Insurance companies set rates according to how much they expect to shell out if you should wreck your car. They also factor in the probability that you will wreck your car, based on the composite histories of people who own the same model. These ten most expensive models to insure are pricey vehicles to begin with. On top of that, they possess idiosyncrasies that can contribute to higher repair costs.
High-performance models made for athletic, aggressive driving are more likely to tempt you to make risky maneuvers. Powerful engines entice you to drive faster, which not only increases the likelihood of accidents, but also can increase the severity of damage if you do encounter an unavoidable obstacle.
Other idiosyncrasies drive up the cost of repairs after you encounter such an obstacle. Lightweight materials like aluminum can cost more to straighten than plain old steel. Sport suspensions and brakes can require more time in the shop to repair. They can demand more skill from technicians and call for expensive replacement parts. The same applies to exotic engines; complicated mechanisms like, say, retractable hard tops; and to sophisticated electronic systems such as adaptive suspensions. Even the location of such systems can be a factor.
For example, the expensive radar sensors used by adaptive cruise control are typically hidden in the front end, where they’re particularly prone to damage even in minor dust-ups.
Our list was compiled for hillsbankui.com from ratings published by the Insurance Services Office and we arranged the cars from the highest manufacturer’s suggested retail price to the lowest. The information was pulled together by John Paul, a manager for AAA’s Southern New England branch. These vehicles receive the highest risk rating for vehicle damage that the ISO assigns. Technically speaking, in June 2005 (the service updates the rankings regularly, as vehicle histories change), these cars and SUVs received a rating of 27 on a scale of one to 27.
Mercedes says this open-top roadster is the most powerful in its class, thanks to two large turbochargers mounted on the V12 engine: The combination produces 612 horsepower. But more telling is the fact that the engine is specially tuned to produce plenty of torque at relatively low engine speeds. That translates into very rapid starts. SL65 AMG accelerates from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour) in just 4.2 seconds. After just 13 seconds of flat-out acceleration, the two-seater is hurtling at 124 mph. The car is electronically controlled to go no faster than 155 mph. The motor is assembled by hand, following the “‘one man, one engine”‘ approach espoused by AMG.
The Town Car Ballistic Protection Series, or BPS, is insurance in itself. Of course, all the armor hidden beneath its skin can make this special-edition sedan more complicated and, therefore, more costly to repair. To protect occupants from attackers wielding handguns or high-powered assault rifles, the four-passenger sedan utilizes bullet-resistant steel and ultra-hard ceramic materials arranged as a kind of cocoon. The 40-millimeter-thick windows can stop rifle rounds. The flooring of interwoven aramid fibers protects against blasts. Run-flat inserts in the tires can keep the vehicle moving after tire pressure vanishes through bullet holes. Of course, all that armor complicates the Town Car’s repair. Because the BPS is outfitted by its manufacturer, it carries a full four-year/50,000-mile factory warranty.
Intended for corporate executives, political dignitaries, government agencies and high-profile private citizens who feel at risk, Town Car BPS is available at six Lincoln Mercury dealers, in Acton, Mass., Annandale, Va., Dallas, Tex., Miami, Fla, New York, N.Y., and Van Nuys, Calif.
As the luxury leader of BMW’s 7 Series, the 760 Li sits on a stretched wheelbase five-and-a-half inches longer than standard 7 Series sedans. That provides more leg room for backseat riders, and it also helps accommodate a maximum contingent of sophisticated equipment. New adaptive front headlights steer with the car for better vision around curves. But, of course, they ride in the damage-prone front end. In addition to the hood and front fenders, most of Li’s suspension is made from aluminum, and the suspension is interlaced with electronic equipment to control body roll in corners, adjust ride firmness and level the rear end.
Audi attains a weight savings of 50% by crafting the body of its A8L W12 from aluminum instead of steel. Then it adds a 450-horsepower, V12 engine, which further complicates the auto’s anatomy. This high-line version of A8 has all-wheel drive, and its adaptive air-suspension system places sophisticated mechanisms at the sedan’s four corners, to change its height and spring stiffness according to road conditions and driving style. Adaptive cruise control, a $2,100 option, relies on expensive sensors mounted in the car’s front end. Replacing them even after a minor head-on can cost a bundle.
