Is Hail Damage Covered by Auto Insurance?

Every spring, severe thunderstorms lash across America's High Plains and southern states. They are becoming more common. These storms spawn deadly tornadoes, bolts of lightning and quick-moving flash floods that tear up towns. Meteorologists also worry about storm damages caused by another form of precipitation: hail.

Hail causes almost $22 billion of property damages to cars, homes and crops annually. The smallest stones fall 20 miles per hour from the sky, while the largest ones can reach speeds between 80 and 110 miles per hour. They have broken windshields and auto roofs. If you live in a storm-prone area, you may understand firsthand how hail can damage cars.

You can prepare for any future storms by having the right insurance for your vehicle. In this article, you'll learn everything from how to select the best plan to protect your car against hail damage to car insurance tips. If you're searching for low rates, enter your zip code on this page to start comparing quotes in just a few minutes.

Basic Information About Hail

According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, hail is a form of precipitation consisting of solid ice. It is created when thunderstorm updrafts carry these droplets into the highest, coldest atmospheric regions where temperatures fall below -40°F and cause the droplets to freeze into hail.

The largest hailstone ever recorded fell in Vivian, South Dakota. It had an eight-inch diameter, an 18.62-inch circumference and weighed almost 2 pounds.

If the droplets freeze instantly, cloudy ice will form because ice bubbles have become trapped in the hail. If the rain freezes slowly, the hailstones are clear.

Hailstones fall when they become large. A thunderstorm's horizontal winds will typically blow away small hail. If winds are strong, the precipitation will fall at an angle or sideways. Huge hailstones fall closer to the updraft than smaller pieces.

How Do I Know a Storm Is Coming?

The sky may appear green when hail-containing storms are approaching. One theory suggests that large amounts of water or ice in severe thunderstorms scatter green light, making the clouds turn green.

Wind-driven hail can shear off house siding, break windows, and blow into homes. Giant hailstones can also crack your car's roof, windshield and body. These storms have also killed people and animals.

Colorado State University is currently conducting a study to design better forecast prediction models to identify a hailstorm before they cause weather-related damage to vehicles.

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Are Certain Areas More Prone to Hail Damage?

Yes. Hailstorms can happen anywhere in the nation; however, they are most likely to occur in a region called Hail Alley, which includes Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and parts of Texas. These states receive more severe hail storms than any part of the nation.

Will My Car Insurance Plan Cover Hail Damage?

Does insurance cover hail? That depends on your auto insurance policy and coverage options. Your insurance company won't cover hail damage if you have liability-only coverage. These auto insurance policies only pay for the cost to fix another driver's car damages and medical expenses if you're at fault for an accident. Each one has a bodily injury liability option that pays for medical expenses and property injury liability, which pays for damages.

Liability-only policies won't cover the cost to fix damages to occur to your car, especially in weather-related situations. Only comprehensive coverage pays for this damage. It is not expensive.

What Is Comprehensive Insurance Coverage?

Comprehensive insurance is known as other-than-collision coverage. What does this auto insurance cover? It pays for your property losses, including damages that occur to your car in non-collision incidents.

Some incidents include theft, glass, vandalism, glass and windshield damage. Comprehensive also pays for car damages caused by fires, accidents with animals. Only comprehensive insurance covers acts of nature and weather-related damage, like hail storms.

Do I Have to Buy Comprehensive Coverage?

Comprehensive coverage is optional on your car insurance policy. Most states don't mandate their residents to buy it. Insurers typically include this coverage on full coverage policies. Banks or finance companies require drivers to get full insurance policies when they have an auto loan or lease a car. It helps lenders protect their interests.

Car owners should carry this coverage, especially if their vehicle is worth more than $3,000 and less than 10 years old. Adding this coverage may cost you around $100 - $300 per year, but the cost to repair a car on your own may be much greater.

Insurers classify hail damage as a comprehensive coverage claim. As long as you have this insurance, your carrier will pay off this damage. If you don't have this coverage, you must pay for the cost to repair any hail damage out of pocket.

Do I Have to Get My Hail Damage Fixed?

You don't have to fix any property damage if you own your car. However, if you have an outstanding lien on the vehicle, you are required to carry comprehensive coverage so it will only cost you the price of the deductible to have the damage fixed.

Do I Have to Pay An Insurance Deductible?

In most cases, your insurance company will require you to pay an insurance deductible first before your comprehensive coverage kicks in.

When you sign your insurance contract, you agree to pay a deductible, which is the amount you're responsible to pay before your insurance carrier pays the claim. The deductible is often a specific dollar amount or a percentage of the costs, like $250, $500, or $1,000.

Having a higher deductible may help to lower your premium. But you'll pay more when it's time to make a claim. 

Do you have a dinged windshield? Under some circumstances, your insurance company may waive the deductible on the glass portion of your comprehensive coverage. For example, if the glass is repaired and not replaced, your insurance company may waive the deductible.

Will a Hail Damage Claim Raise My Rates?

If you file a claim, your comprehensive policy won't raise your insurance rates. But multiple claims made against your policy can affect your insurance rates.

