Does car insurance cover flood water damage?

A flood street with parked cars.
Photo by Ekaterina Grishina

Accidental flood water damage is covered with most comprehensive car insurance policies, or at least is offered as an optional extra. That said, some insurance providers may deem driving into flood water a reckless act and as such may refuse a claim for flood water damage in some cases. 

Besides the possibility of not having a car insurance claim accepted, emergency services across the country advise against driving into a flooded area. In fact, VICSES (Victoria State Emergency Services) are currently running a campaign to raise awareness around just how dangerous driving into flood water can be.

RELATED: Guide to all things flood insurance

‘15 to float’ campaign

According to VICSES it only takes water 15cm deep with a flow speed of around 3.6km/hour to float a small car. That’s the height of an average pen!

Meanwhile a medium sized car can be moved by water around 30cm deep and flood water around 45cm high can move a four wheel drive. Both when water is flowing at a speed of around 3.6km per hour. 

Now you might be thinking that that’s really not very deep and it certainly doesn’t seem like it. It’s easy to see how many motorists can misjudge the danger and wind up in a very dangerous situation. VICSES says since 2016, 10% of emergency requests in Victoria have been for assistance for vehicles caught in flood water. 

It also says that fatalities associated with four wheel drives and flood water have increased significantly over the past 15 years.

Flood water damage and car insurance

Typically cover for flood water damage is only available with comprehensive car insurance policies. Some third party car insurance plans may include cover for fire and theft, but are unlikely to offer cover for flood water.

Some comprehensive policies also include as part of their cover protection for storm and hail damage, especially damage to your windshield as this is considered a critical structure.

Of course, that isn’t to say that comprehensive car insurance will provide cover for flood water damage in all instances. For this reason we recommend reading the PDS (product disclosure statement) that accompanies each individual policy thoroughly, before signing on the dotted line. That way you will know what is covered and what exclusions may apply.

Another thing to take note of is that a lot of insurance policies will come with a 72 hour waiting period for things like flooding, fires and storms. This means you might not be able to claim for any flood damage that happens within 72 hours of taking out the policy.

RELATED: What support is available for the 2022 NSW/QLD floods?

Keen to protect your wheels with a comprehensive car insurance policy? Check out the options below, or head to Mozo’s compare comprehensive car insurance page to review multiple options.

FAQs

What can I claim with flooded cars?

Whenever your car is swept away or damaged in a flood, depending on the incident and policy you have in place, you may be able to claim:

  • Towing.
    Rental car costs.
    Mechanic repair costs.
    Cleaning costs.
  • New-for-old replacement.

However, this will depend on your policy's inclusions, the age and condition of your car, and how the car became flooded in the first place. Always consult the PDS and reach out to your provider to get clarification before filing an insurance claim.

What's the best flood insurance for cars in Australia?

No one policy can be called the best because no one policy suits everyone. However, there are some key things to look out for when comparing policies with flood insurance included. 

    Waiting periods. Some policies won't kick in their flood/storm cover until 48-72 hours after your policy is purchased and approved. Make sure you have a policy in place well before disaster strikes.
    Terms and conditions. The definition of a flood can sometimes vary between providers, so reads the PDS to see what's included and excluded in your policy. 
    Write-off cover. Most insurance providers only offer new for old replacement on cars with certain age/mileage limits. If your car is over two years old or has more than 50,000 kms on the odometer, you might need to think of other insurance options.
What are common problems with flooded cars?

Unfortunately water can do some significant damage to cars. There's internal mechanical and electrical components to consider, as well as aesthetic damage to the chassis, seats, and interior. Most modern cars can cop with minor floodwater damage, but if the water flows past the lower doors, your car could be swept away and seriously damaged in the fall out. Never drive into floodwaters. 

If your car has been hit by a flood, it's vital to get it serviced and contact your insurance provider after you have gotten yourself to safety. They will then be able help you determine the extent of the damage, what can be covered by an insurance claim, and whether you car can be sufficiently repaired to motor vehicle safety standards. 

Signs of floodwater damage to cars include:

  • A mouldy smell.
    Mud/silt/water stains on, around, beneath the seats, air ducts, gears, etc. 
    Brittle electrical wires in the engine.
    Faulty windshield wipers, air conditioning, or cigarette lighters/electrical plugs.
    Dash-lights flicker or won't turn on.
    Exterior rust/bubbling.
    Changes in colour/thickness to the engine oil. 
    Seatbelts won't pull out/extend all the way. 

Your mechanic should also check critical systems such as the brakes, spark plugs, transmission, steering, cooling and ventilation systems, etc. 

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