How Is Hail Damage Assessed on a car?
When you need auto hail damage repair, getting a fair estimate can be almost as important as the quality of the repairs. Even if the car insurance company is paying for the services, knowing how hail damage is assessed on a car can protect yourself from low-ball estimates.
What’s included in a hail damage assessment:
Comprehensively when it comes to a hail damage estimate on a car, it is usually comprised of primarily four parts:
- Paintless dent repair – the labor and time it takes the technician to actually fix the dents.
- Remove and Install cost (R&I) – labor cost to remove and install parts on the car as needed to gain access to perform the PDR.
- Part replacements – Sometimes hail damages parts on the car such as the windshield which will need to be replaced or chrome moldings that are ordered from the manufacturer and replaced.
- Sales Tax – Colorado only includes sales taxes on vehicles, not on labor costs.
If there is damage to the paint, you also need to factor in body time, paint time, and paint & material costs.
1. Paintless Dent Repair Cost
We assess your paintless dent repair cost (PDR cost) by using what’s called a pricing matrix. The matrix determines repair costs by the number of dents on the panel and the dents’ sizes (width and depth). Try our Hail Damage Car Repair Cost Calculator
For example, for a door panel with one to five dents, the size of which is a quarter, the PDR price for that panel is $100.
That price increases dramatically as the dents’ size increases, and the dent count on a particular panel increases.
PDR cost is also a charge per panel. That means that if there is one dent on one panel and one dent on the second panel, and both dents’ size is about a quarter, the PDR cost would be $100 per panel = $200 for the paintless dent repair cost.
2. R&I (Remove & Install) Cost
The R&I assessment covers the labor needed to take the car apart to manufacture access to get behind the metal and fix the damage.
For example, if there are dents on a fender, a technician would incur the R&I time to remove the headlights to fix the damage.
The R&I time varies based on the year, make, and model of the car. At StormWise, we use what’s called “book time” in order to configure those R&I times.
To get the accurate R&I times, we utilize a gigantic database that has every single year, make, and model of every single vehicle that was ever made, and every single part on every single vehicle.
We have to update this system every 75 days to account for newer model cars coming out and new parts pricing associated with existing models.
Searching by a specific part of a car will provide us a particular R&I book time from the database, and we will then use that value as our R&I time.
The insurance companies use book time to determine how much they are willing to pay for R&I. By using the same method the insurance companies use, we make sure your insurance adjuster will fully cover the cost.
R&I Cost Examples:
Typical R&I time in hail damage would be the R&I for a headliner, as we have to drop the headliner to gain access to fix dents in a roof.
Another very common R&I item would be the headlights and taillights to fix damage on either the fender or quarter panel.
If a panel or a hood is hit pretty badly, we often have to take those panels completely off the car to fix them. For example, we may even have to remove the door if the car got struck down the side of a door and the damage is too severe for us to properly see and fix while it’s still on the car.
For pickup trucks, sometimes we need to remove a back glass to manufacture access to the dents on the roof and get those fixed.
R&I can vary greatly from car to car in terms of what’s needed, and all comes down to how hard the car is hit and what type of access can we get behind the panel to massage the metal back to pre-storm condition.
3. Part Replacement Costs
The parts cost that we put on an estimate is going to be just your retail price of what those parts cost. It will be the same price as if you were to go to the dealership and order the part yourself.
A hail storm can damage a variety of parts. One common part replacement for hail damage repair is chrome moldings and belt molding that are on the door right underneath window – we replace them all the time.
Other parts that often get damaged include headlights or taillights, which may be cracked by a large hailstone.
Sometimes hailstones are big enough to actually crack a windshield. In those cases, even the roof moldings can get dented, too.
On some year, make, and models of cars, there are moldings called scalp moldings above the car door window and below the roof rail. Those can be damaged in a bad hail storm as well and will require replacement.
Therefore, parts pricing is usually included in a hail damage repair estimate.
4. Sales Tax
The final piece would be the sales tax charged by the municipals, which varies by cities, counties, and states.
5. Additional charges for paint damage repair
If your car needs paint and bodywork, it adds another layer of three additional charges.
When this happens, we have to add conventional repair on top of the paintless dent repair. We would use paintless dent repair to get the dent as close to perfect as possible, and then add body-time, refinish and paint & materials pricing to the estimate with the insurance.
Insurance company will pay all of these charges, as the conventional repair is sometimes necessary to restore the car to pre-storm condition.
For example, when you have extremely large dents on a roof panel, like the size of a softball or basketball, no matter if you have the best paintless dent repair technician in the industry, the dents may not get fully flat.
When the metal is too stressed out, it’s going to do what we call “oil-can,” meaning that the metal will pop out and pop back down and will never flatten completely out and will remain extremely weak.
That sometimes happens, especially when hailstones are extremely large or the roof panel is especially thin, such as on Subaru roof panels.
The body time is how much time it is going to take a body tech to skim that panel with a plastic filler, otherwise known as Bondo, to make it 100% perfect. The technician will then sand it down so it’s perfectly flush with the original body panel and ready for paint.
The refinish time, which is the amount of time the painter is allotted to paint the panel, is based on book time as well. So we put the car using its VIN into our system, and it tells us how much book time is allowed for the refinish hours on say a roof or a hood, as well as some time allotted to blend the adjacent panels..
The last piece of conventional repair is called “paint & materials”, which is also based on book time. The system tells us what the necessary paint & materials charge for a particular panel is.
This covers the cost of the paint itself, the tape to mask off adjacent panels to protect them from overspray, car covers, tire covers, seat covers, and a wide variety of other materials we need in order to paint the car.
Again, we rely on book time, as it makes sure that we charge the same thing that the insurance company is willing to pay so that you don’t have to pay out-of-pocket costs.
That is how hail damage is assessed in a nutshell.
Watch Out for Low-Ball Estimates
Most reputable PDR companies have a similar process for providing hail damage estimates. For companies with the same caliber and experience level, the estimates should be fairly similar.
If you go to somewhere that’s extremely high or a place that’s extremely low, that’s something to be worried about.
If an insurance adjuster tells you to use a repair shop providing a substantially lower estimate than the estimate you got from a reputable PDR company, be cautious. Insurance companies sometimes have sweetheart deals with repairers that do cut-rate work for the insurance company in exchange for lots of referrals. But that doesn’t guarantee that the inspection for damage is thorough or that the finished product is high quality. We recently wrote an article to explain more.
At StormWise, we guarantee honest and fair pricing for every customer. Although we may not be the cheapest option on the market, we will make sure we take care of you, your car, and your insurance throughout the repair.
Our experience and reputation have helped build our relationship with insurance adjusters in Colorado so that we can get your car processed quickly and get what we need to fix it the right way.
And if you have spent any amount of time on our site, you’ll know that, we stand behind our work with a 100% satisfaction guarantee and lifetime warranty.