The AMG suffix attached to Mercedes-Benz models signifies that the model is a special edition designed by Mercedes-AMG, a subsidiary chartered to make super-fast cars. According to AAA’s Paul, an AMG treatment pushes any Mercedes model into the high-risk insurance bracket. This also applies to the G-class off-road classic vehicles that Mercedes has produced for 25 years. Its 5.5-liter, supercharged V8 engine, which is rated at 476 horsepower drives, the SUV from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour) in a mere 5.6 seconds — rather speedy for a big and boxy SUV. Its maximum speed is 130 miles per hour.
Phaeton is the largest Volkswagen ever sold. The Phaeton W12 version may also be the fastest, with a 420-horsepower V12 engine capable of accelerating the big sedan from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds. The standard Phaeton V8 with 335 horsepower needs a mere 6.7 seconds. The car comes with a full contingent of complicating amenities, which includes the 4Motion full-time all-wheel drive system, a four-corner, adjustable air-suspension system to improve handling and ride, and Volkswagen’s Electronic Damping Control , which uses wheel-acceleration sensors to constantly monitor road surfaces and vehicle speeds in order to adapt the suspension automatically without driver input.
As the fastest version of the Porsche Cayenne SUV–with a 0 to 60 mph time of 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 165 mph–the Turbo model invites exuberant driving. That includes perilous, off-pavement driving, because Porsche engineers endeavored to give Cayenne the same sure-footed handling characteristics that the company’s cars exhibit on race tracks. Cayenne’s sophisticated suspension incorporates a self-leveling air system plus Porsche Active Suspension Management, which automatically adjusts each shock absorber according to surface conditions and driving style. The Porsche Traction Management intelligent four-wheel drive system relies on sensors everywhere measuring speed, lateral acceleration and more, to figure out where to send engine power.
It may be more expensive to repair than steel, but the aluminum body of Acura’s race-inspired NSX is 40% lighter. The frame, suspension components and 290-horsepower, 3.2-liter V6 engine are also made of weight-saving aluminum. By shedding so much cumbersome steel, the car attains a power-to-weight ratio that promotes speed and agility, which promotes adventuresome driving. The motor is mounted mid-ship, behind the twin seats, making NSX well-balanced for aggressive maneuvers. The 2005 model features a removable roof panel that stows under the rear glass hatch.
Or you can leave it in your garage, to further reduce the car’s weight.
Drivers of Cadillac’s two-seat XLR roadster sit inside an aluminum cockpit, with a balsa-cored, plastic-composite floor beneath them. The car’s suspension consists primarily of aluminum components, coupled with a new-fangled, magnetic ride control system that adjusts shock absorbers dynamically, thanks to sensors at the four corners that measure how much the wheels are jostling. The retractable aluminum and magnesium hardtop, which stows automatically in the back when you press a single button, is covered by plastic panels, and its glass rear window is heated. XLR’s adaptive cruise control relies on a radar sensor mounted in the front end.
You’ll pay at least as much for insurance if you step up from the premium Range Rover HSE to the ultra-premium Range Rover Supercharged, for $89,950. Both are new 2006 models that go on sale this summer. The more powerful supercharged engine provides 400 horsepower, compared to the 305-horsepower engine in HSE. Aspiring to be the world’s premier SUV, Range Rover is packed with sophisticated equipment, including a fiber-optic wiring harness in place of commonplace copper wire. Its automatically adjusting air-suspension system suits the SUV for both comfortable on-road driving and tenacious rough-terrain performance. But because of its complexity and the cost of its parts, the suspension can be costly to repair.
These numbers, also called the Vehicle Symbol Rating, were calculated based on each new make, model and price range, or an estimate of the value using the current MSRP. So for example, all new vehicles that list for $80,000 or more will be given a VSR of 27, and that makes them equal insurance hazards according to ISO’s methodology. From there, individual underwriters assign their own rates, which is why savvy consumers comparison shop among insurers.
This ranking applies only to the physical-damage portion of a policy. The price of personal-injury protection is computed separately but according to Highway Loss Data Institute’s Kim Hazelbaker, the company’s senior vice president, physical damage is the major component of a new-vehicle policy. Other factors also affect your individual insurance premium, especially the area in which you live and work and your personal driving record. A comparison of the relative insurance losses of all cars — a good indication of their relative insurance rates — is available in the report “‘Injury, Collision and Theft Losses by Make and Model,”‘ at HLDI’s website.
The list shows that insurance rates are granular: They break down into particular versions of vehicles.
For example, a 50-year-old husband and wife who own a home in Washington, DC, have clean driving records, and finance a basic, 2005 Porsche Cayenne will pay $1,666 annually for the recommended policy from Progressive.com. But if the Cayenne is the turbocharged version, the couple’s annual premium jumps to $2,097.