25 Jan 2017

Low level car crashes rise, along with panel beating costs

8:41 am on 25 January 2017

New Zealand is experiencing more fender benders than ever and the cost of repairing the dents from low-level crashes is rising exponentially.

Drivers argue after a car crash (stock photo).

Low level crashes - and repair costs - are rising. Photo: 123RF

Typical incidents include a dented door from a bump in a supermarket carpark, or a cracked bumper from a nose-to-tail on a busy city street.

Figures from the Insurance Council show the number of claims for vehicle damage or theft has risen from just under 400,000 in 2013 to more than 422,000 in 2016.

Repair costs are rising even faster, because cars are getting more complicated, so more expensive to fix.

The problem is compounded by a serious shortage of panel beaters.

The general manager of panel beaters' organisation the Collision Repair Association, Neil Pritchard, said the number of low level crashes was rising steadily and the industry was hard pressed to cope.

"There are more and more cars on the road, more and more congestion, and more and more accidents," he said.

"These are not necessarily huge highway hits, but a lot of nose-to-tails, and these things are causing a lot of delays in getting repairs done."

Tim Grafton of the Insurance Council said the number of private motor vehicle claims had gone up 5 percent but the cost had increased more than 20 percent.

"Increasingly late model vehicles have a lot of sophisticated sensors and electronics on them, so when you damage those vehicles it tends to be a more costly repairs that come through," Mr Grafton said

Neil Pritchard said Wellington alone needed 20 more panel beating apprentices to meet the demand - twice the number that wanted to enter the industry.

And Wellington was not alone in facing this problem.

"The shortness of panel beaters is a national one, no question about that.

"There are some hotspots, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown, Tauranga, Mount Maunganui, Hamilton. Nobody is going 'we've got too many staff.'"

Mr Pritchard said across the country, more recruitment was needed in the industry - and more sophisticated training for more complex cars.

Failing that, more careful driving.

The numbers - motor vehicle claims and their cost:

2013: 399,828 claims, $570,302,405

2014: 405,835 claims, $610,737,086

2015: 413,068 claims, $650,038,416

2016: 422,429 claims, $679,615,480

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