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In 1996, the floods in Saguenay, Quebec caused Canada’s first billion-dollar disaster, according to Environment Canada.
Part of that hefty price tag included the hundreds of vehicles that were damaged.
It takes only about15 centimetres of water to cause irrevocable harm to your car, but it’s not just a flash flood that can do that kind of damage. It’s more common than you might think for drivers to unknowingly drive through large puddles after a storm has passed, assuming they’re not deep, only to find out that the puddle is more akin to a pond.
If you make such a decision, can you still make a claim against your auto insurance policy?
Are you covered by insurance if you drive through water and damage your vehicle?
If you drive through water and it causes damage to your vehicle, you can make a claim but only if you have comprehensive coverage.
Also called All Perils insurance, comprehensive is an optional coverage that protects you against non-collision incidents, such as theft, vandalism, fire, or extreme weather — things that usually tend to happen when your vehicle is stationary.
Each claim is handled based on the facts of how it happened and whether coverage exists
Some insurance companies sell comprehensive coverage as part of a package with collision insurance coverage. If you make a comprehensive claim, then the deductible would apply.
If the water damage is too severe and the car is totalled, then after paying your deductible, your insurance provider will pay the depreciated value of the car.
That said, some insurance companies consider driving through water to be a collision. If your car gets accidentally stuck in water while driving, some insurance companies will interpret this differently; meaning if you have a “collision with the water,” then the incident would be covered under collision coverage.
If I live in a flood-prone area, should I get comprehensive coverage?
Getting comprehensive coverage might help ease your mind in the event of a flood, but know that water damage doesn’t discriminate.
According to Pete Karageorgos, Director of Consumer and Industry Relations (Ontario) for the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), “Where one drives is a consideration in addition to the likelihood of flooding near the home. But vehicles are mobile and one can encounter water on a road anywhere.”
More important than where you live might be the technology that’s inside your vehicle. Today’s vehicles are chock-full of electronic gadgets that are sensitive to even the smallest amount of water. When you drive through deep water, you risk damaging all of the wiring that’s in your car’s floorboards. If water does get into your car, it can corrode that wiring, ruin upholstery, or even damage your transmission. Water on hot brake rotors can also warp the pads, affecting your ability to brake.
Your insurance policy should cover any damage to electrical equipment and accessories, but not to any personal items that were left in the car during the flooding.
What about water damage from leaving my windows open?
Just as driving through deep water is within a driver’s control, so is rolling up the car windows before the rain hits. But while one error in judgement is covered by insurance, the other is not.
Many insurance providers will not cover damage that is considered to be preventable. So if you leave your windows open and rainwater leaks into your car, you won’t be covered by your insurance policy. It’s up to you to close the windows and keep the water out.
However, rising water caused by a flood that damages your car is covered because it’s not a result of negligence. “Each claim is handled based on the facts of how it happened and whether coverage exists,” says Karageorgos.
Avoid driving through puddles of any depth
So, is it ever a good idea to drive through something as innocuous as a puddle? According to Karageorgos, don’t chance it. Ever. You have no idea the depth of that puddle.
“You don’t know how much water will cause severe damage to your car,” says Karageorgos. “Even if [the water] is passible, it could splash up beneath the car. While the car seems to be fine, it could cause substantial damage to the electronics.”
Regardless of your situation, it’s always best to talk with your insurance provider to ensure you’re completely covered in the event of a freak storm or torrential downpour that sees you having to drive through water to get home.
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