This year alone, Colorado homeowners and drivers have lost more than $2 billion in flood damages. USA Today reports that less than a quarter of these individuals have flood insurance for their homes, much less for their vehicles. Surprisingly, flood insurance for vehicles in Colorado is not nearly as popular as you might guess. When floods strike, they don’t just damage your home. They can also wash away and completely destroy vehicles. If you aren’t prepared, you could wind up having to soak up that loss along with everything else.

The Typical Auto Insurance Coverage for Floods

In Colorado, most insurance companies offer a specific flood coverage option in their policies. However, the most common insurance policy, particularly during the economic downturn, is liability coverage. The Insurance Information Network reports that liability coverage is the minimum mandated by state law, handling claims related to driving accidents. If you have purchased a more expansive coverage, the coverage may actually be included under a “natural disaster” or “natural consequence” clause. But in many cases, you may have to purchase an extra rider to cover your car sufficiently, a rider often known simply as Flood Insurance. The Better Business Bureau states that such riders can be purchased with a $100 to $300 deductible, and a flood specific rider will cover all forms of flood damage. Purchasing flood insurance, whether in a separate policy or as a rider, can provide the added protection that your vehicle needs in case of additional flooding or flooding related problems.

Check for Gap Coverage

When purchasing a flood insurance rider or setting up a new policy that includes flood insurance for your cars, you may want to check to make sure you have gap coverage included. Gap coverage is most often used to cover a car when someone has a lien on it or payments are being made for the car itself. This way, the car remains covered, even when there’s a possible dispute over who should be paying for the repairs or a gap in the title.

Document Everything and Do Not Procrastinate

When your car is damaged by a flood, you must make sure that you begin documenting the damage immediately. The more time that passes between the damage and your report to the insurance agency, the more difficult it will be to verify the claims and get everything taken care of. If, for instance, your car is totaled in the flood, then you will need to take pictures of it and then call your insurance company to make the report. This way the insurance agency can send a tow truck out directly to pick up the vehicle. For more minor damage, take all of the pictures you can along with any notes about the damage to the vehicle and how it came about, if you know. Remember that water damage can transform quickly, and not much evidence may be available to demonstrate that the damage actually came from the flood if you wait too long.

Also remember that flood insurance for your vehicle should cover more than total damage. Body scratches as well as mildew, tire punctures, and engine problems should all be covered, but the more innocuous the damage appears, the more challenging it may be to claim. Tire punctures and engine problems could develop from a number of non flood related instances, and procrastination as well as failure to document could keep you from getting your claim satisfied. The claims process can be quite particular.

When documenting, avoid using a smart phone if you can. While some of smart phones are quite sophisticated, they generally do not take pictures as well as other digital cameras. The purpose of the images that you take is to supplement your insurance claim and also to help you remember what happened. The insurance company will send out their own agent to appraise and evaluate the situation, but some of the damage may have decreased or redeveloped in between the time of the damage and the agent’s arrival.

Review Your Deductible and Your Policy

When you make the report, you need to make sure that you have a good estimate of what you are covered for. In most cases, the repairman will contact you to let you know what repairs are being made to your vehicle unless the car was totaled. Some insurance agencies will provide an agent to review all recommendations and specifically tell you whether you have satisfied the terms of your policy, exceeded the coverage, and so on. Others do not. Regardless, you will be responsible for the payments that the insurance company does not make.

Also bear in mind that, initially, you will be responsible for all of the payments, unless the insurance agency owns the repair shop where repairs are being handled. An unpleasant surprise for many car owners comes when they receive a bill from the mechanic, they turn the bill in to their insurance company, the insurance company promises to cover it after the claims process has been satisfied, and then they discover that the bill was never paid. Even if the claim is accepted through the claims process, you are still responsible for making the payments. The insurance company may be late in making the payment. This means then that you will have to make the payment out of your own pocket, and the insurance company will then reimburse you.

After historic floods devastated thousands of homes throughout Colorado, many people found themselves with staggering replacement bills. While less than a quarter of all the affected homes had flood insurance, even fewer had flood insurance on their cars. Obtaining flood insurance for a vehicle is not difficult. In some cases, it may already be included under a “natural disaster” clause in a more expansive insurance contract, or you may need to purchase an extra rider to provide the coverage you need. When making the purchase, it’s a good idea to get gap coverage to protect against gaps in the title. Once it’s time to make the claim, it’s important that you document everything as soon as possible. Do not procrastinate. The more you procrastinate, the worse your chances become. You will also need to review your own deductible and policy to make sure that you do not agree to repairs you cannot afford. But always remember that you are responsible for all payments to the repair shop. You may have to pay initially, even if your claim is accepted.