The more technologically advanced our cars become, the pricier they are to repair in a collision

Far down on most consumers’ list of must-haves for a new car is affordable insurance.  Most people think insurance providers are going to set a comparable price no matter what we drive, and doubt if choosing a model with lower-than-average collision repair costs will make much of a difference. Besides, how are we even supposed to know how certain vehicles rate in terms of insurance risks? As driver-assistance technologies continue their invasion of our rides and new, lighter-weight body materials gain foothold — along with environmentally friendlier paint applications — repair costs rise, and of course, insurance companies pass that on to us.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) compiles and analyzes insurance pay-out data for hundreds of vehicles each year, and publishes that data online. It provides quick comparisons on which vehicles cost more to repair after a collision, or have higher comprehensive pay-outs, and so on. Here’s what you need to know about the surprising kinks in body repairs that drive up costs.

Aluminum all the things

While the move to increase aluminum in body construction, such as Ford’s pickup trucks, didn’t cause the mayhem some industry watchers predicted in terms of repair training and additional facility equipment and costs, it did almost eliminate low-cost repairs to vehicle doors. These are usually serviced in two methods as replacement parts — an outer panel called a skin, or a complete metal shell.

With lighter impacts that don’t twist the door’s frame, a new skin is usually a quick, easy, and cheap fix. Problem is, few, if any body-shops are capable of accurately bending the bottom of the skin to fit the door. So, shop estimators end up quoting complete (and much more expensive) door shells, and insurance companies pay for them when a claim is initiated and approved.

Do you sense a price bump?

New electronics have bumped up their fair share of collision repair costs. Do you drive a vehicle with both front and rear park-assist? Both bumper covers have multiple sensors, which don’t stand up well to even moderate impacts.  Some sensors can run over $150 each, and some models have four or five per bumper.

On the other hand, cross-path detection systems use even more expensive electronics, usually located in the rear quarter panels. It’s not unheard of for their sensors to come in at over $1,000 each. So, if insurance is paying, why worry? Many drivers have paid for at least one minor collision repair out of their own pockets, rather than see their premiums increase or due to carrying a high deductible. This practice may die out, though.

And then there’s the reprogramming. Often, when body electronics are replaced, the software needs to be recalibrated. Few independent body shops have access to this proprietary data, so a trip to the dealer has to be arranged. This isn’t a disaster for a well-managed shop, but it can cause delays.

If all else fails, consider a lower deductible

These days, it’s hard to avoid some of these increasing costs. It’ll become even more difficult as automakers strive to offer safer, more fuel-efficient products. You may want to consider opting for a lower deductible on your next insurance renewal, but whether it ends up costing you less in the long run depends on how well your driver assists and collision avoidance systems work. Of course, there’s always the public parking lot risk, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Credit to Driving.