Getting an Estimate for Auto Hail Damage

There are two routes to getting an estimate after a hail storm. During a “catastrophic” hail storm, like the one we had in May, insurance sends out “CAT” adjusters. Insurance companies often set up tents where you can go and get an estimate on how much it will cost to repair your vehicle. You can also simply take your vehicle to the shop of your choice and the adjuster will come to that shop.

An estimate for auto hail damage is done by counting the size and number of dents, checking for cracked paint, broken parts, or glass.

Taking Your Vehicle to a Tent or Adjuster Coming to Your Home

The estimate given out at a tent, or at your home will be less than it costs to repair the vehicle. Many adjusters will tell you the shop you choose will be able to “supplement” or negotiate for more money to repair the vehicle. Writing the estimate low saves your insurance company money in a few ways:

  • Some people choose not to repair their vehicle and keep the money. If the vehicle is not repaired, the insurance saves lots of money on the claim. (I once saw an estimate for $700 and the cost to repair was actually $4600).
  • If a supplement is not paid, the insurance knows their customer did not repair their vehicle. Your insurance will not pay for another hail claim if you choose not to repair the damage. So the insurance will save money by never paying a hail claim for your vehicle again.
  • A full estimate at the shop takes about an hour and use specialized hail lights to find each little dent. Time is money. The quick estimates take less time, and the adjuster complete more estimates.

If the damage is heavy, there is always the chance the vehicle could be a total loss. Insurances vary on the exact number a vehicle totals at. At a tent, you are at the mercy of the adjuster and their estimate.  (For more information on total loss click here)

Pro’s of estimate at a tent- Get an estimate on the spot.

Con’s of an estimate at a tent- The check is not enough for cost of repairs and the shop you choose will need to supplement anyways. Takes time for you to sit and wait for an estimate. There is a larger chance of your vehicle totalling at a tent.

Taking Your Vehicle to a Shop

As a business, we are also trying to maximize our profits. In the Paintless Dent Repair (PDR) industry the majority of the profit comes from the manual work to fix each dent. The technician who repairs your vehicle uses tools to manually manipulate the metal back into its original form.

At the shop, estimates are thorough and the estimator finds every dent that needs to be repaired. We earn money per dent, so the interest of the shop is to find and repair as many dents as possible while keeping the vehicle from being a total loss. PDR restores the vehicle to its original pre-storm condition.

Because each estimate takes about an hour, most PDR companies do not give out free ESTIMATES. They will offer free INSPECTIONS to give a ball park range of the cost to repair, or if the vehicle can be repaired using PDR. (This last storm caused such significant damage, that many vehicles must be taken to a body shop).

Ultimately the insurance sets the price and the shop negotiates to get more money, but will fix everything that the insurance allows.

If you plan on fixing your vehicle, taking it to a tent or having the adjuster come to you, is extra work for you.

Pro’s of getting estimate at a shop- You don’t waste time going to a tent or scheduling time with an adjuster. The shop negotiates with insurance. The shop can help keep a car from totaling.

Con’s of getting estimate at shop- Depending on the insurance company, it may take anywhere from 1-3 days for the adjuster to come to our shop. You may be in a rental car an extra couple of days waiting for insurance approval. We recognize that can be a problem for customers. We cover any overlap in cost for the rental.


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