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The most and least expensive 2009 SUVs to insure

Last updated June 26, 2009

Sports utility vehicles are often more expensive to insure than large passenger cars and minivans because insurance claims for them have been higher: SUVs can cause more damage to other vehicles in an accident, they're more costly to repair and they have a higher center of gravity which makes them susceptible to rollovers. Even so, SUV safety has come a long way in safety since their popularity soared in the 1990s.

G Class
The Mercedes-Benz G-Class: Pricey!

When insurers calculate your car insurance premium, there are dozens of elements that factor into the equation. These include your driving record, how many years you've been driving, how often you drive and what type of vehicle you drive — to name a few.

Insure.com compiled average car insurance rates for almost 300 vehicles — 99 of which were SUVs — for model year 2009. Each comparative rate was based on the same 40-year-old male with a superb driving record who commutes 12 miles to work, with policy limits of 100/300/50 and a $500 deductible on collision and comprehensive.

The 10 least expensive 2009 SUVs to insure

Rank Average
1 $832 Hyundai Santa Fe
2 $840 Kia Sportage
3 $911 Saturn Vue
4 $913 Mazda Tribute
5 $939 Jeep Wrangler
6 $964 Subaru Forester
7 $974 Land Rover LR3
8 $976 Honda Pilot
9 $976 Jeep Patriot
10 $977 Hyundai Veracruz
The 10 most expensive 2009 SUVs to insure

Rank Average
1 $2,088 Mercedes-Benz G-Class
2 $1,912 Hummer H2
3 $1,603 Land Rover Range Rover
4 $1,584 BMW X6
5 $1,553 Cadillac Escalade
6 $1,472 Lexus LX 570
7 $1,457 Land Rover Range Rover Sport
8 $1,392 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
9 $1,390 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid
10 $1,389 Infinity QX56
Source: Insure.com research.
Averages based on a 40-year-old male driver who commutes 12 miles to work, 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. Policy includes uninsured motorist coverage. Rates were averaged across multiple ZIP codes and insurance companies. Average rates are for comparative purposes; your rate will depend on your personal factors.

In the SUV category, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class topped the list as the most expensive SUV to insure. Our sample 40-year-old male with a perfect driving record would pay roughly $2,088 in annual premiums. On the opposite side of the spectrum, that same man would pay $832 in premiums if he drove a Hyundai Santa Fe.

"The difference could be in the cost of fixing the cars," says Pete Moraga, spokesperson for the Insurance Information Network of California. "Another thing may be their theft rate."

The Mercedes-Benz's high insurance price tag is closely followed by the Hummer H2 ($1,912) and the Land Rover Range Rover ($1,603). The Kia Sportage ($840) and Saturn Vue ($911) ranked among the least expensive to insure.

Six of the 10 SUVs on Insure.com's "least expensive to insure" list also received the 2009 Top Safety Pick Award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The Hyundai Santa Fe, Saturn Vue, Mazda Tribute, Subaru Forester, Honda Pilot and Hyundai Veracruz were among a number of SUVs recognized for performing well in crash tests based on their ability to protect people in front, side and rear crashes. IIHS winners also have electronic stability control, which research shows significantly reduces crash risk, according to IIHS. None of the SUVs on Insure.com's "most expensive to insure" list received an award from IIHS.

But car insurance companies do not base their premiums on awards or safety crash tests, says Russ Rader, spokesperson for IIHS. "They would base them on the collision claims experience of that vehicle."

Put simply, insurance companies look at which vehicles have the most frequent and expensive claims. While a vehicle's crash-test safety rating is not used by insurers to determine premiums, its safety features can impact how much it racks up expensive insurance claims, Moraga says.

"You have to look at the severity of the claim and the number of claims," Moraga says. "If you have a safe car that doesn't get into accidents, the claims history would be lower. If you have a car that buckles in an accident, you're talking about much more expensive claims."

However, the Mercedes-Benz G Class, Hummer H2 and Land Rover Range Rover (which rank at the top of the most expensive list) also have many safety features. In these cases, the higher cost of car insurance is probably due to other reasons, Moraga says. The Mercedes-Benz has costly parts. The Hummer H2 — modeled after a military vehicle — causes plenty of damage when it hits another car. The Range Rover is "substantially worse than average" for comprehensive insurance claims (which includes thefts), according to the Highway Loss Data Institute.

For some cars, "even a bumper can cost thousands of dollars," Moraga says.

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