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  1. econobiker says:

    Guys and Gals,
    Please understand that this “Insurance Institute for Highway Safety” is a shill for the insurance industry. This is the same industry which tries to cut corners in repairing autos and not pay off for accidents if they can. The sole purpose of this organization is to keep the member companies profits up and payouts down.

    The market and the government has demanded areodynamic autos which are light weight and fuel efficient. This does not fit within the parameters of shock absorbing bumpers like found on an ’81 Escort.

    That said it is a pain to have to fix the bumper cover of a car (which usually covers a styrofoam log and then a metal crush tube.)And the paint usually requires flex agent in it. There are now companies which specialize in the color matched replacement of these type of bumper covers. There is one just off the interstate where I live which has racks and racks of just the bumper covers.

  2. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Plastic, metal.. Does it really matter? So many people drive SUV’s and large trucks these days. The bumper height on these vehicles are higher than the bumper height on most passenger cars. During a low speed rear end collision, the front bumper on an SUV just scrapes over the car’s rear bumper and hits the body, resulting in very expensive damages.

  3. Skeptic says:

    Crappy bumpers don’t just make repairs more expensive, they can affect your driving record.

    Once I scraped someone’s plastic bumper while parallel parking (at about 1/2 mph). I’m an honest kind of guy, so I waited for the owner and told them what had happened. The woman didn’t think it seemed like a big deal and we exchanged info.

    The repair wound up costing $600 through their insurance company since the repair for a scrape was to replace the whole bumper cover. I had to make a DMV report and I wound up with a point on my DMV record for a collision! If the had had a “proper” bumper there would have been no damage at all. Some would argue that if I was a better driver the damage wouldn’t have occurred, either, but the fact is that such a minor scrape shouldn’t cause so much expensive damage. Cars can and do get damaged living in a city with tight parking and ridiculously fragile bumpers don’t help.

    As for the insurance institute being a “shill” for the insurance industry, that is bunk. A shill is some who pretends to be impartial or grass roots but is actually not. It is pretty obvious that the “Insurance Institute for Highway Safety” is an industry group. In this case, I don’t see how the Insurance Industry’s evaluation could be called biased unless you can show that their report is false, which would be hard especially since it says the same thing Consumer’s Report has been saying since the standard was lowered to 2.5 mph.

  4. zolielo says:

    I am with econobiker on the over the top prices. It is not that tricky to find better prices on OEM, OE, or aftermarket (body kits).

    For example for a current Nissan Altima the article quotes $945 while with a bit of wise buying one can have the same for about $362. Complete front bumper system OEM direct from Nissan.

    I am going to give the article the benefit of the doubt that they just did not mention a lot of addition part needing repair (their fault for not doing so).

  5. consumerwhore says:

    From that list it seems that there is a correlation with the cars with the more expensive bumpers doing better in crash tests. I’d rather pay a few thousand more in repairs on the car that pay for repairs to my body…

  6. michigan says:

    Agree with Skeptic there. While motives behind IIHS’s existence are debatable, I don’t see why the crash results should be rigged towards unscrupulous profit making objectives unless they want to encourage or discourage the sale of certain vehicles. I don’t think they would try to encourage anyone buying the 1981 box-on-wheels just because of good bumper design.

    Zolielo, while the cost of a bumper assembly (plus installation) might be lesser than what the report says, I think the main point is that these low speed crashes are damaging more equipment than just the bumpers (if I am not wrong, I read somewhere in the report that in one instance the crash damaged the air conditioner condenser for some vehicle..I forget which one). It’s the cost of these overheads that is inflating the price. However, I would have loved some data that segregates the repair costs from part costs.

  7. EtherealStrife says:

    Not only that, but some of the “safety” stuff ends up costing an arm and a leg. My 99 corolla rear ended a 2005 (brand new at the time) 7 series bmw at 5-10mph at a slight angle. Rear crumple activated on the bmw and one entire fender tore off the car (trunk crumpled up, too). I heard from the bmw driver that it was over 10k in repairs, whereas the corolla just had a few scratches in the paint covering the front bumper (so much for german construction :-P j/k). So when I finally took the car in to the insurance-recommended place I was kind of irritated that I wouldn’t even make it past my $250 deductible (might as well have liability). No damage to the actual bumper, but just to have a refurbished plastic cover painted and installed was around $650, and they did a shoddy job of it!

