The National Transportation Safety Board has urged automakers to make forward car collision avoidance system — automatic braking when an upcoming object is detected — standard on all vehicles sold in the United States. Last year, the safety agency released a 60-page report arguing that manufacturers should have to shoulder the cost, too.
“You don’t pay extra for your seat belt,” said then-chairman Christopher Hart, “and you shouldn’t have to pay extra for technology that can help prevent a collision altogether.” Currently, these and other important safety features are optional or are standard only on high-end vehicles.
Manufacturers argued that the choice of safety equipment should be left up to the consumer, even though the NTSB says that collision avoidance systems might save 1,700 and 500,000 injuries a year.
I’m not in the market for a new, high-end vehicle. Can I still have the safety features?
The good news is yes, you can. According to a Consumer Reports automotive engineer interviewed by Claims Journal, a good package of safety features is available on the aftermarket for around $500. That package offers a forward collision warning system (not automatic braking), a backup camera and a blind spot monitoring system.
If you’re in the market for a new car but at a more average price, Toyota is offering a forward collision warning system and a lane departure warning system as optional features totaling $300 on some cars.
Going with a manufacturer’s optional equipment may give you the best chance that the system will be of high quality and eligible for dealer service. Aftermarket systems do vary in quality, so it’s important to read reviews or ask someone you trust, like a mechanic.
Still, the aftermarket cost can be far, far less than installation at the dealer. For example, the engineer noted that a 2017 Altima SL will run you about $28,570 and you’d still need to add $3,000 in options to get the best systems. A 2015 Altima SL costs only $20,000 or so.
So definitely consider having some of the great new safety features added to your older car. “But at the same time, you have to say, ‘Hey I have this 10-year-old car, maybe it’s time to turn it in,”‘ said the engineer.