Saving money on your auto insurance can start with choosing a car that is inexpensive to insure, and ranks them every year. The top 10 list for 2014 includes several entries that aren’t technically cars at all, but minivans, SUVs and Jeeps.

Minivans are still holding their own on the list, but they held more prominent placement a few years back. This year they only account for five of the top 20 slots, with small and mid-size SUVs climbing up the rankings and gobbling up their previous spots.

Jeeps are also zooming into the ranks, nabbing seven of the spots on the top 20 list of least expensive cars to insure.

The same benefits that once made minivans a shoe-in on the list are now the norm with SUVs. They are mainly being used as family vehicles, dedicated to driving the kids to weekly club meetings or daily soccer practice. Parents hauling the kids around are among the least likely drivers to crash, get slapped with a speeding ticket or file a claim.

Claims as the bottom line

Claims are always the bottom line for setting insurance rates. The number and expense of the claims filed by owners of specific vehicles dictate the overall insurance rates of that particular vehicle. That means vehicles with minimal, inexpensive claims are going to enjoy the best insurance rates in the market.

That’s also exactly where Jeep comes in, with its Wrangler, Grand Cherokee, Compass and Patriot. Jeep owners are proving themselves as careful drivers, despite the adventuresome spirit the vehicle seems to promote. Jeeps are no longer the vehicles people tend use for wild rides into the sunset, or wild rides anywhere for that matter.

Jeep owners have largely become married or single women under 45 years old, according to Kelly Blue Book Senior Analyst Karl Brauer. They tend to display careful driving habits and behaviors, not the reckless abandon that may have been more closely associated with Jeeps in the past.

Brauer says that for every Jeep Wrangler that heads out for serious off-road adventures, there are dozens of Jeep models being used to cautiously drive kids around suburbia at speeds lower than 50 mph. Such driving conditions and drivers combine to result in low accident rates and a low amount of claims.

Jeep ads may still showcase the vehicles marauding over crags and rocks, most of the real-life Jeeps never even see an off-road adventure. Auto Editor Mark Takahashi backs up the fact that most Jeeps have become family vehicles. He notes that people drive more carefully and take fewer chances when they’re driving with their families, mainly due to the precious cargo.

Low repair costs are another factor that keeps insurance rates low for Jeeps, especially the Wrangler. Takahashi notes that a body shop can easily remove a dented door since it’s typically bolted, rather than welded. He points out old Army Jeeps had that same feature, and Jeep Wranglers have continued the trend into modern times.

Height matters

Safe drivers, low repair and replacement costs are definitely what keeps Jeeps on the least expensive to insure list, agrees Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder. He also adds a couple more factors into the mix.

In addition to low likelihood of collisions, Jeeps also have a low likelihood of being stolen. Wiesenfelder points out vehicles that have a low volume of thefts would likewise not have a very big replacement part market for stolen components.

And then there’s the height, an advantage enjoyed by both Jeeps and SUVs. Because both vehicle types ride higher than the average car, Wiesenfelder notes Jeeps and SUVs would suffer less damage than the average car that was hit during a collision.

Another key for car insurance savings

Avoiding a collision in the first place is the more prudent route to take, and New York rewards drivers who aim to do so through driver education. Save on your car insurance by completing a Defensive Driving Course approved by the New York DMV. State law says insurance companies must offer at least a 10 percent discount on the base rate of your collision and liability coverage for autos and motorcycles over a three-year period. You could save hundreds of dollars.

Top 10: 2014 least expensive cars to insure

  1. Wrangler Sport, Jeep
  2. Odyssey LX, Honda
  3. Patriot Sport, Jeep
  4. CR-V LX, Honda
  5. Compass Sport, Jeep
  6. Town and Country Touring, Chrysler
  7. Outback 2.5i, Subaru
  8. Journey SE, Dodge
  9. Odyssey EX, Honda
  10. Grand Caravan SE, Dodge