More than one million> consumers, about the same as last year, will attend the New York International Auto Show on April 2-11 to check out manufacturers latest vehicle lineups.
If you re among those in the market for a new car, before you start shopping it pays to make at least one phone call -- to your insurance agent. Insurance companies base rates primarily on your driving history, but an expensive new vehicle raises red flags that can add $1,000 or more to your annual tab. Insurers like to be able to say, historically, when they ve had to do work on this kind of model, it cost them X dollars, says James Bell, a vice president and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. Advancing technology and new parts translate to a potentially bigger bill (or higher premiums and profit) for them.
Because of the economic downturn, the number of Americans driving without insurance is on the upswing, according to the Insurance Research Council (IRC), an industry group. In 2008, 13.8% of drivers were uninsured; this year, the IRC projects that number to increase to 16.3%. What s more, those who do have insurance are paying more for it. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' consumer price index, the cost of motor vehicle insurance rose just 7.6% between 2006 and 2009 but jumped 4.5% between 2008 and 2009. That s largely because the cost of car repairs has risen, says Amy Danise, a spokeswoman for comparison site Insure.com.
Call your insurance company for estimates once you re narrowed the field to a few contenders. Then use these six tips to re-evaluate your options on the lot:
Assess driver profile
Insurers records give them a pretty good idea of what kind of driver goes for what kind of vehicle -- and what kind of claims he or she is likely to file. That group reputation can help or hurt, no matter your own driving record.
Minivan and small SUV owners (think soccer moms) generally don t use the cars to commute and avoid night driving, say Danise of Insure.com. They tend to be safe drivers and that benefits everyone who buys those kinds of cars, she says. Combined with good-vehicle safety records, those vehicles are among the cheapest to insure. A 2010 Mazda Tribute I costs an average $1,070 annually to insure, according to Insure.com.
It's no surprise that sports cars are among the most expensive to insure. If the vehicle sends the message, Look out world, here I come, that s going to hurt come insurance time, Bell says. A 2010 Mercedes SL600 convertible will set you back an average $2,716 per year. But even inexpensive compact cars can run $1,300 to $1,400 per year to insure because the low sticker price makes them a go-to choice for many new and inexperienced drivers, Danise says. From the insurer s perspective, that and a small frame make them riskier.
Consider model year
The latest model year is always more expensive to insure simply because the car is worth more, Danise says. Wait to buy until there s a newer model on the lot. A 2010 Honda Accord, for example, averages premiums of $1,238 while the 2009 model averages premiums of $951.
Ask about recalls
If you re considering a vehicle that has had a safety recall on it or another model year, ask your insurer if that could impact rates, says Jean Salvatore, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute. Insurers base rates on their company s claims record with a particular vehicle. Still, it s unlikely you ll see a difference. There are so many Toyotas on the road that those affected by the recalls are still a small percentage, she says.
Pick your own color
The idea that brightly colored cars cost more to insure is a longstanding industry myth, Salvatore says. Go ahead and get the cherry red without worrying that it ll up your insurance costs.
Check safety records
Insurers like vehicle models that have a track record of few claims and inexpensive ones at that, Salvatore says. Review National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tests and the National Insurance Crime Bureau s most-stolen car list. You may be able to lower your rate further through discounts for features like antilock brakes and antitheft devices. They can knock 10% or more off your bill.
Buying any new car may help cut your overall bill, Bell says. Many insurance companies offer discounts of 10% to 20% for insuring more than one vehicle.
A solid driving record can make all the difference in how affordable insurance is for a hybrid car. Hybrids have expensive parts and mechanics must be specially trained, which pushes up costs. But owners tend to be more responsible and safe drivers, which can pull them down -- if you're a good driver, Bell says.