According to research compiled by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safely, mismatched bumpers on cars and SUVs cost more expensive damage during low-speed collisions than bumpers that line up.
A gap in federal regulations exempt SUVs from a rule that requires bumpers on cars to match with each other in collisions. “SUVs and cars share the road,” said Joe Nolan, chief administrative officer at the IIHS. “The problem is they don’t share the same bumper rules, and consumers end up paying the price.”
Federal standards require that cars be outfitted with bumpers that protect them in a range of 16 to 20 inches from the ground, which allows all bumpers to reasonably align and thus engage during a collision. The bumpers absorb energy and lessen the degree of resulting damage from the impact.
There are no regulations, however, that apply to bumpers on SUVs, pick-ups, or minivans. These vehicles tend to have higher, less sturdy bumpers or not at all.
When cars and SUVs are involved in low velocity collisions, cars suffer excessive damage to their hoods, fenders, bumper covers, lights, and engine cooling systems. IIHS testing found that even within a given manufacturer’s fleet, bumpers do not match up.
In tests conducted at only 10 mph with a car and an SUV and reversing which of the vehicles was in motion, damages ranged from $850 to $6,015. In a scenario in which a Nissan Rogue struck a Nissan Sentra, damages were $2,884 and $4,560 respectively. When a Toyota Corolla struck a Toyota RAV4, the numbers were $3,852 and $6,015.
“Of the 7 car-SUV pairs we tested,” said Nolan. “We can’t point to a single one as a model of compatibility because combined damage estimates run into thousands of dollars for even the best performers. In the real world that money comes straight out of consumers’ wallets through deductibles and insurance premiums. Regulating SUV bumpers would ease the burden.”