You no longer have to choose a minivan to get the cheapest insurance costs. Traditionally, those family haulers driven by careful parents have carried the lowest insurance premiums. But, surprisingly, small sport utility vehicles--contrary to the SUV image--now are among the cheapest to insure, according Insure.com's list of most and least expensive cars to insure.
The Mazda Tribute small SUV is now the least expensive new car to insure, at an average $1,070 a year. Crossover SUVs Ford Escape and Honda CR-V are also in the top 20 least expensive--though minivans continue to populate that list.
Not surprisingly, Porsche bags four of the top 10 costliest spots (911 Turbo pictured below ) and Mercedes-Benz has three.
Your exact premiums will probably differ from Insure.com's-a national average for a male with a good driving record. "Many factors determine your premium," notes Kat Zeman, managing editor of Insure.com. "Your driving record, credit history, the type of insurance you have and where you live." To see how much geography matters, read Save on Car Insurance: The Best and Worst States.
When it comes to particular models, premiums are all about a vehicle's loss history, says Zeman. The Insurance Services Office compiles a loss-history report on each model showing the record of claims paid out. More expensive cars with costly parts and repairs-such as luxury brands Porsche and Mercedes-have a history of higher insurance payouts. "You could have a minor bumper-to-bumper collision with a Porsche, and the repairs will still cost a lot, " adds Zeman.
But there are some surprising differences among small cars, which are typically favored by young drivers with poorer safety records than their elders. The Honda Civic Si-the performance model Civic that's a favorite of young speedsters-costs an average of $1,669 a year to insure. But the Honda Fit (an excellent, if not speedy, small car with high gas mileage) averages $1,254, or $415 a year less in premiums.
The 5 Most Expensive 2010 Vehicles to Insure
1. Porsche 911 Carrera GT 2 ($2,944 annual premium)
2. Mercedes S65 AMG ($2,863)
3. Dodge Viper SRT-10 ($2,852)
4. Porsche Panamera Turbo AWD ($2,837)
5. Dodge Viper SRT-10 Convertible ($2,816)
The 5 Least Expensive 2010 Vehicles to Insure
1. Mazda Tribute I 2WD ($1,070 annual premium)
2. Honda Odyssey LX ($1,095)
3. Mazda Tribute I 4 WD ($1,103)
4. Chrysler Town & Country LX ($1,120)
5. Jeep Wrangler X ($1,124)
While insurance premiums won't be a deal breaker for a car you really want to buy, it might decide a tie. An average insurance cost tool at Insure.com will give you premiums for specific models or for categories (cars, SUVs, vans). For instance, if you live in Illinois you can see that the average premium for an Audi A4 3.2-liter would be $1,851 a year vs. $1621 for a BMW 328xi.
But if you've narrowed your choice to two or three vehicles, call your insurance agent and ask for quotes. The agent already has your location, credit history and driving record in the file, notes Insure.com's Kat Zeman.
Meanwhile, whichever vehicle you choose, take these steps to lower your car insurance bill:
Raise your deductible-If you now have a $250 annual deductible, you could cut your premium by up to 40% by boosting it to $1,000.
Shop around. All those TV commercials are right about one thing: Switching companies sometimes means big savings. But the same company won't always the cheapest for every driver in every location.
Ask the insurer about discounts. Some companies lower premiums if you don't drive to work or you drive fewer than 12,000 miles a year. Others have discount arrangements with groups -everything from alumni associations to medical and bar associations to active and retired military personnel. If you qualify, you get the discount.
Photos courtesy of Porsche USA and Mazda USA
More from MoneyWatch:
Flash: New Cars Cost Less Than Used Cars
Fast Cars Plus Good Gas Mileage? Yes!
Sell Your Car: How to Get 20% More
4 Sizzling Car Deals Now
Used Car Prices Up: Best Buys for Your Money