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Which is cheaper to insure, Subaru or Scion?


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Question: One of my favorite car shows (BBC's Top Gear) had a segment on how the Toyota GT 86 and Subaru BRZ are basically the identical car but sold under different names. I’m interested in maybe purchasing one or the other. My question is: Do they cost the same to insure because they are twin vehicles, or is one cheaper to insure than the other?  Finding this out may help me decide which to buy.

Answer:  Top Gear is one of my family’s favorite car shows as well.  You've asked a great question, since cars that are identical except for their manufacturer's badging aren't uncommon. The best way to find out which is more expensive to insure is to compare quotes for both vehicles using identical information, except for the car model.

I ran quotes for the 2013 Scion FR-S (the Toyota GT 86 is sold under the Scion brand in the U.S.) and the 2013 Subaru BRZ 2.0 Limited for a 35-year-old male with a clean driving record living in Dallas, Texas.

I chose the industry recommended liability coverage limits of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident for bodily injury liability and $50,000 property damage liability.  I added in collision and comprehensive coverage with a $500 deductible each. The annual rates came back as: 

  • Scion FR-S: $1,110 (Esurance), $1,370.04 (21st Century), and $1,510 (Travelers)
  • Subaru BRZ: $1,110 (Esurance), $1,350.04 (21st Century), and $1,560 (Travelers)

As you can see, Esurance calculates identical rates for both, while 21st Century charges $20 more for the Scion and Travelers is the opposite and charges $50 more for the Subaru.

Keeping everything else the same, I moved our driver to Los Angeles to show you how rating factors such as ZIP code make a difference to how much you will pay for car insurance. There the annual rates came back as:

  • Scion FR-S: $1,049.90 (Esurance), $1,778 (21st Century), and $1,562.80 (Travelers)
  • Subaru BRZ: $1,049.90 (Esurance), $1,899 (21st Century), and $1,564.80 (Travelers)

Again, costs are close. Esurance gives the same rate for both cars, while 21st Century now charges $121 more for the Subaru and Travelers charges only $2 more for the Subaru.

Why the differences?  It really is up to the rating systems of each auto insurance carrier.  They have different rates filed with the different states due to state laws and other issues.   It could be that Scions have higher rates of theft or higher repair costs in California than they do in Texas for 21st Century, and that makes it more costly to insure in Los Angeles than in Dallas.

Who's buying these hot new cars will make a difference in their insurance rates as well. It could be that, over time, a more mature buyer goes for the Subaru, which means BRZ owners will file fewer claims, resulting in lower rates down the road. Or vice versa. (See "How a car gets a bad reputation.")

This is why it’s important to comparison shop for car insurance – especially when buying a new one. You don’t want to buy a car only to find that you can afford the monthly payments but not the insurance premiums.

The car itself is only one factor in many used to calculate your rates. Your own driving record, credit history (if your state allows that as a rating factor), and ZIP code can make a big difference as well.  

Remember that if you finance a vehicle your lienholder will require you to carry full coverage (collision and comprehensive), in addition to state liability requirements, but you would want this coverage on a new vehicle, even if you bought it with cash, to have it fully protected.  (See “How to insure a new car”)

If you lease a car, the leasing company can require higher liability limits be carried, typically 100/300/50.  And both a leasing and finance company can dictate what deductible amount you choose. (See “Can a lienholder mandate your deductible amount?”)

More articles from Penny Gusner



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