If you live in an area where hail storms are common, here’s a word of advice: get comprehensive auto insurance.
A bad hail storm can easily dent your car or crack your windshield, potentially costing you a pretty penny to fix if you don’t have insurance that protects your car. The average auto claim for hail damage is more than $4,000, according to 2020 hail claims data from State Farm.
But you won’t necessarily have to shell out that kind of money if you have comprehensive coverage as part of your policy, because that will usually cover hail damage.
“If you live in an area that’s more prone to hail, you may want to consider carrying comprehensive coverage with a lower deductible because it’s more likely that they’re going to experience a hail loss to their car,” says Charlie Wendland, head of claims at Branch Insurance, an insurance technology company based in Ohio.
Here’s what you need to know about car insurance coverage for hail damage.
Does Car Insurance Cover Hail Damage?
If you have comprehensive coverage under your auto insurance policy, then your car is protected from hail damage.
“Car insurance generally speaking will cover hail damage if you carry the right type of coverage,” says Wendland. “Comprehensive insurance is the coverage used for hail damage, regardless of the company.”
Comprehensive insurance protects your vehicle from damage occurring from events other than a collision. Damage caused by hail would be one of those. In addition to protection from hail damage, comprehensive coverage shields your car from other types of damage, including vandalism, floods, and theft.
Virtually all comprehensive auto insurance policies cover hail damage, but never assume that without checking. Before you commit to comprehensive insurance with any insurer, review your policy documents to ensure that hail damage is included in your coverage.
Comprehensive coverage is typically optional, but if you lease your car or take out an auto loan, your lender can require you to carry comprehensive coverage. No matter the reason, if you don’t carry comprehensive coverage, any damages to your car caused by hail won’t be covered.
“You can have comprehensive coverage without collision, but you can’t have collision without comprehensive coverage,” says Terry Bollom, owner of TAB Insurance Agency in Frisco, Texas, an area that often has hail storms. “Let’s say your car is getting older, ten years or so, and you still want to carry comprehensive but want to drop the collision, you’ll still be covered for hail damage.”
How Much Does Coverage For Hail Damage Cost?
Recent data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) shows that the nationwide average for comprehensive coverage is around $160 a year—roughly $200 lower than the average cost for collision coverage per year.
But what you end up paying for comprehensive insurance could be more or less, depending on your ZIP code, your driving record, the type of vehicle you drive, and other personal factors like your age, marital status, and credit score.
Areas with more frequent and severe hail storms tend to have higher rates for comprehensive insurance overall. This region, known as Hail Alley, lies predominantly within the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming. For example, the average rate for comprehensive insurance in Texas is around $234, and $291 in Wyoming.
Will a Hail Damage Claim Raise Your Rates?
If you’re debating whether to file a claim for hail damage, your answer will mostly depend on the extent of the damage. Minimal hail damage could not be enough even to meet your deductible, but heavy hail damage can total even a brand new car.
“If it’s pea-sized hail, it’s not going to do much damage. But we have golf ball to softball-sized hail, which can be bad,” says Bollom. “What we find typically when we have these major hail storms is that cars more than 10 years old, unless it’s a really expensive car, get totaled.”
You should only file a claim if the hail damage to your car exceeds your deductible by a significant amount. The bright side is that a comprehensive claim won’t necessarily trigger your rate to go up since insurers consider severe weather, like hail storms, to be beyond your control. Generally speaking, the more claims you file, the more likely your rates will go up.
“Comprehensive claims are generally deemed to be ‘not at fault’ occurrences, so you may or may not see a change in your insurance rates,” says Wendland.
The claims process is unique to every insurer, but typically, filing a claim for hail damage is similar to filing a claim for any other type of damage to your car. If you want to file a hail damage claim, reach out to your insurer as soon as possible who can then walk you through the steps to get an estimate and get your car repaired.
The Bottom Line
Comprehensive insurance is optional, but very common. Nearly 80% of insured drivers purchase comprehensive coverage in addition to liability insurance, according to an analysis of 2018 NAIC data by the Insurance Information Institute.
If you live in a state that has frequent and intense hail storms, such as Texas, Wyoming, Nebraska, or other states in the so-called Hail Alley in the West and Midwest, purchasing comprehensive insurance is a smart investment. It can help protect your car from costly hail damages, and save you money in the long run.