Soaring Cost Of Parts Means Your Car Is More Likely To Be Totaled In An Accident
In particular, sophisticated safety features like forward collision mitigation and blind-spot warning systems that employ multiple sensors and/or cameras embedded in bumpers and fenders are driving up repair costs and, in turn, the number of cars being totaled after crashes.
Airbags and related parts can likewise be prohibitively costly to replace following a collision and could cause a lower-valued car to become totaled even with otherwise minimal body damage. Generally, a car is declared to be “totaled” when the cost of repairs plus its scrap value equals or exceeds its pre-accident value (in some states this status is based on the cost of repairs exceeding a set percentage of the vehicle’s value).
As an example, the NICB computed the cost of 15 common replacement components for a few of the models on its most-stolen “Hot Wheels” list – we’re talking low-tech stuff like a headlamp assembly, fender, trunk lid, and alloy wheels, but not major components like the engine or transmission. Part prices were pulled from a database of over 24 million vehicle damage appraisals generated for insurance claims from 2016 and 2017. (Check out the NICB's handy infographic on car-part prices here.)
Altogether, the 15 essential items cost nearly $11,000 to purchase for a 2016 Toyota Camry midsize sedan, which was the most-stolen new car reported by the NICB for that particular model year. The most expensive part here is a quarter body panel at just over $1,700. And that’s not including the cost of labor, which when added would handily bust the threshold for a total loss on most 2016 Camry trim levels. It would seem to be even easier to total a 2016 Nissan Altima, with a lower residual value and higher replacement costs at over $14,000; here, the NICB says a headlamp assembly costs just over $2,000 each.
Prefer a pickup truck? Those same 15 parts would cost over $21,000 in a full-size GMC Sierra 1500, with a headlamp assembly again being the costliest culprit, at nearly $2,300. Adding labor charges to the sum of these parts would certainly be enough to declare all but the costliest 2016 Sierra models total losses.
"For the professional theft ring, stealing and stripping vehicles for parts has always been a lucrative business," NICB senior vice president and COO Jim Schweitzer says. "On today's cars and trucks, the parts are often worth more than the intact vehicle and may be easier to move and sell. That's why we see so many thefts of key items like wheels and tires and tailgates. There's always a market for them."