Hail Damage: Tips to Making Your Car Insurance Cover It
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UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021
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In August of 2011, WABC-TV in New York City reported on a freak hailstorm that caused significant damage to hundreds of vehicles on Long Island. According to the report, local residents couldn’t remember seeing anything like it in their lifetimes. The question is, had you been one of those residents whose cars were damaged by the hail, would your car insurance have paid to have it repaired?
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The time to ask the question about hail damage and insurance coverage is not during the hours following a significant storm. You should begin looking into it as soon as possible, especially if you live in an area prone to violent weather.
Otherwise, you could be left with inadequate coverage and a very large repair bill in the event of a significant weather event that damages your vehicle.
You Need Comprehensive Coverage
In order for your car to be covered against hail damage you’ll need to make sure you have comprehensive coverage included on your insurance policy. The Insurance Information Institute correctly points out that comprehensive insurance is optional coverage, meaning it won’t be provided by default unless you ask for it or your bank requires. When you purchase a brand-new car, you’ll often find that having comprehensive insurance is a contingency for acquiring a bank loan.
Comprehensive insurance is often tied with collision insurance in the same package. So carrying this coverage does add a significant amount to your annual premiums. The Insurance Information Institute suggests it’s probably not worth paying for if the value of your car is less than 10 times what you pay in premiums.
In other words, if you have an older vehicle that is completely paid off and worth only about $2,000 on the open market, carrying collision and comprehensive at a cost of $500 per year is not worth it.
If you don’t understand why, consider that your insurance company will only cover your vehicle up to the amount of money it would cost to replace it with one of similar make, model, and year.
If your car is only worth a couple of thousand dollars, you’re not going to get a big enough payout from your insurance company to make it worthwhile. Over the course of a couple of years, you’ll be paying more in premiums than you’re getting in coverage.
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Pay Attention to Policy Documents
While it’s generally assumed that comprehensive coverage will pay for hail damage, you still need to read your policy documents carefully. In an area prone to hail storms and tornadoes, you may be required to meet certain conditions in order for your comprehensive insurance to cover damage left by a hailstorm. For example, an insurance company may require that you garage your vehicle at night as a means of avoiding as much risk as possible.
You’ll also want to find out if there are any annual limits on how much your insurance policy will pay for weather-related damage. The more expensive policies don’t have limits in most cases. If you want maximum coverage but the premium is higher than your budget will allow, you can agree to accept a higher deductible amount in exchange for lower premiums.
Filing a Claim
The last thing to think about in terms of car insurance for hail damage is actually filing a claim. Whenever you file a claim, it is put on your record and the insurance company might potentially raise your rates accordingly. Whether or not they do depends on how they view weather-related damage and how it relates to the details of your policy. But if you do incur a rate increase, will it be greater than what it would have cost you to repair the hail damage out of pocket?
Keep in mind that if you still have an outstanding loan on your vehicle the question of whether you should file a claim is clearer. You’re required by your loan agreement to make sure your car is maintained in the best condition possible in order to protect the bank’s investment.
This usually necessitates filing an insurance claim to make sure the car is repaired fully and properly. Should you decide not to file a claim, you still need to make sure all of the needed repairs are made.
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