Some people will say that driving in the rain is one of the most calming and soothing experiences in a world filled with chaos and anxiety. Whenever it starts raining, many anticipate how the care slowly rolls through effortlessly, how the view of the wet city extends so far into the distance, and whenever it feels as if it was an accomplishment to have broken through.
Driving on a rainy day can be a challenge but if you employ some clever driving strategies, it can be very enjoyable experience.
What To Do If Your Car Is Caught In A Flood
Floods are the most common of all weather-related natural disasters. Flooding accounts for more loss of life and property than any other type of hazard or severe weather, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association. Every state in the U.S. is prone to flooding, even normally dry states.
If your car is partially or fully submerged in flood water and you don’t have the right type of car insurance, you could be stuck with costly repair bills or, worse, a total loss of the vehicle.
Here’s what to know about floods, cars and insurance.
What Should I Do if My Car is Caught in a Flood?
First and foremost, try to avoid flooded areas. If you see water on the road, turn around. It can be much deeper than it looks. The most common flood deaths happen when vehicles are driven into flood water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Flash floods are considered the most dangerous type of floods because of their speed and destructive power. They can happen within minutes of rainfall and with little warning.
Densely populated areas are at a high risk of flash floods because buildings, driveways, roadways and parking lots can cause water runoff. Storm drains and sewers become overwhelmed or clogged and then flood nearby roads.
As little as 6 inches of water can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Higher water will be even more dangerous. That’s because your tires can act as a flotation device in shallow water. Two feet of water is enough to float a 3,000-pound car. (A 2021 Honda Civic sedan weighs less than 3,000 pounds.)
If your car is caught in a flood, here are some tips from the San Antonio Fire Department:
- Leave your car immediately and seek higher ground.
- If your car is swept into the water and submerged, try not to panic. Stay calm and wait for the car to fill with water. Once the car is full, you’ll be able to open a door. (The water pressure needs to be equalized between the outside and inside of the car for the door to open.) Hold your breath and swim to the surface.
- If you are swept into fast moving flood water when you’re not in a vehicle, point your feet downstream. Always try to go over obstacles, like tree branches in the water, never under them.
- If you’re stranded on an object above the floodwater, like a building or tree, stay where you are and wait for rescue. Do not go into the flood water.
- When help arrives, remain calm and follow the directions of the rescue team.
What Should I Do With My Car After a Flood?
Attempt to get to your car only when the flood waters have receded and it is safe to do so. If necessary, have your car towed to higher ground. Here are some tips on dealing with a car that has been in water:
- Do not attempt to start a flooded car. If there is water in the engine, you could cause even more damage.
- Use a wet/dry vacuum to remove any standing water.
- Use towels to absorb water that may have soaked into the seats and cushions.
- Use dehumidifiers and fans, if possible.
- File a claim with your auto insurance company.
Can a Car Be Fixed After Being Flooded?
A vehicle may be fixable after being flooded, but it depends on the level of damage. Minor flooding may not cause much damage and the vehicle might be repairable.
But an insurance company may declare a vehicle a total loss if a car was sitting in water for days. That’s because damage caused by water, including electronic damage, can be complicated and expensive to repair.
A repaired vehicle that went through the insurance claim process should be insurable once the work is completed, but the flooding incident will be on its vehicle history report.
If your vehicle is totaled, you may still be able to keep your car as an “owner retained salvage.” You will get a salvage title and will need to make it legally roadworthy based on your state if you want to drive it again. If the car passes a state inspection, the car will receive a rebuilt title.
Though a rebuilt title means you can take your previously totaled vehicle on the road, you may have trouble finding car insurance. Insurers often view cars with a rebuilt title as riskier to insure than other vehicles. They may not offer you insurance or may decline to give you optional coverage like collision and comprehensive insurance.
What Type of Car Insurance Do I Need for Flood Damage?
Comprehensive auto insurance will pay for flood damage repairs or will pay you the value of the vehicle if it’s totaled. Comprehensive insurance also covers other types of problems, such as falling objects, hail, theft, vandalism, riots and collisions with animals.
Note that comprehensive claims have a deductible, which is the amount deducted from an insurance check. Your auto insurance policy’s declarations page will list the deductible. You can change the amount. Typically, the higher the deductible, the lower the car insurance costs.
The average cost for comprehensive insurance is about $168 per year, according to the most recent data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
If you have a big car loan you might also consider gap insurance. This covers the “gap” between the value of your car and what you still owe on a loan or lease.
If you recently purchased a new car, you may be able to add new car replacement insurance, depending on the insurance company. New car replacement will pay for a new car of the same make and model (minus your deductible) instead of paying only the depreciated value of the car.
Will FEMA Pay for Flooded Car Damage?
You may have heard of FEMA helping car owners for flood damage in the past, either through low-interest loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA) or the Other Needs Assistance (ONA) program.
But you shouldn’t rely on FEMA for help with flood-related car damage. That’s because there’s no guarantee of assistance and it may be limited to certain counties affected by severe storms and flooding.
You most likely won’t be able to apply for an SBA loan or ONA assistance for a problem like a flash flood, which is a common threat across the country.
Keep in mind, you have to pay back an SBA loan, and assistance from ONA might be in limited amounts.
If You’re Buying a Used Car, Beware of Flood Damage
If you’re shopping for a used car, be wary of flood-damaged vehicles. There are 378,000 previously flood-damaged cars on the road and 212,000 vehicles were damaged by Hurricane Ida in 2021, according to a Carfax data.
Texas is the state with the most previously flooded cars and Houston is the city with the most flood-damaged vehicles in the U.S.
States with most previously flood-damaged cars
|State||Estimated number of flood-damaged cars|
Warns that flood-damaged cars are showing up in other states where floods might not be on the minds of car shoppers.
Offers a free Flood Check tool to show where flood-damaged cars may have ended up. Here are seven telltale signs of flood damage in a vehicle:
- A musty odor in the interior. A seller might try to cover this up with air freshener.
- Loose upholstery or carpeting, stains or upholstery that don’t seem to match.
- Damp carpets.
- Rust around doors, on the pedals, inside the hood, on trunk latches and under the dashboard.
- Mud or silt under the seats or in the glove compartment.
- Brittle wires under the dashboard.
- Fog or moisture beads in the exterior lights, interior lights or instrument panel.