Car insurance for storm and hail damage

ELLIE MCLACHLAN
Australian weather often darts between extremes without warning, with summer’s searing heat shoved aside by ferocious hail storms and raging floods, all within the space of a few hours in some cases. Commuters often find that the perfect park they scored in the morning has turned into their worst nightmare by the afternoon, as their beloved car is left exposed to a sudden tempest. That’s why it could pay to consider insurance against hail, flood and storm damage to your car. We explore the options.

Is damage caused in a hail storm or flood covered by car insurance?

While some types of car insurance, such as Compulsory Third Party (CTP) and third party property, generally do  not offer cover for hail, flood or storm damage, there are many car insurance providers in Australia that do offer this cover as part of a comprehensive car insurance policy. This is the top-level insurance cover option in Australia and can be more expensive than other types of car insurance. However, opting for this higher level of cover if it suits your needs could give you greater peace of mind. It is also generally the only type of car insurance in Australia that can provide you with financial protection should your own car suffer damage from hail or a storm.

What types of weather events can be covered by car insurance?

Different insurers can have different definitions of what is considered a storm, flood or hail storm, which could impact claims, so check with the insurer for any policy you’re considering to confirm these details. But generally speaking, depending on the policy, it could be possible to insure your car against damage caused by weather events such as:

  • Storms: Storms can bring strong winds, rain, thunder, lightning, hail, snow or dust, as well as possible overland flow of stormwater or low-level flooding;
  • Severe thunderstorms: Can include 2cm-or-larger hailstones, 90km/hr or stronger wind gusts, significant overland flow, storm water or inundation, and tornadoes;
  • Cyclones: A cyclone is a very large, rotating thunderstorm cluster that forms over the ocean and can cross over onto land, causing destructive winds, large volumes of rainfall, and storm surges (where seawater washes over land not usually impacted by tides, which can include in river systems). Cyclones are measured in categories from 1 (weakest) to 5 (strongest). In Australia, they tend to be more common in tropical parts of the country than in other areas.

However, there could be exceptions to these general definitions depending on your insurer and where you live or where you drive the insured car. For example, in some areas of Australia, you may not be covered for damage caused by flooding that comes from the sea, even if it’s a cyclone or storm driving the surge. There could also be different rules applied to other types of water damage, such as whether it was considered to be rainfall or storm water runoff. Check with your insurer.

Sources: Insurance Council of Australia, Bureau of Meteorology, Financial Rights Legal Centre

Is hail damage covered by car insurance?

Whether or not car insurance will cover hail damage depends on the type of policy that the car owner has purchased (see below for an explanation of the different types). There are some comprehensive car insurance policies that would cover part or all of the expense of repairing any hail damage if the insured car was caught in a storm (though bear in mind that you will need to pay an excess in most cases if you make a claim).

However, searching for an insurer that will cover the cost of hail damage that occurred before buying an insurance policy may be met with limited success. The Insurance Council of Australia states that “it can be very difficult to insure a car that has been cosmetically damaged”.

Insurers may require you to declare any damage your car already has before they will insure it, or they may require you to serve a waiting period before you can make any hail damage claims. Insurers typically investigate insurance claims, and use services such as the Bureau of Meteorology to confirm if and when the storm events reported by people making insurance claims have occurred.

How do I find a car insurance policy that will cover hail, flood and storm damage?

According to Canstar’s research, there are a number of comprehensive car insurance policies on our database that will offer cover for accidental damage, including hail, storm and flood damage, among other things. Use our comprehensive car insurance comparison tables to compare features of policies on our database (for free, with no phone number or other contact details required). Use the Filters menu to see which insurers on our database allow you to keep your no-claim bonus (NCB) when you make a hail or flood claim (results are current as of the previous business day). You could use these tables to compile a shortlist of providers to contact to get a quote.

How do I check if car insurance covers hail or storm damage?

Hail and storm damage cover is only available in comprehensive car insurance policies. If your comprehensive car insurance includes hail or storm damage cover, it will be listed in the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS). All insurers are required to provide a PDS, which sets out the terms and conditions of their policies. You should receive one when you are given an official quote to buy your policy. You can also generally find a PDS on your provider’s website, or you could request one from your insurer. It’s a good idea to read this carefully, as well as any other terms and conditions, to double-check that your policy will definitely cover you for hail, flood and storm damage. The PDS is required to be presented in easy-to-read language, so if anything in it that is unclear, talk directly to your insurer about it.

