IIHS finds new aluminum-body F-150 is 26 per cent more expensive to repair

Published: July 31, 2015

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Callum Micucci

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For the first time ever, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has tested the cost to repair a vehicle in addition to its crashworthiness.

The new 2015 Ford F-150 boasts an all-new aluminum body (instead of steel) for a lighter and more fuel-efficient truck—and it’s the first mass-market vehicle to do so.

However, according to the IIHS, it appears there could be a significant downside to the new construction—although Ford disagrees.

While the vehicle was generally successful in the safety rating categories, the IIHS found that repairing the F-150 that it tested was 26 per cent more expensive than repairing the 2014, steel-bodied model that it tested.

The engineers at the IIHS ran crash tests at just 10 mph with both the new, aluminum-bodied model and the previous steel-bodied model. They crashed the front-left corner of the 2015 F-150 into the right-rear corner of last year's model, and then flipped the test, running the steel pickup into the back of the aluminum one.

The organization claims that the fixing the aluminum-bodied truck was more expensive, due to more expensive parts and a higher labour cost.

"From a simple bolt-on parts replacement to a more-involved removal and installation of entire body panels, fixing the aluminum F-150 is more expensive than repairing a steel-body F-150," said David Zuby, the chief research officer for the IIHS.

Ford has responded to the Insurance Institute's claims, disagreeing with their findings and questioning the IIHS's ability to make such conclusions based on just one test.

"We do not agree with the repairability costs and findings by IIHS," said Mike Levine, truck communications manager for Ford. "Real-world repair costs for the 2015 F-150 to date are comparable to or less than other full-size pickups, and an average $869 more affordable to repair than last year’s F-150 – not the higher numbers released after crash stunts orchestrated by IIHS and others."

Ford’s numbers are from Assured Performance, an independent body shop certification company that works with leading automakers. The $869 difference is based on Assured Performance’s average repair price to-date of 337 aluminum-bodied F-150s ($1476.93) compared to their average repair price of 1238 steel-bodied F-150s ($2345.97).

While the IIHS claims that the more expensive parts and labour would mean a higher cost-to-insure, Ford says otherwise.

“Consumer Reports analysis shows that the aluminum parts on the F-150 cost about the same as steel parts on last year's truck and because the new F-150 is designed to make replacing components easier, in many cases labour charges may be lower,” Levine said.

Despite the differing views from both Ford and the IIHS, any year-over-year change in a model (particularly a significant one like switching to an aluminum body) could have an impact on car insurance premiums; that's why it's so crucial to compare car insurance rates using a tool like our online car insurance quote tool.

In the more traditional crash tests from the IIHS (those meant to determine the vehicle’s safety ratings), the F-150 fared differently depending on the model tested.

The most demanding category in modern crash testing is called the small front overlap, where 25 per cent of the vehicle’s total width is crashed into a five foot tall barrier at 40 mph on the driver’s side.

The crew cab version, which has four full doors as opposed to the extended cab’s smaller rear doors, fared far better in the small front overlap category, earning a “good” rating—the highest possible.

However, whereas the crew cab’s occupant compartment remained essentially intact, the occupant compartment of the extended cab was seriously compromised—earning it a “marginal” rating in the small front overlap category (the options in descending order are good, acceptable, marginal, and poor).

“The toe pan, parking brake and brake pedal were pushed back 10-13 inches toward the dummy, and the dashboard was jammed against its lower legs,” reads the IIHS report. “Measures recorded on the dummy indicated there would be a moderate risk of injuries to the right thigh, lower left leg and left foot in a real-world crash of this severity.”

Ford said it is evaluating possible changes to the extended cab in order to improve the vehicle's performance in the small overlap test.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the new F-150 is 26 per cent more expensive to repairthis is not the case. In reality, the IIHS claims that the specific 2015 model-year F-150 that the it tested was 26 per cent more expensive to repair than the specific 2014 model-year F-150 that it tested. We cannot make a general claim about the costs to repair the new F-150 based on crashing just one vehicle.

Furthermore, the previous version stated that the new 2015 model-year F-150 had an aluminum chassis, which is not the case: the new model still has a steel chassis—only the body is aluminum.

We regret both errors.