Does Car Insurance Cover Rust Damage?

Rust damage is a common issue many car owners eventually face. But a big question is whether or not rust is covered by your auto insurance policy.

Rust occurs gradually over time as moisture causes the metal on your vehicle to corrode. Areas most prone to rust include the undercarriage, wheel wells, doors, quarter panels and rocker panels.

Unfortunately, standard car insurance policies do not cover rust damage. Rust is considered “wear and tear” rather than a sudden, accidental loss. However, there are a couple scenarios where rust may be covered depending on your specific policy.

Why Rust Damage Isn’t Covered

There are a few key reasons rust isn’t covered under a basic auto insurance policy:

It happens slowly over time – Rust is a gradual process as water and air cause metal corrosion. Standard policies only cover sudden, accidental damage like an accident or hail storm. They don’t cover gradual deterioration.

It’s considered “wear and tear” – Rust is categorized as wear and tear, similar to mechanical breakdowns or cracked hoses. Insurance is designed to cover unforeseen events, not vehicle maintenance issues.

Policies exclude pre-existing damage – Many policies won’t cover any damages that existed before you took out the policy. So if you insure a rusty car, existing rust likely wouldn’t be covered.

It’s hard to determine the cause – With rust, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly when and how it started. Insurers need a definable loss event with evidence to cover a claim.

Repair costs may exceed the car’s value – Fixing extensive rust can be very expensive. Once a car has significant corrosion, the repair costs often surpass the vehicle’s worth.

So unless you have specific coverages, rust repairs come out of your own pocket as maintenance costs for owning an older vehicle. But there are a couple potential exceptions.

When Rust Damage May Be Covered

In limited situations, rust repairs may be covered if you have comprehensive coverage or collision coverage with a broad definition of “loss” or “damage.”

Here are two scenarios where you may get coverage for rust:

Improperly Completed Repairs

If you previously had body work performed on your car, improper installation or repairs could potentially void rust proofing or cause new rust to form quickly.

For example, if a shop left internal metal panels exposed or didn’t apply corrosion treatments correctly, it may accelerate rusting.

In cases like this, you may be able to make a claim if you have comprehensive coverage. You’d need to prove the rust resulted specifically from botched repair work. Photos showing rusted areas surrounding new body panels could help demonstrate this.

Flood or Severe Weather Damage

Vehicles exposed to saltwater flooding or hail storms are prone to quick rust formation. The water exposure jumpstarts corrosion, while hail can chip paint and protective coatings.

If you have comprehensive coverage, water or hail damage may pay for immediate repairs and rust mitigation efforts. But policies likely wouldn’t cover rust problems developing years later. There needs to be a clear connection to the weather event.

This is most common with coastal flooding from hurricanes. The saltwater rapidly accelerates corrosion. Insurers may pay for cleanup, drying out electrical systems, and applying rust inhibitors.

Tips for Fighting Rust on Your Vehicle

Since insurance doesn’t cover rust damage, it’s smart to be proactive and defend against corrosion:

  • Wash regularly – Wash your car frequently, especially the undercarriage and wheel wells where grime builds up. This removes corrosive dirt and road salt.

  • Wax paint – Keep all painted surfaces waxed to protect the finish. Wax helps repel moisture and contain rust spots.

  • Fix paint chips – Touch up any small paint chips and scratches which can lead to rust if untreated. Match the factory paint color when making repairs.

  • Dry wet areas – If your carpets get saturated from rain or spills, thoroughly dry them to avoid moisture trapping in hidden spots.

  • Garage when possible – Park in a garage to shield your car from precipitation, road salts, and other environmental hazards that promote rust.

  • Inspect often – Periodically look over the entire car for any new rust spots forming. Address them quickly before major damage occurs.

  • Consider rustproofing – Many dealers offer additional rustproofing services when buying a new car. This adds protective sealants to vulnerable underbody areas.

With some preventative maintenance and regular inspections, you can extend the life of your vehicle and avoid extensive rust repairs down the road.

FAQs About Rust Damage and Auto Insurance

Some common questions about whether rust is covered by car insurance:

Does insurance pay if a rusty frame cracks?

In most cases, no. If the frame rusts through to the point of cracking or collapse, insurers still consider it wear and tear. Standard collision and comprehensive policies exclude gradual damage like rust.

Will insurance replace a rusted fuel tank?

Not unless the rust was directly caused by a covered event like a flood or improper repairs. Rusting from normal environmental exposure over years is not covered. You’d pay for tank replacement yourself.

