New Safety Features Send Auto Repair Bills Higher

Nov 19, 2018

The cost of repairing body damage after a car accident is going up. Safety is becoming a big focus for car companies, but what if your new car with this technology gets rear-ended? The repair bill just shot up.

AAA has looked into how repairs are getting more expensive. Their research has yielded some startling results.

Replacing parking assistance sensors can increase a repair bill by $1,300. And those rear radar sensors could make a repair bill more than $2,000 more expensive when compared to repairing similar damage on a car without them.

AAA spokesperson Nancy Cain has another example of these higher repair costs: the sensors built into some side mirrors. “You know, in the old days, you had a side mirror, and if you happened to get to close to a mailbox or your garage door and you banged into it, it just wouldn’t cost that much to fix it," Cain says. "Now, with a sensor, it’ll be more than $1,100 more just to repair that side mirror.”

Want more evidence? How about windshields? Cain says 14-million windshields are replaced in the United States every year. She explains that if you get a chip in the glass in front of front camera sensors, things can get complicated. “When it’s higher up and it’s affecting the camera, you’ve really got to get that replaced, and that’s why the price can go way up." Cain continues that "replacing a windshield on a vehicle equipped with a camera behind that glass can cost easily $1,500 more.”

Here’s another spot where sensors are showing up: inside the emblem on the front of the vehicle. Eric Phelps is an estimator at Vision Collision in Lansing. “Usually, an emblem would cost $30, and it cost a little time to put it on," Phelps says. "I wrote one last week for about $500, just for an emblem. Having to replace those even for a light scratch or something like that will more than likely, if it’s on the line, probably total out the vehicle a lot quicker.”

Phelps adds that many of these new sensors can only be calibrated at a dealership. That means moving a car back and forth from the body shop to a nearby dealer.

You might think some insurers would try to avoid these more costly repairs, but Phelps isn’t seeing that. According to Phelps, “they’ll go above and beyond, just to make sure the customer is safe. They don’t want to skimp out on sending a car down to the mechanical shop just to make sure the sensors are OK, to save a little bit of money now, where on down the road if that ends up being faulty, they’ll be liable for it.”

Nancy Cain of AAA says Michigan’s already-high auto insurance rates could be made even higher by these expensive bills, and she encourages new car buyers to look into what the insurance costs will be before choosing a vehicle.

While repairs are potentially more expensive, you might find discounts based on equipment that will make it less likely you’ll get into an accident. Cain concludes, “these new advances that we’ve got, these new traffic safety systems that are being added more and more to the vehicles? We’re totally in favor of them. They’re wonderful. They save lives, they prevent injuries. We just want motorists to be aware of the price it costs to repair these more expensive items.”

Advanced safety technology is becoming standard on some vehicles, so this trend of higher repair costs is likely to continue.