Buying a car with hail damage, is it really a good deal?

Hail damaged cars being offered for thousands below book value. Steep discounts. Our loss is your gain.
Could buying a hail damaged car really be a good deal for you?
But there’s a few things you need to know before you drive away. This article could save you thousands and much heartache down the road.
You’re getting the inside scoop here, because car salesman say stuff to me, the paintless dent tech, they would never say to you or in public.
“I love a hail sale!”
This I heard 20 years ago from a salesman at an auto dealership.
I asked him why.
“Because people think they’re getting a good deal, so I sell more cars. There is more commission on each unit, so I knock ‘em dead!”
Does this mean there are no good deals at a hail sale? Not necessarily.
But you do need to be aware why that car is being sold with hail on it in the first place. Let’s cover the reasons, then dig a little deeper.

Why dealers sell damaged cars

  • Car could not be repaired paintless
  • Price of repair was too high
  • Car needed combination repair, or painting along with PDR

First, the car could not be repaired using paintless dent repair. This was the case with a lot of cars from Oklahoma City and Edmond area, and the two big storms to hit the Dallas Metroplex in 2012.
After 20 years in the business, I can guarantee you this, every car that can be fixed with Paintless or PDR before sale, will be fixed.
There are companies which do nothing but travel the country and repair these hail damaged units. Sometimes as many as 20 technicians will swarm in and fix them in rapid fashion.
The fact that you are now looking at a hail damaged car that was not fixed should give you serious pause.
It still has damage for one of the three reasons listed above.
Dents can be fixed by paintless up to a certain point of damage. Too large, too deep, too severely stretched or worse yet, cracked paint, all are reasons paintless repair was not used.
PDR works excellent for dents within the range of what is repairable, after that the only right repair is with conventional auto body shop and paint.
Paint damage and conventional repairs are expensive and time-consuming. Car dealers know it is better to sell a car as is than let it go to the paint shop.
The last reason for dealer not to fix a hail car pre-sale is the price was too high. The cars perhaps could have been fixed using PDR or paintless repair, but they did not want to pay what it took to get it done.
For example, the PDR company told the manager all the cars could be fixed for $1500. Dealerships have deductibles on claims just like you do. They decided to cut their losses and sell the cars as is.
Now you are standing in front of the car and the salesman is telling you he knows you can get it fixed for $500. Maybe he wasn’t in on the negotiations with the PDR company or maybe he just wants to make a sale. This happens all the time. I see it when it’s too late, the car is already bought.
If a car is not fixed and is being sold with hail on it, caveat emptor, or buyer beware.

Hidden dangers

After considering the above and you still feel it’s a good deal and are ok with purchasing a damaged car, I support you 100 percent.
You know the vehicle’s value is affected and are fine with it. After all, you bought it at a discount, right?
Here’s a few more gotchas that could sneak up on you later.

  • Insurance coverage
  • Car vehicle damage reports
  • Future accident coverage

First, if your insurance agent is good, he’ll want to see the car when you call for coverage. He’s going to spot the hail and will give you coverage, but exclude future hail damage.
But lets say you get away with something, and he covers you without looking. After all car is brand new, right?
You’ve heard of Carfax car vehicle reports, I’m sure. They get their information from a database that is like a credit report for cars. Every car has a VIN and when an insurance company pays a claim, that damage is attached to the car from now on.
While it is used today by careful used car buyers, its real purpose is for insurance companies to keep from getting stung by fraudulent clams.
Tied to this, are future accident claims. If your car is damaged in an accident somewhere down the road, the hail damage will be deducted from the cost of that claim. Huh?
Car’s hood and fenders have $1000 worth of hail. New accident in front end is $3000 claim. Since the damage was not fixed prior, the money is subtracted off the top. Pay now, pay later.
This can be avoided if you document the repairs you make on the vehicle after purchase.

How can you keep from getting burned on a hail damaged car purchase?

