Car hail damage: What you need to know
THE destructive hailstorms that pelted Sydney and the surrounding areas have damaged thousands of vehicles.
Each year Queensland and NSW face damaging storms, and often cars are in the firing line.
If your car is 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.
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 to run into the millions.
There have been more than 15,000 people lodge claims already 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.