Automotive Research

Don't be spooked by higher repair bills for driver assistance tech

Camera sensors behind the windshield of a car

High-tech automotive safety systems can't help you avoid ghosts or vampires this Halloween, but they can watch out for potential crashes. 

Recent research from AAA finds that they can also substantially increase the cost of repairs, however, even from minor collisions. Automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warnings, and other advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) rely on sensors behind windshields, bumpers, and door mirrors, and those sensors can be frighteningly expensive to replace if damaged. Even bumping into something while backing out of the driveway can misalign the sensors and require pricey repairs. We look at how extra repair costs break down among the different ADAS, and how members can mitigate the risk of a surprisingly expensive repair bill.

How much ADAS can cost to fix

(These numbers are for costs beyond the normal bodywork required after a collision.)

A technician uses a screwdriver to pop a sensor cover off a car bumper

Radar & ultrasonic sensors

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 or rear ultrasonic sensors used with parking assist systems: $500–1,300

A car camera sensor built into the rear-view mirror system

Camera sensors

Front camera sensors used with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and lane keeping systems (does not include the cost of a replacement windshield): $850–1,900

Front, side mirror, or rear camera sensors used with around-view systems: $500–1,100

What you can do

Don't be scared away from driver assistance

Though repairs can be more expensive for vehicles with advanced driver assistance systems, previous AAA testing has shown that they offer many safety benefits. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that if every vehicle were equipped with such tech and properly used, 2.7 million crashes, 1.1 million injuries, and nearly 9,500 deaths each year could potentially be avoided. 

Know your safety systems' limitations

The easiest way to avoid pricey repairs is to not have a crash, which means understanding what your vehicle's advanced driver assistance systems are (and aren't) capable of. For example, many rear cross-traffic alert systems cannot reliably detect pedestrians, cyclists, or extraneous objects. Trusting high-tech systems to help only in situations they're designed for can help prevent a surprise collision.

Make sure your insurance is adequate

For the vehicles in AAA’s study, the repair bill for a minor front or rear collision on a car with advanced driver assistance systems can run as high as $5,300, more than double the repair cost for a vehicle without these systems. With 1 in 3 Americans unable to afford an unexpected repair bill of just $500, AAA recommends drivers review their insurance policy regularly to ensure they have enough coverage to repair damage and that deductibles are manageable to minimize out-of-pocket expenses. 

Get repairs from properly trained technicians

Simply replacing the sensors of driver assistance systems can be performed by most mechanics. However, to restore the system to proper operation it must be calibrated, which requires special training, tools, and information. AAA recommends that drivers verify whether a facility can properly repair and calibrate the damaged systems, and request proof of the work once complete.

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