Why is My Fender-Bender So Expensive? The Give and Take of Car Technology

January 3, 2019

Technology continues to transform the comfort and convenience of automobiles as manufacturers strive to bring the latest and greatest features to consumers. Essentially, cars are now computers, made with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) designed to keep drivers safer and better equipped to manage the many distractions on the road.

With this new technology comes an increase in repair work, even in minor accidents. According to a study by AAA, an ADAS can add up to $3,000 to repairs for a fender-bender. A front collision? Up to $5,300. Let us explain why this is the case and, more importantly, why it’s worth the extra money to have your ADAS repaired completely and correctly after an accident. 

What is an ADAS?
ADAS is somewhat of a catch-all to include any combination of features and systems—or, as the Chicago Tribune described, “those dings, zings and rings”—that assist the driver and minimize human error, such as:

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Automatic parking
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Blind spot monitor
  • Collision avoidance
  • Intersection assistant
  • Lane assist
  • Night vision
  • Rain sensor

These are just a few of the most common ADAS features. An ADAS can have many more components depending on the make and model of the vehicle. 

A New Dimension to Auto Repair
The challenge with an ADAS from a repair perspective is that it brings a vast and variable range of considerations. Many manufacturers are now requiring repair shops to conduct a computer scan on newer models involved in accidents. In turn, the science of collision repair becomes the computer science of collision repair, with every technological feature needing special attention. It’s no longer just fixing, but also programming.

The Rising Costs of Fender-Benders
The repair costs in AAA’s study are undeniably alarming: three times more (or $1,500) for a windshield with a camera, up to $1,300 for front radar sensors, as much as $2,050 for rear radar sensors…

“Advanced safety systems are much more common today, with many coming as standard equipment even on base models,” Beth Mosher, a director of public affairs for AAA, said in a statement. “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.”

Behind these high costs are time, resources, materials, training and skilled technicians to meet manufacturers’ specifications for recalibrating driver-assist systems. For example, Compact Auto Body now keeps an entire portion of its shops dedicated to marking the floor with a vehicle’s tech specifications. We have stands equipped with calibration coding—different for each model—and a complex series of measurements we must take in order to work on an ADAS.

The Risks of Improper Repair
A faulty ADAS can be a silent but severe liability. You will still be able to drive the vehicle, but at a high risk. For starters, we have heard stories of cheap ADAS repairs coming back to haunt people after they have sold their vehicle, the paper trail having led the new owner to file a lawsuit against the previous owner. Worse yet, there have been cases of drivers steering off the road because of erroneous technology assistance.

Make the Right Call
If you are in an accident and your vehicle is equipped with an ADAS, call the manufacturer directly. Insurers will often look to cut corners on repairs, leaving you with no way of knowing whether your car’s technology is tuned up. You can also contact Compact Auto Body, as we are certified by all of the major manufacturers and committed to making repairs to their exact specifications. Call 732-583-6566 for our Matawan, N.J. location or 732-671-1331 for our Middletown, N.J. location. See shop hours here.

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