AAA: New Safety Tech Effectively Doubles Cost of Minor Repairs

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Advanced safety tech may save your skin, but it certainly won’t spare your wallet in the event of a minor accident. According to research from the American Automobile Association, replacing and/or recalibrating the sensors needed to allow modern driving aids to function properly are severely inflating the cost of even minor repairs.

Unfortunate, considering features like blind spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking are cropping up as standard equipment on even the most affordable rides. Car ownership continues to get more expensive and there doesn’t seem to be much we can do about it — with one exception.

Once again, AAA wisely urges drivers to get a handle on their car’s technology before making a purchase and definitely before they crash it.

“Advanced safety systems are much more common today, with many coming as standard equipment, even on base models,” explained John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “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.”

If you’re asking what’s the worst that could happen, don’t worry. AAA gave some pretty brutal examples. A broken front radar sensor, necessary for automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, can tack on an additional $900 to $1,300 to your repair bill. Rear radar sensors used with blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems can tack on up to $2,050. Ultrasonic sensors used with parking assist systems can run you upwards of $1,300.

The list goes on. Busted parking cameras can set you back a grand apiece, but may set you back more if they’re used for lane monitoring, emergency braking, or adaptive cruise control. For the vehicles in AAA’s study, the repair bill for a minor front or rear collision on a car with a good amount of advanced driving aids would run as high as $5,300, almost two and half times the repair cost for a vehicle without these systems.

These aren’t the kind of repairs you want to cheap out on, either. Shoddy work or improper calibration can make these systems dangerously inaccurate, leaving someone who thought they could depend on the feature in danger of revisiting the repair shop after their adaptive cruise control fails and they rear-end someone on the highway.

The solution to all of this? Educate yourself. Figure out how the vehicle’s systems work and roughly how much repairs might set you back if something gets damaged. AAA also recommends drivers review their insurance policy routinely to ensure they have the appropriate coverage to cover the cost of repairs, and that deductibles are manageable to minimize out-of-pocket expenses.

[Image: AAA]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Mtunofun1 Mtunofun1 on Oct 26, 2018

    Insurance adjuster here...those prices are accurate. The parts themselves are cheap but the labor to recalibrate those features are expensive.

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Oct 27, 2018

    These things do prevent bang-ups, but there's no cure for stupid. The other day I backed out of my parking spot so quickly that I damn near hit a wall by the time the ultrasonic parking sensor noticed: it went from gray and silent to red and beeping without crossing through green and yellow first. They can protect you from being a bit inattentive, but not from being a total jackass. I felt pretty foolish. But then I read about the Tesla owner who used the "summon" feature to make his car self-drive itself back out of the garage and around a tight corner to him--without considering that there aren't sensors on the side of the car and so a tight turn backing out of the garage was inevitably going to crash the side of the car into the garage door opening. Unwarranted sense of superiority safely restored!

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  • Varezhka And why exactly was it that Tesla decided not to coat their stainless steel bodies, again? My old steel capped Volant skis still looks clean without a rust in sight thanks to that metal vapor coating. It's not exactly a new technology.
  • GIJOOOE “Sounds” about as exciting as driving a golf cart, fake gear shifts or not. I truly hope that Dodge and the other big American car makers pull their heads out of the electric clouds and continue to offer performance cars with big horsepower internal combustion engines that require some form of multi gear transmissions and high octane fuel, even if they have to make them in relatively small quantities and market them specifically to gearheads like me. I will resist the ev future for as long as I have breath in my lungs and an excellent credit score/big bank account. People like me, who have loved fast cars for as long as I can remember, need a car that has an engine that sounds properly pissed off when I hit the gas pedal and accelerate through the gears.
  • Kcflyer libs have been subsidizing college for decades. The predictable result is soaring cost of college and dramatic increases in useless degrees. Their solution? More subsidies of course. EV policy will follow the same failed logic. Because it's not like it's their money. Not saying the republicans are any better, they talk a good game but spend like drunken sailors to buy votes just like the libs. The sole function of the U.S. government is to take money from people who earn it and give it away to people who didn't.
  • CecilSaxon Sounds about as smart as VW's "SoundAktor"