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We Submitted Two Flooded Car Insurance Claims Back-to-Back. Here’s How it Went.

Do you have a flooded car? Well…we’ve now got two. Here’s how the insurance claims process went.

I bought my “new” beater car in May of this year. It was a 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer, with 152,000 miles on it.

red car headed into flooded waters, text overlay "how we flooded two vehicles plus the claims process"

Beautiful, especially up against the 2-door, hood-rusted, windshield-cracked, 2003 Chevy Cavalier that had just died on me.

The listed price with our trusted mechanic was $3,400. I got him down to $3,200 (specifically because over the phone I had not understood how high the mileage was; I thought he had said “115,000”, but he had actually said “150,000.” That’s a big difference).

It wasn’t perfect. What is a beater car, you ask?

Then…it flooded in that little ol’ hurricane called Harvey.

…right before our second car flooded in a flash flood (seriously…within two weeks of each other).

Let me explain how that all went down.

What You Need to Know About Insurance + Flooded Cars

First off, flood insurance does NOT cover a flooded car. It’s worth mentioning, as I was surprised to learn this while creating my Flood Insurance Crash Course series a few years ago.

Secondly, liability-only car insurance policies do NOT cover a flooded car. This turns out to be really important information to this story because…

Pro Tip: get your family in a better position before disaster strikes by filling in one of these family emergency binder free printables.

I Have Never Carried Comprehensive Car Insurance in My Life…Until Now

I’ve been a liability-only gal my whole life. Or at least my whole driving life.

But this car? Was the nicest I’ve ever had. It was metallic-blue, and beautiful, and commanded a little more consideration. At least I thought so.

So, on the day I purchased it in May, I called our car insurance company and added comprehensive insurance to it.

This added a whopping $160 to our monthly car insurance costs. Ouch.

It was such a huge chunk of change to me, that I called our car insurance company three weeks before Hurricane Harvey hit – yes, just THREE WEEKS – to discuss how much we would save to take it off of Comprehensive and put it on Liability-Only.

But during the conversation, my gut was telling me not to do it. It’s the best explanation I can give for why I discussed this for half an hour with a 23-month-old vying for my attention and decided, at the end of the conversation, to keep the Comprehensive for now. The insurance agent even offered to up my deductible to $1,000 from the $500, which was a normal course of action for me to save extra money.

But again, my gut was telling me something was off. So, I said “no” and hung up the phone to think about it some more.

We Went on Vacation to Michigan…And Parked the Car in the Airport Garage

We had already planned on vacationing with my Aunt and Uncle in Michigan – 6 days for Paul, then 11 days for Conner and me.

More things happened that never happened to us…like actually parking in the airport garage at Hobby. Not only that, but finding first-floor, parking at that. When does that ever happen?

Apparently when your car is about to get flooded by a hurricane.

Of course, several days after getting to Michigan, we realize there’s a Hurricane that’s developed and looking to hit South of Houston. Then it was scheduled to loop back into Houston (though, thankfully, it looped more to the East of us).

It was overwhelming to watch from afar. It must have been even more overwhelming for our poor family and neighbors to live through it.

Our cat sitter sent us photos of our home, and the water got to about 75% up our front yard before receding. It was so high, that we resigned ourselves to the fact that our home was going to flood.

You can imagine our surprise when it didn’t. What a blessing!

When Paul Gets Home, He Finds Our Flooded Car

Paul tried to get home for five days, but his flights were all canceled getting back into Houston on account of Hobby closing the airport (for very good reason). He finally snagged a flight to San Antonio, then his brother graciously picked him up (7-hour drive, round trip. Thank you, John!).

The reason his brother needed to pick him up? There were no rental cars to be had. Anywhere IN or NEAR Houston.

Paul got home, and the next day, his friend, Craig, drove with him to the airport to find out if our car had made it (thank you, Craig!).

It hadn’t. Water had come up halfway up the seat!

He filed the car insurance claim on September 5th.

The Car Insurance Claim Process

Considering Nationwide had 100,000 claims to process, they completed it in a reasonable amount of time.

It was 18 days between filing the claim, and actually getting the check in our bank account.

Here’s what the process looked like:

  • September 4th: Paul files the claim. He gets all of my belongings out of the car.
  • September 5th: The insurance company pays for a tow truck to tow our vehicle out of the airport garage and into our driveway. Paul coordinates. The airport still charges us $110 for parking, which irks me. I realize it’s not their fault that there was a hurricane, but I feel that it’s poor customer service that if a person’s car is working when it goes into your garage and comes out of it with a tow truck, they shouldn’t charge you for parking. I’ve contacted Hobby Airport via Twitter (private message) and am still waiting for a response.
  • September 13th: A tow truck will pick up our car from our driveway to take it to a central location where an adjustor will assess the damage.
  • September 15th: I received a voicemail from our claims agent that the car was determined to be totaled, and that they would have a third-party company run an appraisal. In the document, they say, “We work with a third party to determine the actual cash value. This is based on factors such as pre-loss condition, age, vehicle options, and mileage, minus any applicable collision or comprehensive deductible.”
  • September 18th: My claims agent gets in contact with me directly, and goes over the findings. He first asks if I have the title of the vehicle, which I do, and whether or not there are any loans or liens on it, which there are not.
  • September 19th: Send in a voided check + signed title to Nationwide via the prepaid FedEx label they emailed me. The agent said we would then receive the amount in our checking account within 48 hours.
  • September 22nd: Received the money in our account.

Then…We Lose Our Second Car

During this process, I was driving Paul’s car to pick him up from work when it started to rain. Really badly. There had been no flash flood warning (actually, it came about an hour into our drive when the streets were decently flooded).

On our way home, the water on the streets was probably about 4-5 inches. But that’s not what actually flooded our car. It was because the rain leaked INTO the car through the radiator. We ended up with about 3-4 inches of water in the passenger seat.

We had stopped off for dinner to get off the roads as they looked to be too dangerous. Then we made our way home. By the time we hit our driveway, the radio had died, the clock had died, and our lights had died. Then the car died.

That was it.

It started back up three times with someone jumping it at 7:00 the next morning, but then would not start again after that no matter what. We couldn’t even get it in neutral to move it from blocking the end of our driveway, so it sat there for a week until the insurance company was able to tow it away.

Our Claims Breakdown: What Did We Recoup?

We have a total of $4,000 into the Mitsubishi car since buying it in May for things like the purchase price, sales tax, registration/title, new brakes, diagnostic test by a third party, etc.

So, us getting $3,445.56 after the $500 deductible is a pretty good deal. It almost puts us back to a clean slate, and we’re thankful!

Here’s the claims payout breakdown:

  • Vehicle Value – $3,605.00
  • Taxes – $225.31
  • Title Fees – $115.25
  • Deductible – $500.00
  • Settlement Payout – $3,445.56

For Paul’s car, we paid it off in 2010. While I don’t have the breakdown, I can say that we will be receiving $5,800 and some change for it. The process was exactly the same.

Next steps? Well, I guess we’d better go car shopping. And specifically, shopping for cars that haven’t been flood-damaged.

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Amanda L Grossman

Personal Finance Writer and CEO at Frugal Confessions, LLC
Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 13 years, her money work has helped people with how to save money and how to manage money. She's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Real Simple Magazine, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here or on LinkedIn.

Money Beagle

Monday 9th of October 2017

Wow, I'm sure that they love you right now! Well in any case good that it seemed to go pretty smoothly.