When weather wrecks your car, having the right policy makes a big difference.

Accidents happen, even to the best and most careful drivers. This can be especially true when the car-smashing culprit is Mother Nature herself.

Falling tree limbs can be downright deadly, and they don’t play nicely with a car’s roof or fenders. Flooding, fires and large hail can also turn your pride and joy into a soggy, dented and flame-damaged mess of sheet metal and plastic. The good news is that, depending on your insurance coverage, most if not all damage should be covered, even if the vehicle turns out to be a total loss.

The important thing to know is that you need the right kind of insurance policy in the first place. Generally, a comprehensive car insurance policy should get you back on your feet and on the road again, without putting a dent in your wallet.

Lynne McChristian, a representative of the Insurance Information Institute, explains how the cost to protect your vehicle from storm-related incidents is less than what you’d likely spend out-of-pocket for storm-related repairs, or to buy an entirely new car.

Here are five suggestions to help protect your vehicle as well as yourself:

  • First, it quite literally pays to know exactly what kind of insurance you have on your vehicle. “Comprehensive coverage is protection that does not involve another car, such as damage from fire, explosion, flood, hail, or a tree falling on your car,” says McChristian. “Most people carry comprehensive coverage on automobiles, so you should definitely call your insurer if you have damage from perils other than a collision.”

  • McChristian explains that this extra level of protection is very affordable. “This protection costs, on average, about $134 extra annually. It is available from your own auto insurance provider.”

  • “Keep in mind that insurers pay auto insurance claims based on the actual cash value of the car at the time of the accident or loss,” says McChristian. It could be highly valuable -- and save you from any potential arguments over a claim -- if you maintain an accurate assessment of your vehicle’s true value. This way, if something unfortunate does happen to your car because of a storm or fire, you won’t be surprised to discover your vehicle isn’t worth as much as you anticipated.

  • For a brand-new car or truck, maintaining higher levels of insurance coverage is a sound idea. “But if you have an older car, it might not make economic sense since the value of the car may be less than the price of coverage,” says McChristian. If you’re driving a used car that’s only valued at several hundred dollars, covering it for the possibility of storm damage simply might not be worth it. For example, basic liability insurance would provide a minimum of protection during a vehicular accident, but it doesn’t cover storm-related damage. If your car or truck was damaged by a housefire, however, the loss of property could be covered under your separate homeowner’s policy.

  • “To minimize concerns over depreciation, some auto insurers will add a replacement-cost endorsement to your policy, so depreciation is less of a factor,” says Lynne McChristian. Here’s one scenario where this can be applied. Imagine driving a new car for only six months and then a storm knocks a tree onto it, making it a complete loss. While it’s still almost brand-new, the fact is it did depreciate during the short time you owned it. This means the replacement cost for the exact same vehicle will be higher than what your insurance would pay for your car. This helps to bridge that potential financial gap. “Always ask about your options, and do the math on the cost and benefits,” adds McChristian.


Learn More: What are the 5 things you need to tell your insurance company after a weather-related disaster ruins your car?

Learn More: Can FEMA help if a weather-related disaster ruins your car?

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