New Study: Fender Benders Can Be Costly

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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released a new study today that should make you pay more attention during those bumper-to-bumper commutes. Tap that car in front of you going just six mph, and the bill could be upward of $4,500 — and that’s just if you hit the car in front of you. Imagine the person behind you then giving you a love tap. That bill could exceed $9,000. And those are just the numbers for popular midsize sedans like the Honda Accord and Volkswagen Jetta, not luxury cars.

A full chart below shows the breakdown of the four tests IIHS ran on 17 popular sedans, and the resulting cost of repairs after the low-speed impacts. The problem with today’s cars is the integrated bumper no longer sticks out from a car’s body, and often it doesn’t align properly with the other vehicle — or test barrier, in this case — resulting in damage to headlights and hoods and often leaving the bumper itself untouched.

Parts costs also factor in. The Toyota Camry, for example, sustained significant damage, but the parts didn’t cost as much as ones for other models tested.

And what do we think of IIHS testing a 1981 Ford Escort for comparison — a car with old-fashioned protruding bumpers? It’s kind of humorous, but we doubt the 1981 Escort would do so well in any of the other crash tests IIHS puts today’s cars through.

We’re not sure what to take away from the tests. IIHS says styling has an influence, as well as simple strength of the bumper. In that case, some humdrum designs like the Pontiac G6 and Honda Accord could stand a change anyway. In the end, we’re just going to fiddle with the radio and navigation a lot less during our commute.

IIHS Video Report

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Former managing editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David Thomas

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