How to protect your car from hail damage

May 1, 2021

Protect your car from hail damage this spring (or any season) with these helpful tips and tricks!

The hood of a car damaged by hail

They say that spring showers bring May flowers, but thunderstorms in Texas often bring more than a little water for your yard. When the storms grow powerful enough, the pleasant pattering of rain can turn into a frightening bombardment of hailstones. If you've lived in Texas long enough to experience a hail storm, you know just how devastating they can be. 

Although hail can vary greatly in size, it doesn't take much to damage unprotected property - especially our cars. Without a garage, larger hailstones are hard to defend against, but sometimes a little protection can be the difference between a few dings and a totalled vehicle.

So what can you do to protect your car from hail? What steps can you take to shield your car from the next bombardment? What if you're caught out on the road? Today, we'll cover these questions and provide you with a few helpful tips and tricks to bolster your hail defenses - read on!

Texas hail damage statistics

When we think of disasters in Texas, we often imagine raging wildfires, massive floods, twisting tornadoes, and horrific hurricanes. Of course, these are all truly frightening events that deserve the precautionary measures we take. But while hail may not seem as cataclysmic when compared to these other disasters, hail storms can be incredibly destructive and costly - especially in Texas. 

Year after year, Texas is number one when it comes to the number of annual major hail events. This is partially due to the size of Texas - the more area a state has the higher chance a given hail storm has to form over it. But Alaska is far larger than Texas and has very few damaging hail events comparatively because the geography here is far more favorable to hail storm formation.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, Texas had 458 hail events in 2022, which is significant, but lower than previous years. Texas had 688 hail events in 2021, which is more than double the next state in the rankings (Kansas with 303). Before that, Texas had 601 in 2020, and 872 in 2019. During 2017-2019, Texas had 637,977 hail loss claims, resulting in billions of dollars in damages and making it the state with the most hail damage by far. 

All of this is to say that Texans should plan and prepare for hailstorms just as we prepare for any other serious weather event. 

How to protect your car from hail damage in Texas

The damage brought on by a hurricane is difficult, if not impossible, to prevent. When it comes to hailstorms, however, there are steps you can take to prevent your vehicle from being damaged. 

If you have a garage, the first thing you're likely to do is pull your vehicle inside (assuming you haven't converted it into a home gym at this point). But how can you protect your car from hail damage without a garage? 

Watch the weather

Weekly forecasts. Awareness is the first step of any damage mitigation plan. Although we often like to joke about the inaccuracies of the weather reports and predictions, weather forecasts are valuable tools when it comes to protecting your car from hail damage. They may not be as helpful on an hour-to-hour basis, but they can help you get an idea of what to expect in the coming days. 

Hail is produced within thunderstorms that have strong upward air currents. Droplets of water freeze, then fall, and are then taken back up into the storm where they collect more ice before falling again. This process repeats itself until the air current can no longer lift the hail stone and it falls to the ground.

Ground radar and satellite imaging can often detect the formation of hail within a thunderstorm, which should give you enough warning to prepare. However, even if hail isn't immediately detected, you should always be cautious when strong thunderstorms appear in the weather forecast.

Weather apps. Severe thunderstorms can form quickly. For real-time updates, weather alerts, and severe storm warnings, make sure to download one of the many weather apps for your smartphone.

Know your hail history. Texas is big, and some places are more prone to serious hail events than others. Look at the historical weather data for your region of Texas to find out how frequent and severe hail storms are. This can help you evaluate whether or not it's worth purchasing something like a car cover or building a carport. 

Fortunately, there are dozens of free resources online that you can use to get a good idea of how frequent severe hail events are in your area. 

Preventing hail damage without a garage

Consider building or renting a carport. When serious hail storms blow through, the best way to protect your car from hail damage is certainly a garage. Of course, not every home has a garage, and even fewer apartments offer them. 

If you don't have a garage and you've determined that the risk of hail damage in your area is significant, a carport can be a viable option. Carports can often be built for less than an entire garage, and can be constructed in places where a garage may not be possible. If you live in an apartment, many complexes offer covered parking for a monthly fee.  

Depending on the size of the roof, a carport isn't always going to provide complete coverage. Because hail comes from strong storms, wind can blow hail stones in at an angle, even damaging vehicles that are under cover. That's why it's important to always try and park in the center, or as far away from the edges as possible.

Finally, do your best to park with your windshield facing the direction the hail is falling from, even if you're under a carport. 

Purchase a car cover. Building a carport may be cheaper than an entire garage, but it's still a larger investment. If you don't have a structure to park beneath, and won't have one any time soon, a purpose-made car cover can actually offer a reasonable amount of protection from hail. 

A basic car cover is simply a thick (sometimes padded) protective cloth or fabric cover made to the specifications of your vehicle (i.e. the make, model, year, size, etc.). They're usually made to be applied quickly, so you can throw it on as soon as you see hail in the weather forecast. 

Although there is nothing particularly novel about a standard car cover, recent technology has provided us with a number of amazing products that go above and beyond. For a slightly larger investment, you can purchase an inflatable car cover, or bubble, which can be activated remotely. 
Some of these "hail bubble" covers even come with an app that alerts you when a hail storm is on the way. If you see that hail is imminent, simply hit a button and a battery-powered air pump kicks into gear.

Use blankets or quilts. If all else fails and you need a solution quickly, blankets, quilts, and comforters may help reduce the amount and extent of hail damage to your car. In general, the thicker the blanket is, the more cushion it will provide. If you don't have anything substantially thick, layer as many blankets as you can. If you're short on blankets, focus on covering the more fragile parts of your car, like your windshield, windows, and sunroof. 