  • Get an estimate up front from a reputable PDR company*
  • Remember pictures don’t tell the true story of hail damage. Only the most severe dents will show up. If you see it in a photo, its much worse in person.
  • Be ready to walk away if you smell a rat. If your tummy is tingling, probably not a good deal.
  • If you still want the car, make sure you have the cash on hand to fix it.
  • Oh, and take what the salesman told you the repairs would cost and multiply it by 4.

*Caution: often the salesman will flip you a business card and say, “This guy said he would fix for $X.” You want to check the dent company’s credentials. BBB, website, years of experience, customer reviews, etc. Finally, you want to call them to verify the price, then ask to see a repair on a car with similar damage.

27 Responses to “Buying a car with hail damage, is it really a good deal?”

  1. Kenneth Ng. June 13, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    Wow! Im glad I read this article.
    The Saleman told me that this is not on the report. so Insurance won’t know it!
    HUH HUH????

    • Tim Olson June 16, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

      Not to mention no paint warranty…
      Thanks Kenneth

      • dickson christopher October 16, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

        what is hail damage

  2. Donn Ovshak June 18, 2013 at 9:48 am #

    I got stung, too much of a hurry and the boys at Big Red (auto sales) got me big time!

    • Tim Olson June 18, 2013 at 11:22 am #

      Sorry to hear this Donn, lots of hail in Norman and OKC this year.

      • eric July 13, 2013 at 11:34 am #

        Good day all,am so glad I read this article.
        I live outside the united states a friend just offered to help me buy rx 330 for 9500 dollars.
        I saw the pictures the car looked good but on googling the vin number I found out it was hail damaged.
        So I got to this site to find out more.

      • Karen kennedy July 21, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

        My husband just bought a Nissan from hudiburg last night. They said it was not hail damaged but when he was signing the papers, they wanted him to sign a hail damage paper. He refused to sign it and told the lady it was not supposed to have been hail damaged. She called the salesman in to verify and she asked if the truck was in the lot during the hail storm and he said no. They got it in after that but the way he said it led us to believ he was lying. Is there a way to find out for sure? He never signed the hail damage paper.

        • Karen kennedy July 21, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

          Hudiburg Nissan in okc that is.

  3. car service July 1, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    This article just have some good points! Buying a car with damage is just too risky. Wouldn’t go for it personally.

  4. Mike McDonnor July 16, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    Buying a used car is really a risk. But in some cases you can be a winner; if you are well acquainted of the first user and if it slightly used.

  5. Thomas July 17, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    I was about to go to Edmond Hyundai and look at some Velosters that they have $3k under MSRP…. Now I’m rethinking it :/

    The salesman wont send pictures of the damage because they aren’t going to be visible by a camera (huh?).. claiming that the damage isn’t that bad.

    I live almost two hours from the dealer.. not like I can just pop in, take one look and say nope.

  6. Ant G July 24, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    I was just offered this vehicle at 16K less than MSRP. This is a tough decision.

  7. Marty August 16, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

    Im a 10 yr PDR tech in Baton Rouge. This is sooo true! I’m glad to hear other techs putting the word out!

    PDR techs vary greatly. Do some research before dropping $$$$!!!

  8. Mk September 5, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    It makes me think harder on the point that Car is damaged from outside and not inside . So buying a hailed car is better than buying a used car . I am getting an offer to save about 3k on new 2013 camry that has some quite visible hails but the price is really 3k less than most of the dealers so it makes me believe its still a good deal.

    • Tim Olson September 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

      I see your point. Having a new car with a warranty is appealing. Especially with a $3000 discount.
      Since you are about to make a 20k purchase and possibly pay for years, why not spend the time to get a paintless dent repair tech to look at it and tell you the real price?
      We have seen many occasions where the discount did not cover the real cost of damage.
      Just for giggles, lets say it does have $3000 in damage.
      1. The car will always be worth less than similar models.
      2. Will be harder to sell
      3. If in a collision, the insurance will not pay full value due to previous damage.
      4. Will not have a paint warranty
      The discount seems nice, but is a cost factor that never goes away. Pay now, pay later.

