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Disaster Recovery - Flooded Vehicle

Disaster Relief

This article lists steps to take if your car was flooded during a natural disaster.

If your car was in a flood, report the loss. Document the damage when you make a claim for flood damage to your vehicle. Check your auto insurance policy. Auto insurance may cover flood damage, but it depends on the policy and whether you still owe money on the car. If your insurer declares the car totaled, you still may have to pay the difference between the insurance settlement and what you owe on the car loan. 

My car was washed away or is missing. What do I do?

Try to get the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and license plate number, which can be part of the title, registration, or insurance policy. Your auto lender or auto mechanic might also have this information in their files. Contact your local police or sheriff’s department to report the loss, provide the identifying information and check periodically to see if it has turned up as an unclaimed or abandoned vehicle. The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) provides title information on vehicles across the country by VIN; check to see if yours has been sold or salvaged. There is a fee to search the NMVTIS. To search for a vehicle, go to Title Check - Look before you buy at the website of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. 

Should I make a claim for flood damage to my vehicle?

If your vehicle looks like it was partially or totally submerged at some point, even if it seems to be running normally, do the following:

  1. Document the damage: Use your smartphone or camera to take photos inside and outside of the vehicle, preferably before trying to move or start it. Check for water lines or marks that might show the water level. Photograph soaked floors, upholstery, the engine, damaged personal belongings inside the car, and any other evidence of water damage.
  2. Check your policy:  Before making a claim, review your insurance coverage. If you have liability only, your loss isn’t covered. The front page of your policy (the “Declarations Page”) shows the name of your insurance company, policy number, and the amount of your coverages and deductibles. If you don’t have a copy of your policy, you might be able to view or download one from your insurance company’s website or ask them to send you a copy.  

Will my auto insurance cover the flood damage?

It depends on your policy and whether you still owe money on the car.

  • Liability only: Texas law requires all drivers to carry liability insurance, which pays to repair or replace the other driver's car when you are at fault in an accident. Liability insurance doesn't pay to repair or replace your vehicle. If you have the minimum coverage (liability only), flood damage will not be covered.
  • Comprehensive: If you make car payments to a lender, the lender will require you to carry collision and comprehensive insurance coverage. Collison insurance pays for damage to your car due to an auto accident. Comprehensive insurance covers damage for reasons other than an auto accident. If you have comprehensive coverage, the flood damage is probably covered. 

My insurer says my car is a total loss.

If the repairs are more than the car is worth, the insurance company will pay you (or your lender if you have a car note) the fair market value of the vehicle minus your deductible. If you think the adjuster’s estimate is too low, ask for an explanation of the estimated value. You can compare the value of your vehicle to similar vehicles for sale in your area to come up with an alternative estimate. Kelley Blue Book and auto dealers like CarMax are good places to start. Ask for an appraisal if you still can’t agree on the value. Check your policy for procedures to challenge the insurance company’s estimate. 

The insurance settlement is less than what I owe on the car note. Do I have to pay the difference?

Yes. If you have comprehensive coverage and the insurer says the car is worth less than what you owe the lender, you’re still responsible for paying the difference. If the insurance company makes the check payable to you and the lender, both you and the lender must endorse the check before the insurer releases the funds. The lender may then try to recover the deficiency from you. 

If you have problems with your insurance company, contact the Texas Department of Insurance Consumer Help Line at 800-252-3439, or go to Get help with an insurance complaint

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