance companies would rather write off a flood-damaged car than undergo extensive repairs. Water damage can cause hydro-locked engines, short-circuiting electronics, and water-logged transmissions. Mold, mildew and rust will also be in your future after your car is caught in a flood.

First things first

First, tow your car to an authorized mechanic who can determine whether or not the vehicle is salvageable. Do not attempt to start an engine that has been flooded. State laws and your Houston auto insurance company’s guidelines dictate whether a vehicle is determined to be a total loss. If you have comprehensive insurance coverage for your car, you can then have it repaired or replaced after flood damage. If repairs and replacements are determined to be the best course of action, you will likely only owe the deductible. Depending on the level of flooding, you may need to drain the fuel tank and re-fill it before driving it again, to eliminate water contamination.

In general, a car is determined to be a “total loss” when:

  • It is so severely damaged that it cannot be properly repaired.
  • It costs more than the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of the vehicle to repair it.
  • If the amount of damage or cost of repairing the vehicle is too much, according to state regulations or your car insurance guidelines for total loss.

Cars are typically “totaled” when the cost of repairs to the vehicle is higher than the vehicle’s ACV. In some cases, it’s not practical to fix a car, even if the cost to do so is less than the ACV. In that case, insurance company guidelines and state laws come into play when determining whether the car is totaled.

In some cases, your car insurance may pay for damages when your car sustains water damage, but is not totaled. 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 ACV (as long as the damage is caused by natural disasters and not via an accident). Collision coverage could be utilized if you hydroplane and flip your car or hit another car, tree, or structure in a flood. Your claim will pay to repair your car or will pay the ACV of the car. You still have to pay the deductible, whether the accident was your fault, someone else’s, or caused by the storm. Rental car reimbursement coverage is a wise choice. If you’d be left stranded while your car is being repaired, it may pay to have it. Rental reimbursement coverage is optional and pays you a certain amount per day or per week for a rental car to drive while your car is being repaired.

In general, repairing flood damage is risky. Drying out your car as soon as possible will give you the best chance to recover your losses. If you absolutely must keep a car that has been flooded, consider it a short-term solution.


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