Rain, snow and UV rays can all degrade car paint after repeated exposures. Hail storms are different. They only need one chance to cause damage that is not only serious, but also very expensive to repair.
Prevention is by far the lesser of evils, and this article is one of the most comprehensive you will find on the web.
For those short on time, here is the best hail protection for cars that money can buy. Detailed review later in the post.
For you DIY-types, please check out our article on homemade “hail blankets.”
As we know from our research, over 70% of cars are parked outdoors seven days per week, and 47% have endured at least one hail storm.
Do hail proof car covers really exist? Yes, but the answer is not what you think. Here is our take:
- Any extra barrier between your car and falling hailstones will help.
- Specialized, inflatable cover systems provide the ONLY effective protection against larger hail (e.g., 1 inch plus)
- SOME traditional car covers protect against LIGHT hail, but they should not be considered as effective hail protection systems.
Let’s dive in to the specifics.
Where and When Are the Risks of Hail Damage the Greatest?
First, to give you some idea of overall risk, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association reports that there were 6,045 hail storms in the U.S. in 2017. That compares to approximately 14 thousand wind storms and 1,500 tornadoes.
Let’s start with the good news. Most drivers in the Western third of the U.S. are relatively safe, averaging less than one day of hail per year. “Hail alley,” an arc ranging from Texas to eastern Wyoming, receives the most hail damage.
Although this NOAA image is somewhat dated, it does a great job of visually representing hail risk and the data are very stable over time. The numbers represent the average severe hail days per year over a ten-year period.
Using a different metric, insurance claims filed, provides a similar picture. According the NICB, the top states for hail insurance claims over a recent three-year period were:
- Texas (395k)
- Colorado (183k)
- Nebraska (148k)
- Kansas (128k)
- Illinois (121k)
- Oklahoma (98k)
- Missouri (95k)
- Minnesota (93k)
- South Dakota (75k)
- Indiana (65k)
Note: this ranking is based on number of claims filed, so it favors large states like Texas over smaller states like South Dakota.
So, that’s WHERE hail damage occurs. What about WHEN it occurs? Hail storms can literally happen any time. That said, the classic “hail season” is March-July, and after July, the number of storms starts to taper off quickly
Here is the number of hail storms, compared to other severe weather storms, by month for last year (source: NOAA).
|Month||Hail Storms||Wind Storms||Tornadoes||Total|
So, what are the key takeaways? If you park outdoors, especially in the Midwestern plains, you need to think about protecting your car from hail for a good six month out of the year.
How Do You Know if a Hail Storm is Coming?
You should always check local weather reports. We promise, they’re not always wrong! Using your own eyes and ears and common sense should never be underestimated either. Knowing the telltale signs for when atmospheric conditions are likely to produce hail, can save your car.
First, thunderstorm clouds must be visible, and these clouds must have a high moisture content, i.e. they look dark and rainy. Also, thunder and lightning almost always accompany storms that produce hail.
Part of the upper cloud layer needs to be freezing, so cold fronts or sudden drops in temperature are indicators that hail could be imminent. The last condition is an updraft. Basically, water droplets get blown up into the freezing layers of thunderstorm clouds. The more this is repeated, the larger the hail stones.
If you see these conditions, check local and national weather services and take all necessary precautions.
What Does Hail Damage Cost to Repair?
Obviously it depends on the extent of the damage. Here are a couple of views on costs from insurance companies and body shops.
First, let’s look at estimates for total damage. Auto Trends interviewed a personal lines insurance representative that said damage averaged $2,500 for private autos.
While that helps provide some idea on an what the AVERAGE cost might look like, it doesn’t help with understanding the cost of light hail damage versus heavy damage. Auto repairs shops charge based on number of dents, size of the dents and if the repair is “paintless.” Paintless dent repair means the dent is carefully massaged back into its original shape and no repainting is required.
The blog, First Quarter Finance, has a great breakdown of estimates by size of dent, number of dents, and location on the car. It’s definitely worth a read. Here’s one example: 1-5 dents on the hood that are dime-sized costs $150, nickel-sized $175, all the way up to half dollar-sized at $225.
The moral of the story: prevention is the way to go.
How Can You Protect Your Car?
If you can park in a garage or at least find temporary shelter under some kind of structure, e.g., overpass, filling station, that is likely to be your best bet. Some people park under trees, but this puts your car at risk of falling limbs, which often do as much or more damage than hail.
The internet is full of human interest stories about how homemade hail blankets for cars allowed people to avoid serious damage. Blankets or exercise mats along with tape are common items used in a pinch. We DO NOT recommend this as your main hail protection strategy. It may work on occasion, but over time it’s a recipe for trouble. For example, what if dime-sized hailstones suddenly become baseball-sized; what about the sides of your car; etc.?
If you cannot park in a garage, car covers will help. There are two categories here. The first is an inflatable protection system that creates a bubble around your car. When not inflated, these systems act as classic car covers protecting against dust, rain, UV rays, etc. As we noted earlier, they offer the only truly effective protection against hail.
The other category is high quality, traditional car covers that provide protection against light hail. Note: this is not ALL car covers. We are mainly talking outdoor covers with 3-7 layers of material to provide extra padding. These are not truly “hail proof” car covers, as even medium-size hail would be a cause for worry.
HAIL PROTECTOR Portable Car Cover System
The HAIL PROTECTOR Portable Car Cover System is unique. It acts as a normal car cover in terms of preventing moisture and UV rays from damaging paint. However, if hail storms are threatening, it can be inflated via remote control to be a hail car cover and block “any size hail.” Models exist for cars, SUVs and even trucks up to 22 feet 6 inches.
