Anytime there’s a hail storm, car dealerships everywhere have to figure out how to sell hail-damaged cars. They’ll often give discounts for scratch-and-dent vehicles. While the head-turning price tags are great, it’s not always the best idea if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
To Buy or Not to Buy
Typical types of hail damage include things like cracked glass or the occasional dent on the car’s body. More severe damage includes broken windows and water damage, so it depends entirely on where the hail hits the car.
Buying a car with minimal hail damage essentially involves cosmetic issues. You’ve got a few dents and scratches, but the vehicle still functions as intended. Dealers can’t sell new cars with damage, so you have an opportunity to score a great deal here. However, severe cracks or breaks in the windows can indicate the possibility of water damage—and that’s not worth the discount.
Getting a Discount Through Hail Damage
Since dents don’t change the way a car drives, a hail damaged car can be a great find. Dealerships give discounts based on the type of damage you’ll see due to hail damage. For example, a small dent might cost somewhere around $40 to repair, while larger dents can cost double or more.
This is where the math comes in. If you have about 50 dents of various sizes on a car with an average cost of $50 per dent, you will end up with $2500 in repairs. This is the figure that will likely get deducted from the car’s price tag. Another way to look at it is that the dealer will receive an insurance payout for damage, which is typically equal to the discount they’ll put on a car.
Hail Damage and Car Insurance
Hail damage also impacts how you can get car insurance. A lender usually requires that you are fully covered while holding a car note. It’s also worth noting that getting a car loan can also be challenging when purchasing a hail-damaged car. Many lenders see hail damage as a serious reason for faster value depreciation.
Also, if you have a hail-damaged car, it might be more challenging to find an insurance company that will provide comprehensive coverage. Insurance companies aren’t quick to cover a hail-damaged vehicle because there’s a risk of fraudulent claims based on the pre-existing dents. Some companies will require that you fix the damage before they insure you.
Spotting Hail Damage on a Car
Auto hail damage is pretty obvious, especially if the dealer tells you that the car is discounted due to the damage. You’ll want to pay special attention to a few things to make sure you don’t miss anything. Generally, though, spotting hail damage is otherwise a simple process.
The most obvious damage will be dents. If a golf-ball-sized piece of hail hits a car, it’s going to leave a dent. Of course, you should still keep an eye out for dents that may not be readily-visible.
While most dents can be repaired, the ones along the body lines are harder to get out. You’ll want to look along the edge of the hood, near creases, or on ridgelines. These areas are harder to repair and would require the services of an auto body shop. If you do spot these, use them to further negotiate the final selling price of the vehicle.
Cracks in the paint expose the metal, making it rust-prone. Even seemingly-light bumps can cause cracks in the paint that you won’t see unless you’re thorough. You always need to check for paint cracks to be sure. It’s also advisable to entrust paintless dent repair to the professionals because doing it yourself may lead to damaged paint.
Cracked Glass, Lights, and Mirrors
Glass can crack when it gets hit, so you’ll want to look for these types of issues. Severe cracks can also be a tell-tale sign that there are leaks and interior water damage. Depending on the model, lights or mirrors can also cost a pretty penny to replace, so they can also be used as a point of negotiation.
Severe hailstorm can lead to missing and misaligned mirrors. It takes a lot to break a mirror off of a car or even cause it to bend out of alignment. If that happens, it’s probably a good idea to say, “Thank you, next.”
Buying Hail-Damaged Cars
It could be a smart financial move to get a hail-damaged vehicle if you want to save some money—and don’t mind the occasional dent. Before you make your final decision, be prepared by looking for a lender that will approve too finance a car like that as well as an insurance company that will cover it.