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SUV Safety and Auto Insurance Rates

By Insurance.com Posted : 07/24/2009

Every year, the engineers and scientists at the Highway Loss Data Institute drive brand-new cars into concrete walls and other brand-new cars, hoping to save your life. And, they pore over millions of auto insurance claim reports to find the safest cars and those that will cost less to repair.

Car insurance rates are based on many factors – but what you drive and how you drive are two of the most important. With more drivers keeping cars longer, choosing a safe car should be your starting point.

Get the facts before you buy an SUV

Since 1972, HLDI has been helping new car buyers make informed choices based on data about the cost to repair a car and the protection that each models provides to the occupants in a crash. There's no guesswork involved. HLDI results are based on their analysis of the claim reports on more than 150 million cars and trucks for the six insurance coverages that are potentially involved in a loss. These losses vary widely across vehicle size and type, but there are also differences found among models that are similar in size, weight class or type, such as minivans or SUVs. As you'd expect, your car insurance rates will vary based on these results, as well.

You can search for a model by type or manufacturer and compare the HLDI ratings for each coverage. Here's a quick explanation of how the ratings for each coverage can guide your decision:

Damage to this car and to other property

  • Collision results tell you the relative cost to repair the car
  • Property Damage Liability results indicate the relative amount of damage the car has caused to other cars or property
  • Comprehensive data includes theft of the car or other non-collision losses

Injuries to occupants of this car and to other people

  • Personal Injury Protection data in no-fault states gives you a sense of how well-protected you'll be in an accident, relative to other cars
  • Medical Payment data is another measure of occupant protection in traditional tort states, also know as at-fault states
  • Bodily Injury Liability data explains the relative differences in injuries caused by drivers in each car in tort states

Here's an extreme example

Using the results for losses from 2005 to 2007, the Buick Rendevous 4 door SUV outperforms the Mitsubishi Endeavor 4 door SUV in every category.

Buick Rendevous 4 door SUV:

  • Collision substantially better than average
  • Property Damage Liability substantially better than average
  • Comprehensive substantially better than average
  • Personal Injury Protection substantially better than average
  • Medical Payment better than average
  • Bodily Injury Liability better than average

Mitsubishi Endeavor 4 door SUV

  • Collision average
  • Property Damage Liability substantially worse than average
  • Comprehensive average
  • Personal Injury Protection substantially worse than average
  • Medical Payment substantially worse than average
  • Bodily Injury Liability average

If you're concerned about protecting yourself and your passengers, HLDI data suggests that the Rendevous is a relatively better choice. But, see for yourself.

3 safe driving tips for SUV drivers

Whatever your reason for choosing an SUV, you'll want to keep it in great shape and keep your insurance rates as low as possible. An accident can increase your car insurance rates as much as 20% or more.

Respect the little guys

If you choose to drive an SUV, chances are it is bigger and heavier than the increasingly popular hybrids and micro cars. People in little cars are sometimes afraid of you, so don't be a bully. Change lanes slowly and don't tailgate. Objects in the mirror really are closer than they appear.

Take it easy on the curves

While rollovers in car crashes are less frequent than they were in the 90's, SUV drivers are still at risk for injuries resulting from a flipped vehicle. Most manufacturers have added stability control systems, but any car can turn over if you're out of control. Slower is better.

Avoid driver distractions

Texting and talking on a cellphone while driving are at the top of our list, but you might have other vices. Do you grab a breakfast sandwich and a cappuccino on the way to work? Put your make-up on in the car? Or read a book in traffic? Imagine your driving instructor is in the car with you again and stay focused.

Have a question – or any other tips for safe driving? Please let us know.


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