The 6 MPH Crash That Costs $8,000 To Repair

Minivan bumpers may not protect much, but they sure do cost a lot to repair, according to the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety. The IIHS smashed six minivans to test their bumpers and found that all racked up repair bills exceeding $5,000. The Nissan Quest was singled out as a “miserable failure,” costing $8,000 to patch-up.

Minivan designs help in bumper tests: The minivans performed somewhat better in the 4 bumper tests than the midsize cars the Institute tested earlier this year. This is in part because the minivans’ front bumpers are an inch or so higher off the ground, compared with car bumpers (about 17 inches versus 16). The extra height means the minivans’ front bumpers usually didn’t underride the test barrier, which exacerbates the damage.

Another important design aspect is that most of the minivans the Institute tested have third-row seats that fold into the floor, which requires pushing the vehicles’ frame rails out wider. Because the bumper systems attach to the ends of the rails, the rear bumpers (but not the front ones) also are wider. This means they do a better job of protecting the rear corners of the minivans from damage in low-speed collisions. For example, the taillights on the minivans weren’t damaged in any of the rear corner tests while the headlights were damaged in 4 of the 6 corresponding front corner tests.

The Insurance Institute claims, “it’s damage that consumers shouldn’t have to pay for or put up with the aggravation of having to get their vehicles repaired,” but their crocodile tears are really geared towards boosting their own profit margins by reducing the cost of insurance claims. At least they posted slow-motion footage from the test crashes on YouTube.

Minivan bumper test results: Nissan Quest is by far the worst performer [Insurance Institute for Highway Safety]
Insurance Institute For Highway Safety Reveals Results Of Minivan Bumper Tests [YouTube]


Edit Your Comment

  1. hoystory says:

    After looking at the data, my recent accident at 7mph totaling my 2002 Chevy Cavalier with more than $4,000 in damage still wins.


  2. Kelly says:

    While I understand where The Institute is coming from, you can have a -0- speed collision which will likely total a vehicle, merely have a drunk 200 lb. guy walk and fall on the horizontal surfaces.

    IMHO, bumpers which can’t bump anything at below 5 MPH without suffering damage of any amount, are effectively worthless. Gimme the battering rams on a ’73 Cadillac, any day.

  3. bakertim says:

    The cars are meant to squish up and absorb the impact shock.. cars with near-zero damage are passing that energy somewhere else, generally right through the passenger compartment. While I agree that better engineering can (and should) be done to create more modular, easier-to-replace, and more resilient exterior surfaces, I’d gladly trade the expense for the trauma it spares the passengers. My GF got stuck in the middle of a 3-car traffic collision at about 30MPH in her is350; approx. 5K in front and rear damage, but all she had was a moderately sore neck for 2 days. I had a similar crash in the late 80s in a Buick Regal; and the seats tore from the floor and my neck felt and back felt like I lost a fight with a train.

  4. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    @bakertim: Very good point. No matter the car, the energy of the impact has to be absorbed somewhere. It can either be absorbed by the bumper (which is really what it’s meant for), or by the rest of the car, including the passengers.

  5. inspiron says:

    I remember reading a few months ago that they tested sedans and the cheapest to fix was a 1980’s escort with a big ugly steel bumper at $88 compared to several thousands for every modern car tested with there flimsy cheap plastic bumper with foam underneath.

    Whats worse? having a softer crash and paying $8000 or a hard crash and paying at most $1000.

  6. SacraBos says:

    I had an old ’74 Pontiac, and the bumpers had hydralic cylinders where they attached the frame, and flexible pieces from the bumper to the body to give it a nice finish. You could hit something at 5mph without a harmful jolt and no damage.

    Now there’s so much plastic and everything crushes at minor impacts, it’s surprising they don’t fall apart going over train tracks or something.

  7. bakertim says:

    @INSPIRON; I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t think it’s about softer v. harder, it’s about walking away v. the possibility of paralysis or worse from being subjected to greater-than-fighter-pilot G forces. I pay my insurance like the rest of us, and have no problem letting them duke it out if I get hit..

