Your damaged car or truck could be eligible for disaster assistance.

When a natural disaster strikes, government-provided financial aid to repair or replace your damaged car or truck might be more readily available than you think. During severe storms, fires and catastrophic flooding, countless homes and entire towns can be destroyed, and hundreds or thousands of vehicles can be damaged. In these difficult times, a little extra assistance can go a long way towards recovery.

But how do you know if you’re eligible, and what steps are involved? We spoke with a representative of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to find out.

“Any disaster survivor who had a car damaged or destroyed in counties designated in a Presidential Declaration may be eligible for FEMA disaster assistance,” said the FEMA spokesperson, regarding disaster-affected vehicles. “Those who may be eligible include not just residents of the designated counties, but also those who were working or visiting in areas and had damage to their vehicle during the disaster.”

The following are five key things to remember when applying for federal aid to repair or replace your vehicle:

  • Your vehicle must have been damaged or destroyed during a Presidentially-declared disaster. Any vehicle damage can then be recorded by a FEMA housing inspector, or you may refer to a FEMA eligibility letter for help about where to send necessary documentation. These can include items such as a valid registration and title.

  • Following a storm or other natural disaster, automobile insurance companies and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are the primary resources available to help with needed repairs. If you’re unable to receive help through insurance or the SBA, you may qualify for assistance from FEMA through the Other Needs Assistance (ONA) program.

  • There are some basic insurance requirements needed to qualify for FEMA aid. Only car owners who maintain at least liability insurance will be considered to receive federal disaster assistance to repair or replace their vehicle. While a comprehensive policy would likely cover all or most damage costs, liability insurance alone does not. For people with older and less valuable vehicles – the type that often have less extensive insurance policies – it’s good to remember the bare minimum of coverage is better than none, especially when the unexpected occurs.

  • If you have a comprehensive policy for your car or truck, a claim should be filed first with your insurance company. Even if you think insurance will cover all the costs, it’s smart to know federal disaster assistance can fill in any gaps for people whose comprehensive coverage might not be enough.

  • If you are underinsured or not insured, you can apply for an SBA low-interest disaster-loan. Homeowners and renters may be eligible to borrow up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property, including automobiles damaged or destroyed in the disaster. Those recovering from a disaster will need to return a completed Small Business Administration disaster-loan application. After registering with FEMA, the SBA will contact survivors concerning loan applications. If the SBA determines you cannot afford a loan, and you have registered with FEMA, you will automatically be referred to FEMA’s Other Needs Assistance program.


If you’re in need of assistance or require additional information, register with FEMA online at DisasterAssistance.gov, or call 800-621-FEMA (3362) [or via TTY 800-462-7585].

Learn More: 3 Things to do with a Storm or Fire Damaged Vehicle

Learn More: 5 Things to Tell Your Insurance Company When Your Car is Damaged in a Storm or Fire

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