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Auto insurance: How to deal with flood damage to your car

As millions of residents along the East Coast mop up from the hurricane and tropical storm called Irene, some may be coping with damage to their cars. For those folks, and for anyone whose car is damaged by floodwaters, it’s crucial to know that the damage is covered only if your auto insurance policy includes comprehensive coverage.

Nearly every state requires motorists to carry liability insurance. Comprehensive coverage is optional, however.

auto insurance flood damageAccording to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, comprehensive coverage covers you in case your car is stolen or damaged in ways that don’t involve a collision. Covered risks include flood, hail, fire, theft, earthquake, explosion, falling objects and encounters with wildlife, such as deer. Your lender may require you to buy comprehensive coverage if you have an auto loan.

If your car has sustained flood damage and you have comprehensive coverage, you should contact your auto insurance agent or company as soon as possible. If your car has been so badly damaged that it’s not worth repairing, you’ll receive a check for the car’s actual value – what it would have been worth if it had been sold just before the flood, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Esurance recommends that you file a claim with your auto insurance company before proceeding with repair or replacement of your car. Keep in mind that you’ll probably have to pay your auto insurance deductible.

Once you’ve reported the claim, contact your mechanic, Esurance says. Have your mechanic thoroughly inspect your car and write a repair estimate. Avoid starting your car until it’s been inspected and cleaned by a qualified mechanic, Esurance says. Even if your car looks fine after floodwaters recede, remember that a car’s engine, braking, steering and transmission systems are prone to hidden flood damage.

Progressive offers this additional advice about what to do if your car has been damaged by floodwater:

• Check your oil indicator. A reading of an oil level that’s too high may tell you there’s water in the engine.

• Measure the depth of the water that submerged your car. It’s possible that water didn’t enter any parts that are susceptible to damage.

• Determine how long your car was submerged. The shorter the time, the more salvageable any damaged parts may be.

• Be sure to note the type of water that flooded your vehicle. Fresh water causes less damage to your car than salt water.

• Note the temperature during and after flooding. Warmer weather may speed up corrosion, especially if your car was flooded by salt water.

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