Since there were cars, there have been collisions. And though vehicles have evolved and become safer for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians alike, collisions still happen. Repair costs have steadily increased over the years. Costs which can often be attributed to an increase in safety features, including sensors, cameras, self-steering, braking, and air bags found left, right, and centre.
To get a better understanding of why modern vehicles with enhanced safety features may come with an increase in repair costs, we’ve taken a look at the different parts of a vehicle from a technological and material standpoint.
From taillights to headlights, automakers have started using LED instead of conventional bulbs. LEDs light up faster and brighter, allowing the driver to see farther down the road and while also giving those behind them more time to stop with when braking. Though this switch was made with safety in mind, to help in reduce the number of collisions, the cost to replace LEDs is higher than that of the ol’ fashioned light bulb.
Designed to be esthetically pleasing, looking at a bumper on a newer car, you might think it looks exactly the same as one from five years ago, however it’s what’s behind the cover that’s changed. Today’s bumpers are packed full of technology, such as cameras, radar lasers, and proximity and airbag sensors, which are easily damaged in both minor and major collisions. In the past, if you damaged your front or rear bumper it would simply need to be removed, repaired and then reinstalled. Now, depending on the safety items behind it, many can no longer be repaired (or painted over) since it could interfere with how the sensors function. This means you may need to replace the entire bumper, along with new sensors, adaptive cruise control radar, turn signals, cameras, and the list goes on – which can add up in cost, in addition to taking longer to repair.
Technology in cars is either used to make things safer or more convenient, and when it comes to windshields, the most recent changes we’ve seen are the latter. Windshields only being a piece of protective glass are a thing of the past, since they can now be equipped with:
- sensors that detect rain and automatically turn on your wipers,
- light sensors that identify when the sun goes down to turn your lights on; and
- lane departure warning systems.
Needless-to-say, whether it’s a crack or a shatter, replacing your windshield can cost a pretty a penny.
Modern airbags, compared to their older counterparts, are able to detect differences in the weight of passengers. In the event they are deployed and need to be replaced, the technician or mechanic working on your vehicle will also need to replace the sensors within your seats.
Advances in technology aside, the materials used to make cars have also changed over the years. It used to be that automakers used heavy sheet metal when manufacturing vehicles. In recent years, in an attempt to make cars safer, lighter, and more fuel-efficient, manufacturers have switched to aluminum, high strength steel and carbon fiber. In the event of a collision, a vehicle made with these materials will require special equipment to repair and technicians with specialized training, resulting in longer repair times. This will result in an increase in labour costs, in addition to the material costs.
Once the body repairs are complete, there’s still one final step and a costly one at that – calibration. This step varies depending on the make, model, and manufacturer of the vehicle, and it is either done manually by a mechanic or through computer software with a technician. This can be one of the most important parts of the repair process, given how much drivers rely on their various safety systems. For example, if your adaptive cruise control is not properly calibrated and you rely heavily on that function, you could risk rear-ending another vehicle or worse!
Perfecting these systems is vital for the safety of the driver and their passengers but it makes repairs more time consuming and expensive.
The decision of whether or not to replace or repair a part is now significantly more complex due to these advancements, compared to years prior. And though the associated costs can be a point of frustration for some car owners, remember that your modern vehicle is equipped with technology that is keeping you and your most precious cargo safer than ever before. A cost that remains priceless.