  8. sven.kirk says:

    @bakertim: The test were performed at 3 – 4 MPH. That is basically taking you foot off the brake and letting it coast. I agree the car is supposed to absorb a majority of the impact. But it should not “fail” the test that bad.

    Some ideas…
    Replace the plastic/foam bumper with stronger combination.
    Don’t place the spare tire over the window extending past the bumper.

  9. Ratieya says:

    @inspiron: The ’91-’02 Saturn S-Series received zero damage from the IIHS front and rear bumper tests. That car has the same plastic bumper surface as all cars today, it is the structure behind it that matters.

  10. bakertim says:

    @SVEN.KIRK; I agree completely, better engineering is in order.. my point was just that in their efforts to make cars safer than in years past, mfgrs. may have gone too far with the impact-absorbing materials and not finished the job. Yes they’re better, but now they’ve made the exterior surfaces disposable.

  11. easy2panic says:

    I am glad I have a METAL bumper. What a concept… metal.

  12. just_paranoid says:

    @bakertim: dude were talking 6 mph. are you THAT frail?

  13. XTC46 says:

    cars should not take damage at that low of a speed. 5mph is not even running speed for a human. I’m glad my explorer has a nice sturdy bumper on it.

  14. bakertim says:

    @JUST_PARANOID: Missing my point entirely.. the bumpers/bumper skins/styrofoam and structure underneath are are designed to both dissipate energy away from the passenger compartment AND meet cost targets AND still look good. The manufacturers have made the cars safer by making most these parts disposable in even the smallest collisions. I’m not saying its right, or that I’m particularly frail, I’m saying they haven’t finished the job.

  15. darkclawsofchaos says:

    well there are more expensive ways that should in theory work, but price is a big factor…like putting a shock system in your bumper that is similar to shocks for your tire, make the bumper a steel bar and attach the piston/spring system to that steel bar

  16. Kelly says:

    That was my point…at 5 MPH, not 30, the bumper should sustain little-to-no damage. At 30 MPH, I want a car to crumple up nicely and do it’s best to protect my fleshy self.

    The monsters which were on my ’73 Land Yacht had shock absorbers on them which were similar in size to the actual suspension dampers on an 86.5 Nissan 720 pickup I’d had before it. Of course the car weighed in at nearly 5,500 lbs. so kinetic energy @ 5 MPH was substantial.

  17. just_paranoid says:

    i have a jeep cherokee sport. the last guy who hit me must have had one of these bumpers cause it was thrashed to the point where i was scared to look at mine. i got out and couldn’t even find a mark or scratch where he had hit me at. i’ve been so impressed with my jeep, i went and bought another one just like it.

  18. maztec says:

    Oh goody. Higher bumpers. Just what we need. Higher bumpers cause greater damage to pedestrians. Perfect. Keep those pedestrians off those roads! [Tongue in cheek]. Just, oh goody. Yay. Uhmmm…. No, lower the bumpers, lower or broaden the guard rails, flatten the bumpers [as is standard in the EU], and soften the impact on pedestrians. Thanks. Cars should not be weapons against pedestrians. And frankly, you hit something with a car, it should cost more than it costs to fix a human.

  19. scampy says:

    This is what happens when the hippies get into government and regulate increased fuel efficiency. They have to put cheaper plastic parts on cars to make them lighter so they get more MPG. Cars made of heavy steel dont have this problem. They can take a beating.

  20. just_paranoid says:

    @bakertim: yeah but you started talking about the safety of passengers and i’m thinking, at 6 mph? and safety schmaftey. its all a bunch of marketing for the most part. if you get hit hard enough, by a heavier vehicle, you are going to die or be injured regaurdless. you never hear about crash tests for cement trucks, or dumptrucks, etc, because they are huge heavy and SOLID. i’ve hear of tragic accidents involving these types of vehicles and the driver of the dump truck always walks away. it seems that the trick is to be the heaviest on the road. if there is an impact with one of these types of vehicles, the energy is transfered right through the “solid” vehicle because the passenger vehicle it hit, asborbed it all, because it was built to.

