Does Car Insurance Cover Damage from Wildfires?

Wildfires can cause enormous damage to vehicles and other personal property. When forest fires strike, however, will car insurance cover the damage? Will your car insurance policy cover damage caused by forest fires and similar natural disasters? Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about whether or not car insurance covers wildfire damage.

does car insurance cover wildfire damage

Most Comprehensive Coverage Policies Cover Wildfire Damage

If your car is damaged during a forest fire, a wildfire, a brush fire, or a similar natural disaster, then you should receive a payout from your insurance company – assuming you have comprehensive coverage.

Comprehensive coverage is an optional car insurance policy that protects your vehicle against non-accident-related events, including natural disasters, arson, theft, vandalism, and more. With comprehensive coverage, your insurance company typically agrees to pay for the cost of repairing your vehicle after it is damaged during a forest fire. If your car is extensively damaged or destroyed, then your insurance company will send a payment equal to the replacement value of your vehicle.

Generally, it’s in a driver’s best interest to have comprehensive coverage on a vehicle – assuming you can afford it. This is particularly true if you live in a region prone to forest fires or wildfires. If a natural disaster strikes and your car is damaged or destroyed, then you will need to pay out of pocket if you don’t have comprehensive coverage.

Not all car insurance policies have comprehensive coverage. If you have a basic liability insurance plan, for example, then you will not be protected against wildfires or similar natural disasters. Similarly, if you only have collision coverage, then you will also not be covered against wildfire damage.

If you have full coverage or comprehensive coverage auto insurance, however, then you should receive a payout from your insurance company that covers the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle after a forest fire.

Some Insurance Companies Explicitly Restrict Wildfire Coverage

It’s important to note that not all comprehensive coverage auto insurance policies will provide wildfire coverage. Some policies restrict coverage, for example.

That’s why we recommend checking your auto insurance policy to make sure you understand your coverage.

If you live in a region that’s prone to forest fires and wildfires, for example, then you may not have coverage against wildfires. Insurance companies will insert a clause into your auto insurance policy that restricts them from covering damage related to wildfires.

Generally, however, insurance companies that offer comprehensive coverage are agreeing to cover your vehicle in a wide range of natural disasters.

You Cannot Buy Insurance Days Prior to a Forest Fire

Some auto insurance policyholders think they have outsmarted the system when they buy comprehensive coverage in the days leading up to a forest fire. Let’s say a forest fire has started in the mountains near your home. You decide to buy comprehensive coverage just in case the forest fire comes in your direction.

This may sound smart, but it’s unlikely to work. Most car insurance companies restrict coverage in the days leading up to a natural disaster. You cannot add comprehensive coverage to your auto insurance policy when a hurricane is approaching the coast, for example, and you can’t buy forest fire coverage when your town is days away from being burned to the ground. This is a binding restriction that prevents changes to existing policies.

You May Be Required to Have Comprehensive Coverage

To drive legally on the road in the United States, all you need is basic liability coverage. This auto insurance policy provides no coverage to your own vehicle, but it does cover other people and property. Every state but New Hampshire requires you to have liability insurance in order to drive.

Comprehensive coverage, however, is not legally required in any state. Comprehensive coverage is optional. You can choose to add comprehensive coverage to your vehicle to enjoy a wider range of protection. Or, you can choose to go without and risk paying out of pocket if your vehicle is damaged, destroyed, vandalized, or stolen.

It’s also important to remember that some vehicle owners need to have comprehensive coverage. If you are financing your vehicle, for example, or leasing it, then you need to have comprehensive coverage. In these situations, you do not own your vehicle outright. Comprehensive coverage protects the collateral of the loan.

It’s also generally a good idea to have comprehensive coverage if your car is valuable. If you have a brand new vehicle, for example, then you should have comprehensive coverage. Otherwise, you will pay out of pocket for any damage caused to the vehicle.

Conclusion: Drivers in Fire-Prone Regions May Want to Have Comprehensive Coverage

Forest fires can occur anywhere in the United States. Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency every year. If you have comprehensive coverage on your vehicle, then you should be fully protected against damage caused by forest fires. However, certain comprehensive coverage policies may restrict coverage – say, if you live in a fire-prone region or if you purchased the policy in the days leading up to the forest fire.

Generally, comprehensive coverage auto insurance policies will cover the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle after a forest fire or wildfire – but we recommend checking your policy to make sure you’re covered.

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