Weather Issues that Can Increase Car Insurance Rates

Photo: Alex E. Proimos

If the record disaster losses of 2011 taught us anything, it’s that natural disasters can occur at any time. Roadways often present unexpected challenges that can cause significant damage to vehicles, not only forcing insurers to fork up thousands of dollars in losses, but also causing drivers’ car insurance costs to increase.

It’s not always easy to avoid the issues you can face on the road while in the midst of a major weather event. But you can attempt to prepare for the worst by knowing what issues you might run into that could indeed cause your auto premium to hike.

Car Insurance Costs Impacted by Natural Disasters

From the tornadoes and hurricanes that can pick vehicles up and toss them like ragdolls to floods that can sweep trucks away in seconds, natural disasters can definitely have an impact on car insurance costs.

But it’s not just the major events that can cause great damage to cars. Potholes caused by a winter of snow showers or even a small puddle in the road can cause accidents. According to 2003 statistics from the American Meteorological Society, approximately 7,000 highway deaths and 800,000 injuries are associated with about 1.2 million weather-related accidents each year.

When an accident occurs and you’re forced to file an auto insurance claim, your insurance company is responsible for paying it. If you’re requesting repairs to your own vehicle, you may have to pay an immediate deductible, but everything else comes out of your insurer’s pocket.

So how can an accident affect your premium?

Insurers are known for increasing rates for a number of reasons and paying claims makes the list. While it’s not a general rule, it is a common practice for companies to increase a driver’s car insurance costs after an accident claim is paid, meaning any accidents you report–caused by weather or not–can directly impact the future amount you pay for your coverage.

Preparing for Unexpected Weather Events

One great way to avoid paying higher car insurance costs is by preparing for unexpected weather events. However, getting prepared can be a challenging task. There are so many issues to consider when behind the wheel that it can be difficult to remember them all. To help you out, here are a few to keep in mind:

  • Rain and floods: It’s obvious that wet conditions can cause cars to slide on the road, so in addition to buying good tires with thick tread, it’s important to purchase quality windshield wipers and ensure your car properly defrosts in case it fogs while driving. If you live in high risk areas known for flooding, it’s best to avoid roads that flood easily and park your car on high ground so that flood waters can’t sweep it away.
  • Potholes: Potholes are created by weakened concrete that has been aggravated by snowstorms or other nasty weather. They not only can cause tire blowouts, but can force vehicles to steer off course and into other vehicles or even pedestrians. It’s hard to see them coming, but if you do, avoid them if at all possible.
  • Sleet and freezing rain: Sleet and freezing rain, while similar, are two unique weather events. Sleet is result of water that freezes or snow that melts in the air, while freezing rain is caused by precipitation that has frozen once the water touches the ground. Both weather events can create slick conditions on the pavement that can cause your car to slide, which is why it’s important to learn how to drive in winter weather to avoid an accident.
  • Snow: Not only can snow create slick conditions on the road, but depending on how much falls, your car could get stuck in a dangerous place that leaves you and the vehicle in danger. Be sure to always follow proper winter driving guidelines when behind the wheel and also consider winterizing your car to ensure you’re safe when driving in snow.
  • High winds: Windy conditions are relatively easy for forecasters to predict. Typically, if your area is faced with the threat of high winds from tornadoes or hurricanes, you’ll be instructed to remain indoors. But if you must leave the house in less severe conditions, keep both hands on the steering wheel and drive defensively to avoid being blown into other cars.
  • Fog: While rain, snow and even tornadoes are often predicted by weather forecasters, fog is usually an early-morning surprise. If you’ve ever faced thick fog, you know that at times, your only defense is to pull to the side of the road or slow to a stop right where you are while turning on your vehicle’s hazard lights to help other drivers see you until the fog lifts.

It’s good to note that preparing for the worst is something you can accomplish not just from knowing what dangers you might face on the road, but also what challenges you could face financially. When comparing auto insurance companies, look for good reputations when it comes to filing claims so you know your vehicle will be paid for if an accident does occur.

If you can, try your best to ramp up your defensive driving skills so that you can increase your chances of avoiding accidents thanks to natural events. The fewer encounters you have on the road under these circumstances, they less likely you are to experience a hike in your car insurance rates thanks to weather-related issues.