Does my car insurance cover rust damage?

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Key takeaways...
  • Most modern cars are manufactured to resist oxidation so that the body doesn’t rust
  • Advanced paint products are mainly rust resistant but corrosion is possible when the paint is peeling or scraped
  • If you start to notice your car is rusting, you can’t file an insurance claim because the damage is excluded
  • If your car floods and you file a damage claim, your insurer may total your car because it’s at risk of rusting
  • If your bumper falls off because it’s rusted, your insurer will pay for damage the incident causes to other property

You won’t see a modern vehicle that is sold on the showroom floor with chrome-plated metal bumpers and body components made entirely of metal.

Classic cars and vintage models may have been made of metal with chrome accents, but big changes in vehicle engineering have introduced fiberglass and carbon fiber materials to the manufacturing industry. Modern day materials are much more durable and cost-efficient.

Not only do the materials that are used today absorb impact, they are much more rust resistant than the materials used in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

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Just because the car isn’t likely to rust, there are still components in the vehicle, whether they be structural or mechanical, that can rust if they are not cleaned and maintained in wet or humid environments.

If you’re worried about your car rusting, here’s what you should know about your insurance:

How are newer cars rust proofed?

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When you buy a new vehicle, you’re offered all types of additional bells and whistles to extend the life of your car.

From the extended warranty and GAP coverage to rims and OnStar, it’s up to you to weed through all of the options to decide what you really need to pay for and what’s a waste of money.

One service you’re offered is to further rustproof your vehicle before it leaves the lot. It’s a costly add-on option that makes the dealer money and doesn’t do much to protect the car.

Most cars leave the factory with a high-tech corrosion perforation warranty and rustproof paints that act as a protective layer over the metal.

New cars no longer need an undercoating because they are produced with one. Don’t pay up to $1,200 for the service and don’t be fooled to select an environmental protection package either.

Paints used in factories already use the following materials that are not susceptible to rust because they don’t go through the oxidation process:

  • sealants
  • carbon fiber
  • fiberglass
  • galvanized steel components

When are cars most susceptible to rust?

Galvanized steel that’s used today in manufacturing plants is protected from rusting because the coating of zinc in the metal doesn’t react to water like iron does.

Because of all of this material, the modern car is much less susceptible to rusting, at least where the galvanized steel is used.

If the zinc coating on the steel is chipped, there’s always a risk of rusting. The steel itself isn’t protected when it’s exposed to the elements even when different rustproofing treatments are used.

You don’t ever think your well-maintained car is susceptible to this type of old-age deterioration, but here are some circumstances where you’re at risk:

  • You live in a humid or wet area the body panels and frame of the vehicle is most susceptible to rust
  • You live in a snowy region where salt is used on public roads (salt speeds up the process of oxidation)

Will your auto insurance pay for rust removal?

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Auto insurance is a product that affords you a certain level of financial protection. It’s a great type of protection to have but it doesn’t pay for just anything. If you file a claim for damage to your car, the damage must be caused by a covered event before your insurer will ever pay.

There is such a thing as rust removal. Many people assume that a car that’s rusted will be rusted out in a matter of a few wet seasons, but you can pay for rust removal and then coat the vehicle with protective treatments to ensure it lasts its reasonable life.

Unfortunately, your auto insurance isn’t going to pay for those rust removal services and related repairs.

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Why doesn’t auto insurance cover rust repairs?

Your coverage might pay for repairs that you need done after a hail storm or even after a rat chews through wiring under your hood, but it won’t pay for repairs needed after your car rusts. To understand why rust is excluded, you have to learn about the process of rusting.

Rust is another term for corrosion of metals. In terms of compounds, it’s an element called iron oxide.

A metal will rust when a metal compound that consists of iron and oxygen that is present in the air reacts with chloride that’s found in water or other sources of moisture. Rust won’t appear immediately.

It’s a slow process, which is why you don’t typically notice the corrosion as a vehicle ages.

As you can see, rust isn’t something that appears suddenly and unexpectedly. It is a part of the deterioration process that everyone must deal with when they own a car.

Auto insurance will only pay for damage caused by a specific and sudden event. If the damage occurs over time, it’s excluded under the wear and tear provision of every auto policy.

What happens if you have a flood loss?

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If your car floods in a storm or because of a faulty hydrant, you can file a flood claim against your comprehensive coverage as long as you have the right protection.

Your policy will pay for the damages caused by the flood, but if you keep your car it won’t pay if the car later rusts. In many states, cars that are severely flooded will be totaled because of the risk of later corrosion.

What happens if your rusted body panel damages another car?

When something on your car corrodes enough, it will “rust out.” When metal rusts out, pieces of the damaged metal will fall off, making it a risk to the public. If your fender falls off because it’s rusted, your car isn’t covered.

The damage caused to others, however, would be covered under your liability coverage.

Your auto insurance policy only covers rust damage if it’s a third-party claim and you’re negligent. If you’re worried about repairs that your car needs, you’ll have to review your warranty and not your auto policy.

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