A broken or cracked windshield is one of the most common vehicle repair problems motorists face. According to Insurance Journal, 30% of all automotive insurance claims are windshield-related. Approximately 14 million windshields are replaced in America each year. Drive long enough, and you will suffer a broken, pitted, or cracked windshield.
What Causes a Windshield To Need Replacement?Windshields don’t have a lifespan. They can last indefinitely unless something cracks or breaks them. Most windshield damage is caused by road debris, including small stones or other objects impacting the glass. These objects can fall from a vehicle ahead, or they can be kicked up by the tires of vehicles in front of you. At highway speeds, a small stone can crack or pit a windshield easily.
Because damaged or cracked windshields are common, even in new or near-new vehicles, many owners feel there must have been a defect, or that the automaker opted to use poor quality glass. Based on the experience of iSeeCars.com vehicle testers, neither is true.
How To Know If You Need A New WindshieldAreas where road crews sand and salt roads have more debris on the roadway, and thus, small chips and pits on windshields will often build up over time. However, it is the larger, dime-sized or greater cracks (also called “stars” or “bullseyes”), that require a replacement windshield. States in which an annual safety inspection is required have standards for determining if a windshield needs to be repaired or replaced prior to obtaining a passing grade.
Experts say 90% of pits and bullseyes that appear on a windshield never result in a crack. If your windshield has a small pit or bullseye outside of your field of view, there is no emergency need to replace this windshield.
How Much Should a Replacement Windshield Cost?Insurance Journal says that the average windshield replacement cost is $400. Glass USA and AAA report similar average costs . However, the average may not apply to your vehicle. If you have a low-volume luxury vehicle , you will pay more for your repair than a common high-volume model. There are many factors that impact price including the type of vehicle you drive, the auto glass company you choose, the type of glass used , and whether you book a mobile service or on-site appointment
One new aspect of a windshield replacement is driver-assist technology. Every modern vehicle has optical, radar and/or rain sensors mounted behind the front windshield. Some, though not all, of these models require these systems to be calibrated after a windshield replacement. Your installer will know.
Some vehicles also have heating elements and advanced driver assistance systems in the windshield to help warm windshield wipers or clear ice from the edges and bottom of the windshield. If your vehicle has such a system, be sure your replacement has the same safety features.
Can My Windshield Be Repaired?Insurers desperately want you to repair rather than replace your windshield when it is an option. The insurer may have an adjuster who will help make the determination or have a relationship with a local windshield repair and replacement service . Your insurer wants you to be safe, but they also want you to have lower premiums. Repairing glass rather than replacing it lowers the overall auto insurance costs for everyone.
One reason not to accept an auto glass repair and instead get a new windshield is that the small micro pits that you look through will remain. A new windshield is perfect and has none of those little imperfections that windshields develop over time.
Will My Insurance or Vehicle Warranty Pay For My Broken Windshield?Only you and your insurer can answer whether your car insurance coverage includes glass. Some states, such as iSeeCars.com’s home state of Massachusetts, require that insurers include glass replacement as the default in every policy. However, in most cases, the policyholder can opt-out. Some policies have a deductible that will apply.
Some automotive dealers include aftermarket windshield and glass insurance policies when they sell a new vehicle. If you purchased any kind of “protection package” it is worth looking back at that policy to see if you have coverage. Vehicle warranties do not cover windshield damage.
How Long Will My Vehicle Be Tied Up During a Windshield Repair?The great news about a car’s windshield repair is that the repair technician usually comes to you. The windshield can be replaced by an auto glass service in your driveway, or even in the parking lot where you work. Within an hour the vehicle is drivable, though the sealant used to hold the glass in place needs time to cure before you can go through a car wash.
If you suffer a damaged windshield, whether it’s your front or rear windshield, take some pictures of the damage with a small ruler in the image as a reference. Call your insurance company and ask what options are available to you.
Check out our other repair guides:
- How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Car Door?
- What's The Cost of Brake Pads and Rotors?
- How Much Does It Cost to Replace Brake Calipers?
John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. John's interest in EVs goes back to 1990 when he designed the thermal control system for an EV battery as part of an academic team. After earning his mechanical engineering degree, John completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers, in the semiconductor industry, and in biotech. In addition to being a regular iSeeCars.com contributor, John's work has appeared in dozens of mainstream media outlets and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on TikTok @Tokncars, and view his credentials at Linked In.