AAA Study: Driver-Assist Tech Doubles Repair Bills for Minor Collisions

Damage to hardware can lead to expensive repair bills, AAA says.

byStephen Edelstein|
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Current driver-assist systems are meant to prevent auto crashes. However, if a crash does occur, it can jack up repair bills, according to a new AAA study. Replacing components related to driver-assist technology can add up to $3,000 to repair bills, or about double what similar repairs on lower-tech vehicles typically cost, reported AAA.

The sensors and other hardware that enable driver-assist features are both expensive to replace and vulnerable to damage in even minor collisions, AAA said. For example, systems like Subaru's EyeSight and Nissan's ProPilot Assist rely on cameras behind the windshield to look or obstacles or read lane markings. Replacing a windshield on a vehicle equipped with these cameras typically costs approximately $1,500, or three times as much as replacing a windshield on a car without the technology, AAA stated.

Other technology features place cameras or radar sensors in vulnerable positions, usually in bumpers, grilles, or mirrors. These are among the parts of a vehicle most likely to get damaged in even a minor collision. Mirrors, for example, can be damaged when simply pulling out of a garage. Once a part is broken, replacing it can be expensive.

Replacing front radar sensors used for autonomous emergency braking tech averages $900 to $1,300, according to AAA. Replacing rear radar sensors, used for blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, costs $850 to $2,050. Some cars now have multiple cameras that enable a 360-degree view around the vehicle. That helps make parking easier, but the cameras can cost $500 to $1,100 to replace. The ultrasonic sensors used for park-assist systems can cost $500 to $1,300 to replace, AAA said.

The study was based on three unnamed models. The automotive membership organization described the vehicles as a "small sport utility vehicle, a medium sedan, and a full-size pickup truck" that are top sellers in their respective classes. Repair costs were calculated using list prices for original equipment manufacturer or OEM replacement parts, and labor-cost data from National Auto Body Research and AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities.

AAA believes driver-assist systems can improve safety, but calls for better driver education. Drivers not only need to know the capabilities and limitations of these systems, but also the potential repair costs should a crash occur. The group is urging drivers to review their insurance policies to ensure they have enough coverage for higher repair costs.

This issue will likely become more prevalent as automakers add more tech features to cars. There are more expensive lidar sensors being added to some new vehicles to enable more sophisticated driver aids, and automakers like Audi are pushing to replace exterior mirrors with cameras. This new tech could provide significant benefits, but it will also increase the cost of car ownership.

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