• Buying Guides

Hail Damaged Cars - Everything You Need to Know

By Michael O'Connor | January 11, 2023

No matter what region of the country you live in, your car will be exposed to the elements and will stand up to some serious abuse. However, some types of weather will be more damaging than others and some can be devastating for your vehicle. Hail is particularly rough on cars and can dent the exterior and ruin the paint. In some cases, it can even break windows or shatter your windshield.

Hail damage can be devastating for a car but if you know how to deal with it, you can get your vehicle back to its original condition. In some cases, buying a hail-damaged car can even save you some money. Understanding everything you can about hail-damaged cars can help you navigate the process and make the most of a bad situation.

Types of Vehicle Damage Caused by Hail:

For the most part, hail won’t damage your vehicle as long as it is relatively small in diameter. However, hail that is one inch in diameter or more can be potentially serious for your vehicle. Hail of this size can scratch or chip paint and put dents in the exterior panels of your vehicle. One of the issues with this is the fact that there will be multiple spots that are damaged, which can be difficult to repair.

One of the most serious things that can happen when your vehicle is damaged by hail is that it can be considered totaled. If the vehicle has sustained severe damage, it may be considered a total loss and the title status will be switched to “Salvage.” When this happens, the car needs to be repaired and considered rebuilt to get back out on the road.

When vehicles are damaged by hail, there are varying degrees of issues that can arise. Not all hail damage is the same and you must understand the differences between the types of damage. By knowing what each type looks like and how it may affect your vehicle, you can assess your situation and figure out how to move forward.

Cosmetic with Intact Paint:
The most minor damage that a vehicle can sustain from hail is cosmetic damage with the paint still intact. This type of damage looks like little dents all over the surface of the vehicle. When this happens, it can be repaired using a process called paintless dent removal, or PDR. During paintless dent removal, a technician will gently massage the dents out of the panels using small rods and suction. This process is incredibly meticulous and time-consuming but it can get your vehicle back to its original condition without having to repaint anything or total the car.

Cosmetic with Scratched Paint:
If the hailstorm your vehicle was caught in was particularly severe with large stones, it may have sustained cosmetic damage with scratched paint. This means that the vehicle’s factory finish has been compromised with scratches, chips, and scrapes. In these cases, the car will need to be repainted and in some cases, the panels need to be replaced. Depending on the severity and extent of the damage, this could increase your repair costs by thousands of dollars. Not only will the panels need to be repaired or replaced, but the body shop will also have to find the right paint to match the factory finish.

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Severe with Intact Paint:
Sometimes, the breadth of a hail storm can be so intense that it damages the internal mechanical workings of the vehicle. Even though your paint may still be in good condition, hail can damage your motor if it is heavy enough to dent the hood and cause issues in the engine compartment. In these cases, you can get paintless dent repair to fix the exterior and enlist the services of a traditional shop to address the mechanical issues under the hood. While this type of damage can be serious, it won’t usually total the car completely, which is the bright side of the situation.

Severe with Scratched Paint:
In the most extreme cases, the paint and exterior of your car can be damaged along with the engine or other mechanical parts. When this happens, you will most likely have to change the title to “Salvage” and decide where you want to go from there. In most cases, you can get all of the damage repaired and then register the car as rebuilt once it has been fixed. However, it may affect the resale value of the car and can affect your ability to get car insurance that will be sufficient for your particular region.

What to Do if Your Car is Damaged By Hail

After your car is damaged in a hail storm, you will probably be scrambling for ideas on how to move forward. One of the most important things to keep in mind is the fact that even if the damage doesn’t look that bad, you should get it repaired as soon as possible. The main reason for this is that anything can happen between the damage being done and getting the car fixed.

If, for example, the car has $5,000 in damage and you put off getting it repaired, should you get in a car accident, your insurance settlement will be $5,000 less than it should be due to the potential decrease in value. Because of this, it is crucial that you move quickly and try to get things fixed as soon as possible.

Will Insurance Cover Hail Damage?

Most auto insurance companies offer policies that will cover hail damage. However, this kind of coverage is usually only offered in the most comprehensive coverage plans. Before your vehicle is damaged by a hail storm, you should call and find out if you will be able to file an insurance claim for hail damage repair. This is especially recommended if you live in an area such as Texas or Colorado where hail is common and where the possibility of damage is higher. While you may have to pay a higher deductible in these areas, it could end up being well worth the extra cost if you can avoid having to total the car due to severe weather.

Repairing Hail Damage

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After you have determined that your car has been damaged by hail, the first thing you should do is contact your insurance company and let them know what has happened. If you have a comprehensive insurance policy that covers hailstone damage, they will then send an adjuster out to look at the damage. This process should take anywhere between 30 and 45 minutes, during which time the adjuster will appraise the damage and subtract any issues that are unrelated to the hail from the hail damage claim.

After the damage has been appraised, the company will then recommend an accredited auto body shop for you to use for the repairs. Once you pay your insurance payment and the deductible, the repair shop will then work out all the hail dents and dings and do any repairs they need to do to the body panels. Depending on the extent of the body repair and your insurance policy, you may have to pay more or less out of pocket. Be sure to ask the shop about a warranty for the car repairs they do for your vehicle.

If it is only minor cosmetic damage, you can also opt to take the cash settlement from your insurance policy and continue driving the car as-is. In particularly hail-prone areas, many car owners choose this option based on the likelihood that a severe storm with golf ball-sized hailstones will happen again soon. Depending on the type of hail damage and the value of your vehicle, this may or may not be your best option.

What to Consider When Buying a Hail-Damaged Car

Buying from a Dealership:
When buying a hail-damaged car from a dealership, one of the most important things to remember is the fact that the damage may be more serious than it looks at first glance. Even if the dents look small and they are barely noticeable, they may contribute to a loss in the structural integrity of the vehicle. Because of this, you should try to ask as many questions as possible about the damage to try and assess if the purchase will be worth it.

Be sure to ask the dealer how the damage was sustained and if the vehicle has been appraised by a professional. Then, ask if they will consider repairing the damage as a condition sale. If they agree to this, it is a good sign that the dealer is honest and forthcoming. Many dealerships have in-house auto body repair and they may offer their services as a perk of the purchase. You should also be sure to ask about a money-back guarantee on the car if they aren’t willing to fix the damage.

Buying from a Private Seller:
For the most part, buying a hail-damaged car from a private seller is heavily discouraged. Since the actual extent of the damage can be hidden, you may be biting off more than you can chew regarding the repair costs. If the car is an otherwise great deal, be sure to get an electronic vehicle history report on it. This will tell you what the title status is and what kind of history it has with auto shops and local authorities. You should also ask your insurance agent about the possible effects on your ability to insure the car should you choose to buy it.

What to Consider When Selling a Hail Damaged Car:
When selling a hail-damaged car, it is important to remember that you will not be able to get the same price as you would if the car was still in its original shape. Many buyers will use the potential cost of repairs to talk you down and even if it only has small dents, you may be forced to accept these low-ball offers.

If the vehicle has been totaled, one of your best options is to sell it to a junkyard that offers cash for junk cars. The nice thing about these services is that most of them offer to purchase the car based on weight. Because of this, the damage from the hail will not affect the final quote you get, so it may end up being your best bet.

Final Thoughts

Hail damage is never a good situation for your vehicle. Even if it is repairable, it could end up costing you and your insurance a lot of money. Knowing what to do if your car has been damaged by hail can help you navigate the situation and make the most of it. With the right steps, you can avoid serious repair bills and get yourself back on the road.