That big hailstorm hit the new-car lot, too. While your local dealer may offer you a major discount on a hail-damaged car, check with your car insurance agent before shaking hands on the deal. Cosmetic hail damage gives dealers the opportunity to discount prices of those cars and let customers drive away with bargains, says Wayne Phillips, vice president of operations at Alan Jay Automotive Network in Sebring, Fla. "If there was a hailstorm last night, I would already have my dent removal contractor here to walk the lot with me. We'd decide which vehicles are saleable in their current state," says Phillips of actions he takes after a storm, which includes automatically attaching the damage reports to the vehicles' VIN numbers when insurance claims or repair estimates are filed. "If some were total losses, we would certainly turn those into our (insurance company). But some of the best months we ever had in the car business are when we had storms like that. We tell everybody what happened (through advertising) and have a sale. Consumers are very forgiving on things like that."
A deal, but not a steal
The National Insurance Crime Bureau reported in July that hail damage claims have risen 84 percent since 2010, due in part to larger and more frequent thunderstorms. But some of the increase is considered suspicious. That's why the purchase of a hail-damaged car will add a few complications to your car insurance. Most insurance carriers have certain defined risk-management policies that limit the amount of pre-existing damage a car might have when they agree to insure it, says Dan Young, senior vice president of insurance relations for CARSTAR, auto body repair experts based in Overland, Kan., and a 20-year veteran of Allstate Insurance. If the buyer isn't taking out collision or comprehensive coverage, the previous damage might not be an issue, he says. "However, if I just purchased a $30K car for $28.5K because of the pre-existing hail damage, I'm probably still going to have a lien holder on the auto loan who will require both collision and comprehensive coverage."