When it comes to saving money on car insurance, it's always better if you're driving an inexpensive compact, right? Nope. It turns out many large SUVs and pickups cost less to insure than those little guys, according to a new study by insuranceQuotes.com
To find the vehicles that get the best and worst deals on auto insurance, analysts divided the average annual cost to insure a vehicle by its suggested retail price to get a cost ratio. Under this formula, the best performer -- the Ford Explorer -- had a ratio of 3.8 percent. The worst deal was for the Ford Focus with a 7.7 percent ratio.
But even in absolute dollars -- not adjusted for price -- the Explorer and the other SUVs and pickups on the best five list cost less to insure than the Focus and the other four compacts on the worst list.
The list price of the Explorer is nearly twice that of the Focus. But the Explorer's average annual insurance cost, as cited by insurancesQuotes, is $1,301, while the Focus insurance bill is $1,391.
Bigger insurance bills for compacts partly result from the likelihood that riskier motorists such as young, single men are driving them. And in the event of an accident, small cars are more likely to sustain damage and have occupants injured than are larger vehicles.
"This study highlights why it's so important to research insurance costs before buying a car," said senior analyst Laura Adams of insurancesQuotes.com. "They're an important part of the total cost of ownership and don't always move in tandem with the purchase price."
If you want to check the likely insurance cost of a vehicle you're considering, check the tool at insuranceQuotes.com calculator.
Of course, insurance bills aren't the only factor in vehicle ownership costs. In addition to the initial purchase price, fuel costs are an important variable. According to the official EPA website fueleconomy.gov, the annual bill at the gas pump would be $1,750 for the all-wheel drive Explorer compared with $1,100 for the four-cylinder Focus.
That helps explain surging sales of small SUVs like the Honda CR-V. With a list price of $24,325 as cited by insuranceQuotes, its annual insurance cost of $1,183 gives it a 4.86 percent cost ratio. And its estimated annual fuel costs are just $1,150.
Click ahead for a closer look at the five vehicles that get the best deals on insurance, along with their fuel costs and safety ratings.