    I learned my lesson, and haven’t bothered to fix cosmetic damage that’s occurred since then.

    Just keep some touchup auto paint handy if your car is a standard non-metallic color. I think a small bottle was like $5 for white, and even a quickie job looks pretty darn good. ymmv

  8. Optimistic Prime says:

    Is the ’81 price adjusted for inflation? If not, then the $469 would be about $1106. Still a considerably smaller amount, but… (

  9. zolielo says:

    @EtherealStrife: Seems like you are all set with touchup paint. But if you or someone else is not try the local jober (paint shop in painter’s lingo) to see if they can made a compressed air or aerosol touchup paint kit. With the spray even metallic paint colors will work out fairly well. Plus if one goes to a jober, get some of the pro clear coat (the one that will set to gel in hours).

  10. zolielo says:

    If they did not take inflation into consideration I will lose all respect with regards to the linked site. They are on the edge as is for the lack of exactly what repairs they list at those high prices.

  11. michigan says:

    For the 1981 Ford two tests ended with $0 damage. Now, you wouldn’t be mad if that weren’t inflation adjusted, would you? :) I guess it does make a point that the bumper was well designed.

  12. Motor_Head says:

    Two reasons for the bumpers we have today.

    1. They are engineered to crumple (absorbing impacts). The number of whiplash related neck injuries has reduced drastically because of this.

    2. Every ounce of weight on a vehicle matters, not just for fuel economy, but also the cost to transport parts to assembly plants (which gets into fuel economy of the shippers).

    So, we are living in “the future”, where our cars are safer, and more fuel efficient.

    The increased cost is why everyone has insurance (and also why insurance companies fund these studies).

  13. iMike says:

    @Skeptic: That’ll teach you to claim responsibility for a non-accident.

  14. nweaver says:

    One other thing, the simple cost of PAINTING is $500. Since the repair-cost “damage” is independent in each test, there is $2000 in the “cost” right there.

    I think the insurance shills want unpainted bumpers.

  15. mikesfree says:

    I would much rather be in an accident with any of todays cars over the 80s escort.

  16. n/a says:

    Motor_Head brings up some very relevant points.

    Bumper Damageability is covered under 49CFR581 or FMVSS 215/CMVSS215. Having personally been involved in this type of system test, the test itself is somewhat open ended in that the company running the test (ie: an OEM) has the duty to say whether the car passed or not….its a self-certification test.

    The article is misleading. FMVSS215 covers a pendulum strike on the fascia surface directly at 16 and 20 inches, front and rear at 3mph and for corner hits at 1.5mph. CMVSS 215 requires direct hits front and rear at 5mph. Basically any car sold in Canada must be tested at 5mph which means that since most cars in the U.S. are also sold in Canada, U.S. based cars have under gone the higher velocity test.

    Styling has a very large part in all of this and car studios are fully aware of protrustions such as lamps, spoilers and other surfaces that could cause unnecessary damageability. The IIHS is now modifying these tests to make them more stringent on pass/fail by having the energy absorber (foam) wrap around to the tail lamp areas.

  17. mopar_man says:

    This is why I like my 1989 Caprice wagon. Sure it only gets 22 mpg or so but it has big chrome bumpers that won’t get damaged unless they’re involved in a high-speed impact.

  18. n/a says:

    ..and Mopar_Man…that minor accident may result in energy transfer directly to you…and internal injuries such as a ruptured spleen or whiplash.

  19. MeOhMy says:

    What these numbers don’t tell you – sure repairing the car only cost $500, but the funeral expenses for you and your family would be $15000.

