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AAA: New crash prevention tech doubling fender-bender repair bills

AAA finds vehicle safety systems can add extra $3K to repair costs

New technologies that are supposed to help prevent crashes are actually hitting drivers harder in the wallet when they have fender-benders, according to research from AAA.

Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), like automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning and others, can cost twice as much to repair after a collision because of expensive sensors and calibration requirements, AAA found.

The AAA research showed even minor collisions that cause damage to the tech installed behind windshields, bumpers and door mirrors can add up to $3,000 in extra repair costs. 

With one-in-three Americans unable to afford an unexpected repair bill of just $500, AAA strongly urges consumers to review their insurance policies and consider the potential repair costs of the advanced systems. 

“Advanced safety features are now coming as standard equipment on many new vehicles, including base models,” said Matt Nasworthy, Florida Public Affairs Director for AAA. “It’s important that drivers understand what technology their vehicle has, how it performs and how much it could cost to repair should something happen.”

Previous AAA testing has shown that ADAS offers many safety benefits, but minor vehicle damage that affects these systems might be inevitable. 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 half times the repair cost for a vehicle without these systems.

Windshield damage is especially common, with more than 14.5 million replacements annually. Many safety systems rely on cameras positioned behind the windshield that require recalibration when the glass is replaced. 

Some automakers also 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, which can be as much as three times the amount to replace the windshield on a car without the technology.

Windshields are not the only area vulnerable to damage that could result in a costly repair or replacement. 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 easily be damaged when pulling out of a 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 ADAS 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

Once a driver finds that an ADAS has been damaged and requires repair, there are key factors to consider when selecting a repair facility. 

Simply replacing the sensors on driver assistance systems is relatively straightforward and can be performed by most mechanics. But 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 might 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.

For this study, AAA evaluated three top-selling models in popular categories. The vehicle models were selected from AAA’s 2018 Your Driving Costs study and include 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. To establish repair times, data was obtained from CCC Estimating (Certified Collateral Corporation), Mitchell1 ProDemand, Safelite, Inc. and Nissan, Ford and Toyota dealer repair facilities. Full methodology is available at newsroom.aaa.com.


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