Image: Convertible © Carlos S.Pereyra Pixtal age

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You're bound to turn heads behind the wheel of the 604-horsepower Mercedes SL65 AMG, a sleek, two-door convertible with a 6-liter, V12 turbocharged engine. Step on the gas and you can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.2 seconds and to 120 mph in just 12.8 seconds. Be warned, though: According to insurance company data, you're more likely to crash that beauty than a less-powerful vehicle.

Meet the most expensive vehicle to insure for 2011, according to's annual list. The average annual national premium for the powerful Mercedes SL65 AMG roadster is $3,543.81 -- and that's for a good driver who hasn't racked up any speeding tickets or previous insurance claims.

Of course, if the SL65's $198,750 suggested retail price is within reach, maybe you don't worry much about saving money on car insurance premiums. But if you're a more typical driver, your auto insurance rate should be a consideration when shopping for a car. After all, why hunt down the best deal on a vehicle only to discover it carries exorbitant insurance costs?

What drives auto insurance quotes sky-high?

"Any vehicle that would cause a teenage boy to stop and gawk would likely cost a pretty penny to insure," says Russ Rader, a spokesperson for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Highway Loss Data Institute. "Many of the vehicles at the top of the list cost as much as a small house to buy, and that means they're costly to fix."

The BMW 750i, the No. 2 most expensive vehicle to insure -- a luxury sedan with a 400-horsepower, V8 engine -- is packed with high-end components. Those goodies include a navigation system that responds to voice commands, a two-way tilt power moon roof and a 10-speaker sound system. Repairing just one of those features after a crash could cost a small fortune.

A vehicle's premiums for collision and comprehensive coverage are largely determined by that vehicle's "loss history," reflecting the frequency and severity of claims other drivers have typically filed for that model. Cars chosen for flash and speed -- and even mundane cars typically chosen by young, experienced drivers -- pile up claims and thus garner higher insurance rates.

Add in a driver with a history of traffic violations, claims or accidents and you've got a recipe for truly painful car insurance prices.

Scoring cheap car insurance

Looking for a low car insurance quote? On the opposite end of the spectrum are vehicles that would make a teenager yawn: practical minivans and SUVs that appeal to family drivers. This year's cheapest vehicle to insure is the Chrysler Town & Country LX minivan. Its national average annual premium is $1,091.80, a third of the cost of insuring the Mercedes SL65 AMG.

The Toyota Sienna minivan and its LE version earn the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively, on the list of least-costly vehicles to insure.