When it comes to weather, there’s only one thing you can be sure of: it’s unpredictable! Severe weather can hit in an instant and wreak havoc on everything in its path — including your car. If your car is pelted by softball-sized (or even pea-sized) hailstones, it may suffer from unsightly dents and widespread damage.

The cost to repair the damage can be pretty steep, but if you carry the right insurance, you may be in luck. Read on to learn about how hail damage can affect your car insurance and value and what you’ll need to consider when it comes time for repair.

In This Article

  • Should I Claim Hail Damage on My Car?

  • Does Claiming Hail Damage Raise Your Rates?

  • How Do You File a Hail Damage Claim?

  • Can You Claim Hail Damage More Than Once?

  • Will Reporting Hail Damage Affect Your Car’s Value?

  • How Much Hail Damage Totals a Car

  • What Happens If the Insurance Company Totals Your Car?

  • How to Protect Your Car in a Hailstorm

Should I Claim Hail Damage on My Car?

Auto insurance policies cover hail damage, provided you have comprehensive coverage. This type of coverage includes several hazards, including fallen branches, vandalism and, yes, hail damage. You will, however, have to pay your comprehensive deductible before your policy kicks in. Minor hail damage may not be worth claiming if the deductible amount is more than the repair costs. Learn more about the cost of repairing a hail-damaged vehicle.

Unfortunately, if you purchased liability only on your car insurance policy, you will not be covered for hail damage. Hail damage is only covered if you hold comprehensive coverage.

Does Claiming Hail Damage Raise Your Rates?

No. In general, claiming hail damage will not raise your car insurance rates. Since natural occurrences (including hailstorms) are unforeseeable and completely out of your control, the damages they cause are not typically held against you when it comes to insurance claims. The only exception to this is if you’ve recently submitted other claims. Multiple claims may result in rate increases, regardless of the origin of the claims.

How Do You File a Hail Damage Claim?

It’s important to file a hail damage claim as soon as possible after the storm. Why? Because you probably aren’t the only one affected by the hail, so it could take longer to get help. The sooner you call, the sooner you can get the situation under control.

Filing a claim for hail damage is the same as filing any other type of claim. You can either go online or pick up the phone and contact your insurance company to report the incident. Then, they’ll send someone over to assess the damage and determine the amount to reimburse you.

It’s beneficial to get a second opinion from the repair shop of your choice. If the estimate the repair shop gives you is inconsistent with the insurer’s estimate, have them contact your insurer with the information to get a revised estimate.

Can You Claim Hail Damage More Than Once?

Yes, you can claim hail damage more than once. However, by filing multiple claims in a short period of time, you could be labeled a “high-risk driver.” This could raise your insurance rates and make it harder to sustain car insurance from your current insurer, as well as make it harder to find another affordable insurance policy.

If you did not fix the damage to your car after the first hail damage claim, you won’t get paid twice for the same hail damage. In other words, your insurance company will subtract the amount of the first insurance claim from the second claim, and will likely take two deductibles, leading to a much lower payout value.

Will Reporting Hail Damage Affect Your Car’s Value?

Hail damage can do more than just damage your car’s appearance — it can also lower your car’s value, even with just a few small dents. If you’re concerned about the resale of your vehicle, it’s probably a good idea to get all dents and dings repaired. Even a few minor cosmetic flaws can lower your car’s appraisal value from “good” to “fair,” or even “poor.”

Sites like Kelley Blue Book, a trusted resource for purchasing vehicles, define cars of “good” value to have minor scratches, dings, dents, or blemishes; cars of “fair” value to have dents, dings, and scratches that need repair, or paint that needs refinishing; and cars of “poor” value typically aren’t even listed, but include any damage worse than dents, dings, and scratches.

Minor flaws might affect your car’s value, but they shouldn’t be enough to total your car, so the damages won’t appear on your vehicle’s title. Still, if you report the damages to your insurance company, the repair will likely show up on vehicle reporting systems like CARFAX or AutoCheck and can therefore affect the resale value of your car.

How Much Hail Damage Totals a Car

Yes, unfortunately your car can be totaled by hail damage.