After covering what you can, make sure to tape the blankets to the bottom of the car, or otherwise do your best to fasten them in place. Tape may leave some sticky residue behind, but it shouldn't damage your paint and it's important to prevent the blankets from being blown away. 

Use your floor mats. What if you find yourself in a situation without shelter, a car cover, or even blankets? All is not completely lost! Fortunately, most cars have at least two floor mats and sometimes more. These are often thick pieces of rubber, plastic, and carpet that can actually work quite well when it comes to preventing hail damage to your car. 

Of course, the downside is that there is no way they can cover your entire vehicle. For this reason, it's best to utilize your floor mats to protect the most fragile portion of your car: the windows. With the gripping teeth facing towards the glass, stretch them across your windshield and rear window, covering as much of the glass as you can. The teeth will help hold it in place. 

Driving in hail: What to do and how to look for cover

We've covered (pun intended) a few ways you can protect your car from hail damage, but for the most part, they depend on being home. But sometimes we're out and about, or even on the road when the storm blows through. Let's take a look at what you can do to protect your car (and yourself) when hail hits you when you're hitting the road. 

Finding cover. If the first thought that comes to your mind is "Find cover!" then you're on the right track. If possible, look for parking garages, covered gas stations, or even just a building you can park next to. 

If you can't find true cover, sometimes you can make due by simply parking next to a large building. As we've mentioned, hail rarely falls down in a straight line and frequently blows in at an angle. For this reason, parking on the opposite side of a building from where the wind is blowing can actually shield you from the majority of the hail. 

While intuition might tell you that parking under a tree is a good idea, it is not recommended. It is certainly possible that the canopy will break the fall of hail, but storms that produce hail often come with serious winds - winds that could break branches while you're sheltering beneath them. 

Don't park under bridges or overpasses. While it may seem like a good place to park your car, you should not look to the space beneath bridges and overpasses for shelter. Too often everyone else has the same idea, and the roads beneath become clogged and congested by people trying to save their cars. This impedes the flow of traffic, forcing everyone else on the road to sit in the hail and preventing them from potentially driving to shelter. It can also be dangerous for you because visibility is low during a hail storm or heavy rain, and people may not see you when you've stopped. 

Pull over.  If you find yourself on the road when a hail storm hits, you might have the sense to try and outrun the storm or speed forward to find cover. This is dangerous and is not recommended. Hailstones already fall at a substantial speed, and when you add the forward movement of your car to that, you could be increasing the force with which the hailstones impact your vehicle. 

If you can't find cover, it's best to pull over, put on your hazard lights, roll up your windows, and wait for it to pass. At this point, there is little you'll be able to do to prevent damage to your car. Instead, it's important to focus on the safety of you and your passengers. If you have a brief moment, you can try to cover your windows with your floor mats after pulling over, but stay inside your car if the hail has already begun to come down. 

Try to park in such a way that your windshield is facing the direction the hail is falling from. Most windshields are designed to be shatter-resistant, but your side windows probably aren't. Once parked and angled in the best possible direction, do your best to move towards the interior of the car, or away from the windows, and cover yourself with a jacket or blanket if you have one on hand.

Will my car insurance cover hail damage? 

The unfortunate reality is that you won't always be able to protect your car from hail damage. Maybe the storm hits while you're out on the road, or perhaps you just didn't get enough warning to act. Whatever the case may be, your auto insurance may be able help cover the cost of repairing hail damage to your car. Let's take a look at which types of auto insurance cover hail damage, and which types will not. 

Comprehensive auto insurance and hail damage

If you remember back to our previous blogs, the state of Texas only requires that an individual carry a minimum liability auto insurance policy. As a quick refresher, having liability insurance simply means that your carrier covers damages to another vehicle in the event that you are responsible for an accident. Basic auto liability insurance does not pay to repair damages to your vehicle after an accident, and it doesn't cover hail damage, either. 

On the other hand, comprehensive auto insurance (also known as 'other than collision' or OTC) can pay to repair your vehicle after it is damaged by a hail storm. Comprehensive is an optional additional policy designed to cover causes of loss outside of automotive accidents (including hail). 

It's important to remember that a comprehensive policy has a deductible, which refers to the amount the insured pays for repairs before the insurance takes effect.

Just as an auto insurance carrier may offer various coverage limits to a policy, they will typically offer different deductible options, too. A lower deductible means that you'll have to pay less out of pocket, but that often comes at the cost of a higher premium. When shopping for a comprehensive auto insurance policy, make sure to discuss different deductible options with your insurance agent to find a balance that suits your needs.

Does filing an auto insurance claim for hail damage raise your rates?

A hail claim may have an impact on your premium reflected in the next policy renewal, but not likely as much as other types of claims (such as an accident for which you are responsible). 

Generally speaking, claims do count towards your claims history. Although calculating auto insurance rates is a complex process involving many variables, your claims history and the frequency of claims filed can be included in that process.

It's important to note that individual insurance carriers handle comprehensive/OTC claims differently and have different processes for evaluating rates. If you have a question about your auto insurance rates or how a hail claim may impact those rates, it's always a good idea to speak to your agent directly. 

A car driving in a hail storm

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by Geoff Ullrich

About the Author

Geoff Ullrich is a writer and Content Marketing Strategist at Germania Insurance.

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