  21. just_paranoid says:

    the vehicle with the lightest weight will absorb most of the shock. its simple physics. all the five star safety rating bs is just marketing. playing on the fears of people, and giving them a false sense that a vehicle would be safe in an accident.

  22. junkmail says:

    @maztec: About the only thing you said that made a lick of sense was, “Keep those pedestrians off those roads!”

  23. just_paranoid says:

    its kind of like saying my turd is shinier than your turd. well guess what, they are both pieces of shit. lol

  24. just_paranoid says:

    @junkmail: i’m with you on that. i think its more about ground clearance for some vehicles, and aerodynamics for others.

  25. clevershark says:

    @maztec: “And frankly, you hit something with a car, it should cost more than it costs to fix a human.”

    Either you have the kind of car 99.99999% of us merely dream of having eventually, or you don’t know how expensive it is to fix a human :)

  26. swalve says:

    @inspiron: But what was the safety condition of the vehicle after the crash? An $80 bumper probably isn’t going to be anywhere near as good as the $8000 stuff from the factory.

    @just_paranoid: You are incorrect. Energy is either absorbed by the vehicle or transmitted to the passengers. A heavier vehicle has more energy at a given speed, more energy that needs to be absorbed by the vehicle or you. There is a reason protective packaging for sensitive products is crushable, and that’s because you want the energy to be absorbed BEFORE it gets to the sensitive cargo.

    Your dumptruck analogy is wrong too- ever seen one crash into a concrete pier? It ain’t pretty.

    @scampy: You might want to check fatalities/injuries per accident stats. I’m pretty sure they are going down.

    If the heavier vehicle always wins, how do passengers get hurt when there’s a train derailment? “Protected” by all that steel they should, by your logic, walk away feeling better…

  27. trenace says:

    I don’t see where the problem is the design of the bumper.

    I think we all know that in the manufacturer’s own accounting of their costs in building the vehicle, a $20K list price vehicle does not have bumpers that are $6000 each front and rear.

    The situation here is that bumpers which the manufacturer probably accounts as costing them perhaps a hundred bucks each, I would think surely not more than $200 each, to manufacture are being sold as replacement parts for $6K.

    It’s not an engineering issue, it’s a “no one makes these parts but us and we choose to gouge” issue.

  28. ShastaMcNasty says:

    It looks like the $5-$8K numbers aren’t for a single bumper-bash test, but the total cost for multiple tests (front full-width, front offset, rear full-width, and rear offset). So a single bumper-bash is more like $1.25 – $2K, not $5-$8K. Still a lot, but not as much as the summary would make it seem.

  29. swalve says:

    Think of it this way- if I was going to smack you in the head with a baseball bat, would you rather be wearing a steel helmet or a space-age polymer energy absorbing helmet?

    Why did Nascar start putting crushable barriers out when, as you say, steel works better?

  30. Landru says:

    I think what we have here is another version of “planned obsolescence”.

  31. Buckus says:

    How many people here have actually been in an accident at 6mph? Even though numerically it seems slow, it is still quite a jolt. It could give you whiplash and other strange maladies were it not for those bumpers. For those who said that’s slower than you can run, try running into a tree or a wall or something at 6mph. It’s actually quite a substantial hit. I agree that the repairs seem excessive, but remember that they meet federal standards and do absorb most of the energy from the collision, sparing your soft body.

    If you want bumpers that cost less to fix, lobby your congress person, because no automaker is going to make a bumper that is less costly to fix because it’s not a selling point. You’ll never see an ad that claims “Our bumpers cost less than half of our competitor’s to repair in a low-speed crash.”

  32. SOhp101 says:

    The main reason why bumpers are they way they are today is because 1. people like their bumpers to fit in with the rest of the design of the car instead of actually looking/working like bumpers and 2. pedestrian safety regulations.

