Hail Damage and Your Car: Insurance, Repair, Resale Value and Protection
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Hail Damage and Your Car: Insurance, Repair, Resale Value and Protection

Whether it’s the pea-sized ice of a normal storm or the egg-sized chunks that hit Madison a couple years ago, hail can do serious damage to your car. How does insurance coverage come into play? Is it worth getting damage repaired? What happens when you buy a hail-damaged car? Let’s answer the most common questions about these repairs.

Does My Car Insurance Cover Hail Damage? 

Liability insurance only covers damage to other people’s property, so hail damage to your own vehicle isn’t included. Comprehensive insurance does cover damage, but you’ll still need to pay your deductible.

Is Hail Damage Repair Different from Collision Repair? 

The type of damage left behind by hail is different: instead of bending panels and their support structures, hail leaves behind dents and can shatter windows and headlights. That said, the repair techniques are similar.

Today, most hail damage can be fixed with “paintless” techniques. The metal is gradually reshaped using tools on both the inside and outside of the vehicle, keeping the original paint in place. This cuts costs and labor times significantly.

Whether the windshield will need to be replaced will depend on the size and location of the damage. Small cracks away from the edge of the glass and the driver’s field of view can be filled in, but this will usually leave a small blemish. Otherwise, the glass will need to be replaced.

Hail damage can be hard to spot, making claims adjustments more common than it is for collision repair. Major dents cover up minor ones, and problems with panel alignment and other issues aren’t possible to inspect until the panel is flat again.

Can Hail Damage Really Total My Car?

Yes and no. A car is “totaled” if repair costs are 70% or more than the fair market value of the vehicle. It’s possible for this to happen with severe hail damage, especially if you drive an older, less valuable vehicle. However, unlike a crash-damaged vehicle, a hail damaged car can still be mechanically sound underneath. Wisconsin and many other states have a special hail damage category. If there is enough damage to meet the requirements for a salvage title, but a repair won’t require the replacement of body panels, it will get a hail damage title. If this happens, the car can still be licensed and insured like a vehicle with a clean title.

Should I Keep the Insurance Check?

It may be tempting to keep the insurance money when you have a vehicle that’s still drivable. However, even if you don’t care about how your car looks, hail damage can seriously reduce the resale value of your car. Even minor damage can cut the value of your car by 1/3, so in the end you would lose money if your car wasn’t repaired.

Is it Worth Buying a Hail Damaged New Car?

There are three reasons a seemingly good deal on a hail-damaged vehicle isn’t really that good:

1. A salesman is not a body shop technician. Any claim of “you can get that fixed for $X” is unlikely to be accurate. If you plan on having the hail damage repaired, have it assessed professionally so you know what it will take to make it right.

2. Unrepaired damage will be deducted from future insurance claims. If your car already has an estimated $500 of front-end hail damage and you’re in a head-on collision, the insurance company will pay for the repair amount minus $500.

3. If the damage was repaired before the sale, it was paid for with a claim by the dealership to their insurance company. This goes on the vehicle records, so anyone looking to buy your car later will see the claim on its Carfax or Autocheck report, even if it doesn’t have a hail damage title. This reduces resale value and makes the vehicle harder to sell.

Is There Any Way to Avoid Hail Damage?

Keep your car out of the path of hail. If you can, park your car in a carport or garage. When traveling, try to get to covered parking, whether it’s at a parking garage or covered structure like an overpass or a gas station pump. If that’s not possible, park next to a building that is in the path of the wind. It won’t stop hail damage, but it will reduce the number of impacts.

Need to leave your vehicle outside? Get a car cover designed for hail protection. These fitted covers have thick panels that absorb hail impacts. If you’re in a pinch and a record-setting storm is coming, throw rugs and blankets on top of your car.

Get It Repaired Right the First Time

When you have hail damage, go to Merton Auto Body. We offer paintless dent repair and can do more intensive repairs to restore the look of your vehicle. We also have an auto body appraisal center with an on-staff appraiser so initial work and adjustments can be approved quickly. Stop by at our Sussex location or visit our website to schedule a free online estimate. We proudly service Waukesha County and surrounding Lake Country areas, including Oconomowoc, Delafield, Hartland, and Pewaukee.



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