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Susan Tompor: High-tech features on new cars drive up auto insurance rates

Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Home and Consumer News

DETROIT -- The gee-whiz gadgets on new cars -- the backup cameras, the large touch screen controls, the blind-spot monitoring -- make us all feel a little safer about navigating the roads.

But high-tech, advanced safety features come at a fairly steep price, so they're driving up car insurance rates, too.

"If they're damaged, they're much more expensive to repair," said James Lynch, chief actuary for the Insurance Information Institute.

"You can't just go to a shop and pick up a part that you can jerry-rig on."

Fixing a bumper isn't the same old job. Repairing a bumper on an entry-level luxury car, for example, can cost about $3,550 for a 2016 model for parts and labor, compared with about $1,845 for a 2014 model, according to data from Liberty Mutual Insurance.

Why? The 2016 model has a distance sensor; the 2014 model does not. Parts are 130 percent higher and labor is 18 percent higher.

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"Increasingly, simple, small repairs can now be much more costly and complex to do," said Maxime Rieman, product manager for insurance at ValuePenguin.com, a personal finance research firm with a website that can help consumers select insurance plans.

Consumers often don't think about the cost of insurance when they're shopping around for a new car -- or a newer used car, such as one of the many 2015 models that will come off lease in 2018. But they should plan for higher insurance expenses relating to some advanced safety features and other factors.

"While it's improving safety, it's also increasing premiums on policies," said Todd Kozikowski, co-fournder and chief revenue officer for Clearsurance, a crowdsourced review and ratings tool for insurance.

Just take a quick glance at where some sensors are placed. They're located on bumpers and side mirrors, spots that are easily hit -- either in a significant accident or some minor fender benders.

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