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Bumper Cover vs. Bumper: What’s the Difference?

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Most people who don’t know much about vehicles would probably find it confusing when they encounter the term, “bumper cover.” Is that different from a bumper? What is it used for?

It can be hard for people to differentiate between bumpers versus bumper covers. However, not knowing the difference can lead you to purchase the wrong part—so once and for all, let’s clear up the confusion by covering the nuances between these two vehicle components.

bumper of a car
Modern bumpers are designed to absorb minor dings and low-speed impacts.

What is a Bumper?

Decades ago, a bumper was a solid metal component affixed to the front of a vehicle. But nowadays, that’s not usually the case. While most people assume the bumper is the visible, front fascia of a modern car, it’s actually a hidden structure behind the bumper cover. Only a few applications, such as heavy-duty pickup trucks, still employ a visible bumper.

Bumpers of all varieties are designed to absorb some impact in a collision, which means they act as a barrier between your vehicle and the other vehicle (or object) involved in the accident. This ensures that some of the more important components under the hood receive less of the impact, thereby mitigating your repair costs.

Modern bumpers, in particular, are designed to absorb minor dings and low-speed impacts. Behind the bumper (also known as a bumper reinforcement), you’ll find energy absorbers.

What is a Bumper Cover?

On the other hand, the bumper cover (also known as the front fascia) is a visible, molded body component that’s typically made out of either plastic or fiberglass. This is the part of the front end that people often misidentify as the bumper itself.

The bumper cover sits in front of the actual bumper. Basically, the bumper cover is there to provide a kind of aesthetic appeal that is unobtrusive. Bumper covers also enhance aerodynamics and, thereby, improve fuel efficiency.

The Differences Between a Bumper Cover and a Bumper

Here’s a comparison table to show you the key differences between a bumper and a bumper cover:

BumpersBumper Covers
FunctionalityThe bumper is a structural
component designed to absorb
impact in the case of a front-end
collision.
The bumper cover is the soft (usually modeled plastic) portion of your car
designed to add aesthetic appeal and enhance aerodynamics.
ProtectionAs mentioned above, these offer
decent protection against impact, as well as a contribution to your car’s
“crumple zone”*.
Covers are just that—covers. They’re
aesthetic fittings that offer little to no protection on their own.
MaterialsMetal or special grade alloys.Can range from high-density plastic
materials, fiberglass, and rubber to
synthetic and genuine leathers.
AvailabilityThis will depend on your car’s year,
make, and model, as you will have to purchase one that fits your car
perfectly.
Same as bumpers

*The crumple zone is a vehicle safety feature that easily deforms and collapses in case of a collision, absorbing some of the energy of the impact and preventing it from being transmitted to the passenger cabin and everyone inside it.

front end of a white SUV
A bumper cover is a soft molded plastic mounted over your bumper for protection.

When Should You Get a Bumper Cover?

It’s usually up to your discretion on whether to get either your front bumper cover or rear bumper cover replaced. However, if you need further justification, here are some reasons why you may need a new bumper cover:

When Should You Get a Bumper?

Bumpers, on the other hand, are much easier to justify purchasing. This is due to the fact that while bumper covers may be replaced for aesthetic purposes, bumpers are really there to help minimize damage (and as a result, passenger injury) after a nasty accident or collision.

Hence, the only consideration in purchasing a bumper is whether or not it is still functional after a collision. What you have to know is that if your bumper is damaged from an accident, you’ll need to replace it as soon as you can, and chances are, some other parts of your car may require replacement as well.

Before you purchase either a replacement bumper cover or bumper, it’s important to check that it’s CAPA-certified. The Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA)—which is recognized by the entire automotive industry—is an independent authority that assesses the fit, quality, and safety of replacement parts to the highest standards. If you choose a CAPA-certified bumper or bumper cover, you can rest assured that it’s passed stringent crash tests, which means ultimate peace of mind for you and your passengers.

two mechanics replacing car bumper
If your bumper is damaged from an accident, you’ll need to replace it as soon as you can
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In the Garage with CarParts.com is an online blog dedicated to bringing DIYers and devoted car enthusiasts up to date with topical automotive news and lifestyle content. Our writers live and breathe automotive, taking the guess work out of car repairs with how-to content that helps owners get back on the road and keep driving.

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