It’s one thing to discover your car or truck has been damaged by flood waters, flying debris from high winds, or even a sudden hailstorm. But it can be even worse when your vehicle disappears without a trace in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

Has the missing car been towed for some reason? Was it swept away by floodwaters? Or could it even have been stolen in the chaotic aftermath of a powerful storm?

The point here is not to panic and feel like you don’t have options. Emotions will likely be running high and it’s best to know exactly what your first steps should be if your vehicle isn’t where you last left it.

Lynne McChristian, a representative with the Insurance Information Institute, says there is a high probability the missing car was moved to another location, possibly to keep it safe, or at least out of the way during official clean-up efforts. “If you can’t find your car, a call to the local city or county offices would be in order,” says McChristian. “Civil authorities may have removed cars and can tell you where they are stored awaiting claims from owners.”

Here are four things additional things to do if your vehicle can’t be found following a major storm.

  • If you have access to a working phone, try to get in touch with your insurance company right away. “Survivors who have a comprehensive policy should first file a claim with their insurance company,” said a spokesperson with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “Comprehensive policies usually pay for storm-related damages to a car.” If the storm was large, getting your claim in early could help move you towards the front of a very long line.

  • Your vehicle might be missing but, once it’s safe to do so, try documenting where you last saw it. Take photos of the vehicle’s last known location and hold onto these images for your insurance company, or other local agencies who might assist with locating the car. If a storm caused extensive damage to buildings, trees and powerlines, your car might have been towed to assist with getting the area cleaned up.

  • Don’t do anything dangerous, especially if post-wildfire, floodwater or other areas where you left your car remain risky, or off-limits to anyone except emergency personnel. We know you love your car, but someone out there loves you, too. Don’t risk your personal safety for your vehicle.

  • Document, document, document, and then document some more. Taking pictures is a smart first step – even if it’s only of an empty spot where your car used to be. And be sure to make a note of who you spoke with at your insurance company or other agencies assisting in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Simply asking for someone’s name, then jotting down the time and date when you spoke, is a great way to keep things clear and easy to reference later, if needed.


Bonus Content: Find out what you need to tell your insurance company after a storm wrecks your car

Bonus Content: You might qualify for FEMA assistance after a storm wrecks your car.

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