Insurance rates by car, 2014 models
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If you want to save money on car insurance, spring for an SUV or minivan. Insure.com's annual ranking of the vehicles with the best car insurance rates is dominated by non-sedans.
A few years ago, minivans held a good grip on our "least expensive to insure" rankings. But small and mid-size SUVs have been increasingly grabbing ranking spots. This year, minivans account for just five of the top 20 places.
And Jeep grabs a remarkable seven of the 20 "least expensive to insure" spots.
The advantages that propelled the minivans to the best spots are now being seen with SUVs: Family-friendly vehicles used mainly for safely ferrying kids around to Scout meetings and soccer matches. The parent driving the kids is among the least likely to speed, crash or have a claim.
And good rates always boil down to claims: When drivers of a certain vehicle submit fewer claims and/or less expensive claims, all owners that vehicle benefit with better car insurance rates. (See the rankings of car insurance rates by state.)
That brings us to the Jeep Wrangler, Patriot, Compass and Grand Cherokee. Their good insurance rates hinge on Jeep owners.
While Jeeps exude an "adventurous spirit," they're usually not used for reckless abandon.
According to Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Irvine, Calif.-based Kelley Blue Book, owners of Jeeps tend to be single or married women under age 45, who display prudent driving behavior.
Least expensive 2014 cars to insure
|1||Jeep Wrangler Sport||$ 1,080|
|2||Honda Odyssey LX||$ 1,103|
|3||Jeep Patriot Sport||$ 1,104|
|4||Honda CR-V LX||$ 1,115|
|5||Jeep Compass Sport||$ 1,140|
|6||Chrysler Town & Country Touring||$ 1,140|
|7||Subaru Outback 2.5i||$ 1,144|
|8||Dodge Journey SE||$ 1,149|
|9||Honda Odyssey EX||$ 1,149|
|10||Dodge Grand Caravan SE||$ 1,158|
|11||Jeep Patriot Latitude||$ 1,161|
|12||Ford Escape S||$ 1,170|
|13||Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo||$ 1,171|
|14||Jeep Wrangler Sahara||$ 1,172|
|15||GMC Acadia SLE-2||$ 1,185|
|16||Chevrolet Traverse LS||$ 1,188|
|17||Toyota Sienna L||$ 1,190|
|18||Hyundai Santa Fe Sport||$ 1,194|
|19||Accord Sport||$ 1,209|
|20||Jeep Wrangler Rubicon||$ 1,209|
"While there is an 'adventuresome' image to the Jeep brand, for every Wrangler that does serious off-roading, there are dozens of Wranglers and Grand Cherokees and Compasses -- and CR-Vs, Siennas and Traverses -- that are used to carefully haul kids around suburbia at sub-50-mph speeds most of the time," he says. "This demographic and these driving conditions don't cause a lot of accidents, thankfully."
While advertising may show Jeeps on craggy rocks, it's not unusual for Jeeps to never go off-roading.
Mark Takahashi, auto editor for Edmunds.com in Santa Monica, Calif., agrees that most Jeeps are regarded as family vehicles. "If you're driving your family around, you will drive more carefully, and not take chances, because you have a vested interest in being a careful driver," he says.
Jeep Wranglers in particular are very economical to repair, which helps keep insurance rates down. If you get a dent in your door, the body shop can easily remove the door.
"It's usually bolted rather than welded together. Look at the doors of a Jeep Wrangler to this day, and they're removable, just like the old Army Jeeps," says Takahashi.
Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor of Chicago-based Cars.com, agrees Jeep's victory on the "least expensive to insure" rankings is a reflection of both how safely Jeep owners drive their vehicles and the cost of repair and replacement of Jeeps.
"You'd certainly be able to theorize that the owners of any one on this list are less likely to have collisions, and that the vehicles are less likely to be stolen. If they're low-volume cars, that suggests less of a replacement part market" for stolen parts.
Jeeps and SUVs also likely have an advantage because of their height. "They are higher-riding than the average car," Wiesenfelder says. "So if they are in a collision with an average car, that car will have greater damage than the Jeep."
The most expensive cars to insure
No one buys an expensive sports car for a leisurely Sunday drive after church. They're built to travel in a blur, which is often the precursor to crumpling sheet metal. Their awe-inspiring speed is matched only by their gasp-inducing insurance rates.
This year's "most expensive to insure" list is topped by a beast whose nickname derives from a 1950s-era horror flick, "Godzilla." What could be more blood-curdling than owning a car with the most expensive insurance rates in the 2014 model year? It may be that shelling out well in excess of $100,000 for a car blinds many to the insurance premiums.
This year's rankings have "a lot of vehicles that are just the opposite of a family car," says Takahashi. "They're for wealthy people who like to go fast. They're aspirational and firmly rooted in entertainment. And all of them are insanely fun."
The problem with insane fun is that many drivers get into trouble fast, says Takahashi.
Tricky to drive
For instance, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, at No. 4, "is a tricky car to drive. It comes with a lot of electronic driving aids, such as electronic stability control and traction control. But if the driver is overconfident and turns off those features, bad things can happen very quickly and significantly. That's because the car is very fast, and performance cars on the whole are designed to be a little twitchy and very responsive."
