A reader named Sue recently asked the following:
“After unloading some heavy luggage, I realized that our Highlander has nothing protecting the top of the rear bumper. Walking around the neighborhood, I saw that nearly every other SUV has a plastic or rubber strip on their back bumper. I did find a chrome option online, but I’d prefer a simple black rubber option. Are you aware of any aftermarket products that might work?”
Sue is correct, the Highlander’s rear bumper is naked as can be. And it’s also painted to match the color of the vehicle. Thus, it’s pretty susceptible to ugly damage when loading and unloading luggage, etc.
When it comes to official Toyota solutions, you really only have two options for protecting your bumper. You can install their bumper protector or their bumper applique. The former is the chrome-finished bumper guard that Sue referenced, while the latter is a clear film protector.
As always, these can be found online for less than the dealer would likely charge. For example, the bumper protector lists for $129.95, but it can be found on Amazon for ca. $100 w/free shipping. Similarly, the applique lists for $69.00 but can be found on Amazon for under $50.
Our Highlander actually came with a “clear paint protection” package that included the rear bumper film. This seems to work, but I’m not crazy about paint protection films as they can discolor over time, and they tend to collect gunk along their edges. I’ve thus been thinking about peeling it off and replacing it with the chrome bumper protector.
As for third party options, I’m not entirely sure. I did a bit of digging, and found this universal protector. It’s cheap, and the reviews are quite positive, so it may be worth a shot — though you might need to use three across (they come in a two-pack) to protect the full width.
Another possibility would be to simply buy Toyota’s chrome protector and coat it with black Plasti-Dip, which is a spray-on rubber coating. It would be a bit of extra work, but Plasti-Dip works quite well (in general) and you’d end up with an OEM fit minus the chrome look.
What about you? Have you had any problems with bumper damage when loading or unloading the rear cargo area? Have you done anything to protect it? Please share your experiences in the comments section, below.