What to do if your car is damaged by hail

Living Well | RACV | Posted on 20 January 2020

How to stay safe and protect your car from damage during a storm.

Summer is storm season in Victoria, when damage from water, hail, wind and fallen trees can cause millions of dollars worth of damage as well as endangering lives. Read on for our tips on what to do if you’re caught driving in a storm, how to prepare when a storm is forecast, and how to deal with a hail-damaged car.

In a storm, Victorians are urged to:

  • If caught in a storm while driving, turn on your lights to boost visibility. If visibility is severely reduced, try to pull well off the road away from other traffic to as safe a place as possible. Turn on hazard lights if forced to stop at the side of the road.
  • Don’t park or shelter under trees, which can be blown over or lose branches in a storm.
  • Don’t drive into water flowing over roads. Even shallow flowing water can sweep vehicles away.
  • Don’t drive, walk, ride or swim through flood waters. Avoid mud, debris, damaged roads and fallen trees. Stay away from fallen powerlines – always assume they are live.
Car damaged by hail

 

Before a storm

  • Keep an eye and ear on weather forecasts for storm warnings in your area, or check the Bureau of Meteorology’s Victorian Warnings Summary.
  • If a storm is forecast, move vehicles and caravans under shelter or cover with firmly tied tarpaulins. If you’re concerned about low-lying parts of your property, move them to higher ground.
  • If storms are forecast or your car is usually parked in the open, you might want to invest in a hail protection cover. These vary in shape, size and price (starting at about $200), and it’s a good idea to practise putting it on before a storm looms.
  • Make sure your vehicle is properly insured. Repairs for hail damage can easily exceed $5000, and even minor damage can take a week or longer to repair. Many storm-damaged cars are written off because the cost of repairs exceeds the car’s value.

After a storm

  • If your vehicle or property has been damaged, call your insurer.
  • RACV’s head of home insurance Zoe Malempre encourages all RACV insurance members to call our 24/7 Claims and Assistance Centre on 13 19 03 as soon as possible to lodge claims and access a range of emergency services. To avoid telephone wait times, members can lodge claims online via the RACV website. “We’d also like to remind RACV members to call triple-zero (000) for all life-threatening emergencies,” Zoe says. 
  • Michael Pascoe, manager of RACV’s Noble Park Service Centre, advises that hail damage to a vehicle’s panel work is usually cosmetic only and will not affect the driveability or roadworthy status of the vehicle, so it will still be safe to drive.
  • He says that if hail has broken any of the glass on the windscreen or side mirrors, however, this will make the vehicle unroadworthy, so it is advisable to have these replaced before driving the vehicle.

How to deal with hail damage

Can I drive a hail-damaged car?

Michael Pascoe, manager of RACV’s Noble Park Service Centre, advises that hail damage to a vehicle’s panel work is usually cosmetic only and will not affect the driveability or roadworthy status of the vehicle, so it will still be safe to drive. However, he says that if hail has broken any of the glass on the windscreen or side mirrors, or if light lenses are broken, this will make the vehicle unroadworthy, so these should be replaced before driving the vehicle.

Should I get hail damage repaired?

Roadworthy items (windscreen, mirrors and light lenses) must be repaired to keep the vehicle roadworthy and avoid police attention. Michael says that not repairing cosmetic hail damage can dramatically affect the resale value of the vehicle, but if the paint has not chipped the body work shouldn’t degrade further.

He says hail does not usually chip paintwork but can do if the vehicle has had previous body or paint repairs. Depending on the quality of the previous repairs the paint may chip at the impact point and if this happens the paint and body work will degrade over time as rust can form and water can work its way under the paint, causing the damage to spread.

Should I buy a hail-damaged car?

Michael says that if the vehicle is mechanically sound you could pick up a bargain – as long as you’re not bothered by the vehicle’s appearance.

Depending on the level of damage the vehicle may have been listed as a repairable write-off and listed on the Written-Off Vehicles Register. You can check this on the Personal Properties Securities Register (PPSR) before buying a vehicle. VicRoads has information about buying a written-off vehicle.

You should also check whether your insurance company will insure a hail-damaged vehicle.

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