In Insure.com's 2012 rankings of the most and least expensive vehicles to insure, it found that high-priced cars with powerful engines and European pedigrees come with the highest car insurance quotes. The reasons: More crashes, higher repair bills and expensive injuries.
Americans have long associated car styles with personal image. You may view the vehicle you drive as an extension of your personality. When you get behind the wheel of an expensive car, people form an impression of your personal worth and social status. Practical cars such as minivans are more economical, but they don’t have the same bragging rights.
Insure.com surveyed auto insurance rates for more than 900 vehicles in the 2012 model year. This year’s least expensive vehicle to insure: The four-cylinder Toyota Sienna LE minivan.
At the other end of the road is the 2012 Audi R8 Spyder Quattro convertible. With an MSRP north of $160,000, this 10-cylinder two-seater is the most expensive car to insure in this model year.
Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist and associate professor at the University of New Mexico, says your choice of car says a lot about the way you perceive yourself. Driving a sporty car may be just another way of saying, "Hey, look at me, I'm really cool," especially for men, he says.
We know from biology that males typically are more ardent about displaying all sorts of sexual ornaments to attract mates, ranging from the peacock's tale to the gorilla's muscles to the human's luxury goods," Miller says. "I suspect these cars are bought disproportionally by single guys or guys whosemarital commitment is not 100 percent.”
He also points out, “It is why young single males are the most dangerous drivers, because they are on the mating market."
If driving a hot sports car says you are seeking status and attention, what does driving a cheap-to-insure minivan say about you?
"A minivan says, ‘I am happily married with kids,’” says Miller. "It says, 'I am not on the mating market. I care more about safety than flash.'"
Jill Bookman, CEO of Cherry Hill, N.J.-based American Collectors Insurance, insures new, limited-production cars and classic automobiles. She says for most buyers, it’s all about chasing the dream.
"The reason people want to own a car that lightens their wallet by $100,000 is because it is … a physical representation of success. You have the wherewithal to purchase something that everyone knows is an expensive car."
Choosing a flashy sports car can be a quest for status, but there are exceptions, says Elizabeth Lombardo, a psychologist based in Chicago. Some people genuinely value the added quality that luxury cars offer. "For some people it's ‘This car is so comfortable and it drives so nicely,’" she says. "It's not, 'Hey, look what I can afford!'"
Jim Whittle, assistant general counsel of the American Insurance Association trade group, points out the economic realities of insuring luxury cars.
"Oftentimes they are expensive because [manufacturers] only produce a certain amount of those vehicles,” he says. “Sometimes they are made with handmade parts. The cost to repair is a big driver in the cost to insure a vehicle."