    Most accidents actually happen at around 5mph at the point of collision on surface streets, believe it or not.

    @just_paranoid: It’s not just marketing… they do state that the crash test ratings are only comparable to other cars in the same class, and the ratings should only be used in that way.

    @maztec: Are you drunk or something?

  33. SOhp101 says:

    correction: “…actually looking/working like bumpers on older cars…”

  34. IamZardoz says:

    I personally could care less about the alleged dollar costs of a 5 mph “bumper” crash or whatever. This has absolutely nothing to do with the safety of the car. Its just a scam made up by the insurance companies so they can get the government to require big, ugly bumpers on cars like they had in the mid-70’s. If you as a consumer worry about this issue, buy a restored 1975 Gran Torino. You can crash them all day long at 5 mph with no damage at all.

  35. Bubs says:

    That’s why I like the steel bumpers on my ’84 Vanagon. Nothing can damage those things…except they do bend a bit around the edges if you look at ’em funny.

  36. num1skeptic says:

    @SOhp101: agreed. but i sell cars, and some people don’t look at the rating in that way.

    @swalve: i stand by my heavier vehicle statment. and nowhere was i talking about crashing into concrete. i’m saying a dumptruck vs. an escort, or 5 star dodge grand caravan. doesn’t matter, dump truck wins.

    @buckus: quite a jolt or insurance scam? i think using the word whiplash at 6 mph is overdoing it just a little. not much but a little.

    @shastamcnasty: i wasn’t sure if thats what the article meant or not, but i see what you are saying now. damn article is kinda misleading in order to stir emotion.

  37. num1skeptic says:

    whoops on co-workers pc.

  38. just_paranoid says:

    sorry my friend in the office next to me is on here all the time also. he’s num1skeptic. we joke about how he’s skeptical, and i’m paranoid. kinda an office joke.

  39. TechnoDestructo says:

    That means little in terms of how much it should cost to fix.

  40. sven.kirk says:

    @trenace: It is the not necessarily the design of the bumper. It is the design of the vehicle. A bumper does no good if the first object that hits, is the spare tire mounted on the rear of the SUV. The seamless transition from bumper to parts (being from hood, trunk quarter panel)

    @swalve: Comparing Nascar crushable barriers to a 5 mph crash test is really hard to do. And the baseball bat analogy is still ways off. Maybe if you compared it with pitching and have a catchers mask, maybe.

  41. VoxPopuli says:

    I remember having over $1,000 in damage to a Saturn about a decade ago because I hit the side of the narrow garage while pulling in – also at a slow speed.

    That was the day that I discovered the downside of Saturn’s “dent resistant” panels. If you manage to damage them (say by getting it caught on the side of a garage), it ends up being more expensive because you have to replace the entire panel. No taking it to the body shop for a few hundred to pop the dent out.

    (Keep in mind these are prices from more than 10 years ago. Thankfully, haven’t needed a body shop since)

  42. bakertim says:

    @IAMZARDOZ and those of the opinion that the crash tests are bullsh*t, watch the youtube video of the Chinese car maker’s attempt to pass the front collision test. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but it’ll give you some idea of how relevant and how consistent most modern cars perform in similar tests when better designed.


  43. ShastaMcNasty says:

    @num1skeptic: It seems pretty clear from the video that the cost is for all 4 tests combined…it shows a 4-way split screen with each test in its own window, and a separate ($1.25-$2K) cost for each test.

  44. ShastaMcNasty says:

    Also the table at the end of the article is 100% clear that the cost is for 4 tests combined. But reading is, like, hard and stuff so I just watched the video first.

  45. just_paranoid says:

    see i don’t have flash player at work so the video is not an option for me. damn administrator!

