Sometimes, the effort to save a little bit of money ends up costing you big time.

I remember the day I bought my first pair of work gloves. I was a teenager working on the farm and needed these gloves for a major fence project. Because the farm in question belonged to my dad, I had to use my own money for the gloves- this wasn’t something I could bill to the company.

I knew what kind I wanted. Pig hide gloves that looked and fit like a second skin. Tough enough to protect your hands from barb wire while giving you the finesse needed to manipulate tiny fencing staples.

The problem? These gloves were expensive. At $30 they were way more than my fourteen-year-old self wanted to spend. On the rack next to them were some other gloves. A glance back and forth between the two pairs seemed to show little difference except for the price tag. While my pig hide gloves were $30 these other gloves were only three. I went with the three dollar gloves. They were also, obviously, the most popular gloves at the store with rows and rows dedicated to them.

At first things seemed ok, right until I had to spool out the barb wire. Those three dollar gloves got chewed up and soon I was left with nothing more than leather wrist wraps and bloody fingers. The gloves weren’t even real leather- they were some sort of cloth/cardboard thing that looked like leather.

I went back and got the $30 gloves now having spent $33, plus an extra trip to town, plus ripped up hands. The lesson? If upfront cost is the paramount consideration, you’ll often end up spending more in the long run.

This is how it goes with vehicle detection. Working with public money you have to be very aware of where the dollars go and it’s tempting to let the sticker price guide your choice. Doing so can end up being significantly more expensive.

Inductive loops, the longtime industry standard for vehicle detection, has a lower upfront price point when compared to an intersection radar sensor like SmartSensor Matrix, but it’s misleading. With loops you’re basically only paying for wire as opposed to a custom engineered sensor with radar made specifically for the traffic industry. Yeah, a few loops of wire needed for an inductive loop is cheaper than a radar sensor, but then other costs start to show up. Installing a loop, or rather an array of loops needed for proper intersection detection can take all day, or longer. Each loop takes a crew of workers around an hour to install- and that’s if they’re making good time. It often requires lanes to be shut down, which in turn costs more work hours and clogs traffic. Loops, while accurate, are also notoriously prone to malfunctions so their true costs continue to rise each time a repair or replacement is needed.

SmartSensor Matrix takes a couple of workers a couple of hours to install, at the most, and works for years without maintenance. All the time we see workers who start out with little to no experience with our sensors finishing entire intersections over the course of a single morning. These intersections work for years without the need for maintenance and, beyond simply working to control the stoplights, provide all the data needed for advanced applications like performance metrics. Add advance detection to the mix and you’re looking at even more loop installs with a huge amount of trenching and junction boxes. Then you have to do it all over again when the loops fail. All of a sudden the “cheaper” option ends up costing thousands of dollars more than if you went with SmartSensor.

Looking at the long-term cost of a project is the wise thing to do. When considering products to use you should look at all aspects including the cost of installation, the cost of repairs, the cost of replacements and the cost of upkeep. You need to also do the research to see which devices have a history of accuracy and reliability. Granted, it’s a bit more complicated than choosing the cheapest item on the shelf, but the benefits are great.