Does Car Insurance Cover Wildfires?

If your car is burned in a forest fire, your insurance should foot the bill — as long as you have comprehensive coverage.

Does car insurance cover forest fires?


If your vehicle is totaled or damaged by a wildfire, you should receive an insurance payout, as long as you have comprehensive coverage. This coverage — usually bundled with collision insurance — is designed to protect your vehicle against damage caused by an incident other than a collision. There are some caveats to this coverage, which may be company-specific.


How to get wildfire insurance coverage for your vehicle
  1. Does car insurance cover fire damage?
  2. How much does fire car insurance cost?
  3. When do you need comprehensive coverage?
  4. Will a fire claim raise your auto insurance rates?
  5. Related articles and methodology



Does car insurance cover fire damage?


Yes — with a few exceptions. If you inhabit a wildfire-prone area, you should check your policy details to confirm fire damage is not a restricted coverage option. While “fire” is generally covered by comprehensive insurance, it's worth double-checking to ensure your insurance company doesn’t put any restrictions on wildfires based on your location.

The next exception concerns timing. As long as you carry comprehensive coverage prior to the fire, you will have coverage. Most insurance companies will enact a binding restriction in any area in which a forest fire is imminent. A binding restriction limits changes to existing policies — like adding fire protection — or opening any new lines of business. will restrict changes to existing policies (such as adding fire protection coverage) or adding any new lines of business. Insurance companies take this step to reduce their exposure to expensive claim payouts.


What is comprehensive auto coverage?

Comprehensive car insurance coverage is designed to fill in the gaps in collision coverage. While comprehensive doesn't offer recourse when your car collides with another vehicle, it covers the following:

  • Vandalism
  • Theft
  • Hail/lightning
  • Damage caused by weather
  • Damage caused by "Acts of God"

Your coverage for natural disasters — sometimes referred to as an Act of God Clause — provides protection against wildfire-related damages. Make sure your policy is free of stipulations that would exclude wildfire protection.




How much does fire car insurance coverage cost?


The amount you pay for comprehensive coverage depends on how much your vehicle is worth. The more expensive your vehicle, the more expensive it will be for your insurance company to replace it, thus resulting in more expensive premiums. Below are national average comprehensive coverage costs for a 2012 Honda Accord.


Insurer Average Annual Premium
Allstate $1,902
GEICO $1,091
Farmers $1,237
Liberty Mutual $1,520
Nationwide $1,273
Progressive $1,793
State Farm $1,769
USAA $967

Given our user profile, USAA is the cheapest option for comprehensive coverage, insuring against forest fire damages. Use this data when beginning the process of shopping for car insurance.

Comparing liability coverage and "full coverage," paints a picture of by how much comprehensive coverage may impact your premium.


Coverage Level Average Annual Premium
Liability Only $672
$500 Deductible $1,427
$1,000 Deductible $1,268

On average, adding comprehensive and collision coverage from a liability-only policy will increase your premium 112% per year. Considering this expense, let's look a little deeper at when comprehensive coverage is actually necessary.




Do you need comprehensive coverage?


Car insurance that covers wildfire damage can be expensive, but there are scenarios in which carrying comprehensive coverage is wise.


  1. If you have a loan on your vehicle: because someone else technically owns your vehicle (usually a bank or financing company), you’re required to protect their investment through comprehensive coverage.
  2. If you’re leasing a vehicle: a lease is essentially a long-term rental, and you'll need to return the car in near-perfect condition. You should carry comprehensive coverage to satisfy your lease agreements.
  3. If your vehicle is valuable: if you own your vehicle but it still has considerable worth, you should keep this coverage. As a general rule, if your vehicle is worth more than $4,000, you should have comprehensive coverage.

Because wildfires are often total loss scenarios, it's important to evaluate your coverage needs well before one occurs. Your auto insurance will be your main source of protection and reimbursement after fire-related vehicle damages.




Will fire damage raise your auto insurance premium?


A claim for fire damage will result in a premium increase. But the financial repercussions will be much less significant than a liability or collision claim. See below the average rate increases for a comprehensive claim.


Year After Accident Average Annual Premium
No Accident $1,427
1 Year Later $1,525
2 Years Later $1,623
3 Years Later $1,721

While a collision claim can raise your rates an average of $611 per year, the rate penalty after a comprehensive claim hovers around $98 per year. This is because collision claims are generally seen as the result of the driver and thus deemed at-fault accidents. Damage caused by fire is typically outside of the control of a driver.

Another way your premium can rise after a fire claim is via a rate revision. Rate revisions are common and occur every year. Simply put, insurance companies will review their losses from the previous year to determine if they need to raise or lower premiums to stay profitable. In the event of a wildfire, which may affect a large number of clients and result in significant claims payouts, an insurance company could raise premiums to recoup its losses.

An insurance rate increase after a fire claim will usually be significantly less expensive than paying for the damage out-of-pocket. If your insurance company does raise rates substantially, consider it a good excuse to shop for a new policy.



Compare rates and find car insurance coverage!


Related articles and user methodology


Check your insurance policy to see if there is a distinction between fire coverage and wildfire coverage. Generally speaking, a natural disaster can be considered a covered loss through your comprehensive protection.

If you’re looking for additional information regarding coverage against natural disasters, see our additional articles below:




Methodology


Between September and December 2017, The Zebra conducted comprehensive auto insurance pricing analysis using its proprietary quote engine, comprising data from insurance rating platforms and public rate filings. The Zebra examined nearly 53 million rates to explore trends for specific auto insurance rating factors across all United States zip codes, averaged by state, including Washington, DC.

Analysis used a consistent base profile for the insured driver: a 30-year-old single male driving a 2013 Honda Accord EX with a good driving history and coverage limits of $50,000 bodily injury liability per person/$100,000 bodily injury liability per accident/$50,000 property damage liability per accident with a $500 deductible for comprehensive and collision. For coverage level data, optional coverage (that must be rejected in writing) is included where applicable, including uninsured motorist coverage and personal injury protection.

National property and casualty losses information is from the Insurance Information Institute and the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters report.

For vehicle make and model data, analysis referenced the most popular vehicles in the U.S. by 2016 year-end sales according to Goodcarbadcar.net’s automakers’ data.

Finally, some rate data may vary slightly throughout report based on rounding.