So, if you have several claims besides your hail claim, you may see your rates increase. You may even get dropped by your insurer for filing too many insurance claims.

What Is the Insurance Claim Process for Hail Damage?

You'll need to submit a claim for hail damage before your insurance company sends an adjuster to examine the hail damage to your vehicle. It's essential to place your car in the right lighting so the professional can see the damages.

The National Alliance of Paintless Dent Repair Technicians (NAPDRT) recommends owners place their cars in a shady area, like a garage. Their experts say it's difficult for claims adjusters to get an accurate view of car damage in sunlight because of the glare.

During the process, the claims adjuster may ask you which business you plan to use for your car repairs. Never tell the professional you plan to cash out your settlement. It is illegal, and the investigator may recommend a lower amount if you tell them you plan to keep the cash.

After the adjuster estimates the severity of your car's hail damage, they will write an estimate to have it fixed. Once you locate a reputable shop, contact your insurance company and tell them the body shop you're using for repairs.

Contact your local insurance agent If you need more information about your carrier's claims process.

How Much Money Will I Get for an Auto Insurance Claim Based on Hail?

Very light hail damage may not be enough to meet a deductible. The cost to fix severe, golf-ball hail damage could range in the thousands of dollars. The average settlement for hail damage is $3,000.

To settle your hail claim, some insurance companies will only send out the settlement check after the shop has made repairs. Others will send the check directly to you based on the estimated repair cost, minus the deductible.

Can Hail Damage Total My Vehicle?

Yes, hail can total your car if the storm severely damages your vehicle. Insurance companies consider a car as totaled if its repair costs exceed its depreciated, actual cash value in the market.

The insurance adjuster who investigates your claim will determine whether your vehicle's repairs exceed its current market value. If so, the person may conclude it's not worthwhile to fix your automobile.

An insurance agent may issue a settlement check for a replacement car.

The car insurance claims process takes longer when a hail storm totals a vehicle. Your car insurance agency may conduct a lengthier investigation before it issues a check, to learn whether hail was the sole cause for the damage.

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What Is the Process to Fix Hail Damage on Cars?

Somebody shops will want to see your car before they schedule a day to fix it. These businesses want to ensure the insurance estimate is accurate.

Other shops will only deal with the final estimate after they begin the hail repair process on your vehicle. These businesses notify your insurer if their claims adjuster incorrectly wrote the estimate or the settlement amount was too low to cover the repairs.

In most situations, you won't have to get involved in the insurance company's negotiations with the repair shop. The business will rewrite the estimate and create a supplement for your carrier's approval.

Most Common Methods to Fix Hail

The shop will use one of three methods for hail damage repairs on your car: Paintless Dent Repair (PDR), Traditional Body Shop Repair Method and Body Panel Replacement.

  • Paintless Dent Removal (PDR) – A skilled technician goes underneath your vehicle's body panel and massages the dents until they remove them. Some experts recommend this PDR method so you can preserve your car's original factory finish.

  • Traditional Body Shop Repair Method – The repair shop straightens out the dents, fills them, and repaints your car.

  • Body Panel Replacement – The business will recommend replacing your car's panels if a technician can't fix them using the PDR or traditional repair methods.

Inspect your car after the body shop completes your auto's repairs to see if their repairpersons completed them to your satisfaction. How can you tell if the repair shop's work was shoddy? Your car's body will still have dents, uneven spots or creases where the hail damage occurred. After you inspect your car, ask the shop for a written warranty for your vehicle.

How to Protect Your Vehicle from Hail Damage?

It's not always possible to shield your vehicle from unpredictable weather and severe storms. If you live in a hail-prone state, you can take a few precautions to prevent damage.

The bigger the hailstones and the more intense the storm, the more damage to your vehicle. Here are three tips that can help you protect your vehicle from hail damage.

  • If you see a severe thunderstorm forming, place your car in a garage or covered carport if you have one of these structures.

  • When you get caught out in the storm, find a parking garage or another covered parking structure and wait out the storm. Local malls usually have covered parking structures where you can stay until severe weather has passed.

  • If driving on the highway, pull under a bridge or overpass. These shelters may deflect the direct force of the hailstorm.

  • A padded car cover is one way to protect a car parked outside during a hailstorm. These covers, also called hail protection blankets, can be found online and at auto parts stores. Remember, only put these blankets on vehicles before the storm reaches its height. Often, thunderstorms have high winds, intense lightning, heavy rains and hail. Lightning and hail can kill, so only put these items on when it is safe.

  • If you don't have a padded car cover, you can also use your own blankets to protect your car. Just remember to use duct tape to keep them in place.

  • At home, use an NOAA Weather Radio to stay aware of potential storms headed in your direction.

  • Download a weather app that will alert you if bad weather is approaching.

Get Affordable Comprehensive Insurance for Your Car

Do you live in a hail-prone area and need good comprehensive insurance coverage for your vehicle? Using an insurance comparison search engine, like SmartFinancial, can help you find an affordable plan. Just enter your zip code on this page, and we'll get you a quote from local insurance companies near you.

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