If you want to save money on auto insurance, spring for an SUV or minivan. Insure.com's annual ranking of the vehicles with the best car insurance rates is dominated by non-sedans.
A few years ago, minivans held a good grip on our "least expensive to insure" rankings. But small and mid-size SUVs have been increasingly grabbing ranking spots. This year, minivans account for just five of the top 20 places.
And Jeep grabs a remarkable seven of the 20 "least expensive to insure" spots.
The advantages that propelled the minivans to the best spots are now being seen with SUVs: Family-friendly vehicles used mainly for safely ferrying kids around to Scout meetings and soccer matches. The parent driving the kids is among the least likely to speed, crash or have a claim.
And good rates always boil down to claims: When drivers of a certain vehicle submit fewer claims and/or less expensive claims, all owners that vehicle benefit with better car insurance rates.
That brings us to the Jeep Wrangler, Patriot, Compass and Grand Cherokee. Their good insurance rates hinge on Jeep owners.
While Jeeps exude an "adventurous spirit," they're usually not used for reckless abandon.
Least expensive 2014 cars to insure
- Jeep Wrangler Sport - $1,080
- Honda Odyssey LX - $1,103
- Jeep Patriot Sport - $1,104
- Honda CR-V LX - $1,115
- Jeep Compass Sport - $1,140
- Chrysler Town & Country Touring - $1,140
- Subaru Outback 2.5i - $1,144
- Dodge Journey SE - $1,149
- Honda Odyssey EX - $1,149
- Dodge Grand Caravan SE - $1,158
According to Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Irvine, Calif.-based Kelley Blue Book, owners of Jeeps tend to be single or married women under age 45, who display prudent driving behavior.
"While there is an 'adventuresome' image to the Jeep brand, for every Wrangler that does serious off-roading, there are dozens of Wranglers and Grand Cherokees and Compasses -- and CR-Vs, Siennas and Traverses -- that are used to carefully haul kids around suburbia at sub-50-mph speeds most of the time," he says. "This demographic and these driving conditions don't cause a lot of accidents, thankfully."
While advertising may show Jeeps on craggy rocks, it's not unusual for Jeeps to never go off-roading.
Mark Takahashi, auto editor for Edmunds.com in Santa Monica, Calif., agrees that most Jeeps are regarded as family vehicles. "If you're driving your family around, you will drive more carefully, and not take chances, because you have a vested interest in being a careful driver," he says.
Jeep Wranglers in particular are very economical to repair, which helps keep insurance rates down. If you get a dent in your door, the body shop can easily remove the door.
"It's usually bolted rather than welded together. Look at the doors of a Jeep Wrangler to this day, and they're removable, just like the old Army Jeeps," says Takahashi.
Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor of Chicago-based Cars.com, agrees Jeep's victory on the "least expensive to insure" rankings is a reflection of both how safely Jeep owners drive their vehicles and the cost of repair and replacement of Jeeps.
"You'd certainly be able to theorize that the owners of any one on this list are less likely to have collisions, and that the vehicles are less likely to be stolen. If they're low-volume cars, that suggests less of a replacement part market" for stolen parts.
Jeeps and SUVs also likely have an advantage because of their height. "They are higher-riding than the average car," Wiesenfelder says. "So if they are in a collision with an average car, that car will have greater damage than the Jeep."
Insure.com commissioned Quadrant Information Services to provide average auto insurance rates for 2014 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 850 models are included in the 2014 study.
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. Average rates are for comparative purposes. Your own rate will depend on personal factors.