In the PDS, it could be worthwhile to take a look at such details as:

  • whether or not hail, storm and flood damage is automatically included or an added, optional extra (that could cost more to add on to the policy),
  • the definitions the insurer uses when considering claims. For example, the term “flood damage” may mean something different to “water damage”,
  • what is required of you to be eligible to make a claim, such as not driving into flood waters,
  • if any waiting period applies on new policies before making flood, storm or hail damage claims,
  • when the insurer expects you to notify it of a possible claim. For example, some companies may want you to notify them that a car has been through floodwaters even if there is no damage immediately evident. This could mean you could claim if a fault (related to the water entering the car) was to develop at a later time.

What does hail, flood and storm damage car insurance cover?

If you have a comprehensive policy with these types of claims included, it will generally cover you up to the maximum amount shown on the insurance certificate, although bear in mind that many policies may have an excess which will be subtracted from this amount. You should get a new insurance certificate every time you take up and renew a policy. If you cannot locate a copy, contact your insurer.

If the car has to be written off (which usually means it would cost more to fix than to buy a new one of a similar make, model, age and condition), the type of car you can purchase to replace it may depend on if your policy includes cover for “market value” or “agreed value” replacement. This should also be on the insurance certificate (or check with your insurer).

Depending on the details of your policy, you could also be covered for such expenses as:

  • the “reasonable cost” of towing, recovery and storage of your vehicle if it is unsafe to drive as a result of the storm damage,
  • the replacement of accessories that were fitted to the car which were damaged during the storm or flood event,
  • Baby capsules and child car seats fitted in the car (in some cases, providing it’s stated in your PDS).

There could also be exclusions or limitations on what is covered. Some insurers do not insure storm event claims for:

  • fuel or lubricants spoiled by water,
  • personal items inside the car above a certain value (for example, you may only be able to claim up to a set dollar value for all of the contents of the car),
  • work tools or items used in your profession (such as tradies’ tools or a work computer),
  • cash, credit cards or gift vouchers that were in the car,
  • other people’s property.

Of course, not every car insurance provider is the same, so be sure to check out what exactly is included in your policy.

What are the different types of car insurance?

Comprehensive car insurance is the most likely to cover you for hail and storm damage, but what are the other types of car insurance out there? Understanding the different types of policies available is important when deciding which could work out best for you.

Here are the four types of car insurance you might come across in Australia:

Compulsory third party (CTP)

As the name suggests, this insurance is compulsory in all states and territories, although it may go by other names in some places, such as Green Slip in NSW. CTP covers you against claims for compensation in the case of injury or death of another person in a motor vehicle accident you are involved in. CTP does not cover hail, flood or storm damage, nor does it cover any other forms of property damage.

Third party property

This is the most basic, optional type of car insurance that you can choose to take out alongside your CTP. Third party property insurance covers damage caused by your car to other people’s property, as well as your legal costs if you get caught up in legal proceedings as a result of the damage. Third party property insurance does not cover hail, flood or storm damage.

Third party, fire and theft

This type of policy covers damage to other people’s property and also some cover for your own car if it’s damaged or lost due to fire or theft. Third party, fire and theft does not cover hail, flood or storm damage.

Comprehensive car insurance

This policy covers everything mentioned in the previous two insurance types, plus accidental damage to your own car, irrespective of who is at fault. There is also usually a range of optional extras available under a comprehensive car insurance policy, such as windscreen cover and car hire following an accident. Comprehensive car insurance could cover hail, flood and storm damage, depending on the policy, either as a standard inclusion or as an optional extra (depending on the insurer).



How do I make a car insurance claim for hail or storm damage?

Safety warning: Fallen power lines are a major danger when it comes to storms. Before approaching any storm debris, pay careful attention to your surroundings, especially if there are overhead power lines or power poles in the area. If you are concerned, or if you see a fallen power line, call your local power authority without delay.

What should I do if my car has been through a severe storm, flood or hail storm?

  1. When it is safe to do so, approach the vehicle and take photographs of the car (before opening any doors), and the surrounding area. Video could also be useful to insurance assessors.
  2. If it is safe to do so, open the car and observe any damage, and take photographs and/or video. Make note of the condition of any personal possessions in the car, and items such as accessories and baby seats.
  3. It might also be a good idea to gather the names and contact details of any witnesses to the damage.

