All That New Safety Tech in Cars Makes for Nightmarishly High Repair Bills

Illustration for article titled All That New Safety Tech in Cars Makes for Nightmarishly High Repair Bills
Photo: AAA

In keeping with an ongoing theme in our lives, we have the technology to fix things, but it’s all way too expensive. And we’re not just talking about you. Cars that have all those new and advanced safety features are also really, really expensive to fix if they get into a collision. Even if it’s a minor one.

Yes, modern cars come with a whole suite of safety and driver assistance tech (lane-keeping assists, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, etc.), but a lot of the sensors are found in places that are easily damaged, like the windshields, bumpers and wing mirrors.

They can easily tack on an additional $3,000 in repair costs to what would otherwise be a small fix, reports AAA in a new study. And since it also reports that a third of Americans can’t afford a surprise $500 repair bill, things don’t look too good for drivers.

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Windshields are especially costly to replace, the study found. Windshield damage by itself is common enough, but now when a car needs to replace the glass, safety systems that are behind the windshield need to be recalibrated. To top it off, some carmakers also require you to use OEM glass that meets the standards of optical clarity.

Typical ranges of expenses after a crash are as follows:

  • 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

Here’s what AAA recommends you do if something on your car gets damaged:

Simply replacing the sensors of driver assistance systems is relatively straightforward and can be performed by most mechanics. However, to restore the system to proper operation 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 system(s), and request proof of the work once complete.

As technology continues to evolve, drivers need to be better educated and 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.

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It sucks because the tech is there to help make driving safer for us, but it bites us in our wallets, too. There’s really no escaping it either, as more and more cars come standard with these features. That’s why a minor “left front corner hit” on this Kia rang up to a $34,000 repair bill.

It’s hell, but it’s also our new reality.

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.

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DISCUSSION

It’s interesting. When I was a kid, TV repair shops were a thing. Your TV would die, and dad would lug the monster into a shop full of broken TVs. The guy would tell you it would take a week or two to fix and you had to get by on the ancient black and white from the attic until he was done.

Now, if the TV has a problem you throw it in the trash and go to Best Buy.

It seems cars are going that way. They work great and need nothing... until the don’t work. Then you get a new one.

There’s only one big difference. With TVs, a repair on an old TV would cost $200 back in the 70s. Now, a brand new TV that is bigger, HD and is nicer than every way than the 10 year old one that just croaked... is $200. 9 times out of 10, I replace TVs because I was walking through a store and saw a nicer TV than what I had for something like $300 and thought “why not?”

Cars... I can’t imagine going to a dealer seeing a sales price on the side of a car and thinking “you know what, why not?”   My parents did that during the 70s and 80s, but I can’t imagine doing that today.