Does your car insurance cover flood damage?
You’ll need a comprehensive car insurance policy if you’re looking for flood cover - third-party policies usually exclude it.
Some coastal areas of the UK and places near rivers have always been prone to flooding.
But the problem has become more frequent in recent years and is probably set to get worse. Climate change is bringing with it more extreme weather, including intense rainfall that causes flash flooding, especially in urban areas.
As a result, roads can become like rivers, damaging cars and even carrying them away.
With this in mind, it’s important to know if your car insurance would cover the damage or loss of your vehicle due to flooding.
- You’ll need a comprehensive car insurance policy to cover flood damage to your car
- Insurance will only pay out for ‘unavoidable’ damage - so if you deliberately drive through flood water, you may not be covered
- Don’t start the engine after your car’s been flooded - you may cause more damage. Get it checked by a mechanic first
Will all types of car insurance cover flood damage?
Unfortunately, not all levels of car insurance cover flood damage to your car.
If you have third party only (TPO) or third party, fire and theft (TPFT), you won’t be covered.
Comprehensive car insurance policies should cover you, but it will depend on the circumstances.
It’s wise - especially if you live in a high flood-risk area - to check with your car insurer if it covers flood damage.
Avoidable and unavoidable flood damage
Your insurer will distinguish between ‘avoidable’ and ‘unavoidable’ damage when looking at claims.
If they decide flood damage was avoidable, they may not pay a claim.
This is damage your insurers consider happened as a result of your own reckless behaviour or actions. For example, if you drove through a large body of floodwater. Or if you attempt to start a car that’s already submerged in water.
This is damage that happened outside of your control. For example, if your car suffered flood damage when it was parked on your drive or on the road outside your house. In these sorts of circumstances, it’s likely you’ll be able to make a successful claim on your car insurance policy.
What damage can flooding do to your car?
Flooding can do a lot of damage to your car. In some circumstances, it can lead to your car being written off.
Typically, it can cause:
- Engine issues - if water enters the engine cylinders, the pistons will seize up and immobilise your car. This is called ‘hydrolock’. It can happen when a car is parked and the road becomes flooded, submerging your car. But it can also happen when you’re driving through deep water or in severe storms, causing the engine to cut out. Don’t try to start your engine if your car’s been flooded as you’ll cause greater damage.
- Damage to moving parts - like the clutch, brakes and starter.
- Electrical problems - to wiring connected to the dashboard, computers, radio, electric seats and windows.
- Corrosion - Rusting to bodywork, undercarriage and interior components.
- Mould - and mildew can grow in any areas that aren’t dried out promptly.
Some issues may not be apparent at first, so it’s important you get your car checked out by a professional if it’s been in floodwater.
How to protect your car from flood damage
Avoid driving through a flooded road
Even though the water may not look deep, you just don’t know for sure. It’s best to take a different route or to park up somewhere safe and wait for the waters to recede.
Some experts say to keep your car safe from damage, you should avoid driving through any water that’s over half the height of a tyre. But it’s not just about keeping your car safe. You and your car can be swept away in just a couple of feet of water.
Sign up for flood alerts
The Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales and Scottish Environment Protection Agency monitor rainfall, river levels and sea conditions to forecast the possibility of flooding.
You’ll need to provide your address, plus how you’d like to be contacted any time of the day or night - whether by phone, text or email.
You can also call Floodline 0345 988 1188 - a 24 hour service for flood warning information and general advice.
Move your car
If there's a risk of flooding or heavy rainfall in your area, move your car to higher ground if you have time and it’s safe to do so. Check local weather at the Met Office website.
What to do if your vehicle is flooded
Call for help
If your car has stalled in flood water, you may need to get it towed away. Call your breakdown provider. Keep receipts for any costs incurred and take photos of the car inside and out to show your insurer. If your car has flooded at the roadside and is obviously badly damaged, call your insurer right away. They’ll let you know the next steps.
Don’t start the engine
Don’t try to start the engine, even after the water’s subsided. It can cause more damage, and may invalidate your insurance. Get it checked out by a mechanic first.
How do I claim for flood damage on my car insurance?
Contact your insurer as soon as possible after the flood.
Take photos, and/or video of the scene and the damage to your car, inside and out.
Your insurer will let you know what to do next.
They might want to send one of their approved mechanics to assess the damage. And they may arrange for the car to be professionally dried out.
Make a list of any possessions in the car that have been damaged and take photos. If your car insurance policy includes personal possessions cover, you may be covered for the items. Find receipts if possible.
What will happen to my car if it’s damaged in a flood?
Depending on the extent of damage to your car, your insurer will either arrange to have your car repaired. Or, if they decide it’s irreparable or too costly to fix, they’ll declare it a write-off.
What type of water damage will my car insurance cover?
It depends on the policy, but a comprehensive policy could cover damage to:
- Car engine and bodywork
- Interior upholstery and seats
- Car entertainment system
- Belongings in the car if personal possessions cover is included in the policy
Driving safely in heavy rain
Ideally, you should avoid driving in poor weather conditions, if at all possible.
If the Met Office has issued a red weather warning, then widespread travel disruption and risk to life is likely.
If you absolutely have to travel in these conditions, you must take the utmost caution.
During heavy rain and storms, always watch your speed and leave plenty of distance between you and the car in front. Turn on your headlights to dipped beam so your car is more easily visible.
Driving during a red weather warning won’t invalidate your car insurance. But if you have an accident and it’s discovered you drove unsafely, ignored diversion signs or ‘road closure’ signs, drove over the speed limit or engaged in any other form of reckless driving behaviour, your insurer may not pay out any claim.
Things to look out for when driving in heavy rain include:
This is where roads flood because of rapid, heavy rainfall that’s too heavy for drains to cope with. You should only drive through water if you know it’s not too deep (no more than 10cm or 4 inches) and if it’s not moving. Drive slow and steady to avoid creating a bow wave, and keep in low gear. This helps force air though the exhaust pipe and keep water out of it. Test that your brakes are working properly after you’ve driven through the water.
This happens when you drive into water and your tyres lose traction, so they can't grip the road. It means you can’t control the car, accelerate, steer or brake. You may feel the engine revs spike and get louder, the steering become lighter and the back of your car drifting sideways. Try not to panic and don’t hit the brakes. Instead, turn off cruise control if you’re using it, and gently ease off the accelerator while holding the steering wheel straight. Your car should soon regain traction with the road.