  46. weave says:

    A friend of had one of those early Honda Civic wagons from the 80s that were absolutely tiny and light as a feather. She got T-boned by a tractor trailer doing about 30-40 MPH that ran a red light. She busted her spleen and two ribs but other than that was fine. The car wasn’t too bad either. Basically the car didn’t resist the truck at all, just basically got picked up and carried down the road until the driver was able to stop the truck.

    Now fortunately for her, if that truck road OVER the top of her car, she’d have been pancaked.

    As they say, every situation is different, but not every crash involves running head on into a stationery barrier.

  47. jackhandey says:

    Holy crap, $8000 is 8 X the value of my car.

    Steel bumpters FTW! (At least I will just crush anything in my path.)

  48. usa1 says:


    7 mph =/= 4 mph.

    7 mpg = much more kinetic energy than 4 mph

  49. EtherealStrife says:

    Eh my corolla’s plastic bumpers have held their own. Semi rearends me at ~5mph? $5 touch up paint. I rearend a bmw? $10k in damages on the german, a badly scratched bumper shell on mine.
    I think the real issue is the price inflation of the parts, as trenace said. When all the body shop is doing is replacing a *plastic* shell and perhaps some styrofoam there’s no reason why it should cost as much as it does. Labor is negligible, as most plastic parts snap on (depending on manufacturer).

  50. weezedog says:

    Read it and weep. Actually has some good info. Also in the early 80’s, it was federal law that bumpers had to withstand a 5mph impact with little to no damage, a far cry from the 5,000 – 8,000 of damages of today.


    2) What is the purpose of bumpers?

    The car bumper is designed to prevent or reduce physical damage to the front and rear ends of passenger motor vehicles in low-speed collisions. Automobile bumpers are not typically designed to be structural components that would significantly contribute to vehicle crashworthiness or occupant protection during front or rear collisions. It is not a safety feature intended to prevent or mitigate injury severity to occupants in the passenger cars. Bumpers are designed to protect the hood, trunk, grille, fuel, exhaust and cooling system as well as safety related equipment such as parking lights, headlamps and taillights in low speed collisions.

  51. abercrombie121 says:

    the chevy cavalier is a cheap car that is cheaply made what do you expect from plastic bumpers?@hoystory:

  52. Nighthawke says:

    The new Beetle had ZERO damage reported in its 5 mph bumper basher test with both Car and Driver and the IIHS. Have we forgotten the basic designs for a resilient and robust bumper, in trade off for cost-effective construction, does not compute?

  53. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    So when your bumper gets bashed up, do what they do up here..replace it with a 2X6. Total cost = $10.00 (including bolts and duct tape). Check out the fine job on this Ford Econoline pickup.

    Seriously, when was the last time an automaker cared how much it cost to fix one of their cars (or for that matter, how easy it was to do mechanical repairs)? The only concern on the automaker’s side is whether it’s cheap to produce and whether or not it looks good.

    A small dent in a body panel could cost you several thousand bucks to fix. Body work is ridiculously expensive.

  54. forgottenpassword says:

    Its because all those jelly-bean looking aerodynamic vehicles have bumpers that are practically make for looks only. If i remember correctly they took one apart & it had the equivalent of styrofoam in it. Gimme the old fashioned chrome bumpers made of STEEL! Not plastic & foam!

    Glad my jeep has one.

  55. Ed - says:

    Thats not hard to believe when you consider how much these places charge for labour.

    What’s really ridiculous is how much they charge to get a hood. The part will cost a few hundred and they’ll bill you the four hours it takes Sal to tighten a bolt.

  56. hapless says:

    Pickups and SUVs are not subject to the 2.5 mph bumper standards. Their bumpers are typically design elements with no function whatsoever. (And you thought THESE bumpers were lousy.)

    In addition, the short overhangs and oversized wheels on your SUV predispose them to serious damage in even the lowest-speed collisions.

    A Jeep Grand Cherokee is tied only with a Wrangler for the honor of being the vehicle I should least like to own in a low-speed collision.

  57. Rusted says:

    @maztec: I miss Germany. A human not where a human should be was fair game.