  20. MeOhMy says:

    I mean repairing the ’81 Escort :-)

  21. Pixel says:

    The biggest problem with a lot of modern cars is that the bumpers are mounted on impact-absorbing shock mounts, but they have nowhere to *go*. On nearly all modern cars, the bumper overlaps part of the fender, so when the bumper gets pushed back it is shoved up against the metal fender.
    If you’re *lucky* the bumper cover gets bent and mangled and you have to replace that.
    If you are *unlucky* the bumper bents the metal and now you have to replace or repair the fender, and paint & color match the fender and bumper instead of just the bumper.

    The current 2.5mph requirements are a joke. The bumper has to “survive” a 2.5 mph impact, with unlimited damage to safety equipment. This means broken turn signals, headlights, etc. are perfectly acceptable. So what exactly does “survive” mean at that point? “Not fall off the car”?

  22. bobbycreekwater says:

    Lucy for me I have the most expensive car on the list(total cost)!

  23. statolith says:

    Someone backed into the rear bumper of my Prius in a parking lot last year. The piece had to be replaced, a pretty large section that covers the back and wraps around the sides, and it cost about $500. Since I didn’t see the actual incident, I don’t know how hard the other car hit mine. But I think back to my first car, and ’88 Pontiac with a metal bumper with a rubber strip, and how I spun out once on packed snow on the freeway and hit the concrete divider pretty hard–and came away with nothing more than some scuffed rubber. Surely there’s got to be some way to give a little protection to a car’s perimeter without adding too much weight. Today’s ‘bumpers’ seem more like crumple zones.

  24. B says:

    I prefer my method of just not hitting stuff with my car. That way I don’t need to worry about the quality of my bumper.

  25. NeoteriX says:

    I think one of the biggest factors people here are overlooking is the cosmetic one. The old bumpers jutted out, and were garish. If you like the sleek, body-color-matched look of today’s bumper, then that’s what we pay for I guess.

  26. orlong says:

    The biggest issue here is why are there even any accidents. If people would pay attention to the road instead of doing a myriad of other things like talking on phone, fiddling with radio, putting on makeup, reading etc… There wouldnt be any accidents at all except for vehicle malfunction like a tire coming off. If they started taking your license for life when you cause an accident there would be a lot less of them. And for the record yes I never had an accident and Ive been driving for 30 years

  27. NoneMoreBlack says:

    Yeah, I overflow with nostalgia for 50 pound chrome girders hanging off either end of my car. Cars are safer, less polluting, more comfortable, and faster now than ever before, let alone in 1981. But let’s hate on progress anyway!

  28. CarFreak says:

    I like my 96 Burb’s chrome bumpers – haven’t been involved in any accidents to determine “crushability” and hope not to ever either.

    Plus it matches right up to my 14,000 lb vintage fire truck when we needed to push if off the road after it died in the middle of a busy intersection.

    Can’t do that with plastic!

  29. AlexPDL says:

    The headline of the post is misleading…just because its expensive to fix does not mean its a “crappy bumper” … unless you are the insurance industry.

    Granted car makers should aim for both… but if we have to pick then lets go with the safer bumper that requires additional repair costs.

  30. kubus_gt says:

    I got my own crash test figures.
    1. ’99 Nissan Altima, rear corner hit – $243 – includes labor and parts.
    2. ’02 Ford Explorer full frontal hit – $180 – had to buy to plastic trim pieces, but ended buying chrome grill on Ebay, looks nicer.

  31. Squegie says:

    I bought my ’94 Ford Probe used. It gets around 32 MPG and was wrecked twice before I got it. The previous owner drove it into a guardrail at some unknown speed right before he got his license taken away for DUI. The impact scratched the front corner and dented the driver’s side.

    Since then, I’ve hit two separate deer straight on with no real damage to the bumper. The headlights (which are popup) have gotten dented however. With the lights down, the car looks like it’s winking at me — or half asleep.

    I’d say that this car did a pretty good job of the “impact absorbing” bumper, leaving around 10″ of space before the bumper would hit the radiator.

    The side panels got dented, but the inside was not affected.

