Mismatched Bumpers on Cars and SUVs Result in Costly Repairs

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducted crash tests to demonstrate that the mismatch of bumpers on cars and SUVs can lead to higher repair costs, despite the bumpers being a car's first line of defense against costly damage in everyday low-speed crashes.

Bumpers are designed to match up against each other in collisions, but a gap in federal regulations exempts SUVs from the rules. New IIHS crash tests demonstrate that SUV bumpers that don't line up with those on cars can lead to huge repair bills in what should be minor collisions in stop-and-go traffic.

"SUVs and cars share the road," says Joe Nolan, the Institute's chief administrative officer, in a statement. "The problem is they don't share the same bumper rules, and consumers end up paying the price."

Federal regulations require cars to have bumpers that protect within a zone of 16 to 20 inches from the ground. Cars' bumpers usually line up pretty well and during a low speed collision, they absorb energy and can prevent damage. However, no bumper rules apply to SUVs, pick-ups or minivans, so when they do have bumpers, they often are higher off the ground than bumpers on cars. This is why cars often suffer from excessive damage to hoods, engine cooling systems, fenders, bumper covers, and safety equipment like lights. SUVs don't always come out unharmed either, often needing extensive work.

The IIHS conducted 10 mph front-into-rear crash tests involving 7 pairs of 2010-11 small cars and SUVs from the same manufacturer.

"We picked vehicles from the same manufacturer because we think automakers should at the least pay attention to bumper compatibility across their own fleets," Nolan explains. "The results show that many don't."

Results of the crash tests varied from a total of $850 damage to one vehicle to $6,015 damage to another. In some cases the crash resulted in major leaks from the cooling system. In real world, the drivers of the respective cars wouldn't have been able to drive away.

The IIHS petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in July 2008 to regulate bumpers on SUVs and pickups the same as cars. The agency agreed to seek comments on the petition but has not yet moved forward with a rulemaking or a compliance test.
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram

Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories