Hail to pay: $54B for storm-damaged cars

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Mother Nature has unleashed $54 billion worth of fury on autos in the form of hail.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau released its latest analysis on car insurance claims associated with hailstorms in the United States and said that nearly 9 million claims from 2000 to 2013 (the latest data available) have resulted in $54 billion in losses. From 2013 to 2015 alone, there were 10 major hailstorms, each of which resulted in $1 billion in property damage.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau said that the cost of car repairs as a result of hail damage has dramatically increased. The bureau said the average claim from 2008 to 2013 was 65% higher than it was from 2000 to 2007.

Despite the huge costs of hail damage to cars, the number of claims fell significantly last year. The bureau said that in 2013 there were 720,473 hail-damage claims. In 2014, claims rose to 824,325 but then dropped in 2015 to 572,182, representing an overall decline of 21%.

During 2013 to 2015, the bureau found that the most claims filed for hail damage to cars were in May (165,087), followed by April (149,040), June (129,085), March (61,072) and July (55,650). The state with the most hail-damage claims was Texas (394,572), followed by Colorado (182,591), Nebraska (148,346), Kansas (127,963) and Illinois (120,513).

The bureau warns that after a large hailstorm so-called “storm chasers” may arrive in the area offering to repair cars. Although most of these business are legitimate, some are not. The bureau cautions against giving any contractor money before the work is done and advises checking with your insurance company if a contractor approaches you without your requesting it.

Hail isn’t the only way Mother Nature damages cars. Flood damage is also common after a big storm. Here are 4 tips to avoid buying a water-damaged car.

Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.