Bad bumpers bump up repair costs

AutoTrader NZ
Published 3 September 2020

State insurance is calling on car manufacturers to improve car bumper designs after tests revealed poor performing bumpers can contribute to higher smash repair costs.

The State insurance testing programme, conducted at State’s research centre in Sydney, puts the spotlight on bumper performance in a simulated 10km per hour collision – a common type of crash at a speed that most joggers could manage.

Tests conducted on 10 of New Zealand’s top selling small vehicles revealed inconsistent repair costs ranging from around $1,200 to $10,000 for frontal repair and $1,600 to $3,800 for rear repair.

State insurance Head of Research Robert McDonald says the design of the bumpers on a car have a big impact on the amount of damage caused in low speed collisions.

“The test results show a vast difference in repair prices across the range of vehicles tested as a poorly designed bumper can slide under other bumpers on impact, causing more damage to both vehicles,” said Mr McDonald. “Of the vehicles tested, the Suzuki Swift, was the most expensive to repair compared to the car’s value. The combined front and rear collision damage to the Swift, at $10,939, represents 64% or nearly two thirds of the car’s value. This means that in a relatively minor nose to tail accident the Suzuki Swift would be likely to be written off rather than repaired.”

Both the Subaru Impreza (5 door hatch) and the Honda Civic also registered disappointing results with damage equating to $10,109 or 36.1% of the purchase price for the former and $9,627 and 32.6% for the latter for a frontal only collision.

“We are however really pleased with the performance of the Toyota Corolla as the repair cost of this vehicle after a low speed collision was just $1,210 or 3.8% for frontal damage and $1,971 or 6.2% as a percentage of its purchase price for rear damage,” said Mr McDonald.

State’s National Sales and Support Manager Mike Tully says in the not so distant future insurance companies in New Zealand may follow Australia’s lead and take into account the cost of repair to a particular car model when setting premium prices.

“Our pricing system is now more sophisticated and it can allow us to more accurately reflect individual risk, including that associated with a particular vehicle model,” said Mr Tully. “We encourage motorists to consider the cost of repairing a vehicle before they make their purchase as a bargain in the showroom may not be such a good deal when taking the cost of insurance and repairs into account.”

The State insurance low speed crash test programme was designed in conjunction with research centres in six other countries to assist car manufacturers improve vehicle design, and to help keep the cost of collision repairs affordable.

About the bumper tests
The bumper tests are based on a new international standard bumper test from RCAR (the Research Council for Automobile Repairs). The test uses a standardised bumper beam that is 100mm tall with a flexible, energy absorbing cover that replicates a real vehicle bumper. A back plate which is 200mm tall is fitted to the top surface of the bumper barrier, 25mm behind the front face. This represents the rear structure above the bumper of the vehicle being crashed into.

The tests are run at 10km per hour with the bumper barrier height set to 455mm from the ground. This is to recreate the underride phenomenon seen in real world crashes.