Corrie Cole will never look at hail the same. Not after balls of ice fell from the sky and smashed her 2006 Chevrolet TrailBlazer. Twice. Within a two-week period.
Cole, who runs the “Cents”able Momma blog and lives in Wylie, Texas, says the vehicle was parked in front of the house the first time. A storm swept in during the night. It pummeled the TrailBlazer with golf ball sized hail.
“The second hail storm happened four days after our vehicle was fixed from the first hail storm,” says Cole. “My husband was driving the car home from work. He tried to pull under a gas station overhang, but the baseball-size hail was blowing too much.” The new windshield was shattered, and the roof, hood, and sides were damaged again.
“We have a moonroof on the SUV, and my husband was worried about hail smashing through it. He put his briefcase over his head once the windshield smashed so bad that pieces of glass were spraying around the front of the car,” Cole says.
Fortunately, no one was injured and they had comprehensive auto insurance that paid for the damage.
Who’s most affected by hailstorms?
According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, hailstorms cause about $1 billion in damage to property each year.
Every state is susceptible to hail, but hail storms tend to impact the Great Plains and the Midwest.
In 2017, Texas took the top spot for having 747 major hail events. Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Oklahoma rounded out the top five.
Does car insurance cover hail damage? It depends
Auto insurance will generally cover hail damage if you have comprehensive coverage as part of your policy.
Comprehensive coverage is what covers you when your vehicle is damaged from something other than a collision, such as a fallen tree or hail. It’s also what covers you if someone steals your vehicle.
If you have an auto loan or are leasing the vehicle, you may be required to buy comprehensive and collision coverage (which, when combined, are called full coverage). Otherwise, comprehensive coverage is optional.
Vehicle owners sometimes don’t buy comprehensive coverage to save money on insurance premiums. Especially if you own an older vehicle (think 10 years or older), the amount you’ll receive to repair or replace the vehicle might not justify the higher premium.
Can my car be declared a total loss from hail damage?
When it costs more to repair the damage than the vehicle is currently worth, the insurance company may declare the vehicle a total loss. They can then pay you the current value of the vehicle minus your deductible.
That’s actually what happened to the Coles after the second storm.
“The insurance company declared our vehicle a total loss due to the extensive amount of damage,” says Cole. “Our body shop said that most vehicles that were older than two years were being declared totaled from that hail storm.”
“We ended up keeping our vehicle since it was paid off and we didn’t feel like buying another vehicle,” she adds. They put the insurance payout towards the repairs.
However, they can’t purchase comprehensive or collision coverage anymore since the car was deemed a total loss by the insurance company. It also probably isn’t worth much, but they also don’t have any plans to sell it.
What if I only have liability coverage?
Unlike comprehensive or collision coverage, which are optional, most states require that you have liability insurance on your vehicle. Liability coverage pays out when you hurt someone else or damage someone else’s property.
For example, if you get in an accident, the liability part of your auto insurance could pay to repair the other person’s vehicle and for their medical bills. However, the collision portion of your coverage is what pays for repairing your vehicle.
You won’t be protected from hail damage if you only have liability coverage.
Should I file a claim after a hail storm?
Depending on the extent of the damage, you might not need to file a claim. If the only damage on your car is a small chip in the windshield, it might not be worth it for you to go through the process of filing a claim.
This is especially true if the minor damage can be repaired for less than your deductible. It makes more sense for you to pay out of pocket because you won’t have to pay the deductible.
If the damage is severe and you have comprehensive coverage, you’ll want to contact your insurance company and start the claim process as soon as possible.
What happens after I file a claim?
How long will the insurance claim take? The process can vary depending on your insurance company and the situation, but an agent can help walk you through the process.
If there was a big storm in the area, it’s likely that many people will be filing claims as well. The faster you contact your insurer, the faster the process will go.
The average hail damage claim is around $3,000. If you do end up filing a claim, it may result in a rate hike. But comprehensive claims have far less of an impact than a collision claim.
If you’ve only filed one or two comprehensive claims, it shouldn’t make a difference on your premiums. Any more than that, it will affect your rates.
In the Coles’ case, a lot of vehicles in the area had been damaged by the hail storm.
“After the first storm, our insurance company had a hail damage pop-up shop of sorts at a dealership in Plano. We drove there and they did an assessment and gave us a check. We then took it to a body shop to get it fixed,” she says.
They didn’t have any problems with the second claim, either. Perhaps because so many people in the area were affected by the same storm.
However, because the windshield was broken, they had the SUV towed to a body shop where an insurance adjuster met them, assessed the damage, and then declared the vehicle a total loss.
Protecting your car from hail
Of course, even if you have coverage, it’s better not to have to deal with repairing your vehicle or paying a deductible.
The Coles’ second vehicle was parked in their garage during both storms and wasn’t damaged at all. (Unfortunately, other parts of their home were damaged, which led to homeowner’s insurance claims.)
If you don’t have access to a garage or carport, or are away from home when a storm strikes, here are some other ways to help protect you and your vehicle during a hail storm:
1. Know when it’s coming
Having a weather app and signing up for severe weather alerts can help give you an early warning about potential hail.
You can then take precautions to minimize the damage.
2. Use a car cover or blankets
Small pieces of hail might not be able to break glass, but they can leave your vehicle covered in dents.
Having a car cover or old blankets handy could help prevent the damage. As a last resort, your floor mats could also double as padding if you place them on top of the windows.
Make sure the blankets cover the side windows as those are vulnerable to cracking.
If you can, duct tape the blankets to the bottom of your vehicle to prevent them from being blown away by the storm.
3. Find cover
Look for the nearest protection if you’re driving when a storm hits. A gas station awning, bridge or covered parking structure might help.
If there aren’t any nearby, parking next to a tall building could help. Make sure to park on the opposite side from the direction the wind is blowing.
There’s a chance that the building might act as a shield. The hail could blow right past leaving your car unscathed.
4. Stay in the car
If you’re able to stop but haven’t found cover, you may want to take shelter in the back seat, or even crouch down on the floor.
Cover any children who are in the car with your body or another form of protection, and make sure everyone is looking away from the windows.