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The most and least expensive 2009 vehicles to insure
By Amy Danise, Insure.com
The Nissan GT-R has been gobbling up industry awards: It garnered Automobile Magazine's 2009 Automobile of the Year award, Motor Trend's 2009 Car of the Year and Kelley Blue Book's Best Resale Value Award for the high-performance car category.
Nissan calls the GT-R a "multi performance supercar" that is meant to deliver fantasy driving to the Everyman (defined by Nissan as "anyone, anytime, anywhere"). It logged the fastest-ever laptime for a mass-produced car on the Nurburgring Circuit, a difficult racetrack in Germany.
Nissan says the GT-R can run continuously at 300 km/h ("or more"!) on the autobahn - that's about 186 mph. Thankfully, speeds like that won't stop you from chatting with your passengers; Nissan says even at top speed, "the driver is seated stably enough to allow conversation with the person in the passenger seat to flow."
The Nissan GT-R, which starts at MSRP in the United States of $76,840, is a 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged 24-valve V6 with 485 horsepower. (All figures in US dollars.) By comparison, the Honda Accord Coupe EX-L V6 has 271 horsepower.
If you have a GT-R supercar, you're surely the envy of your neighbours.
But they won't be jealous if they see your car insurance bill. The 2009 Nissan GT-R also garners the highest insurance rate in the US of any 2009 vehicle.
Insure.com compiled average US car insurance rates for almost 300 model year 2009 vehicles. Sports cars dominate the "most expensive" list, with the GT-R driving away with the top bill.
Kim Hazelbaker, senior vice-president of the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), says he'd be happy to drive any of the cars that top the "most expensive to insure" list.
"These are high-performance versions of vehicles that are already not underpowered, like the M5," Hazelbaker says. "I'm assuming that most of the people who buy these are going to stick their foot in it. That means insurance losses will be higher."
Cars shoot to the top of the "most expensive to insure" list because their drivers have submitted frequent and expensive car insurance claims. On the other hand, when a car model attracts experienced drivers who don't crash often, all drivers of that model benefit.
When a vehicle is in its first model year in the US, like the 2009 GT-R, with no claims history, the collision and comprehensive insurance rate is based primarily on MSRP.
"They look at the sale price of the vehicle and that's what they start at," explains Don Griffin, vice-president of personal lines for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, a trade group. "Then rates are adjusted up or down based on loss history over time."
Rates for high-performance vehicles could get special attention. Griffin says, "Depending on the company, they look at horsepower-to-weight ratio, or sometimes the 0-60 mph times. They use that to determine whether it's a high-performance or mid-performance vehicle" and adjust the insurance rate accordingly. Griffin estimates it's going to take three to five years for insurers to have enough claims data on the GT-R to make a reliable adjustment, in part because relatively few will be sold.
In most cases, liability premiums aren't affected by car choice. But in the case of high-performance sports cars, drivers could be charged higher liability rates because insurers expect that they chose their cars for speed and intend to use them that way. Drivers of vehicles like the Hummer also could get higher liability rates because their vehicles inflict more damage.
To compare rates, Insure.com used a driver profile of a 40-year-old single male who drives 12 miles to work. We averaged rates across multiple ZIP codes and insurance companies. Your own rate will depend on your driving history, age, location and other factors.
If you're a young male driver with a less-than-spotless driving record and you buy a Nissan GT-R, you have a potent mix of high-risk factors that will send your premium through the roof. For example, a 25-year-old GT-R driver in Pasadena, CA, who rear-ended someone last year and got a speeding ticket two years ago, would pay about $5,892 per year for an Allstate policy with 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), including collision and comprehensive coverage.
The Cadillac Escalade, also among the most expensive to insure, isn't famous for speed - it's famous for being stolen frequently. It's always topping HLDI's theft-losses list.
But maybe you don't need to feel like you're driving on the autobahn. If that's the case, you have lots of good choices at the bottom of the insurance price list, whether you want to drive a passenger car, minivan or SUV.
Low rates tend to reflect a vehicle's safety, which is why larger cars and minivans dominate the least-expensive list.
The Smart Fortwo defies conventional wisdom by appearing among the "least expensive to insure." This tiny two-passenger coupe, made by Mercedes-Benz, is the smallest car available (in the US) and pops along with 71 horsepower, achieving 33 mpg in the city.
You'd think the Fortwo would be easily totalled in any crash, resulting in high insurance losses. But Hazelbaker notes that the Fortwo "has very low collision losses. They've done something no one else is doing: They are shipping body panels for repair pre-painted. So Joe's Body Shop just has to bolt them on." Mercedes has packed it with safety equipment like side airbags and stability and traction control. In addition, an older demographic is attracted to the Fortwo, and experienced drivers incur lower insurance losses, which holds down premiums tied to the vehicle.
The 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe is the overall least expensive vehicle to insure. This SUV starts at MSRP $21,695. According to HLDI data, the Santa Fe is "substantially better than average" for comprehensive insurance losses (including theft) and "better than average" for collision and personal injury protection insurance losses.
Updated May 28, 2009. Posted July 5, 2009.