You know when I was first learning to drive, my dad would jokingly say, “back-up until it sounds expensive”. Well, back in those days, the 50’s and 60’s, you actually could do that. You could smack into something and there would hardly be a dent or scratch in the old Chevy wagon. But don’t try that today.

According to the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS), the most expensive mid size SUV that they ever had to fix after the 5 mph “rear into pole” crash test was the 2000 Isuzu Trooper. That’s 5 mph; just above walking speed, and the vehicle sustained $3,317 damage. Part of the reason for all this damage is that the spare tire hangs on the end gate. When the vehicle encounters something like a pole or another vehicle the spare tire crushes the end gate, blows out the rear window and in some instances, pulls the side fender wells in.

Between 1999 and 2003, out of the 10 most expensive SUVs to fix from that same crash test (that we could find records on) as tested by the IIHS, 7 of them had the spare tire hanging on the end gate. Those vehicles (and the damage they sustained) included the Isuzu Trooper ($3,317), Mitsubishi Montero ($2,961), Toyota RAV4 ($2,719), Honda CR-V ($2,727), Land Rover Freelander ($2,096), Suzuki Grand Vitara XL7 ($2,175) and the Jeep Liberty ($1,627). Brian O’Neill of the IIHS probably said it best: “SUVs may be advertised as rugged and manufacturers tell potential buyers they can drive these vehicles anywhere adventure leads them. But consumers can expect big repair bills if they’re unlucky enough to bump these so-called rugged vehicles into something at slow speeds.”

It’s been 27 Years since the consumer has had 5 mph bumpers (1982). Now we only have 2.5 mph bumpers and, only on passenger cars. There are NO federal bumper standards for pickup trucks, SUVs or mini vans which is one of the reasons they do so poorly. Even on the standards for passenger cars, the rules allow for unlimited damage to the bumper. And, the average cost to fix a full size pickup truck bumper from the 5 mph rear into pole collision is $1,618, and that’s in 2004 prices. And some pickup trucks and SUVs don’t even get tested because the IIHS only tests the most popular vehicles.

Now the IIHS has eliminated the rear into pole test because most automakers complained that it was not a “fair” test. But there’s one heck of lot of parking lot poles out there just waiting to walk into your vehicle. The IIHS also found that some of the automakers were cheating by adding extra energy absorbing material right where the vehicle would hit the pole.

Today, the lightest tap from a vehicle can leave damage from $450 to over $2,000 damage. The average cost to repair a plastic bumper is $450 and the average cost to replace a plastic bumper is $900. And if you have a vehicle with a backup alarm you’re looking at twice that amount. A backup alarm might help you from hitting something but it don’t help in the rear end collision.

There are over 12 million rear-end collisions in the USA every year – both reported and unreported and over 8 million plastic bumpers are replaced each year. The rear end collision accounts for 38% of all the dollars paid for automobile claims and you can’t afford to make a claim any more. The typical insurance premium will increase 40% if a claim is made.

There are thousands of tailgaters, uninsured motorists, distracted drivers, inattentive cell phone users, drivers with poor judgment, text messengers and lousy-stinking parallel parkers out there just trying to wreck your vehicle, cripple your family, steal your deductible and jeopardize your insurance. There are products on the market today that can help you fight back. Do your homework and start protecting your family, vehicle and insurance; you can’t afford not to.

Jeff is CEO of Mohr Mfg – – and is an expert in rear end collisions. His company makes portable, energy absorbing, spare safety bumpers that protect your vehicle from rear-end collision damage, reduce whiplash injuries, shield your gas tank from under-ride and eliminate parking lot and parallel parking dents and dings. For additional information: