While it will be a while before fully autonomous vehicles are driving on our roads, many new vehicles already have autonomous features, especially when it comes to premium vehicles.

For instance, many vehicles have semi-autonomous functionality called advanced driver assistance systems or ADAS. These include adaptive cruise control, which automatically corrects the car depending on traffic conditions, braking on the driver’s behalf and lane change assist. While the driver is still in control, the car can adapt to what’s happening on the road to reduce the risk of accidents. For instance, if you don’t see someone step in front of the vehicle, some car makes will brake for you.

So it’s critical to understand how this may affect your insurance policy and claims experience in the future. 

1. You may need a specialist repairer come claim time


You may be used to taking your car to the local insurer-approved mechanic come claim time. But the repair process can be quite different for newer vehicles given their specialist parts. It’s entirely possible the car may need to be repaired by more than one repairer, for instance a mechanic and a specialist car electrician. 

2. The cost of repairs is more expensive and this impacts premiums

Newer cars are more complex than older cars, which makes the repair process more intricate, which adds to the cost. This is reflected in more expensive premiums. Factor that in when you’re out shopping for a new car. While more basic models are likely to have fewer features and be easier and less costly to repair, luxury vehicles and those with more add-ones will be more expensive. 

“It used to cost about $400 to repair the windscreen of an entry level model. But it can now cost up to $2,000 or more to repair a broken windscreen given their ADAS sensors have to be reprogrammed after an accident,” says Chris Quick, motor underwriting manager of specialist prestige vehicle underwriting agency Dawes.

“Repair process can be quite different for newer vehicles given their specialist parts”

“Ideally, the vehicle also needs to go back to the dealership that sold the vehicle or a specialist repairer to do the repair,” he adds.

3. Repairs take longer to complete 

A more complex repair process means it takes longer to fix cars, so factor that in when you’re buying your next car. 

Where once your car may be out of action for a week or two, it’s now likely to be in the shop for up to a month, especially if you buy a car with all the bells and whistles.

4. Don’t let semi-autonomous features give you a false sense of security

Many cars now have advanced driver assistance systems such as lane change assist. But some drivers are becoming over-reliant on these systems, which is resulting in more accidents.

“Even a minor accident to the front or bumper bar of a prestige car can now mean a claim of upwards of $15,000,” warns Quick.

“So gone are the days of a $3,000 claim after your car is hit in the rear,” he adds.

5. Premium features will one day be standard

Don’t worry too much if you’re hankering after the latest model car and want your next vehicle to have all the latest semi-autonomous features. 

While attributes like self-braking may be expensive additions now, it’s likely they will become regular in a short time.

“Many top-of-the-range features become standard fast. Car manufacturers are really pushing the envelope with newer models, but they filter down pretty quickly. Years ago cruise control was an add-on, but now most cars have it,” says Quick.

No matter which vehicle model you choose, it’s important to read the fine print on your insurance policy’s product disclosure statement. That way, when it comes time to claim on your policy, you’ll have a good understanding of everything that’s covered.

Important note: you should consider the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) in deciding whether to buy (or continue to hold) this insurance and also whether this insurance is appropriate for you. The PDS can be obtained from Dawes Underwriting Australia Pty Ltd (ACN 050 289 506, AR no. 342982). Various insurers issue this insurance. Policies differ between insurers. Deductibles/excesses, exclusions and limits apply.

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