Car Hail Damage: The Hail Protection Guide for 2022

Best Car cover for hail damage

There are so many things we do to try to keep our vehicles in the best possible condition. From frequent washing to regular mechanical servicing, it seems that we have the majority of bases covered.

But then before you know it, good old Mother Nature gets involved, and we’ve all been there. Bird droppings on paint – check! Uneven terrain on suspension – yup!

It just goes to prove that there is obviously always going to be a chance of something going wrong. It’s life.

However, when it comes to seasonal events, there is possibly nothing that will cause more damage to your car than a bad hailstorm.

Seeing a car totaled by hail damage is a horrible sight. In this post, we’ll take you through the best steps on how to prepare your car for a hailstorm and provide useful information on how best to resolve hail damage to vehicles. 

It is critical to understand what hail damage to a car can cost to repair. This clearly depends on how much damage has been caused.

The main factors that affect the cost of hail damage:

  • The number of dents – the higher the number, the higher cost
  • The size of the dents – the larger the size, the higher the cost
  • How much paint is damaged – the more pain damaged, the higher the cost
  • What paint your vehicle uses – different paint types vary in cost
  • How many panels are affected – The more panels, the higher the cost
  • What glass has been damaged?

Hail damage car repair estimate

So, how much does hail damage cost to repair? Well, it is generally understood that the estimate for fixing a dent caused by hail can range from approximately $30 (for a small dent) to $75+ for larger dents. This is without paint damage.

Size of dent Repair cost per dent

Unfortunately, it is likely that after sustaining a hailstorm you could be looking at dozens of dents.

If this is the case and the damage is restricted to just dents then a total bill of $1000+ is realistic.

In this case, Paintless Dent Repair technology can be used to safely remove dents without needing to sand down and respray certain parts of the paintwork. 

This is by far the most cost-effective method of repair, but will only work if the damage doesn’t affect the paint.

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Costs will increase significantly if more of the bullet points mentioned above are also affected.

In a worst-case scenario, where all the above points are affected, the cost to repair the damage could even be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

How much does hail damage devalue a car?

The cost of repairing dents caused by hail will roughly correlate to how much the car will devalue in price.

For instance, if your is worth $5000 and endures hail damage that will cost approximately $2000 to repair, then any prospective buyer will expect to have the repair cost knocked off the asking price.

This is generally how it works when we are shopping around for a car. 

In order to get the best deal, we try to find reasons to bring the price down. These reasons tend to boil down to parts that may need to be repaired or replaced soon after purchase.

Now, of course this isn’t exact. And such is the nature of hail damage, a buyer may not be prepared to buy a vehicle even if the quoted repair price is knocked off the asking price.

This could be due to the extra perceived inconvenience of not only repairing the damage but also shopping around for quotes and finding the right person for the job. 

It’s frankly a hassle.

So unless you repair the damage, the risk of devaluing the vehicle’s price is significant.

Types of Car Covers To Prevent Hail Damage

There are several types of car cover that can protect against hail.

Car Umbrella

Using a car umbrella for hail is one way of providing protection. These work by acting very much like a traditional umbrella, and protects the surface of the vehicle.

The only issue with this is that that while protecting the top of the vehicle quite well, they also tend to not provide adequate protection to the side of the car.

There two main types of car umbrella:

  • Full cover canopy – which is designed to protect the while of the car
  • Side canopy – which is designed to cover you from the elements if you are doing any maintenance work in the rain for example

The side canopy type should be dismissed as far as hail protection is concerned.

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Fitted Car Cover

Fitted car covers are quite popular options. They fit around the car well and are quite easy to store away when not in use.

They can come in different materials and varying degrees of thickness which will affect how effective they are at protecting against hail.

Covered Parking / Portable Carport

While not everyone has the space or money to build a garage, some may want a structure that can provide full coverage protection but be able to fold it away when the time comes.

Portable carports provide exactly for this need. They are also very effective at protecting against hail.

The only downside is that they can take a fair bit of effort to erect depending on the type of carport you use. 

They can also be blown over by strong winds if they aren’t anchored to the ground securely.

Inflatable Car Cover

These are probably the most effective against hail damage. These covers are required to be inflated until it forms a large bubble around your vehicle. 

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DIY Car Cover

Making a car cover yourself can be a time consuming and considered process, especially if you want to do it properly.

Using Household Items

When it comes to protecting against harsh elements like hail, some people even believe that a set of blankets and the like will do the trick.

The problem with using makeshift, everyday items like blankets to protect your car is that the material is likely to cause scratches.

To prevent scratches try to use a basic purpose-made car cover first, no matter how thin. Car covers are specifically designed to protect your paintwork and so should not cause any scratches.

Then cover this with your blankets and other padded everyday items.

Issues with makeshift DIY car covers

  • Everyday materials may not be car safe and therefore cause scratches
  • Cannot guarantee full coverage
  • Unlikely to be waterproof, which can cause staining of the paint and will be a hassle to remove and clean up.

Making a purpose-built car cover

That being said, it is possible to make a car cover that is fit for its purpose.

You will, of course, have to be prepared to source the right materials and tools to make this.

You may also find that the cost of making one may not be cheaper than buying a purpose-made one from a manufacturer.

How Do You Know if a Hail Storm is Coming?

