They’re often smaller than an inch in diameter and rarely fall for more than 15 minutes in any one location, but hail still manages to cause more than $1 billion in damage to property and crops in the United States each year. The risk of hail denting cars and breaking windshields is especially great during the spring and summer – and especially for people who live in “Hail Alley,” a string of southern and central Plains states prone to damaging hailstorms.
“Hailstorms are difficult to forecast and can come on suddenly, so it’s often difficult to avoid damage if you’re caught in a storm,” says Scott Snapp, catastrophe response director, The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, the country’s third largest auto insurance group. If your vehicle is damaged by hail, Progressive offers the following tips to help you restore your vehicle to its pre-storm condition quickly:
1. Call your insurance company as soon as possible to report the damage.
2. Discuss your repair needs with your insurance company and local body shop. Hail damage to sheet metal may need to be repaired in a conventional manner. However, trained technicians may recommend paintless dent removal (PDR), which involves using specially-molded metal tools on the underside of a damaged part that won’t disturb the car’s factory finish. This method is often used by manufacturers and dealers to repair new vehicles and will not invalidate paint warranties. PDR cannot be performed if the dents are too large, if there are too many, or if the paint finish is damaged. Prior body damage that required plastic fillers or bonding may also make PDR difficult. Your insurance company will be able to determine the severity of your damage and consult with you and the body shop on which repair method makes the most sense for your vehicle.
3. Find a reputable facility. If you choose a repair shop on your own, contact the Better Business Bureau to make sure the shop is in good standing, or get referrals from friends. If you take your car to a PDR provider, ask the shop how PDR works and how they access hard to reach places to make the repair. The preferred method is to pull the dents from the outside rather than drill holes to access the dent from beneath the panel.
4. Find out how long the repair will take. Repair shops operating in areas hit by damaging hail may be very busy, so the work may take a little longer due to the volume of vehicles that need to be repaired. Because PDR is an efficient and effective technique for repairing hail-damaged vehicles, repairs generally can be completed within a day.
5. Make sure your vehicle is repaired to your satisfaction. Before accepting your vehicle, look at the surface in fluorescent lighting and from several angles so that you can see all the details. Check for any remaining dents before you take your vehicle home.
6. Ask if the shop guarantees its work. If you notice a flaw in your vehicle’s repair, you should be able to have it fixed at no additional charge. Know how your body shop will handle any problems you might have with your vehicle after the repair. Ask your insurance company if it guarantees the work of its preferred body shops and get all contract information in writing. If you use Progressive Claims Service and select a Progressive-approved repair shop, you receive the Company’s Limited Lifetime Guarantee, which is valid for as long as you own or lease the car.
Auto insurance claims resulting from hail damage are only covered if you’ve purchased comprehensive coverage, the part of physical damage insurance that covers weather-related damage as well as theft and vandalism. Buyers of physical damage insurance must choose a deductible, which represents the amount the policyholder will pay first in the event of a claim. To keep the cost of physical damage insurance down, drivers should consider higher deductible amounts.
The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, in business since 1937, ranks third in the nation for auto insurance based on premiums written and provides drivers with competitive rates and 24/7, in-person and online service. The companies that offer insurance directly (by phone at 1-800-PROGRESSIVE and online at progressive.com) market their products and services under the Progressive Direct(SM) brand, while the companies that offer insurance through more than 30,000 independent insurance agencies market their products and services under the Drive Insurance from Progressive brand. The Common Shares of The Progressive Corporation, the Mayfield Village, Ohio-based holding company, are publicly traded at NYSE:PGR. More information can be found at progressive.com.
Scott Snapp, catastrophe response director, Progressive, is available for interview.