Replacing your windscreen may cost more than you think

By Dan Hatch

6 minutes

04 October 2019

Car windscreen and rear-view mirror

Car windscreens used to cost $300 to replace, but many motorists don’t realise that with modern technology those days are over – and they might not be adequately insured.

The technology in the windscreens of our cars has come forward in leaps and bounds over the past decade.

It’s not just the glass itself that has been markedly improved. What many motorists don’t realise is that Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) like autonomous braking, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control, all rely on the windscreen. These features can be found in many newer cars.

The cameras and sensors for these important technologies are usually located near the rear-vision mirror at the top of the windscreen. From there, they perform complex and potentially lifesaving calculations.

Which is great – except when something happens and you need to replace your windscreen. Then all that technology can potentially become a very complex and expensive problem for motorists to solve.

What does it cost to replace a windscreen?

According to an Insurance Australia Group (IAG) Auto Glass Specialist “for years it cost around $200 to $300 to replace a chipped or broken windscreen on a car. What dictated this cost was the size and complexity of the glass”.

That started to change when rain sensors, which automatically detect rain landing on a windscreen and turn on the wipers, were introduced. That was the first kind of technology that required traditional windscreen installers to acquire specialist knowledge.

Now, with a genuine ADAS windscreen, the replacement cost can be much higher.

The glass itself has to be manufactured to a high-quality specification because the cameras are looking through that glass.  Any minor defect could have consequences to performance, so the cost of replacing the glass alone has gone up to around the $800 or $900 mark, according to IAG’s Auto Glass Specialist.

But it doesn’t end there.

Then the technology needs to be recalibrated to ensure it’s working optimally. There is typically additional cost involved with this, which can vary, depending on the ADAS installed. That’s because you have the additional labour cost of pulling off all the ancillary parts (using complex diagnostic equipment), then reconnecting all the cameras and sensors and running through the recalibration process to make sure they’re working 100 per cent effectively on the new windscreen.

What are the most common causes of windscreen breakages?

Some of the most common reasons for windscreen breakages in modern vehicles, according to 2018 IAG claims data are;

  • Wind chips – from rocks being flicked up by other vehicles and causing a crack
  • Major events – like hailstorms
  • Malicious damage – like break-ins (although usually these affect side glass).

In general, modern windscreens are more resilient than in the past. Long gone are the days when drivers and passengers would put their hands against the windscreen to stop it blowing in when a truck came past (if you’ve never heard of this, the ’60s and ’70s were wild!). Modern windscreens often contribute to the structural strength of the vehicle and may use specialised anti-cracking technology. 

When does a chipped or cracked windscreen legally need to be replaced?

Generally speaking, it is illegal to drive if the damage to the windscreen impairs the driver’s view of the road (usually the primary or critical vision area is defined as the part of the driver’s side reached by the windscreen-wiper), or it if makes the windscreen unsafe. The rules around when a damaged windscreen must, by law, be replaced differ from state to state, so check the laws in your area.

What can I do to ensure my windscreen is covered?

Motorists may be unaware this technology is kept in the windscreen and are therefore unaware their existing windscreen coverage might be insufficient to cover them in the event of a breakage.

In reality, if you have this kind of tech in your car and you don’t insure the glass, a small chip to the windscreen could set you back over $1,000 to replace – so it's worth making sure you've got cover for it. You'll find windscreen cover is often an optional extra that you can choose from when taking out your car insurance. HBF offer optional windscreen cover with Comprehensive Car insurance, which covers repair or replacement of the windscreen or window glass of your vehicle when there is no other damage – without affecting your No Claim Bonus and without you paying an excess (only covered once during your period of insurance). Terms, conditions and exclusions apply.  See Car PDS pages 18, 20-22 for more information.

Review your current car insurance and check whether you’re covered for windscreen damage

If you’re not covered, it might be time to update your policy. Get a quote for car insurance, including windscreen coverage, here.

Get a quote

HBF Car Insurance is issued by Insurance Australia Limited ABN 11 000 016 722 AFSL 227681 (IAL), trading as CGU Insurance. For full policy details please refer to the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) which can be obtained by calling HBF on 133 423. This is general advice only and does not take into account your personal circumstances. You should consider the PDS and your personal circumstances in deciding whether to buy or hold these products. HBF Health Limited ABN 11 126 884 786 AR No. 406073 (HBF Health), is an authorised representative of IAL. Please read the Financial Services Guide (FSG) before applying for an HBF General Insurance product.

Was this information helpful?

Your feedback is appreciated and helps us
provide more useful, relevant content.
We've received your response,
thanks for letting us know.