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The top 10 most and least expensive cars to crash

September 20, 2012

Even though Americans are driving less and having fewer accidents than at any point in the past decades, auto insurance rates continue to rise -- up 37 percent since 2002, and faster than overall inflation. One reason: the expense of fixing crashed cars continues to rise -- and when you see the list of the cars that generate the most expensive insurance claims, you'll see why.

The Highway Loss Data Institute collects the numbers from 80 percent of the accident claims filed nationwide, and provides them to the government as a public service. It's designed to help consumers understand why any particular model may be more or less expensive to insure -- giving them another piece of information when they go car shopping.

It's no surprise that it costs more to fix a wrecked luxury car than it does to smooth out a fender-bender in your typical commuter hatchback. But the insurance data doesn't just reflect the cars, but the drivers as well; a cheap model that lures wannabe racers will have more insurance losses -- and be more expensive to get coverage for -- than a luxury car that only attracts grandparents. Even among less costly models, there's a seven-fold difference between the average claim on the most damaged model and the least.

The average car has a wreck once every 6.9 years of insurance coverage, with an average collision cost of $4,120; that means that if you're buying a year's worth of insurance on that typical set of wheels, you're paying $285 in collision costs whether you get into a crash or not.

Top 10 Cars With Greatest Crash Costs

Model Claims/100 insured yrs. Cost/year
Ferrari California 2.6 $2,132
Maserati Granturismo 7.7 $1,245
Porsche Panamera Turbo 7.0 $1,134
Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid 11.2 $955
Maserati Quattroporte 8.1 $935
Nissan GT-R 6.1 $926
BMW M3 8.4 $866
Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet 3.5 $855
Lexus IS-F 10.0 $852
BMW 7-Series 9.7 $755

Based on data from 2009 to 2011, the HLDI found that it only takes a few wrecked Ferrari Californias to spoil it for everybody. Even though California crashes are rare (only the Chevy Corvette Z06 has fewer wrecks) the average crash cost an insurance company $82,000 -- five times more any other model in HLDI's study. The rest of the list has similar high-dollar sports cars, although why drivers of Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrids seem to be lead foots with concrete hands escapes me.

If you're driving one of those cars, you can likely afford the insurance. What about cars and trucks that cost less than $30,000?

Top 10 Cars Under $30,000 With Greatest Crash Costs

Model Claims/100 insured yrs. Cost/year
Mitsubishi Lancer 4WD 11.3 $707
Hyundai Genesis Coupe 10.8 $516
Suzuki Kizashi 9.5 $493
Mitsubishi Lancer 10.2 $485
Subaru Impreza WRX 9.9 $479
Mazda RX-8 9.6 $465
Honda Civic Si coupe 9.3 $442
Nissan Altima coupe 9.8 $430
Honda Civic coupe 9.1 $405
Honda Civic Si sedan 8.8 $402

This list looks like a starter's garage in a racing video game, and the Lancer and Subaru WRX remain popular among the fading embers of the Fast and Furious crowd. If the lack of a Ford Mustang or Chevy Camaro in this ranking seems unusual, remember that those models tend to be bought by older drivers who wreck far less often on average than drivers still in their 20s.

On the other end of the scale are the cars that combine infrequent wrecks with cheap repairs to offer the lowest insurance costs:

Top 10 Cars With Lowest Crash Costs

Model Claims/100 insured yrs. Cost/year
Chevrolet Tahoe 6.6 $134
Jeep Wrangler 2.8 $134
Toyota FJ Cruiser 4.0 $148
GMC Canyon extended cab 3.5 $154
GMC Canyon regular cab 3.6 $154
Jeep Wrangler 4-door 3.2 $157
Smart ForTwo 3.7 $160
Smart ForTwo convertible 3.6 $162
Chevrolet Colorado 4.1 $162
Chrysler 200 4.8 $162

What accounts for this list? Trucks in general tend to be cheaper to fix -- just bolt the body panels on and off the frame -- and are less often driven like the owner just stole it. As for the Smart ForTwo: If you were driving the smallest car sold in the United States, you'd be super cautious about getting into accidents as well. At least they won't get hit in the wallet.