Does comprehensive coverage include rust?

Comprehensive policies may pay for rust in special cases like weather events or botched repairs you prove caused the corrosion. But typical surface rusting from age is excluded as normal wear.

Can I get rust coverage added to my policy?

Most insurers don’t offer the option to add supplemental rust coverage. You may need to seek specialty collectible car insurance if concerned about protecting a vintage vehicle against corrosion.

Does it make sense to claim rust damage on an older car?

For an high-mileage vehicle with significant rust, it likely doesn’t make sense to file an insurance claim even if some damage may be covered. The repair costs will quickly exceed an older car’s value.

Can I get original manufacturer parts to replace rusted components?

Likely not for an older vehicle. Insurers will pay for aftermarket or used parts. You’d pay the difference yourself for OEM parts, which are often scarce for vintage cars.

The bottom line is that standard car insurance excludes wear-and-tear damage like rust. Maintaining protective coatings and addressing corrosion early is your best defense. But with comprehensive coverage, you may have some recourse if you can prove the rust resulted directly from an insured event.

How To Prevent Rust When Buying a New Car

If you’re purchasing a brand new vehicle, it’s smart to take steps early on to prevent rust down the road:

  • When test driving, inspect underside areas for any early rust concerns

  • Ask the dealer about additional rustproofing options and warranties

  • Inquire about rust protection packages in the finance office

  • Wash the undercarriage regularly from day one

  • Apply protective waxes and sealants as recommended

  • Use touch-up paint on any small scratches that form on body panels

  • Fix minor dings from road debris immediately to avoid exposing metal

  • Garage park to limit exposure to precipitation and road salts

With diligent maintenance and inspections, you can keep a new car rust-free for many years. But insurance likely won’t assist you with repairs for any corrosion issues that eventually arise over time.

Is Rust Damage Worse for Certain Car Makes or Models?

Some vehicles tend to experience rust issues sooner than others. Here are a few that often see more corrosion:

  • Jeeps – Models like the Wrangler and Cherokee are known for developing rust spots. Their utilitarian nature and exposure to off-road conditions contribute.

  • Toyota Tacomas – Early model years had rust-prone frame designs. Toyota later offered recall rust repairs and extended frame warranties.

  • Mazdas – Some Mazda 3s and Mazda 6s have rust problems despite being newer vehicles. Issues seem most common in cold weather regions.

  • Volkswagens – Older VWs had corrosion problems, though newer ones have improved. Beetles, Golfs, and Passats have had recalls for rust in the past.

  • Chevrolet Cavaliers – The Cavalier economy car often developed severe rust, especially around wheel wells. Design flaws prevented drainage leading to trapped moisture.

  • Dodge Caravans – Rust is a known issue on older minivan models. Problems often start on rear panels and around back windows.

  • Nissans – Truck models like the Frontier and Titan have experienced frame and bed corrosion problems over the years.

Regular washing helps protect all vehicles. But be extra vigilant with undercoating and rust prevention on problem-prone models.

Key Takeaways on Rust Damage and Car Insurance

Reviewing the key points on whether rust is covered by auto insurance:

  • Typical policies exclude rust as it’s wear and tear, not an accidental damage
  • Two scenarios where limited rust coverage may exist are improper repairs or weather events
  • Maintaining protective coatings and addressing rust early are your best protections
  • Some vehicles like Jeeps and older VWs are prone to more corrosion than others
  • If you own

Stop! Don’t Take The Car Insurance Claim!


What damage won’t car insurance cover?

Damage caused by freeze or ice. Anything that occurs if you’re using your car for business (including driving for rideshare companies like Lyft) Routine maintenance, like oil or tire changes. Fancy custom parts (over a maximum of $1,000)

Will insurance cover rust on a car?

No, auto insurance does not typically cover rust damage to a vehicle. Rust is usually just considered normal wear and tear of the car. Collision and comprehensive insurance cover damages to the car from an incident, not rust, which usually appears over time.

Can you total a car with frame rust?

Modern cars use unibody construction, with the frame and body skeleton manufactured as a single structure. Depending on the severity of the damage, frame damage is repairable. Insurance companies will usually declare the car a total loss if repairing the frame damage on a vehicle costs more than its value.

Does rust ruin a vehicle?

These spots are the visible result of the oxidation process. The rust can spread, eating away at the metal and compromising the car’s structural integrity. If not addressed promptly, rust can lead to substantial vehicle damage, resulting in costly repairs or even making the vehicle unsafe to drive.

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