Unregulated Truck, SUV Bumpers Cost Car Drivers
Out of all the types of collisions you can get into, a small fender bender is probably the most minor. That’s most likely true in relation to your health, but not to your wallet, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's latest testing.
The organization tested seven pairs of 2010-11 models, pairing a compact car against a compact SUV and collided them into each other at 10 mph. The results showed that collisions where bumpers are supposed to be preventing extensive damage are costing thousands of dollars to repair.
IIHS points out that SUV bumpers often don’t align with those of a passenger car – even when both vehicles are made by the same automaker.
Typically, the bumper of the SUV, which is raised higher, bypasses the car's bumper and causes extensive damage to the hood, engine cooling systems, fenders, bumper covers and safety equipment. The SUV doesn’t go home scott-free, either. Some SUVs ended up inoperable after the collision test due to a destroyed cooling system as the Nissan Rogue experienced in the tests. This was after a 10-mph crash.
The worst offenders in the study, according to IIHS, include the Toyota Corolla and RAV4 pairing, which collectively totaled nearly $10,000 in damage. That's the worst out of the bunch. The Ford Focus versus Escape and Nissan Sentra versus Rogue pairings didn’t fare well, either.
There were a few bright spots, however; the Honda Civic and CR-V as well as the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Forte matched up fairly well. Despite the better alignment of the bumpers in those vehicles, IIHS can’t point to a single model as performing well due to expensive repair bills for all the tested models.
IIHS says the excessive damage comes from a long standing inconsistency in a uniform bumper design law between passenger cars and the unregulated light truck bumpers.
That means minivans, SUVs and pickup trucks don’t have to abide by any standard. In fact, IIHS points out that light trucks aren’t required to have any bumpers at all. An example of this is the Toyota RAV4. According to the institute, the RAV4's “so-called” bumper is really just a piece of stamped metal supporting a bumper cover. In testing, the bumper didn’t absorb the Corolla’s impact at all; instead, the RAV4’s tailgate-mounted spare tire acted as a poor man’s bumper.
IIHS has petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to regulate bumpers on light truck models, and the federal agency agreed to look into the matter. Since then, the light truck petition has stalled in the commenting stage.
For complete data on repair costs between the tested pairs, check out our chart. You can also read IIHS’ full report here.