People are often surprised by car bumper repair costs. This is probably due to an outdated understanding of what a car bumper is. In the early days of the automotive industry, a car bumper was just a piece of wood or metal bolted to the ends of the vehicle. It was literally there to take damage when drivers “bumped” into things. The bumper was held on by a couple of bolts, and could be easily removed and replaced.
Over the past decades, car design has become much more complex. Bumpers are now an integrated component of the vehicle, and perform far more functions than just protecting the body from damage. This has caused car bumper repair costs to rise. To understand car bumper repair costs, you need to understand what a modern bumper does, and what’s involved in fixing or replacing one.
Removing and installing a bumper, whether for repair or replacement, is no longer a simple matter of loosening a few bolts. Modern bumpers are connected to numerous vehicle systems, and it takes time to disconnect all of those systems from the bumper. Some of the systems that are integrated into bumpers are:
- Lights: Fog lights, turn signals, and decorative lights can all be wired into a bumper. These lights must be disconnected, removed, and replaced or reinstalled.
- Trim: A modern bumper usually has several trim pieces that must be carefully removed prior to repair or replacement.
- Warning Systems: It’s not unusual to find backup sensors, cameras, vehicle sensors, lane-change warning sensors, and more in a modern bumper.
- Airbag Sensors: Some bumpers contain sensors for airbag deployment. For obvious reasons, these sensors must be removed very carefully.
- Air Intakes: While not as common, some vehicles feature a cold-air intake mounted in the front bumper.
Removing all of these parts can take two to three hours or more. With an average labor rate of $100 per hour, the car bumper repair costs start adding up quickly.
Once the bumper is removed, it’s time to paint. If the bumper is being repaired and reinstalled, painting starts with repairing any damage to the bumper. This can involve using plastic repair material, filler, or other materials to repair cracks and dents. The goal is to restore the bumper to the condition it was in when originally installed.
Once repaired, the surface of the bumper is sanded and cleaned to ensure that the paint adheres. Any remaining trim or cutouts are removed, and the painting can begin. Painting involves matching the color of the bumper to the existing color of the vehicle, then laying a base coat, one or more coats of color, and, finally, the clearcoat. Each layer of paint must be allowed to cure properly, or the entire process starts over.
The entire painting process can take around three to four hours. The labor cost for painting also runs around $100 per hour, making the car bumper repair costs rise more.
All of the body filler, plastic repair material, sandpaper, masking tape, and paint cost money. Instead of trying to measure every inch of masking tape used and every ounce of paint sprayed, auto-body shops charge a flat rate for materials. At a rate of $45 per hour on average, paint materials also contribute to the rising car bumper repair costs.
Of course, in any collision, it’s likely that some components will be damage beyond repair. A replacement bumper averages $300 to $700. If any lights, cameras, sensors, or other components are also damaged, those will further increase the car bumper repair costs. Even a low-speed collision in a newer vehicle can quickly add up to well over $1,000 in parts alone.
Adding it all up
As car bumpers have grown in complexity, the time, tools, and experience needed to replace them have also grown. When people hear the word “bumper,” they may incorrectly associate it with a disposable, easily replaceable part of the car. That simply isn’t the case.
Once all of the expenses are tallied, it’s easy to see why car bumper repair costs are so high:
- Labor Time: 2 – 3 hours at $100/hour = $200 – $300
- Paint Labor: 3 – 4 hours at $100/hour = $300 – $400
- Paint Materials: 3 – 4 hours at $45/hour = $135 – $180
- Parts: Average parts cost = $300 – $700
Grand Total: All told, average bumper repairs run between $935 and $1,580
With the mechanical labor necessary to remove the bumper, the labor and materials needed to make it look like new, and the cost of the parts that make it all possible, it’s no surprise that car bumper repair costs have risen.