Each year we see heavy rainfall and flash floods in many parts of the UK. But while the news often focuses on the damage it causes to homes, flooding can also cause serious damage to cars.
Driving through floodwater is never a good idea as it’s impossible to judge its depth and even a small amount of water getting into your engine can cause you to stall. If just an egg cupful of water gets in your car's combustion chamber it can be enough to ruin your engine.
On top of this, you could also be left stranded and surrounded by water — this is particularly dangerous if the water is fast moving or still rising.
Cars can start to float in as little as 12 inches (30cm) of water, while two feet (60cm) of moving water can sweep away almost any vehicle, including 4x4s. If the water rises enough, it can cause damage to the fuel tank – if this doesn’t prevent the vehicle from running, it can affect the vehicle’s filter systems and lead to further problems.
In addition, flood damage can result in:
rusted suspension joints
mould or rust
damaged lights, parking sensors and cameras
How badly damaged your car is will dictate who you call. If your car is flooded do not drive it until it has been looked at by a qualified mechanic. This may mean you need to get it towed to your nearest garage, so contact your breakdown provider if you have cover, or a local garage to help.
Make sure you save all receipts for the cost of the towing and any repairs to submit to your insurer so you can reclaim the cost.
If the car is badly damaged or the flood water was high, and you have fully comprehensive insurance, contact your insurer.
If you have a fully comprehensive car insurance policy you should be able to claim against damage caused by flooding. However, it’s best to check the terms and conditions carefully to ensure there are no incidents where your insurer might refuse to pay out.
If you have a third party, fire and theft policy, it’s unlikely to provide cover against flooding so you will need to pay the cost of any repairs yourself. If you live in a flood risk area you should consider upgrading if you do not have comprehensive cover.
Fully comprehensive policies give you the best cover and are often the cheapest option when you consider the overall cost of the policy compared to the cost of repairing your car following any flood damage – which can be expensive. If you want to pay less for your cover, try these ten ways to cut the cost of your car insurance.
Before you apply for cover or upgrade, check the policy documents carefully to make sure they list car insurance flooded engine cover. It is also worth checking if they make a distinction between avoidable and unavoidable water damage.
You can find out what each level of car insurance cover protects you against here.
Flood water damage generally falls into two categories; avoidable and unavoidable.
How your insurer classifies each will determine if they are likely to pay out for a claim for flood damage.
Avoidable flood damage: Attempting to drive through flooding could be classified as avoidable and therefore you may find your insurer chooses not to pay out unless you were already cut off by rising water.
Unavoidable flood damage: If your car is flooded where you usually park, insurers will usually class this as unavoidable flood damage and should cover the cost of repairs.
As mentioned earlier, if you have a fully comprehensive policy you should be able to claim for flood damage to your car. However, it’s best to phone your insurer as soon as possible, so they can run through the steps you need to take.
Do not try to dry the car out yourself as this requires a professional service and your insurer may have a 'recommended partner' that you will have to use. You will also need to let them know how your car is damaged — is it just the engine that is flooded or is there also flooding inside car?
Check if your car insurance policy includes cover for personal possessions left in the car. If not you might be able to claim on your home insurance policy.
For more details, take a look at our step-by-step guide to making a car insurance claim.
Your car insurance provider will need to assess the flood damage to your car to see whether it can be repaired or whether it’s a write-off. If your car is a write-off, check whether your insurance policy offers new car replacement for vehicles under 12 months old – many do.
If your car is more than a year old, your insurer should offer a payout that is enough to replace your car with a similar vehicle in a similar condition, although be aware you will still need to pay an excess.
Whatever car you drive, make sure you find insurance that covers everything you need as cheaply as possible by comparing all of the policies out there.