Even though we don’t have the flying cars that many TV shows and movies predicted we would, in-car technology has improved significantly in the past decade. From back-up cameras to infotainment systems, auto technology has been enhanced to improve your safety, comfort, and access to information on the go.
While these features are nice to have, they also need to be cared for, and if one of these parts stops working properly, it can be costly to fix. Avoid the appearance of expensive repair bills in your blind spot by learning how to shield yourself now.
The high cost of high tech
Bluetooth and lane assist and dashboard touchscreens … oh my! If you’re thinking about buying a car, top-of-the-line technology might be one of the most attractive perks of upgrading. You’ll pay for it though, as new cars sell for about $37,000 on average.
If buying new, you should have no problem finding a car for $15,000 to $25,000 that easily makes your daily commute while still meeting your basic tech needs. No need to opt for the more expensive full-size SUV or high-end luxury vehicle instead of a more reasonable model.
If you’re on a tighter budget, a used vehicle could land you the features you want, but at a more affordable price point. A pre-owned car sells for an average price of $20,835. Bluetooth is available in almost 80% and backup cameras in nearly 50% of 2015 model year vehicles.
New or used, your ride might need repairs at some point. A blown engine or bad transmission can keep you off the road entirely, but technology on the fritz can make your commute much more frustrating and less safe.
Whether you buy new or used, the technology in your vehicle can be a major factor when repair bills come around. Overall, new car prices are up about 29% in the last decade with new technology as a driving force of the increase. And as car costs balloon, so do repair fees. That extra tech — like advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) — can cost you an additional $3,000 in repair bills, according to AAA.
Based on Ally data, these are five common car tech troubles and their average repair costs:
These repair bills aren’t exactly easy to cover. Our recent survey found Americans spent nearly $2,000 on vehicle repairs and maintenance in the last five years.
According to a report by the Federal Reserve, 27% of Americans say, if faced with an unexpected $400 expense, they’d need to borrow money or sell something to pay for it. And 12% say they wouldn’t be able to handle the expense at all.
Tips to minimize the (financial) damage
1. Know what you’re buying.
The best way to ward off expensive repairs is preventative maintenance, but that can be tricky when it comes to things like back-up cameras and low tire pressure sensors, for example. After all, you can’t exactly schedule a tune-up for your infotainment system.
Instead, brush up on reviews and reliability reports associated with the electronics in your car, as some can be better than others. (Both Consumer Reports and J.D. Power are good resources to consult.) You might be tempted to snag the newest model, but take note: It can take a bit of time for car manufacturers to iron out all the bugs that might come with high-tech systems.
Also, get a feel for the tech you need and don’t need. Some drivers say they’ve disabled ADAS tech features like lane-keeping and centering systems because they find the alerts annoying or bothersome. (Apparently, not everyone enjoys an automated back-seat driver.)
2. Know what is covered — and consider coverage for what isn’t.
New vehicles typically come with a bumper-to-bumper warranty, often covering your car for 36,000 miles or three years.
But not all warranties are the same (or cover everything you’d expect them to). For instance, a powertrain warranty typically covers the engine, transmission, and driveshaft. Anything outside of that — like all those high-tech electronics — and you’re on the hook for repair bills if something goes wrong.
You can better protect yourself from unexpected expenses like these by signing up for a vehicle service contract (VSC). VSC protection extends beyond your manufacturer’s warranty and is available for both new and used cars. You can add a VSC on top of your existing warranty or sign up after your car’s warranty runs out. Either way, a vehicle service contract can reduce how much you owe when the mechanic — or the IT tech — comes calling.
3. Start an emergency fund.
Vehicles aren’t predictable, and neither is life. An emergency fund is beneficial for surprise car issues and so much more, yet only 41% of Americans report having one.
Aim to build a rainy day fund that contains at least $1,000. If you’re starting from scratch, set aside $10, $25, or (if you can) $100 a month, so you’ll be better prepared for an unexpected car repair bill. And consider putting your emergency funds in an Ally Bank Online Savings Account, where it can earn a competitive interest rate, possibly growing your rainy day fund even more.
Technology, much like your car, is great until it doesn’t work. Making thoughtful vehicle purchases and being prepared for any potential repair expenses can mean you’re ready in case life’s little surprises strike your back-up camera.