Does a safer car mean lower auto insurance?

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Does a safer car mean lower auto insurance?

You’ve done your research and you’re planning to purchase a car that’s consistently ranked one of the nation’s safest vehicles. Certainly it will be less expensive to insure this top safety pick, right? Well, yes and no.

Cars with high safety ratings generally have fewer accidents. This means you’ll be statistically safer while driving. It also means your insurance rates could be lower as cars with fewer accidents generate fewer insurance claims. And, you guessed it: Fewer claim pay-outs can lead to lower insurance rates on particular cars.

All told, if you’re a good driver with a safe car — such as a Nissan Maxima, Volkswagen Passat or Toyota Avalon — you may be on your way to saving money on your auto insurance. With this in mind, it’s important to also understand that driving a safe car is only one variable used to determine insurance rates. Insurers will also consider other factors, including your driving record, the particular coverages you choose, and whether you can bundle policies for a discount. Other important factors influencing rates include:

  • The cost of your car. Generally speaking, the more your car is worth, the more expensive it is to insure - regardless of its safety rating. Why? For starters, your premium will likely be high due to the replacement value that your insurance company will need to pay out in the event that your car is stolen or totalled in an accident.
  • The type of car you drive. SUVs and minivans, often associated with soccer moms and families, tend to be less costly to insure. On the flipside, not all SUVs will garner lower insurance rates. If the one you have your eye on is also a commonly stolen vehicle, your insurance premium could be higher, according to Farmer’s Insurance.
  • Even if you drive one of the safest cars out there, if your car costs megabucks to fix, your insurance may be higher than if you drive a car with inexpensive replacement parts.

Safety discounts

If you don’t own a car on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick List, you can still get insurance discounts by driving a vehicle with certain safety features. Many insurance companies offer savings if your car has the following equipment:

  • Airbags. Although often life-saving in an accident, airbags have only been mandatory since the late ‘90s. If you drive an older car, buying a new one with standard airbags will generally come with an insurance safety discount.
  • Anti-lock brake system. These have been around since the late ‘70s, yet they are still not standard on all cars. Anti-lock brakes, however, could be worth the extra cost as they’ll save you money on insurance and help keep you safe on the road, according to Esurance.
  • Daytime running lights. What are these? They are low-glare lights on some vehicles which turn on automatically when a car moves forward. The lights are designed to make cars more visible during the day. If you’ve got daytime running lights on your car or buy a new car that comes with these lights, you may qualify for an insurance discount.
  • Anti-theft system. If you live in some states and spend the money on a car with certain anti-theft systems, like LoJack, OnStar or Teletrac, you might be eligible for a safety discount. In other states, a basic car alarm may be all you need to qualify for lower insurance rates, according to Esurance.

Since discounts depend on many factors and rates vary from state to state, it’s recommended that you call your insurance company or agent to find out which types of savings apply to you. Generally, however, owning a safer car is a great idea even if it doesn't save you money on car insurance.

Image: Leonid Mamchenkov