The following factors determine whether a car is totaled:

  • The specific car insurance company. Companies must follow certain state laws, but can set their own standards for totaled cars.
  • Individual state laws. Depending on which state you live in, your car must suffer a certain percentage of damage to be considered a total loss. This percentage varies greatly from state to state. Some states use what is called the total loss formula (cost of repairs plus scrap value must equal the pre-accident value of the car), while others have a specific threshold set. For example: if a car suffers 50% of its pre-accident value, it’s considered a total loss in Iowa, while in Texas, it would be considered repairable.
  • The vehicle’s condition. Can your car be repaired safely? Will repair costs total more than the vehicle’s worth?

If your car is totaled, your insurance company will take possession of the vehicle and issue it a salvage title. The specific criteria for issuing a salvage title varies from state to state, and not all states allow hail damage as an exclusive reason to issue one. Learn more here.

What Happens If the Insurance Company Totals Your Car?

So, your car suffered hail damage and the insurance company deemed it a total loss. Now what? Your next steps depend on whether or not you own your vehicle outright or if it is financed.

If you own your car outright, you have a choice of what to do next. You can:

  • Take the money from the insurance company. This is probably the most common choice when cars are considered totaled. Basically, your insurer will determine the car’s actual cash value (ACV) and send you a check in that amount. This amount is negotiable, but you’ll have to prove your case.
  • Keep the car and fix it yourself. If your car is still safe to drive and has merely cosmetic damages, or if the settlement money isn’t enough to purchase a replacement, you may decide to keep the car and spend your own money to fix the damages. If you decide to go this route, let your insurance company know immediately. They’ll deduct the salvage value, or the total value of the damaged vehicle, and any remaining deductible value and you’ll get the remaining funds. Be aware, however, that you’ll then receive a salvage title for the car and it may be harder to get car insurance and even harder to sell it later on. An inspection will likely be required before you get the car back on the road. Note: Some states will not permit an owner to retain a car that is declared a total loss. Check your state’s individual laws.
  • Keep the car and drive it as-is. Similarly, if your car is safe to drive and has merely cosmetic damages such as paint damage or dents from the hail, or if the settlement money isn’t enough to purchase a replacement, you may decide to keep the car and not fix the damages. Remember, it may be harder to get car insurance and harder to sell later on with a salvage title and cosmetic damages. An inspection will likely be required before you get the car back on the road. Note: Some states will not permit an owner to retain a car declared a total loss. Check your state’s individual laws.

If you have an auto loan, the financial institution or lien holder will have the final say on whether or not you can keep your salvaged vehicle. Most likely, though, you will have to take the payout. If the insurance company’s ACV is less than the amount you still owe on your loan, you will be required to pay the difference unless you have gap insurance. Gap insurance will pay the “gap” amount still owed on a car loan that remains after the ACV has been paid by the insurance company. If the ACV is more than the amount you owe on your loan, you can use the extra money to put toward a new vehicle.

How to Protect Your Car in a Hailstorm

It’s better to be safe than sorry, so consider taking precautions to prevent hail damage rather than waiting until your car falls victim to the weather.

First, know the places around the country where hail is most likely to happen. According to the Insurance Information Institute, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Oklahoma saw the highest number of major hail events in 2016. According to The National Insurance Crime Bureau, Texas, Colorado, and Nebraska, had the highest number of hail damage claims between 2014 and 2016.

If you live in a state prone to hailstorms, comprehensive car insurance coverage is a necessity. This will protect you from paying for repairs out of pocket if and when hail damage occurs. It’s also a good idea to keep your car in a garage or covered parking lot. If you happen to be driving when hail strikes, try to pull into a covered parking area or, at the very least, pull over to the side of the road to reduce the hail’s impact.

In Summary

If your car’s been hit by hailstones of any shape or size, it may suffer minor, moderate, or even severe damage. The only way you will be covered for hail damage is if you carry a comprehensive auto insurance policy. Unfortunately, liability-only policies do not include coverage for hail storms.

While your auto insurance rates should not be affected by claiming hail damage, your car’s value may suffer, especially if the insurer deems it a total loss. It is best to know about individual state laws regarding total loss vehicles so you can make the most informed decision regarding your next steps.