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Are parking sensors a replacement for good judgement?

Parking is the Achilles’ Heel for many drivers, especially the skill of reverse parking into a tight space that is not much bigger than your car. This is why many new cars come with the option of parking sensors, or another parking assistance system, to help you with the manoeuvre.

But do parking sensors work and are they a substitute for your own good judgement? And how does having parking sensors impact on your car insurance premiums?

Types of parking sensor

There are three different types of parking sensor, each with their own benefits and drawbacks:

  • Ultrasonic parking sensors.
  • Electromagnetic parking sensors.
  • Rear facing cameras.

Ultrasonic parking sensors

Ultrasonic parking sensors use sound waves to detect vehicles or objects around your car. They produce a beeping signal, which gets more rapid as you get closer to an object. These systems cost from £300 as an option on a new car, with bolt on systems from as little as £30.

The problem with these systems is that the sound waves may miss smaller objects, such as posts or bollards, and can also miss peripheral objects that are not directly behind the car, such as a low wall to the side. If you don’t check your mirrors, you could still end up damaging your car.

Electromagnetic parking sensors

Electromagnetic parking sensors create an electromagnetic field around the car, which detects any hazards that enter this field. These systems cost around the same price as ultrasonics as a new car option, but are more expensive as an add-on.

The problem with electromagnetic parking sensors is that, while they have a wider field of detection than ultrasonic detectors, they will only register objects once your car is moving.

Parking cameras

Rear facing parking cameras show you a view of the road behind your vehicle, which usually switches on automatically when you put the car into reverse. On their own, these systems are much more expensive, although they are often integrated with other on screen systems, such as Sat Nav, in more upmarket cars.

The problem with cameras is that their view is limited and can be poor at night or in low visibility conditions. What’s more, unlike sensors, cameras can also get dirty, limiting the picture even further.

How do parking sensors affect your car insurance?

As with all modifications to a vehicle you already own, you must inform your car insurance company of the details of how your car has changed. Fortunately, some of the expense of fitting a system that helps you to park better is going to be offset by the reduction in your car insurance. Premiums are reduced by an average of 13% if you have parking sensors fitted.

So are parking sensors a replacement for good judgement?

There is no doubt that parking aids can make parking much easier and safer. However, it is important to know their limits and allow for these. At the end of the day, they should be seen as aids to, and not replacements for, your own judgement. You should still use your mirrors and your experience to make the final call, and not rely solely on the information from your technology.

Of course, if all else fails, you can always get a self-parking car, which will do all the work for you.

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