When it comes to auto premiums, you can do a lot worse than the Palmetto state. Only 14 places can claim cheaper car insurance rates.
Meanwhile, the most frugal vehicle to drive in the U.S. based on coverage costs turns out to be the rugged Jeep Wrangler Sport, while the high-strung Nissan GT-R Track Edition winds up as the priciest.
The findings by state and by model stem from a yearly Insure.com survey. South Carolina ranks 37th highest with an average yearly premium of $1,316. Only Virginia and North Carolina in the Southeast report average premiums that are less than South Carolina's.
The price differences can prove dramatic. A South Carolina car owner pays on average $390 more a year than a driver in Ohio, which posted the lowest premiums; while doling out $1,235 less than a motorist in Michigan, the highest-priced state.
"In each state, auto insurance rates are a mix of many ingredients, most of which consumers can't control," said Amy Danise. She is editorial director of Insure.com, a Foster City, Calif.-based insurance information provider. "Urban areas, traffic conditions, state insurance laws, competition among insurance companies, the percentage of uninsured drivers and natural disasters all swirl together to influence rates - sometimes in unsavory ways," she says.
Similarly, the rate gaps by vehicle can be wide. A Jeep Wrangler Sport owner forks out $1,080 a year on average, saving more than $2,000 annually compared with the Nissan GT-R driver paying $3,169 a year.
Eight additional models tally a yearly premium below $1,150 starting with the Honda Odyssey LX minivan at $1,103; the Jeep Patriot Sport with $1,104; fellow SUVs Honda CR-V LX at $1,115 and Jeep Compass Sport at $1,140; the Chrysler Town & Country Touring minivan with $1,140; Subaru Outback 2.5i SUV at $1,144; and the Dodge Journey SE SUV and Honda Odyssey EX minivan, each with $1,149.
"Family cars generally have the lowest auto insurance premiums," Danise said. "People ferrying kids are always the safest drivers, and that holds down rates on popular family vehicles," she says.
"What we've seen over the last few years of this study is that SUVs are replacing minivans as the family vehicle of choice."
By brands, Jeep stood out in 2014, grabbing seven of the 20 "least expensive to insure" spots. According to Insure.com, Jeeps convey an adventurous spirit, yet the bargain prices are a "reflection of safe driving and low claims rate by Jeep owners."
On the pricier side, eight editions in addition to the specialty Nissan GT-R top $2,800 a year for auto insurance payments: the BMW M6 at $3,065, Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic AWD at $3,019, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT with $2,986, Porsche Panamera Turbo S at $2,970, Audi R8 5.2 Spyder Quattro with $2,917, Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG at $2,887, Audi A8 L 6.3 Quattro at $2,869 and the Jaguar XKR Supercharged for $2,854.
According to Insure.com, the Nissan GT-R gets the nickname "Godzilla" for its high-end speed and performance. The sport car "reaches not-so-legal speeds in a blur, where small driving mistakes lead to expensive claims." Also, it's "a monster" to repair. The vehicle's carbon fiber material used in body panels generally can't be repaired after a crash - it has to be replaced, Insure.com noted.
The company computed insurance premiums for 855 cars and trucks, then averaged the vehicle rates for each state. While there was no complete pattern for highest and lowest premiums, a number of New England states and New York ranked among the lowest in prices, while three Southeastern states - Georgia, Louisiana and Florida - placed among the 10 highest.
While motorists can't change many of the rate factors, "you can control your own driving," Danise said. "A record that's free of tickets and accidents helps hold down your premiums. Every time you get behind the wheel, you can 'save money' on your future insurance bills by paying attention to the road and other drivers."
For more information and results of the 2014 study, visit www.insure.com/car-insurance/car-insurance-comparison/.
Insure.com gave a brief description of the survey's methodology:
. It commissioned Quadrant Information Services to calculate average auto insurance rates for 2014 models.
. The averages stem from figures of six large carriers - Allstate, Farmers, GEICO, Nationwide, Progressive and State Farm - in 10 ZIP codes per state.
. The figures assumed full insurance coverage for a single 40-year-old male who commutes 12 miles to work each day. Policy limits were set at $100,000 for injury liability for one person, $300,000 for all injuries and $50,000 for property damage in an accident. The policy was computed with a $500 deductible on collision and comprehensive coverage.
. The hypothetical driver "has a clean record and good credit," according to Insure.com.
While the survey provided average premiums, each individual's rates can vary widely based on personal factors, Insure.com notes.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or email@example.com.