Dear Car Talk:
While pulling into our driveway this past winter, I hit one of those huge snow banks that had turned into rock-hard ice. I know, what's wrong with my eyes, right? I took out a piece of the plastic bumper on my 2012 Subaru Impreza. The estimated cost to fix this is $700, because they have to replace the whole bumper. We are going to duct-tape the piece on until we can afford to fix it. But how necessary is it to fix this? Also, should this be done by our dealer, or could we go to an independent shop? I've never done anything like this before. I'm so embarrassed.
Don't be embarrassed, Kathy. These sorts of things happen to everybody. Trust me. I'm a guy who once dropped a costumer's Nissan 300ZX off a lift. And you think you had some explaining to do!
It sounds like the plastic part you broke is just the bumper cover. The bumper itself, the metal bar designed to absorb the shock of a collision, is underneath that cover, and was unharmed.
The bumper cover's purpose is 5 percent aerodynamics (for slightly improved fuel economy), and 95 percent aesthetics. So you really don't have to fix it.
If you do decide to fix it, a well-rated independent body shop certainly can do the work. In fact, lots of dealers outsource their body work to independent shops that they trust.
And many plastic parts, like bumper covers, even come prepainted from the factory now, so it's pretty hard to screw up. So if you want it fixed, and you're not going to go the insurance-claim route, then shopping around makes a lot of sense.
If you don't fix it, just make sure the broken part is secure. Duct tape is fine, but you want to be certain that the dangling piece of plastic doesn't fall off while you're driving and become a road hazard to someone else.
You might even consider some of that newfangled colored duct tape. Maybe you can find a roll that comes in Subaru Orange.