What’s the appropriate response when you realize your car’s been dinged up by a bout of icy precipitation? Oh, hail no! Dents and dings from hail look awful and, if left unfixed, can cause bigger problems for you later on. After you finish venting your frustration, it’s time to look at how your car insurance will handle that hail damage.
Comprehensive car insurance, if you carry it, does cover hail damage. Whether it makes sense to file a claim for hail damage is a different question, however.
What is comprehensive coverage?
Comprehensive coverage helps pay for vehicle damage or loss that didn’t result from a collision. That includes damage from fire, falling tree branches, wild animals, or even a gunfight that breaks out in your driveway. And yes, comprehensive insurance also covers damage from storms and hail.
From your state’s perspective, comprehensive insurance is optional. But if you’ve financed the vehicle, your car lender will require it, along with collision insurance. Collision pays for damage to your vehicle that results from an accident. Both comprehensive and collision insurance have deductibles, which is the amount you pay before your insurance kicks in. Say you have a $500 comprehensive deductible and the hail damage on your car will cost $1,000 to fix. You pay the first $500 and your insurer picks up the rest of the tab.
When to file a car insurance claim for hail damage
You may have selected a higher deductible way back when you bought the insurance, to keep your premiums low. But a deductible of, say, $500 can be problematic with respect to hail damage. If it only costs $200 to pull the hail dents out of the car, then it’s not worth it to file the claim — since you have to pay for the first $500 anyway.
There are other factors as well. Specifically, the value of your car and the number of claims you’ve filed in the past should influence whether or not you ask your insurer to pay for part of the hail damage. If your car is junky, for example, and you don’t care too much about resale value, then funding the deductible makes less sense. In that case, it might not even be worth it to keep your comprehensive insurance at all. And, while one smaller comprehensive claim shouldn’t have a big impact on your rates, if a new claim adds to a long list of repairs you’ve already passed on to your insurer, you may well see higher insurance premiums.
Scenario: $900 of hail damage
Let’s say your vehicle that’s worth $15,000 suffers four large dents and a cracked windshield in a hailstorm. Your deductible is $200 and you have an estimate of $900 to pull out the dents and replace the windshield. This would be your first comprehensive claim. In this case, it’s worth it to go ahead and file the claim. That saves you $700 out of pocket and, more importantly, preserves the value of your vehicle by getting it repaired quickly.
Scenario: $300 of hail damage
But what if the car only has three mid-sized dents and no cracks in the windshield? In that case, the repairs may only be $300. Now you’re in a gray area. Given that your deductible is $200, this would be a $100 claim for your insurer. That probably won’t impact your rates too much, but then it’s not a large amount for you to cover, either. Take a look at the cash you have on hand to decide. If you’d have to charge the extra $100, ask your insurer to pay for it. If you can manage it yourself, you might want to skip the hassle of a claim and just get the damage repaired on your own.
Finally, if the hail causes no dents, but chips or cracks your windshield, check the fine print on your policy. Many insurers waive your deductible if the windshield can be repaired. That waiver usually doesn’t apply if the windshield has to be replaced.
When you’re at risk for hail damage
Knowing your risk level for hail damage is important because it should influence whether or not you carry comprehensive coverage on a car that’s not financed. Also, many risk factors associated with hail damage are also associated with other types of comprehensive claims. For example, if you live in a state that’s prone to severe weather, your car is more likely to get damaged by hail and more likely to be hit by falling branches or downed trees.
In 2019, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NCIB) crunched claims data to conclude that Texas, Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas had the most hail damage claims filed between 2016 and 2018. In these five states, drivers filed nearly 1 million auto insurance claims for hail damage. Other states known for frequent hailstorms include Iowa, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, South Dakota, Mississippi, and Georgia.
Where you live is only part of the story. The other part is where you park. If your car is in a coverage garage at night and at the office, you’re only going to suffer hail damage if you’re driving while the ice is falling. But if you routinely park outside, you’re far more likely to see those telltale dings on your hood.
There are a couple ways you can protect your vehicle if you don’t have access to covered parking. First, you can invest in a car cover. A standard car cover doesn’t offer much protection from falling objects, but you can get car covers that are specifically designed to protect against hail damage. You can also cover your vehicle with blankets and even your own floormats when you know a storm is rolling in.
What to do when you have hail damage
You’ll have to assess the situation before making your first move. If the damage is minor, for example, you may not want to involve your insurance company. Here’s how to proceed:
- Do a full walk-around of the car. Make notes of the damage and take photographs.
- Know your deductible. If you don’t know your comprehensive deductible, check your policy documents.
- Decide whether you want to contact your insurer. This depends on the extent of the damage, the size of your deductible, and your willingness to invest in the car. Know that popping out dents can cost $30 to $125 per dent, depending on the size. And windshield replacement can cost up to $300. For a better idea of repair costs, you can use the dent removal calculator from Paintless Auto Repair Specialists — it will provide an informal estimate. If you’re not sure what to do, call your insurer and discuss the damage with your claims adjuster. You can always cancel the claim later if you decide to pay for the repairs on your own.
- Watch out for storm chasers. The NCIB warns vehicle owners to watch out for storm chasers, who will knock on your door to solicit dent repair work after a big storm. These individuals may not be qualified to complete the work properly and they may charge excessively high prices.
- Get several formal estimates. Whether you want to file a claim or repair the damage on your own, you should get several quotes. If your car has only minor dings, you can also look into DIY dent removal kits, available on Amazon or at Walmart.
- Get the car fixed, or not. Dents that are deep enough to break the paint surface are likely to rust over time. Once rust sets in, you lose the option to spot-fix those dents; instead, you’ll have to replace whole panels. And small windshield chips can easily stretch into large cracks that impact your visibility while driving. If you choose not to repair the damage, know that you’re trading off some savings today for potentially more expensive repairs later.
Know your risk and manage your coverage
Comprehensive coverage to protect against hail (among other things) will add, on average, less than $200 annually to your car insurance costs. If you live in a hail-prone state and you don’t have access to covered parking, consider carrying comprehensive with a low deductible. Or, invest a few hundred dollars in an inflatable car cover. Either option spares you from having to choose between saving cash and maintaining your vehicle and protecting its resale value. If the additional premiums are too much, consider your options for reducing the cost of your insurance.
 What is comprehensive insurance? (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2020, from https://www.allstate.com/tr/car-insurance/what-is-comprehensive-auto-insurance.aspx
 Auto Insurance Claims Process. (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2020, from https://www.progressive.com/claims/auto-process/
 Top 5 States for Hail Claims. (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2020, from https://www.nicb.org/news/news-releases/top-5-states-hail-claims
 Abrams, Z. (2019, July 16). States with the most hailstorms. Retrieved April 30, 2020, from https://thestacker.com/stories/3301/states-most-hailstorms
 How Much Does Car Hail Damage Cost? (2018, August 18). Retrieved April 30, 2020, from https://www.howmuchisit.org/car-hail-damage-cost/
 Megna, M. (2020, March 17). The worst states for hail damage claims. Retrieved April 30, 2020, from https://www.insurance.com/auto-insurance/auto-insurance-basics/hail-damage-are-you-covered.html
Cintineo et al. (2012, October). Objective High-Resolution Hail Climatology of the Contiguous United States. Retrieved May 26, 2020, from https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/WAF-D-11-00151.1