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How much does it cost to replace a windscreen?

A chip can soon become a crack and a crack often means a new windscreen. But help is out there, everywhere from specialist windscreen shops to your own insurance company. (image: AI generated image created in Midjourney)

Q: How much is a windscreen replacement?

A: This used to be a simple question since most car windscreens were made from the same glass and did roughly the same job. Not anymore. Modern windscreens can range from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of thousand, and it all depends on the make, model and rarity of the vehicle.

Also, modern technology means replacing a car windscreen is no longer a simple matter, as driver assist systems that rely on cameras and sensors that 'see' through the windscreen sometimes need to be recalibrated after the glass replacement.

Even a car with a head-up display option sometimes uses glass with a specially coated section, and this can increase replacement costs enormously.

Clearly, a modern windshield has little in common with the old style toughened glass car window of decades ago.

But let's go back to basics a little. A car's windscreen can often be 'saved' if the small chip or crack that is the typical start of the windscreen's demise is treated quickly.

A windscreen chip repair involves injecting the damaged section with a bonding solution that seals it and prevents it becoming a crack. Once it has developed into a crack windscreen replacement is more likely as there are now structural and roadworthy issues.

Which, in itself, begs the question, can you drive with a cracked windscreen? Well, it's physically possible provided you can see well enough, but the car is usually deemed unroadworthy if the crack extends through a portion of the glass that is inside the wiper area (the bit scrubbed by the windshield wipers).

Of course, even if the crack isn't in that area, a car with a bonded windscreen (rather than a simple rubber-seal) can be structurally compromised since the glass is part of the car's strength.

But the reality is that modern laminated car glass is much stronger than the old toughened stuff and less likely to crack in the first place.

Speaking of the old days, windscreen replacement cost was often dictated by whether you wanted normal glass or that newfangled laminated stuff.

That's not the case anymore and just about every replacement screen will be laminated in the interests of safety. So while toughened glass was once a cheap windscreen replacement option, you wouldn't bother now even if it was available.

So, you've just returned for a trip in the country where a passing truck has thrown a big rock into your windscreen. It's left a crack, but how do you know whether it needs to be replaced or fixed?

The short answer is to consult a windscreen specialist. There are plenty of them and as well as giving an accurate quote on a price for your make and model, they'll know the limitations of fixes versus replacement.

Even though the cost to repair a windscreen chip is a lot less than a whole screen, if the glass is deemed irreparable, you're throwing good money after bad by not replacing it, because it will almost certainly fail sometime down the track.

A specialist fitter will also be able to look after installation which is a pretty specialised process these days. If you're lucky and the windscreen you need is in stock, this whole replacement process can take less than an hour.

Sometimes, however, you need to let the car sit for a few hours while the sealant cures; it varies from method to method.

But here's something else to remember. The cost of windscreen replacement might be covered by your insurance policy which might just include a windscreen cover clause.

Some policies include one windscreen a year as part of the cover, while others don't, so read the fine print before signing up.

Many car owners forget about this but it's a fact that a windscreen insurance clause can save you heaps. Just make sure that a claim for a new windscreen doesn't jack up your premium next year.