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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Minivan Fender-Benders Can Cost a Small Fortune

New Tests Show $6 Billion Paid Annually On Small Minivan Claims

A new crash test, conducted by the insurance industry, reveals that a minor fender-bender in a minivan can rack up thousands of dollars in repair costs.

According to test results released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, repairing damage to minivans involved in low-speed crashes of 3 to 6 miles per hour could vary from $483 to more than $3,500.

The Institute conducted series of four low-speed crashes on six 2008 minivans.

The most expensive bill for the minivans belonged to the Nissan Quest, requiring $3,549 in repairs for a low-speed crash to the rear bumper. Quest tallied $8,102 in combined damages in the four tests.

The lowest costs in one of the four tests were recorded by the Dodge Grand Caravan, which required $483 for damage to the rear corner of the minivan. The Grand Caravan had a combined $5,495 in damages in all four tests.

The Honda Odyssey recorded the lowest combined repair costs in the four tests, with $5,258 needed in repairs. The Toyota Sienna cost $5,726 in repairs for all the tests, and the Chevrolet Uplander had $5,799 in repair charges. The Kia Sedona required $6,525 to repair damages.

With the exception of the Uplander, tailgates on five of the six minivans had damage in the rear full-width test. The Quest and the Sienna were the only minivans that required the tailgate to be replaced.

Joe Nolan, the Institute's Senior Vice President, said the Quest "miserably failed" the test to the full width of the rear bumper and suffered two times as much damage as the Honda Odyssey in that specific type of crash.

In the Quest's rear test, Nolan said a reinforcement bar cracked and was driven into the rear body of the vehicle, requiring costly repairs,

A spokeswoman for Nissan Motor Co., Jeannine Ginivan, said the automaker believes the Quest "performs competitively in terms of cost of repair."

Ginivan said under normal driving conditions, it was "difficult for these four combined tests to accurately reflect the various conditions experienced by drivers everyday and it is highly unlikely that anyone would be simultaneously involved in the four low-speed crash modes."

Alex Fedorak, a Kia spokesman, said the Sedona's bumpers are designed to protect motorists in a severe crash. He pointed out that the minivan has received top scores in the government's crash tests and received "Top Safety Pick" honors by the Insurance Institute.

Bumpers are designed to prevent damage to the front-end and rear-end and absorb the energy of a low-speed collision. Severe injuries are uncommon in low-speed crashes, and passenger safety was not assessed by the institute's bumper tests.

Russ Rader, an institute spokesman, said that insurance claims of under $4,500 for front and rear repairs from low-speed crashes account for about $6 billion in insurance payouts annually, or about one-third of all insurance payouts for vehicles.

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