Many drivers have experienced driving in strong winds, heavy rains and thunderstorms, but may never have encountered a severe hailstorm. This solid form of precipitation can cause costly damage to your rental car.
According to the U.S. National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), hail is a form of solid precipitation consisting of ice that forms inside thunderstorm updrafts. Hailstorms can occur during the spring, summer or fall months. The majority happen between May and September.
Hailstorms are most frequent in Midwest and mountain states in a region appropriately known as Hail Alley. Three states—Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming—tend to get more hail than other states. The city of Cheyenne, Wyoming, experiences more hailstorms than any other city, with upwards of 10 hailstorms a year.
A hailstone can be as small as a pea or as large as a grapefruit and a hailstorm can wreak havoc in a very short amount of time, potentially causing thousands of dollars in damage. When hail falls, it can crack a car's windshield and dent the metal exterior.
3 Steps to Take If Hail Damages Your Rental Car
What should you do if a hailstorm causes damage to your rental car?
Step 1: Evaluate the Damage & Call for Help if Needed
If your car is hit by hail while you're driving, pull over as soon as you can do so safely. If the hailstorm is extreme, make sure that nobody in the car has been injured by any broken glass. When the storm has passed and you're in a safe place, evaluate the damage to the rental vehicle.
Next, document and measure any damages to the car that weren't there when you picked it up—this could be windshield cracks, dents to the exterior or broken lights. Take photos of any damages, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem.
Step 2: Get Roadside Assistance
If you're not confident that the car is safe to drive, get roadside assistance. If the damage to the car after the hailstorm is minimal, you may be able to drive it back to the rental car center without issue. But if there are severe problems, such as huge cracks on the windshield that obstruct your vision, the safest option is to call for roadside assistance to pick up the car. If you didn't purchase the car rental company's roadside assistance service, you may have access to this service through a membership such as AAA or AARP, or as a benefit of the credit card that you used to rent the car.
And as a last resort, you can try calling the rental car company's roadside assistance number anyway. Even if you didn't buy the roadside assistance plan, they can send help for a standalone fee.
Step 3: File an Insurance Claim for Damages
If you bought the rental car company's collision damage waiver (CDW), you're covered for the costs to repair or replace the vehicle—unless the accident was due to reckless driving or another breach of your rental agreement. Remember, though, that the rental company's damage waivers don't cover liability for medical expenses or property for you or other people involved in the accident. You'll have to rely on your personal insurance or the rental company's supplemental liability coverage for that.
Most personal auto insurance policies cover rentals, but double check your coverage limit and deductible. For most car insurance policies, hail damage would be covered under a comprehensive package, and if your policy extends to car rentals, you are covered up to the limits of your coverage. Hail damage is typically covered like any other standard claim, with deductibles determined at the time you purchase auto insurance.
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