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Does insurance cover damage from extreme cold?

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It’s no secret Canada has extreme winters – in fact, we’re known for our cold temperatures around the world. In this type of climate, robust home insurance and auto insurance aren't just nice to have; it's essential for every home and auto owner.

As temperatures plunge, the risk of costly damage to homes and vehicles skyrockets, posing a significant threat to personal finances. Home insurance protects homeowners from unexpected expenses caused by cold weather calamities like frozen pipes or roofs damaged by heavy snowfall. Similarly, car insurance is a buffer against the financial shock of accidents on icy roads or damage from severe winter conditions. 

By ensuring adequate coverage, Canadians can weather winter storms with greater confidence, knowing their financial well-being is protected against many unpredictable and often severe challenges of the cold season.

But home and auto insurance policies don’t cover anything. In this article, we will share the most common problems caused by extreme winter weather and discuss which are covered by standard insurance policies and optional add-ons. 

Key takeaways on extreme cold insurance

  1. When it comes to home insurance, most standard policies provide some coverage for extreme cold perils – such as burst pipes and roof damage. Other coverages, such as flood insurance, need to be added on as an endorsement.

  2. While your car insurance won't cover extreme cold damage due to wear and tear, adding collision insurance to your policy can pay for vehicle damages if severe weather causes you to get into an accident. And adding comprehensive coverage can pay for vehicle damages due to other risks, such as a fallen tree or heavy hail.

Does home insurance cover damage from extreme cold?

Extreme winter weather can damage a home in many ways. The cost of repairing many of these damages is often covered by home insurance policies, but some are not. Home insurance must be in place before a mortgage provider will release funds to enable you to buy a home. This is because damage to a home can be far too extreme for many to cover out-of-pocket. 

Home insurance weather damage – what is covered?

One of the most common causes of winter damage caused by cold is burst pipes. Water expands when it freezes, so if it’s left in the pipes when the temperature drops, the pipes can easily burst from the added pressure. This is why it’s so important to close off your pipes and release any water inside them before it gets too cold outside. 

Damage caused by burst pipes is covered by most standard insurance policies, assuming those pipes are located in the heated part of the home and the homeowner has made a reasonable attempt to keep the home warm. If they have not, the insurance provider could consider this neglect, and deny the claim. 

Extreme cold can also cause extreme snow, and the buildup of snow on a roof can potentially cause structural damage. This is also usually covered by home insurance policies. 

Power outages are common during extreme weather, and a lack of power means the food in your refrigerator and freezer can go bad in a day or two. Depending on the cause of the outage, most policies will cover the cost of replacing this food. 

Also read: Does your home insurance cover power outages?

Home insurance weather damage – what isn’t covered? 

Insurance companies provide coverage for a home with confidence the homeowner will care for that property and take reasonable precautions to prevent damage. If your home is damaged due to extreme cold weather and the damage could have easily been prevented, you may have a problem settling your claim. 

If you are planning to leave your home for more than a few days, it’s very important to have someone check in on things and make sure the weather has not caused any problems. This is especially important for snowbirds or long-term vacationers, as many insurance providers will deny coverage if a home has been left empty for more than 30 consecutive days.

Read: Winter home insurance tips for snowbirds

Depending on where you live, extreme winter cold doesn’t last all winter, and temperatures can fluctuate quickly. This may lead to the melting of snow and ice while the ground is still too frozen to soak up the water. Consequently, the water, following the path of least resistance, may seep into your basement through a window well or a crack in the foundation.

Flood insurance is not covered by basic home insurance policies (for now), so unless you purchase policy add-ons like sewer backup coverage, overland water coverage, or storm surge coverage, your home insurance policy will likely not cover the cost of repairs due to flood damage. These add-ons can be pricey, but depending on where you live and the likelihood of weather damage, they are often worth the cost.

In early 2023 the Government of Canada announced a National Flood Insurance Program set to launch in 2025 which will ensure all Canadian homeowners have the opportunity to purchase flood insurance. 

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Does auto insurance cover damage from extreme cold?

Extreme winter weather in Canada brings a unique set of challenges for drivers, significantly increasing the risk of accidents. In fact, winter weather causes nearly 50,000 car accidents in Canada each year. The presence of snow and ice on roads creates slippery and unpredictable driving conditions, making it difficult for vehicles to maintain traction. This can lead to skidding, sliding, and ultimately collisions, even for the most cautious drivers. 

Blizzards and heavy snowfall can obscure road signs, lane markings, and other vehicles, making it challenging to navigate safely. The reduced daylight hours during the winter months further exacerbate these visibility issues, increasing the likelihood of accidents during both morning and evening commutes.

Extreme cold can also be hard on your tires, battery, oil, and wiper blades. Damage to any of these components of a vehicle is considered to be regular wear-and-tear and is not covered by auto insurance policies. 

Car insurance weather damage – does insurance cover weather damage from a storm?

Comprehensive and collision insurance is essential for motorists, especially in the winter. Collision insurance is crucial as it covers the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle if you're involved in a traffic accident, whether it's with another vehicle or an object like a guardrail or a tree. This is particularly important in winter when sliding through a stop sign becomes far more likely. 

On the other hand, comprehensive insurance covers non-collision-related damages, including, you guessed it, weather. This includes damage from falling objects (like broken tree limbs or ice from buildings), vandalism, and theft, which can be more prevalent in winter months when cars are often left running to warm up. 

Without these coverages, drivers could find themselves facing significant financial burdens if their vehicle is damaged. Repair costs for vehicle damage can be substantial, and in the case of total loss, the cost of replacing a vehicle can be a major financial setback. Comprehensive and collision insurance provides a financial safety net, ensuring you’re financially protected in the harsh winter months. 

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The bottom line

While home and auto insurance provide crucial financial protection against many of the risks associated with extreme winter weather, it's important to recognize the limits of that protection. Home insurance typically covers damages like burst pipes or structural impacts due to heavy snow, but may not cover flood damage from rapid snowmelt or maintenance-related issues. 

Similarly, while auto insurance with comprehensive and collision coverage is invaluable in safeguarding against costs associated with winter-related accidents and non-collision damages, it doesn't cover wear and tear or mechanical failures. Take the time to review the specifics of your policy to ensure you're not caught off guard when winter's worst hits. 

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