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What you need to know if your car has been damaged by hail

IF YOUR car has been damaged by hail there are some important steps you need to take and facts you need to know.

The destructive hailstorms that pelted Sydney and the surrounding areas have damaged thousands of vehicles.

If your car was damaged, here are some hints from experts on what to expect and what you should do.

Contact you insurer immediately

The quicker you call your insurer the further up the long queue you will be. Contact them today and get the appraisal process started before the Christmas shutdown. Your insurer will walk you through the steps you need to take to get your vehicle repaired.

Executive general manager of claims at NRMA Insurance Luke Gallagher says the company is taking steps to make sure affected customers get their repairs sorted as soon as possible.

“NRMA Insurance has all hands on deck to help customers get back on their feet after the storms in Sydney overnight,” says Gallagher.

“We encourage our customers with vehicles or homes that have been damaged to contact us to lodge their claim. We’re also contacting customers directly who may have been impacted by the storms to check their safety and provide details so they can lodge their claim online.

“Once a claim is lodged we can help our motor vehicle customers through the assessment and repair process and we’re setting up specialist hail repair units across Sydney to make this happen as soon as possible,” he says.

To drive, or not to drive

You can drive your vehicle if it has cosmetic damage caused by hail damage.

If the damage runs to a broken windscreen, tail light or even broken windscreen wipers, don’t drive it. It’s now classed as a defective vehicle and you could be slapped with a fine and loss of demerit points which in NSW can range from $337 and one demerit point to $448 and three points depending on the severity of the defect.

Be prepared to wait

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has declared the incident a “catastrophe” with the costs expected reach about $169m.

There have been more than 6500 claims lodged already already this morning with the number expected to grow. This means there will be a backlog of cars waiting to be fixed so be patient. You may be driving your damaged car for some time yet.

Don’t write it off too soon

There are two reasons for a car to be written off: it is either too badly damaged that it can never be safe to drive or it would cost more to repair the vehicle than it is worth. The second is the more likely scenario from storm damage.

Once your car is classed as a write-off its registration will be cancelled at it will be recorded on the NSW Written Off Vehicle Register. Your vehicle can never be taken off this register.

To keep or not to keep

Most states allow for written-off vehicles to be repaired and re-registered in certain situations, but NSW has some of the harshest restrictions for repairable write-offs in the country.

You will need to lodge an application with your state’s relevant authority, which in NSW is the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS).

Hail damage is one of the few reasons the RMS will allow your written off vehicle to be repaired. If you receive approval to repair it, your vehicle must be restored to industry standards. Once this is done you will receive a certificate of compliance declaring it meets the required standards.

But if you decide to retain your vehicle you will receive a reduced payout from your insurer and your vehicle will have reduced value, as you’ll have to declare the car as a repaired write-off when you sell it.

Don’t be tempted to beat up your old banger

Do not try to replicate hail damage — or make it worse — to get a payout on your car. Insurance company assessors are trained to spot the tricks and last time there was a massive hailstorm, people were caught out using gold balls to replicate hail damage.

Be vigilant with your next car purchase

Car lots around the country are about to be inundated with repairable write-offs. They can be a bargain but don’t underestimate the amount of money they take to fix. You can also have problems insuring a repairable write-off and you may have to pay higher premiums.

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