Do car covers work? Are car covers worth it? We get asked those questions all the time. If you park outdoors, live in a challenging climate or just want to give your car the best possible protection, the answer is probably “yes.”
To get a handle on what damage happens to cars while parked, we surveyed frequent drivers in the U.S. about their parking habits and any damage sustained as a result. This survey is unique and as far as we know, the information is not available anywhere else.
The short answer is parked cars get damaged frequently and in many different ways…some of which are unexpected. As you will see, the case for the best car covers is pretty convincing.
Let’s dive into the details.
What Damage Happens to Your Car While Parked?
One big takeaway from our survey is that the overwhelming majority of cars (72%) are parked outdoors full time, and as result face a wide array of threats 24/7/365. These range from Mother Nature to thieves to vandals to the distracted driver parking next to you.
We have covered in great detail all the ways Mother Nature can damage cars. Bird poop and tree sap can etch a car’s clear coat and / or bond with car paint in hot weather. Car covers are highly effective against both of these elements, providing nearly complete protection. Preventing even one trip to a professional car detailer to have stains removed can save hundreds of dollars.
A majority of cars endure rain and snow storms. A surprising 47% of parked cars have endured at least one hail storm during their useful lives. Sand storms, although incurred less frequently, can do a number on paint jobs as “gritty” sand can hit cars at speeds up to 65 miles per hour in some parts of the country.
Premium car covers are highly effective against rain, snow and sand storms. Just buy one that is matched to the climate where you live. Hail storms are a different story. While high quality car covers certainly offer protection against hail storms, only highly-specialized, inflatable car covers offer complete confidence.
Your Indifferent Fellow Driver and Parker
Almost 40% of cars are accidentally dinged or scratched while parked. Sometimes the damage is minor enough that it can be repaired without a trip to the body shop. However, frequent drivers report an average out-of-pocket cost of $650 to repair medium-to-severe dings and scratches.
Parking lots are particularly dangerous followed closely by parking garages. This makes sense if you think about it. The number of people parking beside you and carelessly opening their doors is much greater than when at home or parallel parked on the street.
If your car is not obscured by a cover, everyone can see what’s inside, and with time, thieves will be tempted to break in and steal your valuables. Approximately 14% of parkers have had visible items in the front seat or on the dashboard stolen. Covered cars are rarely broken into. This is because thieves don’t want to take the risk or spend the extra time to cut through a car cover when they are unsure of the payoff.
Even a car cover that is not locked down takes 1-2 minutes to remove. This provides an extra barrier and increases the odds of attracting the attention of a passersby. Most thieves realize they simply have easier targets elsewhere.
Vandals don’t pose the biggest risk to you car, but as anyone who has watched the first ten seconds of Carrie Underwood’s biggest hit video can tell you, a vandal can to a lot of damage. Almost are victims of some kind of intentional paint damage, and another 9% have windows, mirrors and/or tail lights broken. Keeping in line with Ms. Underwood’s video, men are 30% more likely to have their cars vandalized than women.
Car covers won’t stop a truly motivated vandal, but they make the act much more difficult. Unless an attacker has a grudge against a specific person, and by extension their car, uncovered cars offer much easier and more inviting targets.
While not a serious threat to your car, pranksters can cause unintentional damage, especially to car paint. Writing “wash me” in dust is 3x the most popular prank. Dust and dirt are highly abrasive and if a person pushes hard enough when writing, they can scratch the clear coat.
The next most popular pranks in order are shoe polish, silly string, “egging,” and dousing with condiments (e.g., ketchup). To varying degrees, these materials can chemically react with the paint, especially in hot weather, and cause damage. Even if your paint escapes with no damage, you still will likely need to make an unscheduled trip to the car wash.
Doing the Math
Are car covers worth it? If you are one of the three-quarters of people who park outdoors 24/7/365, the potential return on investment (ROI) means the answer is almost certainly “yes.”
On the cost side, car covers are not that expensive. Here are some example ranges:
- Budget ($30-$60)
- Conventional ($60-$150)
- Premium ($150-$250)
- Ultra-Premium ($250+).
Most of these come with at least a one-year warranty, and the (ultra) premium models usually offer 3-7 year warranties.
On the benefits side of the ledger, car covers save you money in a variety of ways. They:
- Help prevent door dings (average out of pocket costs $650)
- Help prevent robberies (average out of pocket costs $1000)
- Keep cars cleaner for longer (cutting your trips to the car wash in half would recoup the cost of most car covers in one year)
- Mitigate paint degradation and oxidation by protecting from storms (hail storms are a different story)
- Maintain resale value (the difference between “good” and “excellent” condition is usually 10% of the value of a car).
Do car covers work? They must be used correctly. As an example, the inner lining must be keep free from dust and dirt to avoid scratching paint while installing or removing a cover.
However, assuming you follow all instructions, the potential benefits are far greater than the costs. The answer is simply “yes,” and buying a car cover is something definitely worth considering.