Hail clouds

As basic as it sounds, you should always check the weather forecasts. This is by far the easiest and most accessible method for preparing for a hailstorm.

While checking the weather forecast is recommended, there are also things you can look out for yourself to help protect your vehicle in time.

Look out for the following signs:

  • Dark storm clouds are visible.
  • The presence of lightning makes hail more likely
  • However, the presence of storm clouds and lightning does not mean that a hailstorm will definitely occur. Indeed, it is understood that most thunderstorms do contain hail and that the majority of this melts by the time it reaches ground level.
  • A sudden drop in temperature. This is caused by the upper layer of the clouds freezing.
  • Water droplets getting blown up into the frozen upper layer of the clouds. This is known as an updraft and is very hard to observe, especially from the ground. The water droplets are required to be suspended in the freezing cloud long enough to form a hailstone.
  • Enough freezing water is present around the hailstone to help it grow larger as the updraft occurs.

What causes a hail storm?

Hail is basically a form of precipitation that finds itself in the cold upper layer of the clouds and freezes.

As previously mentioned, in order for hailstones to form, an updraft is required.

However, the amount of updraft will dictate how large a hailstone will be at ground level.

In the context of hail, thunderstorms can be categorized into multi-cell and supercell.

Multi-cell Thunderstorm

These types of storms produce multiple hailstones, but due to the updraft not lasting very long, the hailstones will usually be too small to cause any damage at ground level.

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Supercell Thunderstorm

Supercell thunderstorms occur when the updraft cycle occurs multiple times before the hail sone falls. 

When an updraft occurs it pulls enough water droplets into the freezing upper layer of the storm clouds. This causes the water droplets to freeze and form tiny balls of ice aka hailstones. 

This updraft process can occur multiple times, in cycles.

During each cycle, more water accumulates on the hailstone and then freezes once it reaches the upper layer of the cloud.

This adds another layer of ice and causes the hailstone to increase in size. 

After enough cycles, the hailstone will become too large and heavy for the updraft to hold. This will cause the hailstone to fall. 

In supercell thunderstorms, the hailstone will typically be a minimum of 2 inches in diameter. 

The key factor in determining how large a hailstone can become is the strength of the updraft.

How strong the updraft is will dictate how long the hailstone can be suspended in the clouds to accumulate more water and ice. 

How many hail storms are there per year?

The following set of data (collected by the NOAA National Weather Service) shows how often hailstorms occurred in the US in 2020. For context, the prevalence of tornadoes and wind storms are also provided.
Month Hailstorm Tornado Wind Total
January 2020
February 2020
March 2020
April 2020
May 2020
June 2020
July 2020
August 2020
September 2020
October 2020
November 2020
December 2020

So, now that we know often hailstorms have occurred over the course of the year, the next question might be…

Where Do Hail Storms Mostly Occur?

The US is clearly a large country where very different weather patterns occur in different regions. 

The below diagram, provided by the NOAA National Weather Service, shows which regions had the most occurrence of hailstorms. 

Snapshot of regions with the most hailstorm occurrence in the US in 2020
The regions most affected by hailstorms in 2020 - Data provided by the NOAA National Weather Service

Car hail damage is an extremely worrying problem for car owners, and there are many more concerns people have on this topic…

Is hail damage covered by car insurance?

If you have comprehensive insurance then hail damage will be covered, just like anything else. With comprehensive cover, you may be required to pay a deductible.

If you have liability insurance then several factors will come into play and you may not be covered.

What size hail causes car damage?

The bodywork of a vehicle is designed to withstand a certain level of hail, so tiny hailstones should be ok. However, damage can occur with hailstones that are even slightly larger than this.

Other factors also affect how much damage can be inflicted by a hailstone. For example:

  • The density of the hailstone
  • The velocity of the impact, e.g. caused by the wind speed and direction
  • Whether there is a car cover already
  • How well maintained the paintwork is

Should I buy a car with hail damage?

If you are thinking of buying a car that already has hail damage, then you should be prepared to either:

  • Fix the damage (especially if the paint is affected).
  • Ask the seller to fix the damage before you purchase the vehicle.
The cost of fixing the damage can be mitigated by asking the seller to knock off the expected repair cost of fixing the hail damage from the asking price.

In order to know how much the seller should reduce the asking price by, you will need to get some quotes from dent repair experts.

All of this can take a lot of time and effort, which is why many people decide against buying a car that still has hail damage.

Car totaled by hail damage, how can I fix this?

The best way to repair car hail damage is to use a paintless dent removal expert. This method is best when there is no damage to the actual paintwork, just dents. If you are not sure then they will advise you on whether they can fix this for you.

It is possible to do this yourself and the relevant tools are becoming more and more available in mainstream outlets.

Paintless dent removal is discussed in more detail further up this article.

If you do have actual paint damage then you will likely need to take your car to a body shop for quotes. Expect this to be more expensive than the paintless dent removal method.

Can hail damage your car?

Yes, hail can damage your car if they are large enough and dense enough.

Hailstones of a diameter of approximately 1 inch have the potential to cause dents, damage your paintwork, and crack glass

Hire car hail damage, will the policy cover it?

In most cases, especially with comprehensive cover, hail damage of a car rental will be covered. You may be required to pay any agreed excess during the claim. It is always important to read the small print for reasons such as this.

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