Most expensive cars to insure: Is yours on the list?

Brian O'Connell

When it comes to figuring out the most expensive cars to insure, everyone seems to have an opinion – and that includes your car insurance company.

Sure, automotive sites want to get into the act, too. Both Ridelust.com and Edmunds.com have good lists of the priciest vehicles for your insurance dollar, and they’re well worth checking out. Edmunds.com's most recent list, for instance, names the 2010 Mercedes-Benz S-Class as the most expensive car to insure.

But neither website has a hand in dictating your car insurance rates – that fine art is up to your car insurance company. And there doesn’t seem to be a universal formula for setting insurance rates for expensive models. Or any models, for that matter.

The price is right

As far as the actual vehicle goes, there's no shortage of factors that go into determining whether a vehicle is more or less expensive to insure. At the top of that list is the price of the vehicle and its safety record.

“Insurance companies look at the issue of insurance pricing scientifically,” says David Wurster, president of Vincentric LLC, a company that specializes in auto industry analytics. “Obviously, the higher value cars are more expensive to insure – that’s a given. But insurance companies look at other issues, too, especially safety.”

Wurster says car insurers are particularly focused on how a vehicle is built. In general, the more safety features built into a car or truck, the lower the car insurance premium will be. “Are vehicles doing well in crash tests? Do they have state-of-the-art safety features? Those are the questions that insurance companies before setting insurance rates,” Wurster says.

Another key factor is vehicle loss history. If a vehicle has a history of being more prone to accidents or often ends up in the shop for expensive repairs, those factors likely will pump up car insurance rates.

On-the-road behavior

Factor in a car's price, safety record and loss history, and you have a good head start on how insurers arrive at vehicle insurance prices – but you’re not home yet.

Some industry observers say that while claims and price are key contributors to insurance company pricing formulas, driver behavior may be equally as important. “There are certain drivers who get in more accidents,” says Mike Barry, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute. “That’s because bodily injuries are a major driver of insurance costs. Insurance companies are invariably asking, 'Is this vehicle a safe vehicle?'”

Insurers also are likely to ask how expensive it is to replace a certain vehicle, or buy replacement parts it’s involved in a crash. “The more expensive the car, the more expensive the parts,” says Jeannine Fallon, a spokeswoman for Edmunds.com. “But that’s part of it. Insurance companies regularly look at accident rates, crash data and safety equipment on vehicles when evaluating insurance risks.”

Who you are and how you drive may mean as much to auto insurers. Wurster says your driving history, your age and even your credit history can jack up the price of your car insurance policy.

“A safe driver, say a middle-aged father of four with a good driving record, isn’t considered as big a risk by insurers,” he says. “But if you’re a driver with an unsafe driving record or who has earned a lot of traffic tickets, then insurers will look that driver as a higher risk.”

Consumer advice

So can you lessen the cost of an expensive car insurance policy? Sure, if you have a good plan.

For starters, Fallon advises consumers to take careful steps when pricing a car – the pricier the car, the pricier the insurance.

“We hear about people who don’t think about insurance when they buy a car, but that’s a monthly payment, too," Fallon says.

Wurster says: “Consumers do have control over how much auto insurance they pay. If you want to have low insurance costs, it’s fairly simple: Drive safely, don't get any traffic violations, and buy a Nissan Cube.”

If you want to a more luxurious ride, consider Edmunds.com's list of the most expensive cars to insure:

1. 2010 Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

2. 2010 BMW M5.

3. 2010 Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

4. 2010 Porsche Panamera.

5. 2010 Lexus IS-F.

6. 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

7. 2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class.

8. 2010 BMW M3.

9. 2010 Cadillac CTS-V.

10. 2010 BMW 7 Series.

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