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The short answer is it depends on the type of insurance you have and the company you are using. It also depends on your deductible level. Some companies may even send a repairperson to your home or place of business to fix or replace your windshield.
Cracked Windshields Are Dangerous
A crack in the windshield doesn’t just look bad, but can actually make the windshield a danger to the driver and other passengers. Depending on the placement and size of the crack, it can obscure the driver’s vision and cause an accident.
Not only that, but you could also get a ticket for driving and unsafe vehicle, reports an Arkansas Fox News report. But the real problem shows up if there is an accident.
A cracked windshield no longer has the structural integrity of a regular windshield. This means that if it is stuck, it is more likely to break into pieces that could cause injury. This is especially dangerous in vehicles that have airbags. Since some airbags expand up in the direction of the window before expanding out towards the driver, the airbag itself could shatter the window, causing more damage and injury.
Even if the windshield is not stuck directly by the wreck or the airbag, a cracked windshield could still pose a problem in an accident. In some vehicles, the windshield makes up part of the structure of the passenger area, helping to support the roof. If the windshield is compromised, the crumple zone meant to protect passengers could be compromised. This can cause catastrophic injury.
What about just a chipped windshield? Sometimes a rock hits the windshield and just takes a nick out of it. This is better than a crack, but if it isn’t repaired, it can eventually become a longer crack that can endanger the people inside.
As a chip is exposed to the elements, water will get inside and will contract and expand with the temperature. This causes the microscopic cracks to spread across the entire windshield. The good news is that if the chip is smaller than a quarter, it can usually be repaired without having to replace the entire windshield.
Most chip repair is done by using a resin to fill in all the nooks and crannies of the chip. Once this is dry, it prevents water from getting into the chip and causing any further damage. While you can usually still see the chip after a good repair, it is usually less visible and will not spread any further.
Depending on what company you are using for car insurance and how extensive your policy is, you might be able to get your chip repaired free. Realizing that repairing a chip in the short term is a better financial decision for the long term, many insurance companies will pay for the repair while waiving the deductible. This means that there is no out of pocket expense for you.
If you’re not sure your company covers this, just give them a call and ask.
Glass Replacement Clause
If the chip is larger than a quarter or you have a crack of any kind, you’ll probably need to have the windshield replaced. In fact, the car might not pass your state inspection without a replacement.
So does insurance cover a windshield replacement? If you have comprehensive and collision coverage on your vehicle, the answer is probably yes. You’ll need to read your policy to see if there is glass coverage on it.
If you do have glass coverage, you still may have to pay for the windshield completely out of pocket even if you file a claim. This is because comp and collision both have a deductible you have to pay before the insurance company will pay anything.
Let’s say you have a cracked windshield and the quote to replace it is $300. If your deductible is $500, then you will have to pay the entire $300 replacement bill. In this case, it’s probably better not to even involve the insurance company.
If you carry a very low deductible, then you might get your insurance company to pay part of it. In this same scenario, if you have a $250 deductible, then you would have to pay the $250, then your insurance would cover the last $50. You’ll just have to decide whether involving the insurance is worth it for $50.
In some parts of the country and some insurance companies have a special glass endorsement you can add to your policy. If you pay for this endorsement, you have a separate deductible just for glass replacement. Sometimes it’s only $100, sometimes it’s $0. It just depends on where you live and what your company offers.
Be sure to read the glass clause on your policy carefully to see what it covers. While most cover windshields, not all policies have glass coverage. Others will cover the windshield but no other windows. Some cover all the glass on the car. Since this varies widely from company to company, it’s best to know ahead of time what yours does cover.
Comp and Collision
Whether it is a chip or a crack in the windshield, your insurance will only cover it if you have comprehensive and collision on your policy. Neither of these is required by any state, though they are required by lenders when you get a car loan. Since it is optional if the car is paid off, many people choose not to carry it.
Collision is the part of the insurance policy, which pays for damage caused by an accident in which you are at-fault. Your liability will pay for the other car, and collision pays for yours.
Comprehensive pays for other damages to your car that are not traffic accident related. This includes vandalism, storm damage, and fire. This is the part of the policy that usually covers glass damage.
These are actually two separate parts of the policy, but they are sold as a pair. The both have a deductible that you can set. While it may sound like a great idea to keep the deductible low so that you have as little out-of-pocket expense as possible, you should be aware of the affect that will have on the amount of the premium.
The lower you set your deductible, the higher the premium will be. So you’ll pay quite a bit more for a $250 deductible than you would a $500 or $1,000 deductible. You can ask your insurance company for a quote for the different levels to get a better idea of how much a lower deductible will cost you.
For more information about how a deductible works, visit the Insurance Information Institute.
Liability Only Policies
Liability is the part of the policy which pays for the damage you cause the other vehicle if you are the at-fault party in a traffic accident. It also pays for the medical expenses the other driver and his passengers incur as a result of the accident. It pays nothing toward your own vehicle or injuries.
If you have a liability only insurance policy, you do not have coverage for your windshield. You will have to pay for any windshield repair or replacement out of pocket, just like any repair on your vehicle.
Some states, in addition to requiring liability, also require uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. However, this will not cover a windshield issue unless it was a direct result of an accident caused by someone without insurance at all, or without sufficient insurance to cover your damages. A rock thrown up by a car in front does not fall into this category.
If you want more information on the different parts of a car insurance policy, Insure U has a breakdown here.
Ways to Save on Glass
If you are hit by a rock which causes a chip or crack on your windshield, there are ways to save on the repair or replacement even if you don’t have comprehensive coverage on your vehicle.
If you have just a small chip, it might be possible to fix it yourself. Do-it-yourself repair kits are available at car part stores. Popular Mechanics, a magazine for people who love working on cars, explains how to determine if a chip can be repaired and how the different kits work.
If the entire windshield needs replacing, check your phone book and Internet for coupons or specials. Glass places run sales or specials just like other services, so it is worth a look to see if you can find one.
If you aren’t sure if your insurance company offers a glass endorsement, where you can get a separate deductible for the glass, call them up and ask. If you are looking around for new insurance, put this on the list of questions to ask and compare. Of course, the time to do this is before your windshield is hit by a rock and not after, since they probably won’t cover existing damage.
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