Home insurance doesn’t pay to repair damage caused by flooding. You’ll need to buy separate flood insurance to cover tropical storms, torrential rain and overflowing rivers.
It's smart to buy flood insurance before flooding becomes imminent, as there’s usually a waiting period between the time you buy your policy and the time it takes effect. However, there are a few situations in which coverage can kick in without a delay.
Waiting period for flood insurance
If you buy your policy through the National Flood Insurance Program, coverage will kick in 30 days from the purchase date.
The waiting period might be shorter — around 10 to 14 days — if you buy private flood insurance. But not all states and communities have private sellers, so ask your home insurer or agent about options in your area.
If flooding occurs during the blackout period, your policy won’t pay to fix damage to your home or belongings.
When the waiting period doesn’t apply
The following scenarios are exceptions to the NFIP waiting period, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency:
You already have flood insurance and increase your coverage at renewal time. The new limits will take effect once your old policy expires.
You buy flood insurance within 13 months after your home is added to a Special Flood Hazard Area. The waiting period is one day in these cases. Visit FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center to find out if your home is in such a hazard zone.
Your home sits on burned federal land and post-wildfire conditions put your property at an increased risk of flooding. There may be no waiting period if you buy your policy within 60 days of the date the fire is contained.
You buy flood insurance in relation to getting, increasing, extending or renewing your mortgage. There’s no waiting period in these cases.
There might also be exceptions to the waiting periods for private policies, including if you're switching from an NFIP policy to a private one. Ask your insurer for more details.
Last-minute coverage for your car
Flood insurance doesn’t extend to your vehicle. If your car suffers flood damage, comprehensive car insurance pays for repairs.
Car insurers generally won’t sell new coverage if your area is under a storm watch. If that hasn’t happened yet, ask your insurer about adding comprehensive coverage to your policy. Provided you're able to buy a policy, there won't be a waiting period.