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Does car insurance cover hurricane damage?

Hurricane Ian leaves path of devastation
Hurricane Ian leaves path of devastation in southwestern Florida 08:13

As the carnage from Hurricane Ian subsides, many drivers in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas are wondering if their auto insurer will pay to repair damages on their car.

The answer: It depends on your coverage. Some policies will leave motorists footing the bill, while other plans will cover all repair costs. Not sure what type of coverage you have? Experts say the policy documents provided by your auto insurer should detail the specifics. 

Here's a look at whether the most common auto insurance plans cover hurricane damage.

Collision insurance

Drivers with collision insurance will not be covered for hurricane damage. That's because collision covers a policyholder only if someone is in a car wreck, said Scott Holeman, spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute in New York. 

Collision insurance will help a policyholder pay for repairs on their vehicle, and that's about it. It doesn't cover damage to someone else's vehicle or any bodily harm suffered by the driver in an accident. Collision policies also don't cover accidents involving animals or car damage due to natural disasters, fire or theft. 

Drivers who have financed the purchase of their car typically have collision insurance, and they pay a deductible upfront so the insurance provider can then pay for the rest of the repairs after an accident. 

Liability only 

This level of auto coverage is required by most states, including in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas (exceptions: New Hampshire and Virginia). Liability insurance covers any injury or damage you cause to other drivers in an accident. That means liability insurance alone won't cover hurricane damage, Holeman said. 

Drivers who buy liability insurance must also upgrade the policy to comprehensive coverage, also known as "full coverage." The big difference between liability-only and full coverage is that full coverage pays for liability as well as damage to your own vehicleLiability insurance is usually about 64% cheaper for drivers compared to full coverage, with the former costing around $720 per year and the latter averaging $1,997 annually, according to WalletHub data. 

Comprehensive policy

Drivers with comprehensive auto insurance are covered for hurricane damage. Comprehensive coverage pays for the damage done to your vehicle. Comprehensive coverage also includes collision protection and pays for weather-related damage, like dents from a hail storm or flooding caused by a hurricane. 

Nearly 80% U.S. drivers have comprehensive coverage, Holeman told CBS MoneyWatch. If you're still unsure what kind of policy you have, submit a claim anyway and your insurer will respond and explain the type of coverage, he said. 

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