Does Car Insurance Cover Corrosion and Rusting?
You buy car insurance to protect against certain vehicle damage. Rust is a type of vehicle damage – but is it covered by car insurance?
A standard car insurance policy does not cover corrosion, rusting, or similar damage. Your insurance company considers these damages a normal, expected part of owning a vehicle. It’s ordinary wear and tear, and that means you cannot make a car insurance claim for corrosion and rusting.
However, there are some situations when insurance could cover rust. If the rust occurred due to a flood or incorrect repairs, for example, then insurance could cover corrosion and rusting.
Keep reading to learn more about car insurance and rusting.
What is Rust? Why Do Vehicles Corrode Over Time?
Rust is the common term for iron oxide. Iron oxidation is the process when iron (or a metal-containing iron) is exposed to moisture and oxygen for a long period. In these conditions, the metal weakens, rusts, and corrodes.
Rust is common on vehicles. After a few years of ownership, you may notice increasing rust on your vehicle. An older vehicle may be too rusted to function.
Rusting requires an anode, cathode, and electrolyte to form. The metal in your car is the anode and the cathode, while water is the electrolyte. In a humid climate, a car can become rusty even when under cover.
You may notice the first signs of surface rust in areas of your vehicle where paint has broken down. Your hood may have small paint chips, for example. When left unprotected, these chips can develop rust. The chip has left a hole in your car’s armor, exposing the metal underneath.
How to Repair or Remove Rust
Many drivers assume rust is irreparable. They think once a vehicle is rusty, you cannot prevent further rusting.
That’s partially true. If your car has signs of oxidation, then it can be fixed. Some body shops will rustproof your vehicle, for example, to prevent further spread of the rust. A body shop might grind your vehicle down and retouch it, for example, to prevent further spread.
If a rust spot is allowed to grow, then it’s more difficult to prevent the spread. However, if you catch the rust early, then you can salvage the vehicle, limit the spread, and extend vehicle lifespan by years.
Standard Car Insurance Does Not Cover Rust Damage
Every vehicle gets affected by rust at some point. However, car insurance never covers rust damage. Rust is an expected part of owning a vehicle. It’s part of vehicle wear and tear – just like tire replacement.
Car insurance is not designed to cover expected expenses. It’s designed to cover unexpected expenses – like a car accident. You can file a car insurance claim for a fender bender, but you cannot file a claim for engine failure, brake pad replacement, rust, or similar issues.
Exceptions to the Rule: When Car Insurance Covers Rust Damage
Car insurance will not cover most types of rust damage. However, there are some exceptions to the rule, including specific situations where you can file a claim for rust damage.
Bad Repair Job: You pay someone to repair your vehicle. They fix it, but you later discover rust on your vehicle. They may have improperly fixed the body of the vehicle, for example, which allowed moisture to build up, creating rust.
Flood Damage: If your vehicle is damaged in a flood, then you can make a claim under your comprehensive coverage for flood damage. Floods can cause significant rust and other damage to a vehicle. If the flooding was caused by saltwater, then rust can occur quickly.
Types of Car Insurance
There are three main types of car insurance. None of these three types cover rust damage.
Liability Insurance: Liability insurance is required in almost every state. It consists of two components, including bodily injury liability coverage and property damage liability coverage. It covers your liability after an accident, including any medical bills or property repairs other people need to pay because of your actions.
Collision Coverage: Collision coverage is optional in every state. It compensates you for vehicle damage after an accident. It will cover the cost of repairing your vehicle to pre-loss condition.
Comprehensive Coverage: Comprehensive coverage covers hail damage, fire damage, theft, vandalism, and similar damage that occurs outside of an accident.
Some states also require additional insurance like uninsured motorist, personal injury protection (PIP), or medical payments coverage.
However, no matter what type of insurance you have, it will not cover rust or corrosion damage.
Driving a Rusty, Unsafe Vehicle Could Lead to a Denied Claim
Car insurance won’t cover rust or corrosion. However, car insurance can actually deny a claim because of rust or corrosion.
If you continue driving your vehicle even though it’s unsafe to drive, then your insurer could deny future claims.
Let’s say you have an old vehicle. The vehicle is rusty, and the brakes don’t work very well. You’re aware the vehicle is unsafe to drive due to rust and corrosion, yet you continue driving it. In this situation, your insurance could refuse to cover a liability claim. You continued to drive an unsafe, damaged vehicle, and your insurance may not be required to cover your damages.
Similarly, rust can damage other vehicles on the road. Let’s say your bumper is rusted and close to falling off your vehicle. You hit a bump on the freeway, and your bumper falls off, damaging the vehicle behind you. In this case, your insurer could deny your claim because you knowingly put others at risk.
Ultimately, rust-related accidents vary on a case by case basis.
Consider Mechanical Breakdown Insurance for Added Protection
Standard car insurance never covers wear and tear. However, some drivers buy mechanical breakdown insurance (MBI), which could cover certain breakdowns – including engine failures or transmission failures.
Mechanical breakdown insurance is only available on new vehicles. It works similar to an extended warranty, giving drivers added protection against certain vehicle breakdowns.
Mechanical breakdown insurance could cover engine failure, brake failure, and similar unexpected breakdowns early in your vehicle’s life. However, it’s unlikely to cover any rust or corrosion.
How to Protect your Vehicle from Rust Damage
To protect your vehicle from rust damage, follow these important maintenance tips:
- Wash your car with water after driving it during the winter
- Avoid driving through puddles
- Avoid driving through saltwater or ocean water
- Maintain your paint and wax your car regularly
- Repair any bubbles or chips as soon as you notice them
- Wash the undercarriage of your vehicle regularly
- Store your vehicle in a safe, dry, enclosed garage
These rules are especially important for those who live in humid climates. Moisture in the air significantly increases the chance of your vehicle rusting.
These rules are also important for those who live in winter climates. Many cities pour salt on the roads during winter to increase traction, and this salt can collect on the undercarriage of your vehicle, increasing the chance of rust. Even if your city does not put salt on the road, it could use gravel, and gravel could chip your paint and increase the chance of rust.
Car insurance does not cover rust or corrosion. Rust and corrosion are expected parts of vehicle ownership: over time, every car develops rust or corrosion.
You can take steps to mitigate rust damage, and you can limit the spread of rust damage. However, you cannot file an insurance claim for rust damage or corrosion repairs (except for certain situations, including a bad repair job or flood damage).
If you’re concerned about rust damage, take your car to a body shop. By catching rust damage early, you may prevent it from spreading across your vehicle.