Insurance rates by car, 2015 models
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Jeep vehicles account for three of 2015's 10 least-expensive models for car insurance, according to Insure.com’s latest annual ranking of vehicles.
“Insurance rates are all about claims – how many and how big,” says Penny Gusner, consumer analyst at Insure.com. “Cars that are cheapest to insure typically are easy to repair or have fewer claims or both."
Scott Oldham, editor-in-chief of car-buying site Edmunds.com, and other experts say the brand dominates this year's insurance-bargains list because the three Jeeps atop the rundown are all entry-level models that are inexpensive to repair or replace following accidents, vandalism or theft.
"You can get a lot of image, versatility, performance and frankly a heck of a lot of fun for a very low price (with certain Jeeps)," says Oldham.
Insure.com looked at insurance rates for more than 1,500 models from six major companies in every state, comparing costs with the same driver behind the wheel. The top vehicle, the iconic Jeep Wrangler, on average costs less than a third as much to insure as the most expensive, the equally iconic Nissan GT-R.
Though relative rankings should remain the same, the underlying cost of car insurance varies wildly by state. The Chevrolet Traverse LT 2WD sport-utility, for example, would cost the same driver as much as $2,290 to insure in Michigan and as little as $766 in Maine. Its national average was $1,282.
What makes a car cheap to insure?
The lone car to crack the top 10 list is the tiny Smart ForTwo, which provides an eye-opening peek into what goes into insurance-rate calculations.
The $13,270 Fortwo Pure has a base price as small as its size, and Matt Moore of the Highway Loss Data Institute says that helps keep claims -- and rates -- low.
"Collision and comprehensive insurance (premiums) are to a large extent driven by the cost of a vehicle, and the Smart Fortwo is one of the least-expensive vehicles for sale in the United States," he says.
The Fortwo also doesn’t cost insurers much in claims.
HLDI’s latest data on the Fortwo finds collision losses 32 percent below average and 45 percent less than average for theft and other non-crash losses. HLDI also found that liability claims for damage to other cars and property ran 37 below average, which Moore attributes to the tiny model's 1,800-pound base weight.
So what leads to fewer claims?
Oldham surmises that the Smart may benefit from its intended use as a city car.
“Nobody jumps in a Smart and drives it across four states," he says.
Lower mileage is only one of several factors that could result in fewer insurance claims. The vehicle’s safety record matters, of course, but so does the overall risk profile of the people who buy it.
The sport-utility vehicles, crossovers and minivans that top the list are the kinds of vehicles popular with parents who are unlikely to drive 100 mph or park in areas rife with auto theft.
"Many of these vehicles have children in them a lot of the time, so their owners drive accordingly," Oldham says.
Jeanne Salvatore, an Insurance Information Institute spokeswoman, adds that family-friendly models typically come with plenty of safety features, reducing the odds of serious injuries.
"Insurers look at how protective a car's safety equipment is to its occupants and how likely a model is to inflict damage on other cars or their passengers," she says.
Expensive: Horsepower and high tech
Insure.com’s analysis found that the costliest 2015s to insure are high-end Porsches, BMWs and other sports cars that typically sell for more than $100,000 and can hit around 200 mph.
Oldham says such cars cost big bucks to insure partly because they're "very fast, very powerful and very expensive to repair (or replace)."
He says top-of-the-line sports cars usually combine parts made out of carbon fiber or other exotic materials with expensive engines that can crank out 500 horsepower or more.
Lastly, the expert notes that high-end sports cars primarily appeal to men, who typically face higher premiums than females, and especially interest males who like to drive fast.
"That's why you buy one of these cars in the first place," Oldham says.
The costliest cars to cover
Add it all up and Insure.com found that 2015's most-expensive model to insure is the Nissan GT-R Nismo, a premium version of the brand’s flagship sports car, at an average $3,574 per year. That's more than twice the $1,555 average for the 1,500-plus models that Insure.com studied.
The GT-R Nismo starts at $149,900 and features a racing-friendly design, with a 600-horsepower twin-turbo V-6 engine, nitrogen-filled tires and other high-performance features that help propel the model to a 196 mph top speed.
"The Nismo GT-R is one of the fastest cars on Earth," Oldham says. "It's a very powerful, very technologically advanced, high-performance car."
The 2015s that come with the year's highest insurance costs:
Rank / Make & model / Average annual premium
1. Nissan GT-R Nismo - $3,574
2. Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Convertible - $3,573
3. Dodge SRT Viper - $3,318
4. Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet - $3,216
5. Audi R8 5.2 Spyder Quattro - $3,206
6. Porsche Panamera Turbo Executive - $3,174
7. BMW 760Li - $3,147
8. BMW M6 Convertible - $3,115
9. Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG 4Matic Wagon – $3,042
10. Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4Matic Sedan - $2,972
2015s with the lowest premiums
At the other end of the spectrum, Insure.com found that the year's least-expensive model to insure is the 2015 Jeep Wrangler Sport 4WD two-door hardtop. Buy one and you'll likely face just a $1,134 annual bill -- 27 percent below the average rate for the more than 1,500 models that we studied.
The popular Wrangler Sport two-door hardtop combines a modest base price with standard four-wheel drive, 8.8-inch ground clearance and hill-start assist.
The model had mixed results in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests. Although the Jeep got a "Good" rating for head-on collisions, it earned a "Poor" mark for side-impact crashes. The vehicle also only got "Marginal" scores for seat and head-restraint performance and for "small-overlap frontal" collisions, where something hits one corner of your car's front end.
“Crash tests are only part of the picture,” Gusner says. “In the end insurers make their decisions based on claims.”
How to use our rankings
About 17 million Americans are expected to buy new vehicles in 2015.
"Far too few car shoppers take insurance into serious consideration before they decide which vehicle to buy," says Karl Brauer, senior editor of Kelley Blue Book. "Instead of carefully analyzing what the premiums will be, they decide that they want a particular car and say: 'Whatever the insurance is, I'll deal with it.'"
Salvatore, the insurance institute spokeswoman, adds that while the model you buy will only partly account for your premium levels (your location and personal driving record play big roles), consumers should feel free to contact carriers while car shopping.
"If you've looked at all of the other factors and gotten down to a couple of (finalists), you should call up your insurance agent and find out how much they'll each cost to insure," she says. "After all, you're going to be paying those premiums on whatever car you buy for (a long) time."
Insure.com commissioned Quadrant Information Services to calculate average auto insurance rates for 2015 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 1,500 models are included in the 2015 study.
Least expensive rankings were based on the best-performing trim line of each model. Most expensive rankings were determined by the worst-performing trim line of each model.
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.
State averages were calculated by averaging the rates for all 1,522 models surveyed for each state.
Average rates are for comparative purposes only. Your own rate will depend on personal factors.