Sophisticated electronic systems causing car repair costs to escalate

Car bumper repair in garage.
Replacing in-built sensors and adding a ceramic protection coating could add hundreds to the repair bill. Photo credit: Getty.

Advancements in electronic safety features might make cars safer, but they are causing repair costs to escalate, an insurer says.

According to AA Insurance, a car, house and contents insurer, use of inbuilt electronics in newer model cars are making damage more expensive to get fixed, including bumpers and windscreens.

People buying cars should consider this in their budget, as The Insurance Council confirms that the value, make and model of the vehicle affect the cost to insure it.

AA Insurance head of product Aaron Dickinson, said that costs to repair modern cars can be a lot higher than people expect. Due to use of specialised paint, and blind-spot and parking sensors, bumper repair costs had gone up. In one example, the cost to repair similar damage on the same make of car was $1597 more.

"A Mazda CX-5 2012 model had a damaged bumper repaired as new in 2012, with a total repair cost of $1,852. 

"A newer Mazda CX-9 2017 model underwent repairs for similar damage in 2018, reaching a total repair cost of $3,449," Dickinson said.

Newer model cars have Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) technology. For example, lane departure warning and blind-spot monitoring features use sensors and cameras.  A quote of around $1500 to repair a windscreen wasn't unusual. 

"A basic windscreen replacement sits in the $300 to $400 price-range, but due to ADAS technology, can incur significant costs for calibration," Dickinson added.

"Over the last year, ADAS calibrations when replacing windscreens have almost doubled [and] we expect this to be a common repair cost as time goes on."

Insurance Council of New Zealand chief executive, Tim Grafton said that Insurance premiums (costs) are calculated based on "risk factors" including the driver's age, claims history and the vehicle's value, make and model. 

"For some vehicle makes and models, increased repair costs have contributed to increased premium costs...however, claims frequency is still the major factor for insurance premium increase[s]," Grafton said.

Spokesperson for Trade Me Motors Alan Clark, said that last month, the Toyota Hilux had the most online searches, followed by the Ford Ranger. Demand was strongest for "tried and true models" known for reliability.  

"In May, we saw 785,000 searches for Toyota Hilux, making it one of the top 10 most popular items on the site. The Ford Ranger is the second most popular vehicle, with 586,000 hits [and] the Toyota Landcruiser comes in third place with 409,000 hits."

After COVID-19 lockdown ending on April 27, online searches for electric vehicles increased by 51 percent. The most popular price-bracket was $5,000 to $10,000, indicating that price was still a major factor in choosing what make and model to buy.

As use of electronic systems is driving up repair costs, AA Insurance suggests that car-buyers do their research, and check they can afford insurance and maintenance costs.

"Research the model before deciding on the level of cover for your car insurance  and what additional benefits, such as excess-free glass cover, you may want to include," Dickinson said.