Five Small Cars with Big Auto Insurance Bills

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It would be nice if your new car's sticker price came with an insurance estimate. 

As we've mentioned before, what the U.S. driving public doesn't know about car insurance is frightening. About 40% of you don't know what it means when your car is totaled. About 28% of drivers think insurance pays the post-crash value of a totaled car, while 12% aren't sure what happens when a car is totaled.

About 14% of people, including 23% of Millennials and people making $30,000 or less, wrongfully believe insurance covers auto repairs. Even worse, 17% don't know that where they live affects their insurance. Finally, a full 44% of you -- especially those ages 18 to 29 (53%) -- think driving a red car increases your insurance rates (it doesn't).

No, the color of the car you buy won't affect your insurance rate, but the type of car you buy sure will. A recent study from insuranceQuotes.com looked at the 20 most popular vehicles in the U.S. and divided the average annual cost to insure each vehicle by its manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) to calculate an insurance-to-cost ratio. That determines which cars insured at a near discount and which are going to be far more costly.

"This is a really important factor to consider when it comes to buying a car, because you may buy a less expensive vehicle that will wind up costing you more in the long run because it's relatively expensive to insure," Karl Brauer, senior analyst for vehicle pricing site Kelley Blue Book, told InsuranceQuotes.com. "But it's also something people often forget to consider. You may be able to afford the car, but can you afford to maintain and insure that car after it leaves the lot?"

According to Brauer, larger, heavier vehicles are not only less likely to be significantly damaged in an accident, but they provide greater protection for passengers and drivers. So, when bean-counting actuaries add up the cost of insurance for these vehicles, that creates relatively cheaper premiums for SUVs and trucks.

"The bottom line is that you're less likely to sustain severe injuries in a truck or SUV," says Brauer. "Insurance companies know how often they pay out settlements for SUVs versus sedans. They also know how much money they pay out for claims made on SUVs versus sedans, not only for vehicle damage but also personal injury for the people inside the vehicle."

It also helps that, for the most part, they aren't stolen in the same kind of numbers as their sedan counterparts. Granted, when The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) today released its annual Hot Wheels report in September identifying the ten most stolen vehicles in the United States, three of the vehicles in the insurance Top 5 (the Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-Series and Ram pickups) all made the Top 10. However, the 62,951 of those pickups stolen in 2014 pales in comparison to the 95,225 Honda Accords and Civics stolen that year alone. In fact, throw the Toyota Camry into the mix, and thefts of the Top 3 sedans nearly double those of the Top 3 pickups.

Finally, there's a little bit of profiling that goes into these insurance figures as well. Insurance company data finds that higher-priced SUVs tend to be driven by older, more experienced drivers compared to less expensive sedans. That tends to mean fewer accidents and less risk for the insurer.

“This study highlights why it’s so important to research insurance costs before buying a car,” said Laura Adams, insuranceQuotes.com’s senior analyst. “They’re an important part of the total cost of ownership and don’t always move in tandem with the purchase price.”

With that in mind, here are the five worst car insurance deals among the most popular vehicles in the U.S.:

Chevrolet Cruze
Average annual insurance cost: $1,318
MSRP: $19,695
Cost ratio: 6.7%

No, the Cruze doesn't show up on the NICB's Top 10 list of stolen cars. Then again, it's only been available here since 2008, compared to much longer tenures for the other vehicles on the list.

However, the Cruze took the No. 9 spot among 2014 model year cars stolen last year. It doesn't help that the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety's (IIHS) Top Safety Pick eluded the Cruze, which received “good” ratings on most crash tests, but was deemed only “marginal” in slightly overlapping frontal collisions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), meanwhile, gave it a five-star crash rating on everything but rollovers, but does not like its lack of forward collision warning or lane departure warning systems.

Finally, after the Cruze was recalled six times since 2013 and the NHTSA received more than 100 complaints and nearly two-dozen service bulletins related to the vehicle, insurers have plenty of room for doubt.

Honda Civic
Average annual insurance cost: $1,368
MSRP: $19,910
Cost ratio: 6.9%

This is regularly one of the most-stolen cars in the country, largely because chop shops love its easily interchangeable parts. Last year, it was the second most-stolen car in the U.S., with more than 43,000 taken. That's impressive, considering the next most-stolen sedan -- the Toyota Camry -- was stolen 14,605 times.

Otherwise, it doesn't give watchdogs much cause for complaint. The coupe and sedan were both considered IIHS Top Safety Picks, with optional front crash prevention technology only boosting its scores. The NHTSA, meanwhile, considers the Civic Coupe a four-star vehicle on every crash test but side impact, where it received five stars. While the sedan gets five stars overall, it's a four-star performer on front crashes and rollovers.

Hyundai Elantra
Average annual insurance cost: $1,384
MSRP: $19,085
Cost ratio: 7.3%

We delved into the NICB's auto theft data for all 50 states, and this car didn't crack the Top 10 in any of them.

That's about the best news we can give you. The IIHS gave it a Top Safety Pick, but considered small overlap frontal collision damage “acceptable” while labeling the use of child-seat LATCH anchors “marginal.” The NHSTA awarded it five stars overall, but knocked it down to four for frontal collisions and rollovers.
 

Toyota Corolla
Average annual insurance cost: $1,400
MSRP: $18,665
Cost ratio: 7.5%

We're kind of surprised that it didn't crack the national Top 10 stolen list, but Toyota's small car is No. 4 in Massachusetts (184 from model year 2003); No. 5 in Connecticut (118 from 1995) and Rhode Island (46 from 1995); No. 6 in Delaware (24 from 2003) Florida (750 from 2013); No. 4 in Hawaii (61 from 1999) and Vermont (7 from 1994); No. 6 in Kentucky (82 from 2014) and Maine (12 from 2007), No. 7 in California (2,688) from 2003), Pennsylvania (204 from 2010) and Virginia (115 from 2010); No. 9 in Maryland (172 from 2010), Minnesota (119 from 1994), New York (262 from 2010) and Washington (366 from 1993); and No. 10 in Nevada (138 from 2013) and New Hampshire (10 from 1997).

It's also not particularly beloved by the IIHS for its “marginal” small-overlap front impact performance and its wonky “marginal” child seat anchors. The NHTSA disagrees, however, giving it five stars overall and rating it a five-star vehicle for everything but rollovers, where it gets four.

Ford Focus
Average annual insurance cost: $1,391
MSRP: $18,045
Cost ratio: 7.7%

While it isn't one of the most popular vehicles to steal, the 2014 model cracked the Top 10 with 505 stolen nationwide last year.

Even its crash ratings aren't all that bad. The IIHS considers it a Top Safety Pick, despite “acceptable” small-overlap front impact performance. Even the NHSTA considers it a five-star vehicle on everything but its four-star rollover performance. However, given how relatively little this car costs, that insurance payment looks enormous by comparison. It's a problem the Focus and the Toyota Corolla share, but it only puts a driver's wallet in harm's way.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

This article originally appeared on The Street. 

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