According to new research from AAA, vehicles equipped with advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) such as automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and others can cost twice as much to repair following a collision due to expensive sensors and their calibration requirements.
Even minor incidents that cause damage to this technology found behind windshields, bumpers and door mirrors can add up to $3,000 in extra repair costs, according to AAA. With one-in-three Americans unable to afford an unexpected repair bill of just $500, AAA “strongly urges consumers to perform an insurance-policy review and consider the potential repair costs of these advanced systems.”
“Advanced safety systems are much more common today, with many coming as standard equipment, even on base models,” said 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.”
Previous AAA testing has shown that ADAS offers many safety benefits. However, minor vehicle damage that affects these systems may 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. 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, which can be as much as three times the amount to replace the windshield on a car without the technology.
“It is not unusual for windshields to get chipped or cracked, especially for drivers who commute on a daily basis,” said Nielsen. “This may be an eyesore on a regular car, but when it falls in the line of sight of a camera or the driver, it becomes a safety issue that needs immediate attention by a facility qualified to work on these systems.”
Windshields aren’t the only area vulnerable to damage that could result in a costly repair or replacement. Vehicles with ADAS also may 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 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, AAA says. 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.