Are New High-Tech Car Safety Features Worth Their Price?

Driving a car is one of the most dangerous activities you’re likely to do in a given day. Even if you’re a safe, skilled driver, others on the road may not be – and accident can happen from the simplest of mistakes.

But that’s slowly beginning to change. These days, new vehicles are packed with cutting-edge technologies meant to make driving safer. Technologies once thought impossible, like backup cameras or blind spot monitoring, are becoming the new standard for all cars. Now, your car can work to protect you while you keep your eyes on the road.

Unfortunately, as exciting as all this shiny new safety tech is, it comes at a cost. Buy a new car with all the latest safety features, and you could quickly find yourself paying far more than you expected. So, are these new safety systems really worth the sticker shock?

Which Safety Features Drive Up New Car Prices?

The list of available advanced safety features is exceedingly long. Buy a new car and it could come with anything from basic driver assistance to full-fledged autonomous driving. Each manufacturer has its own host of packages and systems, and different options come standard at every automaker. However, many of the newest innovations in driving safety must be purchased with special trim packages or as add-on accessories.

It can be confusing to navigate if you aren’t familiar with the different options. Not all safety technology is expensive – but some can add thousands of dollars to the cost of your new car. According to Jalopnik, adding just two of the latest safety tech features can cost a minimum of $1,500. Here are a handful of the most common features that cost drivers more:

  • Blind-Spot Monitoring: This safety system monitors your vehicle’s blind spots and provides a visual or audible alert when another car is detected.
  • Automatic Emergency Braking: Your car will automatically apply the brakes when necessary to avoid an imminent collision.
  • Forward or Rear Collision Warning: Using radar or LiDAR along with cameras, these systems warn you of impending front- or rear-end collisions with vehicles or objects.
  • Rear Cross-Traffic Alert: Similar to blind-spot monitoring, radar alerts you to vehicles that may be about to cross your path while your vehicle is in reverse.
  • Lane-Departure Warning: This safety tech triggers visual, audible or haptic alerts when sensors detect that you’re about to cross into another lane, ensuring you don’t drift dangerously out of your lane.
  • Lane-Keeping Assist: Rather than simply alerting you when your vehicle is about to leave its lane, this system automatically applies subtle steering or braking adjustments to keep you within your lane.
  • Adaptive Cruise Control: While traditional cruise control simply maintains a set speed, adaptive cruise control uses an array of sensors and cameras to automatically adjust your traveling speed to maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and surrounding traffic.

Standard vs. Optional Safety Features

How do you make sure you aren’t paying more for any of these safety features? You need to know which come standard and which are considered optional add-ons.

While some models include a bevy of safety technologies as standard, most automakers restrict certain features to expensive, high-end trim levels only. You’ll often have to select these safety features as optional add-ons, which will add to the sticker price of your vehicle.

Even more confusingly, these technologies are often bundled together into packages – and these special packages may or may not include all of the features you want. To ensure you’re making the right decision, make a list prioritizing the features you most want to have and compare their availability on various models. A vehicle with a higher sticker price may ultimately be a better value if it includes the standard safety features you want.

Is High-Tech Safety Worth Its Cost?

With so many systems, terms, and buzzwords, it’s tricky to sort through which technologies are actually helpful and which are just marketing hype. The majority of these systems come with a hefty price tag, so you need to do a bit of research to learn which are worth their cost and which are merely cool features.

You want to make sure the safety features you’re considering are effective. Have they been tested to prove they really can make driving safer?

For example, collision warning and automatic braking systems are unequivocally worth the investment. Though they’ve only been around for a short time, there’s plenty of data to suggest that these systems make your car safer. CNBC reports that a collision warning or automatic braking system reduces accidents by 11% and slashes accident-related injuries by 21%. If these two safety innovations cost you a little more, they’re well worth their ability to prevent accidents and deadly injuries.

The same can be said of blind-spot monitoring. Particularly helpful if you frequently drive on the highway, blind spot monitoring can prevent a deadly crash. According to the IIHS, vehicles equipped with blind-spot monitoring systems have 14% lower rate of crashing while attempting to change lanes; this safety feature also drops the rate of crashes involving injuries by 23%.

Of course, some of the most innovative safety features aren’t as valuable. Adaptive cruise control isn’t as reliable, according to research published in the Accident Analysis & Prevention Journal – there’s no sound evidence that proves this new cruise control can prevent accidents.

The progression of technology in vehicles has been astounding in recent years, and as a result, today’s cars are safer and smarter than ever before. Still, not every piece of safety tech is as smart as it seems, and not every driver will find them worth the cost. You can make a better, more informed decision when it comes time to choose the safety technologies you need in your new car. And if you do your research before you shop, you can save yourself thousands of extra dollars.

riopatuca / Shutterstock
riopatuca / Shutterstock