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Preparing for severe weather: How to protect your car from thousands of dollars in hail damage

By Katy Galimberti, AccuWeather staff writer

Severe storms bring a myriad of damaging impacts, and hail can be one of the costliest.

A hailstorm in San Antonio, Texas, in 2016 proved to be the costliest in the city’s history. More than $1 billion in damage was reported, the Insurance Council of Texas reported. Hail as large as baseballs pelted over a hundred thousand cars, racking up damage claims.

Cars out in the elements are one of the most susceptible pieces of property, and for some, their most valuable.

“Look at what people are paying for cars these days,” Darren Huggins, National Collision director said. “If they don’t own a home, it’s the single biggest investment they’ve made. And they want to protect it.”

Following severe storms that struck Texas and the southern Plains in mid-April, social media was littered with images of mattresses, blankets, bubble wrap and other makeshift materials fastened onto all kinds of vehicles with the intention to prevent any severe hail damage.


Layers of blankets were enough to protect the sunroof of this car during a recent severe storm in San Antonio, Texas. (Instagram photo/josieorizaga)

While the unique methods of protection may have been inventive, there’s no telling how effective a blanket can really be against a powerful storm, experts say.

The top surfaces of the car such as the hood and roof are the most vulnerable in terms of potential hail damage, Huggins said. Most modern cars use tempered glass for the windshield, and “it’s going to take pretty severe hail to penetrate that,” he said.

Damage to the body of a car can also be the most expensive to fix.

Sam Sarkisian, president of the Autobody Association, said repairs can run anywhere between $1,500 to $5,000, depending on the damage.

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If hail hits the car but does not fracture the paint, the repair cost will be much lower, Huggins said. Technicians can work from under the panel to massage out the dent rather than needing to do any replacement work.

Taillights can also be a costly fix, he said.


A car owner in Texas used blankets to protect his already hail-damaged vehicle during a severe storm. (Instagram photo/thewhaley)

State Farm spokesperson Dave Phillips said the average hail claim in 2015 ran just under $3,500. Texas had the highest number of hail claims in the U.S. with more than 23,000.

For those wanting to get creative, Huggins said anything that could cushion the blow from hail is worth trying.

"Try using a tarp, blankets, even a sleeping bag might do the trick," he said. "But it's most important to protect yourself first."

Huggins urged car owners not to go outside during severe storms. If already driving, seek a covered area to wait out the storm.


The windshield of this car belonging to an employee of the Mississippi State Hospital in Whitfield, Mississippi, awaits towing Thursday, March 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

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