If your car sustains damage to the windshield, the first thing you should do before visiting a repair shop is to contact your insurance company for an explanation of your coverage. Reporting the claim to your insurance company before making any repairs is absolutely necessary in order to avoid having to pay more for the repair than you should. It’s also a good idea to double check what your insurance agent tells you by reading your own copy of your policy. Mistakes do happen, and you want to be sure of which repairs will be covered before making any decisions.
Here are the factors that will determine whether part or all of the glass repair will be covered:
- the type of coverage you carry on your vehicle
- state law
Windshield repair and replacement are usually covered under the ‘windshield’ or ‘glass’ line item in the ‘comprehensive coverage’ section of an automobile insurance policy. If windshield damage occurred as a result of a traffic accident that the driver was not responsible for, repairs or replacement may be covered under the ‘collision coverage’ section of the policy. If you only carry mandatory liability insurance, glass repair or replacement will not be covered.
Another type of insurance policy has a windshield deductible. This means all other repairs fall under the general deductible rule, but a different deductible applies to glass replacement. This deductible is much lower. If your windshield deductible is 50 dollars, and the replacement cost of the windshield is 250, then you will have to pay for the first 50 dollars of the repair and your insurance company will cover the additional amount.
It pays to read the fine print on your policy to forestall unpleasant surprises – unless you have comprehensive coverage and the good fortune to be living in a ‘Zero Deductible State’. If you live in Massachusetts, Florida, or South Carolina, state law is on your side where windshields are concerned. In these states, there are laws on the books stating that your insurance company must waive your deductible for windshield replacement, so you get free windshield replacement. This only applies to comprehensive coverage, but it’s a good thing to know when you’re confronted with this type of repair. The entire cost of your windshield replacement will be waived so that you don’t have to spend a dime out of pocket. For state-by-state information check out our State-by-State Page.
‘No-Deductible’, No-Cost Repairs!’
For a chip or crack, repairs will cost in the region of $50 to $100 whereas windshield replacement will start from about $200 and can reach $1,000. Now one would expect to pay for the repairs out-of-pocket but if the comprehensive coverage deductible is only, say, $100, an insured person has little or no incentive to have repairs done and, instead, may opt to have the windshield replaced.
Now even after the customer pays the deductible, the insurer has to foot a bigger bill when a windshield is replaced by a customer with a low deductible. In order to decrease their own payout, many insurers are resorting to a sharp play that’s also a sharp deal for the customer: if a damaged windshield is repaired instead of replaced, the insurer will waive the deductible and pay the full costs. And that’s a win-win for both the customer and the insurer!
You can get your windshield replaced from your auto dealer or from an independent auto glass shop. Your insurance company may recommend a particular shop but you are under no obligation to use it; you have the right to choose. There is a right way and a wrong way of replacing a windshield, so make sure you do some due diligence before choosing a place to make the replacement. If an insurer makes a gentle suggestion that’s fine but if they try to make you go to a particular shop, it is unlawful. It is known as ‘steering’ in the trade.
Auto insurance companies will often have a network of repair shops which have agreed upon a pre-set price for windshield repairs. There are a few advantages to choosing a shop within this network. Your insurance company may carry a guarantee on the work, and there are never any surprise charges because the price is agreed upon ahead of time. Your insurance agent may even schedule the work for you, making the entire process simple and convenient. You are certainly free to choose a shop outside of the network, but the work will only be covered by that particular shop’s guarantee policy. If you choose to go this route, be sure to get a copy of this policy in writing to protect your investment.
Claim procedures vary a little from one insurance company to another. A few may require an adjuster to check whether your windshield should be repaired or replaced. Some require you to first initiate a claim after which the company will contact and deal with the repair shop whereas others will need you to come on the phone and confirm your identity while you’re at the repair shop. Still, others may not require you to do anything as long as you go to one of their approved shops.
In any event, most shops will deal directly with the insurer and handle all the paperwork to make the process seamless and hassle-free for the customer.
If you were in an accident that was your fault, making any claim will bump up your premium but more often than not, windshield damage requiring repair or replacement is not the driver or owner’s fault. Ageing, icing, or harsh weather can crack a windshield or flying debris can chip it. Even a parked car can suffer windshield damage so you’re not to blame – you’re not ‘at fault.’
Most windshield repair or replacement claims are ‘no-fault’ claims and these types of claims do not have any effect on your premium because they do not reflect your driving skills.
Some auto glass shops give you ‘coupons’ to cover your deductible so that you pay nothing out of pocket. This is a somewhat questionable practice because if these ‘coupons’ pay the cost of your deductible, someone still has to pay the price for that amount.
As a result, the auto glass shop may over-invoice by pricing the work higher than it would have been otherwise, thus the insurance company ends up paying some or all of the deductible you saved.
Or the auto glass shop may simply use low-quality glass, inferior adhesives and sealants, and/or cut corners on workmanship to artificially bring down the cost. In this case, you end up paying the price of the saved deductible by having either an inferior or poorly installed windshield on your car – which could be a terrible price if you’re in an accident.