Hybrid cars will save you money at the gas pump, but will they do the same for your auto insurance quote?
It doesn't look that way.
"If you shop for car insurance rates for a Toyota Corolla hybrid and a regular car, the hybrid would cost about $10 more per month to insure," says Michelle Rupp, a spokesperson for the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America. That's $120 more a year, after applying a 10 percent discount.
"The maximum discount available for hybrids [because of their eco-friendly features] is 10 percent, but eligibility for that discount varies drastically by state and car insurance company," she adds.
And not all hybrids qualify for a "green" discount.
"In order to receive a discount on your auto insurance policy, your hybrid must be a 'true' hybrid," she says. The electric motor of a "partial" hybrid helps the gasoline engine, but when the car is moving, the gas engine is always on. "True" hybrids move on electric power only until they reach a speed where the gasoline engine needs to kick in. Rupp says the discount doesn't apply to a "mild" or "partial" hybrid that can't do that.
Auto insurance for hybrids is subject to all the same pricing factors used for any non-hybrid car. Your credit history, driving record, geographic location, age, number of miles driven, and so on are used to determine car insurance rates of all cars, including hybrids, says Rupp.
A car's value and age are also factors in how much you'll pay for car insurance. The pricier the ride, the more a car insurance company has to pay to repair or replace it in the event of an accident.
And that's another reason hybrids will cost more to insure: They are typically more expensive than their gasoline counterparts.
Cars that log more miles have higher car insurance quotes
Driving habits and trends in claims for hybrid vehicles also play a role in their higher car insurance rates, says Russ Rader, a spokesperson for the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), a part of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
"Hybrids are logging more miles than their traditional counterparts," says Rader.
A 2010 HLDI report says drivers of passenger hybrids drive 6.2 more miles a day than regular models. That adds up to more than 1,600 miles a year if you're driving five days a week to work. By comparison, SUV drivers average 2.7 more miles a day, or 702 miles a year.
And according to Rader, those extra miles translate into more car insurance claims. "Hybrids are getting into more crashes than non-hybrid versions," he says. That may be due partly to who is more likely to buy a hybrid vehicle, like people with long commutes who want to save on fuel.
"It's not that hybrid drivers are worse drivers, it's just that they are likely to drive more, and more miles mean more crashes," says Rader.
Crashing leads to higher car insurance rates
Hybrid luxury and hybrid SUV drivers crash more often than their traditional luxury car and SUV driving counterparts, according to HLDI. And those behind the wheel of the Lexus GS450h 4-door luxury hybrid vehicles were in the most crashes of all hybrids in 2009.
Fender-benders and mangled bumpers (not to mention major wrecks) add up and send hybrid car insurance rates soaring.
According to the HLDI report:
- The average car insurance claim pay out for a Lexus GS450h 4-door luxury hybrid is about 3 percent more than its non-hybrid sibling.
- The average claim for a hybrid Honda Accord is about 10 percent more than for the same traditional car.
- Lexus hybrid drivers file about 11 percent more claims than those who drive non-hybrids.
- All hybrid drivers file a combined 17 percent more claims than drivers of traditional vehicles.
"Car insurance companies have to consider the averages when determining rates," notes Jack Smith, a spokesperson for the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of New York. "And if the average says hybrids crash more often and are more expensive to fix, then the car insurance rates for these vehicles could be higher than it is for traditional cars."
Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes. It should not be interpreted as a recommendation to buy or sell any insurance product, or to provide financial or legal advice. This information is provided for information purposes only.
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