New Vehicle Tech Doubles Car Repair Bills

AAA finds safety systems can add an extra $3,000 in repair costs.
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Skyler McKinley

DENVER (Dec. 6, 2018) – If you’ve recently purchased a new automobile, the odds are good it’s equipped with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), such as automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, and lane departure warning, among others. Hopefully, that same tech will prevent a crash, because a fender bender can cost you: Per new research from AAA, even minor incidents that cause damage to this technology can add up to $3,000 in extra repair costs.

Nestled behind windshields, bumpers, and door mirrors, the sensors at the heart of these technologies are often located in damage-prone parts of your car despite their extreme sensitivity to damage. With one-in-three Americans unable to afford an unexpected repair bill of just $500, owners of vehicles equipped with these technologies should perform an insurance policy review and budget for their potential repair costs.

“More and more, advanced safety systems come as standard equipment, even on base models,” said AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley. “The good news is that these systems have indisputable potential to reduce the likelihood of a crash. The bad news is that, when a crash does happen, they may just increase your repair bill. It’s critical that drivers understand what technology their vehicle has, how it performs, and how much it could cost to repair should something happen.”

For the vehicles in AAA’s study, the repair bill for a minor front or rear collision on a car with ADAS can run as high as $5,300, almost two and a half times the repair cost for a vehicle without these systems.

Alarmingly, damage may be inevitable. Each year, more than 14.5 million motorists replace their windshield due to damage — without much fanfare. Now that many safety systems rely on cameras positioned behind the windshield, however, drivers will require a windshield recalibration when the glass is replaced. In addition, some automakers require the use of factory glass that meets strict standards for optical clarity. Replacing a windshield on a vehicle equipped with a camera behind the glass typically costs approximately $1,500 — three times as much to replace a windshield on a car without the technology.

“A chipped windshield may be little more than an eyesore on a regular car,” McKinley said. “But when a chip falls in the line of sight of a camera or the driver, it becomes a safety issue requiring immediate attention by a facility qualified to work on these systems.”

It’s not just the windshield. Vehicles with ADAS may also have radar, camera, and ultrasonic sensors located in or behind the front and rear bumpers or bodywork, as well as built into the side mirrors. While most drivers may never find themselves in a collision, these parts can be easily damaged when pulling out of garage, hitting a mailbox, or bumping into other objects.

Many variables such as the vehicle make and model, the type and location of the sensor, and where the work is performed can affect ADAS repair costs. AAA’s research determined the ranges listed below for typical repair expenses. Note that these numbers are for costs over and above the normal bodywork required following a collision.

  • Front radar sensors used with automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control systems: $900 to $1,300.
  • Rear radar sensors used with blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert systems: $850 to $2,050.
  • Front camera sensors used with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and lane keeping systems (does not include the cost of a replacement windshield): $850 to $1,900.
  • Front, side mirror, or rear camera sensors used with around-view systems: $500 to $1,100.
  • Front or rear ultrasonic sensors used with parking assist systems: $500 to $1,300.

Simply replacing the sensors of driver assistance systems is relatively straightforward and can be performed by most mechanics. To restore the system to proper operation, however, it must be calibrated, which requires special training, tools, and information. Before having a vehicle repaired, AAA recommends that drivers verify whether the facility is able to properly repair and calibrate the damaged systems, and request proof of the work once complete. Find a mechanic you can trust at AAA.com/Repair.

As technology continues to evolve, drivers need to be more aware of their vehicle’s capabilities. This includes understanding how the vehicle systems work as well as how much repairs may cost if damaged. AAA recommends drivers review their insurance policy regularly to ensure they have the appropriate coverage to cover the cost of repairs for any damage, and that deductibles are manageable to minimize out-of-pocket expenses.

About the Study
For this study, AAA evaluated three top-selling models in popular categories, including a small sport-utility vehicle, a medium sedan, and a full-size pickup truck. To establish repair part types and costs, all replacement parts discussed are original equipment manufacturer (OEM) components charged at their suggested list prices. To establish mechanical labor costs, a national average customer-pay rate was determined based on data from National Auto Body Research as well as AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities and rounded to the nearest whole-dollar amount. Labor rates used do not include state or local taxes, shop supplies, fees, or hazardous materials disposal charges.

About AAA Colorado

More than 685,000 members strong, AAA Colorado is the state’s most-trusted advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 58 million members with travel, insurance, financial, and automotive-related services – as well as member-exclusive savings. For more information, visit AAA.com.

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