What is really cool is that this cover is remote controlled. When you know that hail is coming, just press the button (range is 100 feet) and the HAIL PROTECTOR will inflate in about 5 minutes. This particular hail proof car cover comes with a mobile weather app that will warn you when dangerous storms are coming, which is nice because it gives you enough time to inflate the cover before the hail actually starts.
Several customer videos exist showing the Hail Protector in action.
While the HAIL PROTECTOR is a premium product, the fact that it also acts as a “normal” car cover certainly helps justify the investment. The PROTECTOR does everything that a normal car cover does. It has been specially treated to ensure that it is moisture resistant so very little water gets to your car.
It also has a fairly high level of UV resistance to keep UV radiation from fading and oxidizing car paint. Also, the HAIL PROTECTOR System is designed to withstand winds up to 60 mph, which is quite impressive. Other than that, it is easy to assemble, easy to install, durable, and it gets the job done without question.
Earlier, we provided detailed information about where and when the risk of hail damage is the greatest. If you live in Hail Alley, have a nice vehicle, and must park outdoors. The HAIL PROTECTOR is worthy of your consideration. The fact that it also functions as an everyday car cover, makes it a much easier choice.
- One of the only covers designed to protect against large hailstones
- Six different size choices
- Remote control
- Included mobile weather app
- Functions as a normal car cover
- Good UV protection
- Assembled in the U.S.
- 2-year parts and labor warranty
- Premium price
- One-time, 20 minute set up required
- Everyday installation a minute or two longer than traditional car covers
“Light Hail” Protection Options
Some of the better car covers can protect against light hail, but ONLY light hail. The problem is that it is almost impossible to predict when light hail will become quarter-sized hail or the feared, golf- and baseball-sized hail.
Our advice is that if your car is at risk and you cannot afford a hail protection system, at least get the thickest, good quality outdoor car cover you can. These will not prevent damage from medium-to-heavy hail, but they can mitigate light hail damage, especially if you can safely add blankets or other layers of protection.
What are some of the thicker car covers? Here are a few at different price points.
|Car Cover||Model||Usage||Layers of Material||Price|
Custom Fit Ultrashield
light hail damage)
light hail damage)
light hail damage)
Hail storms pose a real risk to residents in the Midwest and upper-South. The damage to cars caught in hailstorms can be extensive, and by some estimates, averages $2,500. The good news is that with a little planning and investment in a hail prevention system, car owners can limit their risk to virtually nothing.
We would first recommend assessing the real risk of hail damage based on where you live. The links to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association we outlined above are an excellent place to start. The other considerations are your parking habits (e.g., are you 24/7 outdoors?) and the value of your car.
It is far easier to prevent damage than to repair it. If your car is at risk, a hail car cover system like the HAIL PROTECTOR is definitely worthy of consideration.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How many size options are there?
Six in total. Three for cars and three for trucks and SUVs. The options are:
- Car Size 1 (up to 175 inches)
- Car Size 2 (176 inches to 195 inches)
- Car Size 3 (196 inches to 211 inches)
- SUV and Truck 1 (up to 197 inches)
- SUV and Truck 2 (198 inches to 230 inches)
- SUV and Truck 3 (231 inches to 270 inches).
What accessories are included with the HAIL PROTECTOR car cover system?
This premium system comes with an impressive set of included accessories.
- Storage bag
- Accessories bag
- Blower assembly
- Blower blanks
- Remote control
- AC adapter
- Car power plug (e.g., “cigarette lighter” adapter)
- AA batter pack (batteries not included)
- Cinch wand
- Threading drawstring
- Waterproof cord connector
- Retracting tape measure
Can rechargeable batteries be used?
Yes, nickel metal hydride is recommended by the manufacturer.
Is assembly required?
Yes, an initial, 20-minute set up is required. The manufacturer provides an excellent catalog of support videos.
What is the range of the remote control?
According to the manual, it is 100 feet.
Can the PROTECTOR be used for snow?
Although some reviews have mentioned it works well in snow, the manufacturer notes that it is not intended for that purpose. The synthetic material is not designed for extreme cold.
Is there a way to lock the cover?
There is currently no way to lock the cover as it doesn’t include side grommets. Also, no locks or rubber coated cables are sold as accessories. This system is more challenging to remove and carry without a storage bag than traditional car covers. While a truly determined thief can find a way to steal virtually any day-to-day item, most thieves would find easier targets than the PROTECTOR.
How much space does the PROTECTOR take up when stored?
It depends on which size option is chosen. The range is 3 to 4.5 cubic feet. (Note: to calculate cubic feet it’s: L x W x H divided by 1728)
How long does it take to install (on a daily basis) and how does that compare to a traditional car cover?
The manufacturer estimates 5 minutes to install and uninstall respectively. Traditional car covers normally have elastic hems in the front and back, and some have included strap and buckle systems. They usually require 1-2 minutes to install and / or remove.
Will it fit in a parking spot when fully inflated?
The manufacturer notes that sizes CAR 1, CAR 2, CAR 3 and SUV 1 will typically fit in a traditional parking spot. Truck and SUV 2 and Truck and SUV 3 require more space.
If the material is cut, can it be repaired?
Very few instances of cuts have been reported because the material is very tough. It could, however, be repaired by a professional seamstress or auto interior repair shop.
Is the PROTECTOR made in the U.S.A.?
It has been assembled in the U.S.A. since 2015.