The Jetsons envisioned us flying to work each day. Back to the Future made the case that we would one day drive through time. Elon Musk sent his car into space. Since the advent of automobiles, people have been speculating, both in real life and in fiction, where cars might take us next and how technology might improve our commutes.
Well, to some extent, the future is already here.
Sure, we may not be flying to work or through time (yet), but today’s cars are outfitted with tools and gadgets that early car makers never could have imagined. Car tech can help you brake, help you steer, help you see, even help you check your stocks or catch up on social media on your way home from work.
In the midst of all the futuristic thinking and technological advances, though, there has been one thing long left out of the reality. Not only are gadget-filled cars more expensive than vehicles without all those extra bells and whistles, but, due to the increased chance for distraction, they come with higher insurance rates too. So, while some tech advances in vehicles, such as those designed to enhance safety or reduce fuel consumption, can reduce your expenses, others, like built-in computer systems, can jack your expenses beyond the car payment itself.
First, the money savers.
People have different reasons for driving battery-powered vehicles. For many, it’s the environmentally-friendly choice. For others, saving money on fuel costs is a major motivator. Electric vehicles are more expensive than comparable gas-powered vehicles, though, which means, if you’re looking into an electric to save money, you’ll need to do the math.
The more you drive on a daily basis, the more money you’re likely to save with an electric vehicle. If you work at an office, it may not be worth paying the higher price for electric, because your fuel expenses may never counteract the extra few grand you spend up front. If you work as a realtor, insurance agent, or delivery person who spends much of the day on the road, however, you’re likely to see some savings.
Any feature that increases the safety of your vehicle can save you money on car insurance. Airbags, for instance, are considered passive restraint systems, and will get you a big discount when it comes to your car insurance when compared with seatbelts alone. Likewise, technological features that enhance the safety of passengers, or reduce the risk of accidents or theft, such as electronic stability control and audible security alarms, can reduce car insurance price quotes.
Though studies show that the majority of newer safety technologies, like lane departure warning and back-up cameras, don’t actually reduce car insurance rates, at least they don’t increase them, which is more than can be said for other modern car features.
Entertainment and Non-Safety Tech Features
It can be nice to have access to everything on your smartphone while you’re in the car. You can browse through your tunes, chill with a podcast, catch up on Facebook, send those dozens of emails you’ve been meaning to catch up on. It all sounds pretty impressive and convenient, until you realize that, if you shouldn’t be doing it on your phone while you drive, you probably shouldn’t be doing it on your car’s compatible computer system either.
Ever since smart phones have exploded in popularity, distracted driving accidents have been on the rise. In nearly one in four auto accidents, the driver was using a mobile phone within one minute of the crash. And as far as insurance companies are concerned, putting those same apps people have on their smartphones onto the dashes of their cars isn’t going to improve the distracted driving situation.
Computers on the Road
It’s not just the potential for new tech features to distract that is spiking consumer insurance rates, though. The other factor is the design of the car itself. A side mirror, for instance, used to be just that, a side mirror. If someone hit it with their car door in a parking lot or side-swiped your vehicle on the street and ripped the mirror off, it could be replaced.
It still can, of course. Only now that mirror is likely to have a sensor, which helps with lane-assist and parking-assist technologies. If the mirror gets ripped off, both the mirror and the sensor need replaced, often at twice the cost. This means more risk for the insurance company. If you get into an accident, the repairs are likely to be considerably more in a teched-out car, which increases insurance rates across the board.
While just saying no to these new technologies seems the simplest way to save a buck both at the dealer and on car insurance, it isn’t quite that simple. Many of these tech features, especially the safety features, which increase car insurance rates are becoming standard on more and more vehicles. So, along with all the other factors insurance companies take into account when determining car insurance rates, you have to contend with newfangled tech you may not need or use and how much extra cash its going to take out of your pocket each month.