  9. Suzy Q October 1, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

    I found a 2001 Z3 3.0i that I’m looking at buying from a private owner. Spoke to the owner today and he said the car was bought by him at auction after the vehicle was deemed totaled by insurance because of hail damage. The damage has been repaired. Now I’m wary of buying it. I’ve scheduled it for a used car inspection at the local BMW dealer. What are economic repercussions of buying a hail damaged totaled car? Thanks.

    • Tim Olson October 2, 2013 at 11:55 am #

      Hi Suzy Q,
      you are wise to get it looked at before purchase.
      When a car is considered a total loss, this means the damage cost exceeded the value of the car. Some insurance companies use a lower threshold, even as low as 60% of value.
      For example, a car worth $10,000 gets $6000 damage, the car could be considered a total loss.
      The biggest concern would be the state you live in and how they treat the title of a totaled car.
      In Oklahoma, the title is “marked” and is even a different color from a regular title. This is meant to protect consumers from buying cars with less value. They even call it a salvage title, since thats what someone did, bought it at a salvage auction (usually) and fixed it for resell.
      A marked title will affect the cars value by 20 – 40% or more.
      Check the laws in your state before making the leap.

  10. andrew December 20, 2013 at 2:39 am #

    I have the opportunity of buying a 2011 Mitsubishi eclips with only 3000 miles on it for 12,000.00.
    The vehicle was written off in Phoenix for hail damage and it is pretty severe.
    Aside from the hail damage the car is showroom.
    What do you think I should do??

  11. andrew December 20, 2013 at 2:41 am #

    Just an additional comment.
    I have the car in my possession and live in a cold cold city in Canada.
    It would be 12 thousand Canadian $.

    • Tim Olson December 20, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

      Hi Andrew,
      I can’t answer this for you, but since you have the car, you can do a couple smart things.
      1. Get an appraisal for repairs
      2. Find the cars value without hail damage today.
      3. Subtract the repair cost from the value and determine if its still a good deal.
      You may be under estimating the cost of repairs and a true appraisal will help.
      If you still feel its a good deal, review the 4 points listed in this hail damage repair advice listed above.

  12. Linda January 10, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

    Thank your for being honest, this does answer several of my question and a great way to approach the sales man abou the car.

    • Tim Olson January 13, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

      Hi Linda,
      you are most welcome

  13. Mark February 1, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

    Tim, first, thank you for the great information. Second, I am currently looking at a used car in OKC and recent;y got wind that this particular dealership has in fact sold cars that have been repaired of hail damage. The problem is this type of work is usually not reflected on a Carfax report. Can you give me some tips on how to see if any body work has ben performed to fix hail damage?

    Thank you

    • Tim Olson February 14, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

      Mark, great question.
      To find bodywork, run your hand along the back edge of the hood. It should be smooth and glossy feeling. If you feel a line or any roughness, its been repainted. Same will work for the trunk.
      Other panels are tougher, but the door jambs will also tell you. Again, should be smooth inside to out. Any lines or texture differences are a tell tale sign.
      This happens as the paint is sprayed, and does not occur on factory finishes, since they bake it to flow out.

  14. Kushal Thapa March 29, 2014 at 5:06 pm #


    I am in process of buying a new car that is hail damaged on the hood. I don’t know if this is in the carfax report or not. Are you saying that if its not, I should notify the insurance company while getting insurance?

    • Tim Olson March 30, 2014 at 11:37 am #

      Hi Kushal,
      thank you for this question. You are not obligated to disclose the damage so use your own discretion here. Just know the risks going in.
      If you’re never in a collision, it might not ever come up. If you file a claim in the future, it can be a problem whether the damage was reported on Carfax or not.
      As played out in the scenario in the post.

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