Edmunds had a Mercedes SLS AMG in its fleet for months and Takahashi drove it many times. A veteran of racing school, he never felt confident enough to turn off the safety features. "It's very rewarding, and made me feel like a million bucks," he says. "But I didn't want to be the one to bend that car."
Most expensive 2014 cars to insure
|1||Nissan GT-R Track Edition||$ 3,169|
|2||BMW M6||$ 3,065|
|3||Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic AWD||$ 3,019|
|4||Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT||$ 2,986|
|5||Porsche Panamera Turbo S||$ 2,970|
|6||Audi R8 5.2 Spyder Quattro||$ 2,917|
|7||Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG||$ 2,887|
|8||Audi A8 L 6.3 Quattro||$ 2,869|
|9||Jaguar XKR Supercharged||$ 2,854|
|10||Jaguar XK||$ 2,610|
|11||Mercedes-Benz GL63 AMG||$ 2,609|
|12||Porsche Panamera 4S||$ 2,598|
|13||Audi S8 Quattro||$ 2,598|
|14||Porsche Panamera S||$ 2,597|
|15||Mercedes-Benz CLS550 4Matic AWD||$ 2,582|
|16||BMW 650i||$ 2,544|
|17||Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG||$ 2,507|
|18||BMW 640ix||$ 2,484|
|19||Audi R8 V10 Quattro||$ 2,448|
|20||Mercedes-Benz GL550 4Matic AWD||$ 2,438|
The No. 1 most costly vehicle to insure is so flat-out over the top that its nickname is Godzilla. The $115,000 Nissan GT-R Track Edition has all-wheel-drive, twin turbochargers that help its V-6 engine develop 545 horsepower, massive brakes, a trick dual-clutch automated manual transmission and an array of electronics to customize steering, suspension and brake settings.
Takahashi calls the Nissan GT-R "an affordable supercar." The GT-R was developed for people who desire an exceptionally high level of performance, and who might be taking it out on the race track now and again. "It was developed for the race track," Takahashi says.
"And while it's not as tricky as the Mercedes SLS, because it has so many features working constantly to keep it on the road, it is blindingly fast."
Try 190 to 200 mph. At those speeds, drivers without racing school experience are in over their heads, he says.
John Pearley Huffman, who writes on autos for Car & Driver and the New York Times, has also driven Godzilla. "It's an extremely specialized car," he says, that's "sold in extremely small numbers and goes to a dedicated cadre of enthusiasts."
Huffman also says "it's flat-out brilliant to drive."
The inevitable mistake
Ron Henderson is a GT-R owner in Texas. He says because Godzilla is "very easy to drive" it can inspire confidence as a driver pushes the car to its limits, which may be why so many are wrecked.
"The GT-R is a very quick car, even without any modifications, and despite the electronic aids and all-wheel drive, any car can be pushed too far."
"I believe that given the combination of a novice driver and the ease with which the GT-R can be pushed hard, you can end up with a novice driver who has no idea how to recover from what was an inevitable mistake," Henderson says.
Screwing up at 150 mph
Brauer from Kelley Blue Book says sales of high-performance cars are heavily weighted toward a male demographic that savors aggressive driving on the street, racetrack and often both. Cars like the GT-R Track Edition represent the ultimate in mechanical capability.
"Because these vehicles are equipped with advanced drive trains and exotic exterior shapes, they cost much more to repair after things go wrong," he says.
That is, if they can be repaired.
Takahashi notes that carbon fiber is used in some of the car's body panels. The components are "lightweight and strong for their intended purpose, but they're designed to shatter on impact," he reports. "You can't repair them; you just have to replace them."
Henderson agrees the GT-R is a complex, costly car with exotic materials and compact packaging throughout. Combine carbon fiber undertrays and subframe components, low front-mounted intercoolers and aluminum body panels, and "fender-benders" don't exist in a GT-R.
"Even a minor accident could easily cost tens of thousands to repair," Henderson says. "If it is repairable at all."
Don't forget the GT-R's speed, Huffman says. This is a car that goes from zero to 60 in three seconds.
"It's a fantastic car and I believe it to be an easy-to-handle car," Huffman says. "But the consequences of screwing up at 150 mph are radically different than screwing up at 50 mph."
All things considered
Maybe the GT-R is still an insurance bargain at No. 1.
Takahashi, for instance, feels if a buyer has the money to buy a GT-R or other cars on the "most costly" rankings, they shouldn't have a problem with $4,000 to $6,000 for insurance.
"Sports cars and exotics are bought because they're raucous and fun," he observes. "It takes a level of affluence and skill to own and drive one of these. But as for their insurance being too expensive, I don't think it is, based on the expense of the cars themselves."
Insure.com commissioned Quadrant Information Services to provide average auto insurance rates for 2014 models. Averages were calculated using data from six large carriers (Allstate, Farmers, GEICO, Nationwide, Progressive and State Farm) in 10 ZIP codes per state. Not all models were available, especially exotic cars. More than 850 models are included in the 2014 study.
Averages are based on full coverage for a single 40-year-old male who commutes 12 miles to work each day, with policy limits of 100/300/50 ($100,000 for injury liability for one person, $300,000 for all injuries and $50,000 for property damage in an accident) and a $500 deductible on collision and comprehensive coverage. This hypothetical driver has a clean record and good credit. The rate includes uninsured motorist coverage. Average rates are for comparative purposes. Your own rate will depend on personal factors.