Helping Policyholders Understand Auto Glass Repair Or Replacement Options

By Jerry Beigel | July 2, 2012

Did you know that the most frequent of vehicle claims is glass damage at the rate of 7.5 million per year, and 80 percent of those are windshield damage versus side or back glass? When a policyholder experiences windshield damage, it’s important to understand the differences between the repair and replacement options, and what the customer can expect, so that you can guide them through the experience.

Following are the top 10 questions your personal or commercial policyholder may have for you.

Can windshield damage be repaired?

Damage is caused most often by a rock hitting the windshield while driving, which creates a chip. While most people assume the rock hit them, it’s actually the car in its forward-motion that hit the rock.

Today’s lightweight windshield designs allow for the glass to splinter into a multitude of micro cracks that can actually be filled. Chips or cracks larger than one might expect can, in most cases, actually be repaired by experts in the vehicle glass industry. If the damage is larger than six inches, a replacement is strongly recommended.

It’s important to understand that a repair is not just a cosmetic fix. Rather, it is a bonding solution to restore the windshield’s structural integrity.

Why should I bother with a repair?

A small chip or crack in the windshield will likely spread. If it happens while driving, it can cause a dangerous distraction. The most common causes of a chip spreading into a crack include sudden stresses, such as driving over potholes or speed bumps; swift changes in temperature from using the windshield defroster in cold weather or the air conditioner in hot weather; high heat by itself; or just the accumulation of stress and vibrations from everyday driving.

A repair is an economical and effective solution that can prevent the need for a replacement once the damage spreads. It is also a faster and more convenient alternative, requiring 30 minutes or less.

Should I get a pre-inspection?

A pre-inspection can save the policyholder from unnecessary work. Not all blemishes are chips. Sometimes there will be a scratch or pit in the surface that doesn’t reach down to the vinyl inbetween the layers of glass. Because this type of damage does not weaken the windshield, it is not necessary to fix.

In addition, there has been a large increase in questionable vehicle glass claims due to companies who offer “free” windshield repair. Sometimes, they try to convince the car owner to repair damage that may not need to be fixed. They will often begin the repair process before your policyholder has a chance to contact you, and they will even agree to assist in calling in the claim after the work is performed.

How does a repair work?

A vacuum is created over the damaged area. The air and moisture is removed, and the resin is injected penetrating and filling the finest micro cracks. Then UV light is used to harden the resin.

What if a repair is not an option?

If the damage is too large to be repaired or if the damage is close to perimeter of the windshield or in the line of sight, a replacement is necessary. Replacement cost varies depending on the make and model of the vehicle. All vehicle glass installed in the U.S. must pass National Highway Traffic Safety Administration baseline standards.

What does repair or replacement cost?

Three states — Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina — waive the deductible for windshield replacement and repairs as part of comprehensive coverage as mandated by state law because driving with a damaged windshield is dangerous. They are called “zero deductible” states.

Other states like Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New York allow policyholders to buy down the deductible for an increase in comprehensive premium.

In addition, auto glass coverage falls under comprehensive coverage so if the insured has comprehensive coverage, then usually their policy will cover the glass. The majority of insurance companies waive the deductible on a repair (but not a replacement).

Do I get to choose who does the repair or replacement?

Every insurance company must honor the policyholders’ choice of vendors. However, not all vehicle glass specialists are created equal. Glass repair or replacement doesn’t have to be a hassle. Appointments often can be made the same or next day. Many service providers will come to the insured rather than bringing the vehicle to a shop.

How do I choose the best service provider?

Customer experience, quality, warranties and trust should all be factored into selecting a vendor. Guide your policyholder into considering these questions:

  • How long do you train your technicians?
  • Are your technicians certified?
  • Do your technicians wear gloves to prevent oil and dirt from obstructing the adhesive?
  • What kind of adhesives do you use?
  • Do you guarantee your work?

When your policyholder calls about the naturally upsetting situation of windshield damage, you can provide them the peace of mind that you have them covered.

About Jerry Beigel

Beigel is the senior vice president of Safelite Solutions, a third-party administrator of vehicle glass claims for more than 175 insurance and fleet companies.

From This Issue

Insurance Journal West July 2, 2012
July 2, 2012
Insurance Journal West Magazine

Agency Management Systems / Insurance Exchanges; Commercial Auto; Digital Product Guide