    I’d say that kind of safety, coupled with the high gas mileage, makes it a model for other cars to look at. I don’t know why the newer cars can’t match that to some degree.

  32. number9ine says:

    I agree with those here who say that this is a financial comparison, not a safety one. Modern cars still have a full bumper system a la Ford Escort, hidden beneath a bumper cover, which is the plastic you see getting dinged and dented in accidents. Safety is the first concern here, with cars being engineered very specifically to NHTSA and NCAP standards. Note the higher repair cost on some of the models mentioned (VW and Nissan at the bottom)? That’s likely due to the NCAP pedestrian crash standards, which those vehicles are designed to conform to. What that basically boils down to is a flatter front end with less of a protruding bumper, making a vehicular-pedestrian impact more uniform across the pedestrian’s lower body. More protrusions mean more broken bones. That flatter front end in a collision translates to hood, headlamp, bumper skin and possibly fenders as opposed to only bumper skin and headlamps, common on the other cars. Automobiles today, by statutory and engineering standards, are the safest ever built. Your bumper, in addition to a strong steel or aluminum core support analogous to a chrome bumper, also have a large layer of styrofoam underneath, which dramatically reduces the stress of low-speed impact on other parts of the vehicle. Modern manufacturing techniques that give us water-based paints, flush body panels and high technology lighting systems translate to a higher cost of materials and labor at the body shop. But go ahead! Buy an Escort. My ’86 was the best POS I ever drove, and I often find myself scheming to rescue it from the junkyard where it rots.

  33. Pixel says:

    @NeoteriX: My old Taurus (’91, but the same basic style was used through ’95) had aerodynamic color-matched bumpers front and rear. And I bumped that car into things more than once, and used it to push other cars a few times, with nothing but scuffed paint to show for it.
    You’d have to hit something hard enough to push the bumper back at least 3″ before the lights were threatened.
    My current Outback (’97) has a similar design, (though the plastic seems softer and more prone to deformation).

    It is possible to design bumpers that are aerodynamic & attractive and don’t cost a fortune to fix, it just takes more care and consideration than most auto designers seem to be willing to bother with.

  34. traezer says:


    I beg to differ on the Taurus. I had a ’94. Someone backed into the front once, and pushed in the bumper slightly into the body, making it so that there was a gap in between the bumper and the hood of the car. I also hit my parents truck in our drive way at a speed less than 5mph (dont ask how that happened…) And the right fender completely crunched in and the right turn signal was destroyed. The back bumper, however, was worth its weight in gold. I got rear ended at a speed of about 25 to 30mph, with no damage at all.

  35. traezer says:


    Ok, Im a dunce, I pretty much proved your point on the Taurus, my apologies.

  36. Skeptic says:

    he headline of the post is misleading…just because its expensive to fix does not mean its a “crappy bumper” … unless you are the insurance industry.

    Granted car makers should aim for both… but if we have to pick then lets go with the safer bumper that requires additional repair costs.

    You’d have a point except that insurance companies have a vested interested in cheaper car repairs and increased safety to passengers and accident reduction.

  37. traezer says:

    I think its funny that even a rolling shopping cart hitting a car can make a huge dent.

  38. muchdrama says:

    Go Escort, go!

  39. JDAC says:


    It does seem as though back bumpers are made of sterner stuff. My old Subaru Impreza (man I miss that car) was rear ended at around 6 or 7MPH ( I was stationary).

    My bumper was unnafected, but the other guys front bumper ended up at a 45 degree angle.

    What was cool about the whole thing was it happened in front of a cop. We both got out, saw there was no damage to my car, shook hands and got on with our lives.

  40. swalve says:

    How about don’t hit things? Cars are now designed with two things in mind: 1) get you places and 2) protect you in an accident. That means that the car is going to absorb impact energy (crush) instead of transferring energy to the driver (whiplash). Even a 2.5 mph hit is a significant amount of force to absorb. It is impossible to have an indestructible car AND a safe car.

  41. xenti says:

    I hate painted bumpers. Mainly because I live in an area with on-street parking. And often load things into and out of my trunk.