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If my car was flooded, is it totaled?

As big storms, hurricanes, and flood events have become stronger and more frequent in the past few decades, more people have lost homes, property, and cars to water damage. Generally speaking, cars and trucks don’t get along well with massive amounts of water. Floodwaters can be especially dangerous, as driving through or sitting in them could expose your vehicle to a mix of corrosive vehicles like chemicals and road salts. 

But, if you end up in a flooding situation, is your car totaled? How difficult would it be to fix your car following a flood? The answers to these questions and more is dependent on a number of factors, discussed in more detail below. Continue reading to learn more about how to handle your situation. 

Am I Covered For Flood Damage To My Car?

If you have comprehensive auto coverage, you should be covered in case of flooding. Comprehensive plans insure you for things that happen to your car other than collisions, which as fire, theft, and floods. You will still owe your deductible if you file a claim on a flooded car, assuming it hasn’t been met yet.

If you do not have comprehensive coverage, you likely will not be covered. Do not assume you have comprehensive coverage, as it is optional and typically sold as an add-on to collision coverage. Check the specifics of your plan, or check with your insurance agent to be sure. If you decide to get comprehensive insurance after learning that you do not have it, come back to this website to get free quotes.

If you are covered and file a claim, it’s possible your rates will go up. On average, rates increase by about 3 percent. For the average insurance cost, this is about $39 per year. 

Is Flood Damage Repairable? Is My Car Worth Fixing?

So, how flooded is flooded? How much water does it take to flood a car? Sadly, it doesn’t take a lot to damage a vehicle. If you drove through water that was up to mid-tire level or higher or your car was parked in water that deep for a time, it’s possible that you have some damage.

The biggest risk for car damage from flooding is that the water reaches your vehicle’s electrical components. With all the new technological advances and lower air intakes in modern cars, the newer the car, the less water damage they can take. New vehicles have very complex and interwoven electrical systems that do everything from activating the starter to work sensors for your passenger airbag. 

Everything on your car is repairable in theory, but mechanics may also be hesitant to fix flooded cars due to the difficulty and cost of repairs. Because of this, your insurance company may opt to classify your car as totaled instead of repairing it. To be considered totaled, a vehicle must meet one of these three requirements:

  • Repairs cost more than the car’s worth or actual cash value (ACV)
  • The damage cannot be safely repaired
  • The amount of damage is too much according to state laws and regulations

In most instances, a car will be totaled for the first reason, but all insurance companies and states have a variance in their Total Loss Threshold or TLT. The TLT is a percentage of the ACV that, if repairs meet it, the car will be considered totaled. In Texas, the TLT is set at 100%, but in Oklahoma, the TLT is as low as 60%. Even with these state-governed thresholds, individual companies may set a lower TLT. 

While the most severe damage will be visible, there may be mechanical issues not visible to the naked eye, even after your car has dried out. This unseen damage could lead to your car needing repairs significant and costly enough to lead to it being classified as totaled. 

What If I Owe More Than My Car Is Worth?

Like any other incident, an insurance company will only payout based on your car’s actual cash value. If your car is totaled, be prepared to negotiate your car’s value with your insurance company. 

Be sure to have pictures of what your car looked like before the accident. And, if you are worried about owing more than your car is worth, look into gap coverage to cover the difference. 

My Car Is Flooded. What Should I Do Immediately?

The National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) recommends taking these steps if your vehicle is flooded:

  1. Don’t start your vehicle. Starting a car with water could cause more damage to the car. Before you try to start your engine, make sure a thorough inspection and cleaning are performed. 
  2. Take immediate steps to dry your vehicle as much as possible. Get your vehicle towed to higher grounds as the floodwaters are receding. 
  3. Remove all moisture from the car’s cab in the interior was flooded. Use a vacuum with wet/dry capabilities to take out any standing water, and use towels to dab away water that has soaked into the seats and carpets. If possible, remove the seats and use fans to quicken the process. 
  4. Record the highest level of water exposure on your vehicle. This will assist mechanics, and other qualified technicians in evaluating your auto’s damage and how to repair it and will be useful for your insurance company’s assessment. 
  5. Contact your insurance agent to report the damage. 
  6. Contact a certified technician to arrange an inspection of your flooded vehicle. This technician should be able to evaluate all of your car’s mechanical components for water damage, including the axels, brakes, fuel systems, engine, and transmission for damage. The technician should also inspect all wiring and electrical components thoroughly; while these are protected from casual water exposure, extended water exposure may have lingering effects and cause corrosion of your auto’s computer or other electrical components down the line. 
  7. Flush your car's systems and replace all lubricants, oils, and other fluids.
  8. Replace all filters and gaskets that may have been exposed to water.
  9. Have all your brake parts cleaned and bearings repacked, particularly for rear-drive vehicles. 
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