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Bad Bumpers Impact on Repair Costs

5 Aug 2008


The Impreza was left with the largest repair bill after the front impact test

Clever desgin meant the Corolla was left with the cheapest overall repair cost

The RCAR test in action


State insurance is calling on car manufacturers to improve car bumper designs after recent 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, put the spotlight on bumper performance in a simulated 10km per hour collision – a very common type of crash at a speed that most joggers could manage.

Tests conducted on ten 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.

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.

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.

The repair costs were calculated using new parts rather than recycled parts because the vehicles tested were new models for which used parts were unlikely to be available. 

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.