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Bumper Crash Test

This is the conclusion of a round of bumper crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), an insurance industry-funded organization headquartered in Arlington, Va.

Only $85 damage in one test

It would cost just $85 to repair the back bumper of a 2000 Buick LeSabre that hit a flat barrier at 5 miles an hour in the tests. But if that same LeSabre's front end struck an angle barrier at 5 mph, you'd wind up with $1,101 in damage, the IIHS said.

The best overall result, in dollars, among the seven large and luxury autos tested by IIHS was for another Buick—the 1999 and 2000 Park Avenue. Although it didn't have a single bumper damage cost as low as the LeSabre's $85, the Park Avenue total damage estimate for various front and rear 5-mph crashes was just $1,806, the IIHS said.

This compares with $2,746 for 1998-2000 models of the Lexus GS 400. A big factor in the GS 400 damage estimates was a $1,828 tally for damage if the GS 400's front end struck an angle barrier at 5 mph.

DaimlerChrysler variations

The Dodge Intrepid from the 1999 and 2000 model years was best among all seven cars when crashed into a flat barrier in the front. Damage to the Intrepid's front bumper could be fixed for $136, the institute estimated.

Another DaimlerChrysler car—the 1999-2000 LHS—didn't fare as well. In fact, the LHS's $633 damage cost was the worst among the vehicles tested in that frontal, 5-mph, flat-barrier crash.

But the Intrepid's rear bumper was problematic, racking up damage that would cost $1,257 to fix—the highest among the seven cars tested—after its rear bumper struck a pole at 5 mph.

The least amount of damage to the rear bumper in a collision with a pole like this would be in the 2000 Chevrolet Impala, the IIHS said.

What's it all about?

The institute says its 5-mph tests reflect how well bumpers withstand typical crashes in parking lots and commuter traffic.

The U.S. government standard for bumpers requires only that they protect important safety and operational equipment on your car in low-speed, 2.5-mph crashes.

The IIHS wants more stringent bumper standards. Insurance companies are the ones who pay for vehicle damage above and beyond insurers' deductibles, and they note that about half of today's crashes involve claims for less than $2,000.

Referring to the large-car bumper tests, Institute President Brian O'Neill said, “ . . . Some of the bumpers are simply too close to the car body. This puts styling before function because there's not enough room to absorb energy and prevent damage.”