    @dwayne_dibbly:Why even do bodywork? My Baja has scrapes, dents, and scratches. Let em’ be. The bumpers are beyond five miles an hour. My old boss kept backing into the front. It just took it.

  58. zolielo says:

    There should be a bring back of replaceable body panels.

  59. FuzzyPlushroom says:

    @dwayne_dibbly: Plus, as in this photo I took in central New York state, you can write stuff on ’em.

    I’m completely, entirely against flimsy body-color bumpers. Give me a 1980s Volvo any day in a 5-mph crash.

  60. AlphaWolf says:

    It’s not as black and white as a strong bumper vs a car that crumbles correctly on a 30mph impact. We should have enough smart enough engineers to do both.

    There is really is no excuse that a bumper cannot withstand a 5mph impact. The manufacturers are looking to save costs, and make the cars look cooler, the bumpers are almost an afterthought.

  61. morsteen says:

    This is total bullsh*t. It should not cost that much to fix a 6mph collision. Nor should a car be damaged that much at 6 mph. Hell it shouldn’t even be damaged that much at 30mph or 40mph. I thank the higher power above that I was driving my 1958 chevy panel truck the night I got hit by a drunk driver who was going about 70mph on a windy 2 lane road. When the police came, they were absolutely beside themselves when they saw that the only damage to my 58 tank was that my bumper was cocked upwards and to the side and bent. Guess what happened to his mid-80’s subaru? totaled. absolutely totaled. I mean unrecognizable. no joke. Cop says to me “wow i guess they really DON’T make them like they used to” . Yeah I was sore as hell, my knees slammed into the steering wheel my back hurt but after about 5 days i was starting to get over it. It absorbed the impact and hell it even gave some impact back to that idiot drunk! You just can’t beat well built steel, you never will. The sooner people learn that the better. If I was in my little toyota truck you can bet your ass I would’ve been hurtin alot more, body and wallet.

  62. UpsetPanda says:

    I used to drive a Nissan Pathfinder and one night when it was icy, a girl in a Honda civic or accord smacked into me. She hit a patch of ice and couldn’t stop in time, and when we got out to inspect the damage, her hood was folded like an accordion and my bumper looked a little crooked but was fine. I felt a jolt when her car hit mine, but it wasn’t painful. Later when I got an estimate on my bumper, I found out that while it looked fine from the outside (just crooked), inside the bumper it was smashed the pieces. I felt a bump, but the bumper (thank goodness) absorbed the impact. It wasn’t at 2 or 3 mph either, it was probably 10 to 15. And the bumper cost about $900 to fix.

  63. morsteen says:

    And also on well built older cars with accessible steel bumpers (and even some more current cars like my acura integra) if you are handy enough you can find a replacement bumper (as well as the support braces if those are bent too) either at a junkyard or online for a couple hundred and replace it yourself. Sure beats the over 5k figures for pieces of crap lol.

  64. MrEvil says:

    I got hit by a guy last winter in my Explorer. I was driving on a 4 lane street with middle turn lane. I’m doing about 25 in a 45 because the street is a solid sheet of ice. I have my Explorer in 4×4. I see a pickup lose control and come across, I give the Explorer gas and pass that pickup within inches. UNFORTUNATELY there was a gentlman in a Montero or some other Asian wannabe SUV that hit the pickup. The Montero then whacked my Explorer on the drivers rear quarter.

    Damage sustained to ’92 Explorer – $1200 A couple dents, some scratches in the paint, a new tallight and a broken mirror. Ended up getting a new mirror for $75 and a new taillight housing for $40, I kept the rest of the check.

    The Montero I know got totaled because all four of his doors were smashed and wouldn’t open and close properly, plus his back quarter sheetmetal on the passengers side was bashed in pretty good. He also lost a tire and wheel.

    The Nissan pickup that started all this I bet probably wound up with close to $4000 in damage to his front end.

    This new stuff just doesn’t hold up at all.