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So let's stick with what you can control. As far as choosing a car, dullness pays. The lowest rates go to the most innocuous vehicle types minivans and low/mid-priced sedans because of what they imply about their drivers: mild personalities make for mild risks. Another force at work is how much damage one vehicle can do to another, where battering ram-like trucks and SUVs do not fare well. These factors mostly impact liability, which, in 45 states, is the mandatory piece in the insurance equation. On the flip side, ultra-cheap lightweights like the Kia Rio don't have stellar rates either, for a related reason: they do a mediocre job of protecting you, the driver.

Another major point is the cost of the car, which should be self-explanatory. This impacts collision coverage, which covers repairs to your car. It also lowers another type of coverage called comprehensive, which basically covers your car in any loss that doesn't involve crashing. Another good way to lower comprehensive is to pick a car with a low theft rate. Put another way, drive a car that no one else wants. Case in point: a recent study found the Ford Taurus wagon and Saturn LS at the bottom of the theft list.

Choosing the type of vehicle is the easy part. Depending on how much digging you want to do, it might also be worth researching specific cars within a given class. One source found a Dodge Neon costing $478 more a year than a Saturn SL2 (both are compact sedans that cost a mere $15,000 when new) at the same provider, just to name an extreme example. Differences within a class are largely due to the cost to repair specific cars, which has a lot to do with how they were designed. Some models show more variation between different providers than others, though it could be awfully time-consuming to check every single car across every single provider.

Don't crash. As if you needed another reason not to, getting involved in a crash (even ones that aren't officially your fault, in some cases) is the most sure-fire way to inflate your premiums. The label of "high-risk driver" stains your record, typically for about three years.

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