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Your Vehicle Affects Your Premium
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­Y­ou might want a sports car or a fancy SUV, but your insurance company may charge you more to protect you while driving it.

Insurance premiums are based partly on the price of the vehicle, which affects the replacement cost if it is stolen or "totaled" in an accident. How expensive the vehicle is to repair -- including parts and labor -- can also affect the cost. In addition, surcharges may apply to vehicles that are frequently stolen or involved in accidents.

Industry-wide information on injury claims, collision repair costs, and theft rates by vehicle model is available from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI). You can write them at 1005 North Glebe Road, Arlington, VA 22201. HLDI is affiliated with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

According to HLDI, the lowest injury claims are from large vehicles -- cars, pickup trucks, and sport-utility vehicles. Small 2- and 4-door cars have the highest injury claims. Small cars also are among the highest in collision costs, along with sports cars.

If you have your heart set on a sporty vehicle, you'll probably pay dearly. Insuring a high-performance car can easily cost two or three times the insurance amount for an ordinary model.

Sport-utility vehicles, the hottest market segment, often have higher insurance rates than mid- and full-size cars, but some SUV models are relatively cheap to insure. SUVs are "hot" for other reasons: They are among the most frequently stolen vehicles, and they are more expensive than most cars. Cadillac's Escalade is currently the most popular model sought by thieves, but it's followed by the Nissan Maxima sedan. SUVs also can cost more to fix after an accident if the 4-wheel-drive system is damaged.

However, insurance companies set rates based on their own experience. If Company A has more collision and theft claims for a particular vehicle than Company B, then A will charge more for the same coverage. It all boils down to a company's actual experience with a particular vehicle or category of drivers. That is why it pays to shop around for insurance.

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