TIP: If you think your car may have been flooded, it might not be the best idea to try to start it.

  1. Contact your insurer and let them know about what happened, and if there is any damage to your car. Some insurers also recommend contacting them even if you can’t immediately tell whether your car has been damaged. That way, if you notice damage at a later date, or if a fault were to develop later due to the storm event, it could be easier to make a successful claim.

This call is generally considered to be the beginning of a claims process (even if you don’t end up making a claim). You will typically be given a claims reference number, which will be used in future discussions with the insurer about that claim. It’s a good idea to write that down (or send yourself an email or text message if you are on your phone and don’t have a pen and paper handy). Insurers will typically also send you an email or text with this number.

  1. Ask your insurer what you need to do next, and how the claims process will work.

What happens if I can’t drive my car due to storm or flood damage?

If your car is in an unsafe spot (such as in a riverbed or blocking a road), the insurer may arrange for it to be relocated.

If the insurer decides the car needs immediate assessment, they may require you to leave your car in place until they can get an assessor to it, or they may arrange for it to be towed to an assessment centre. Depending on your policy, you may be able to ask the insurer to cover any emergency transport arrangements to get you home.

What happens if my car is in a storm event but can still be driven?

Before you drive your car, make sure to ask your insurer if you should, and confirm that doing so won’t affect your claim. If there has been minimal damage or if the damage is only cosmetic, you may be advised that you can drive the car to an assessment centre, or book a time for an assessor to visit you.

What does a car insurance claims assessment mean and how does it work?

When contacting your insurer after a flood, hail or storm event damages your car, it could be a wise idea to find out how their claims assessment process works. It can differ between insurers, and may depend on the type of damage to the vehicle.

If the insurer decides that a car has sustained enough damage, it may need to be examined by a vehicle assessment service affiliated with that insurer. This could be an independent mechanic that is contracted to the insurer for certain types of repairs or all repairs in a certain location, or it could be a dedicated assessment centre run by the insurer. If this is the case, generally the assessment costs are not passed on to the car owner. However, you may be required to pay any excess (if your policy includes this option) when the insurer requests it.

Sometimes, such as for light hail damage, an insurer may request that the car owner obtain quotes for the repair of the vehicle (depending on the type of damage sustained and the conditions of the insurance policy). Typically, the insurer will let you know how many quotes are required, and where and how they should be conveyed to their claims department.

What happens if my car can be repaired?

If the damage is repairable, your insurer may arrange for the car to be fixed. Or, if you were asked to obtain quotes, they may either pay you (minus any excess) before or after the repairs are completed, or pay the repair company directly (and request you pay the excess to them or to the repairer).

What happens if my car can’t be repaired?

If the damage is extensive, it’s possible the vehicle may be deemed to be a write-off (also known as a total loss) by your insurer. This would mean the insurer would pay you a total loss payment based on your car’s market value or agreed value (depending on your policy terms), minus any unpaid excess, premiums or registration fees. In some cases, it may even be possible to have your car replaced with a brand-new car of a similar make and model if you have ‘new for old’ cover (which is typically available under a comprehensive car insurance policy).

In some cases, you may also be able to access helpful support, such as a hire car, until your car is repaired or replaced (check your PDS).

6 tips to protect your car from storm damage

According to Queensland-based insurer RACQ, the repair bill for hail damage to a car can often exceed $5,000, and even minor damage can take a week or more to repair at a garage. Plus, there’s the risk your car could be completely written off, which could be likely if it is severely damaged, meaning the cost of repairs could exceed the value of the car.

Regardless of whether or not you have comprehensive car insurance to cover storm, hail and flood damage, it’s worth considering these few tips from RACQ to help keep your car out of harm’s way in storm season.

  1. If a storm is forecast, try to make plans to store your car undercover and use other means of transport. If your home is flood-prone, try to organise a safe parking alternative.
  2. Don’t place yourself or others at risk – try to find safe shelter if you are caught in a storm. Trees are generally a bad idea due to the risk of falling branches.
  3. Avoid speeding up to beat a storm, as this can easily lead to a crash.
  4. Turn on your lights to improve visibility on the road.
  5. As the common warning goes: “if it’s flooded, forget it”.
  6. Consider investing in a padded car cover to prevent or reduce hail damage. According to RACQ, these can typically cost from $200 to over $500.