SUV Owners Pay More for Insurance
Hortencia Privett is like thousands of other owners of Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs). Privett admits that she loves what she drives, a silver 2002 Jeep Liberty, but insurance experts caution that she and other SUV owners have to pay considerably more for insurance than those tooling around town in smaller cars.
The cost to insure an SUV is generally 10 to 20 percent more than a car, depending of course on a driver's location, claims experience, credit history and other factors, confirms Loretta L. Worters, vice president of communications for the Insurance Information Institute, in New York. "Yes auto rates for SUVs are generally higher than for automobiles," says Worters. "Rates of course correlate to risk -- and there are a lot of risk factors with SUVs. Not so much what affects them, but what they do to other vehicles."
Cutting to specifics, Worters pointed out that an SUV's "potential for liability and medical payments coverage losses is a real concern to the industry. Pedestrians hit by SUVs have a 300 percent higher risk of serious injury than if they were struck by a passenger car. There's also greater injury in cars that are hit by SUVs than it would be with another car."
Privett acknowledges that she has to pay more for coverage, but that's okay with her under the circumstances. "I feel safer in my SUV," explains Privett, an office secretary in Illinois. "I've had an SUV for three years, and I wouldn't go back. Even though I have to pay more for insurance, it's worth the added cost to me."
Privett's SUV sentiments are hardly unique. It's been reported that SUVs accounted for upwards of 24 percent of all new-vehicle sales in the United States for 2003 and, with well over 20 million on the road today, SUVs represent almost 12 percent of all registered vehicles in the U.S.
The safety reputation of an SUV or other vehicle type certainly has a bearing on insurance costs. On the subject of SUV safety, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) brings up what he considers to be a misconception about SUVs.
"The misconception is that many people think that SUVs are safer than cars, and they're not," says IIHS's Russ Rader. "Vehicle crash statistics that we compile each year show that pound for pound, if you're comparing vehicles of a similar weight, SUVs tend to be less safe than cars."
Rader says that cost of repair is a big issue from an insurance standpoint. "SUVs can be costly to repair in minor crashes, because they don't have to meet the federal government's standards set for bumpers on cars in terms of withstanding crashes in commuter traffic or parking lots," explains Rader.
Says Rader: "Most SUVs aren't built like cars and don't drive like them. Yes, they're higher and you can see the road ahead better, but that height also gives them a higher center of gravity, which makes them less balanced than sedans -- and more likely to flip."
Insurance trade organization officer Dan Kummer focuses on high liability claims costs involving large SUVs in vehicular accidents. "If you have a large SUV and you hit a mid-sized or smaller vehicle, you are likely to pay higher liability costs when your policy comes up for renewal," says Kummer, director of personal lines for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, in Des Plaines, Ill.