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High-Tech Car Features Mean High Car Costs

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Cara Pace
July 16, 2019

Features that were once only offered on “luxury” vehicles just a few years ago are now standard on many cars these days. While many of the new car technologies are for convenience, most of them are to keep you from getting into a crash. 

Automatic emergency braking. Forward collision warning. Blind spot monitoring. Auto dimming mirrors. Car cameras. Lane keeping assistance.

These high-tech car features are helpful in making us more aware drivers, but they come at a cost. Not only do they add to the price of the car, but they drive up car repair costs and insurance premiums. 

>>RELATED: How much insurance coverage do you need?

Car tech is expensive

One of the biggest benefits of these sophisticated car features is to help drivers avoid getting into a crash. But we all know that accidents happen. As car parts become more complex, their cost to repair does as well. 

A recent AAA study found the average car repair bill runs $500 to $600. For example, replacing a windshield on a car that has a camera equipped behind the glass can cost as much as $1,500 - nearly three times the amount to replace a windshield without the technology. 

The average vehicle has between 60-100 sensors on board. AAA took a look at the average costs to repair these sensors as well as cameras. 

  • Front radar sensors used with automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control systems: $900-$1,300
  • Rear radar sensors used with blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert systems: $850-$2,050
  • Front camera sensors used with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane keeping systems: $850-$1,900
  • Front, side mirror or rear camera sensors used with around-view systems: $500-$1,100
  • Front or rear ultrasonic sensors used with parking assist systems: $500-$1,300
  • Windshield replacement for vehicles equipped with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning systems: $1,200-$1,650

Source: AAA

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Cost of car ownership on the rise

In addition to the average cost of car repairs increasing, consumers are dealing with rising insurance premiums. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ motor vehicle insurance index reports that from 2006 to 2016, the price of a new car, car maintenance and repairs, and car insurance have all increased.

One reason for the rise in car insurance is the high price of car repairs. Even a minor fender bender can result in thousands of dollars worth of repairs. A broken headlight, for instance, might have cost just a couple of hundred dollars a few years ago. But today, many headlights require LED, xenon or other specialized bulbs, and the cost to replace each one can reach the thousands. And insurers are passing these costs to consumers. 

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently surveyed the cost of a single original end manufacturer (OEM) headlight. The data found that replacing just one front headlight can cost more than $1,000. Meanwhile, the typical insurance deductible many consumers carry is $500.

Expensive car parts lead to car thefts

Car thieves aren’t just looking for money and your valuables left in the car. Car thefts have been on the decline year over year since 2004, according to data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). 

But with car parts increasing in price, cars continue to be stolen only to be broken down and sold for its parts. 

Tips to keep your car costs down

Features like back-up cameras used to be limited to “luxury” vehicles, but now are often standard on all newer models. If you’re looking to trim your car costs, keep these tips in mind. 

Overall cost of ownership. If you’re looking to buy a new car, be sure to consider the overall cost of ownership, including repairs. Check with your insurance company for an estimate of how your premiums may change. 

>>RELATED: This is why your auto insurance is so expensive

Compare insurance. Speaking of insurance, compare auto insurance from multiple companies. Every insurance company has a unique formula to determine rates, so you may find a better deal by switching. What’s more, you may find better coverage that suits you. For instance, a new policy may not only be lower but also include car rental coverage. And remember, you can switch insurance at any time - you don’t have to wait until your policy expires. 

Regular maintenance. Be sure to stay up-to-date on your car’s maintenance schedule. No matter how old your car is, keeping it in good condition is important. Routine oil changes and tire rotations are just a couple of basic maintenance moves. Be sure you have a mechanic you trust as well, whether you choose to go to your local car dealership or to Henry down the road. 

Save for emergencies. Plan for unexpected expenses by growing your savings. You may not meet your deductible if you’re in an accident, so having cash on hand is crucial to avoid going into debt.