Do seniors pay higher car insurance rates than younger drivers? How old is too old to drive? Are senior citizens more dangerous on the road? Read on to find out.
As the population ages and more people live to age 80 and beyond, more and more senior citizen drivers will be on the road. The largest generation in US history prior to Millennials, “Baby Boomers” are getting older, and leading to a sharp increase in the proportion of drivers who are senior citizens.
Contrary to popular opinion, getting older doesn’t necessarily mean your driving will worsen. What it does mean is that your reflexes will get slower, and you should be more prepared when heading out on the road.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, between 1997 and 2013, the number of traffic accidents caused by senior citizens has been reduced by 30 percent and has been on a steady decline, while the number of senior drivers has grown by 23 percent since 1997.
Clearly the stereotype of senior citizens as senile and dangerous on the road is an inaccurate one, but how much does age affect insurance rates, and is there a point where seniors should stop driving due to advanced age?
It is true that young people and senior citizens typically pay more for car insurance than drivers aged 25-65 or so, other things being equal.
Despite having a wealth of both life experience and miles logged on the road, driving does become more challenging as your body ages. Your ability to respond quickly to changing situations deteriorates. Because of the delayed motor skills, hearing, and vision that come with old age, seniors are deemed a higher risk by car insurance providers. This results in higher premiums.
Although people age differently and not every senior citizen’s senses will deteriorate at the same rate (or at all), senior drivers’ premiums do typically go up due to the risk insurance providers associate with senior citizens on the road.
Around age 65, most people will see an increase in their car insurance premiums, but if you have a clean driving record, the increase probably won’t be drastic, and there are ways to mitigate this potential increase.
One way to reduce your rates, and this doesn’t just go for senior drivers, is to drive more carefully, and maintain a clean driving record. The cleaner your driving record, the lower your premiums will be.
Some things that can harm your driving record are driving with an expired license, the number of traffic accidents you have been involved in, traffic violations and fines, and any DUIs. The less strikes you have on your driving record, the less you will be charged for car insurance, other things being equal.
Another measure that seniors can take to lower their insurance rates is to purchase a safer car. Purchasing a newer car equipped with more safety features is bound to make your premiums go down. You will be at much less risk of being injured (and filing an insurance claim related to the injury) in a modern car, than if you were driving a 30-year-old vehicle with no airbags.
Seniors might also want a refresher on safe driving, by taking a class through The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) or a local senior center. By proving that you are taking the necessary steps to maintain a safe driving record, you might qualify for a discount from your insurance provider.
Matt McColm, owner and operator of InsureBud in Quincy, Washington says that if you are seeking a senior discount from taking a refresher driving course, but have a few moving violations on your record, there are still ways to get the discount.
“A lot of people have moving violations and they wonder if they can still get a safety course discount and in most cases they can. The trick is to ask your agent for discounts and don't get hung up if the words are slightly different. One Senior Driver could be another companies' safety course discount,” McColm said. “Every company writes policies differently and some will even trademark a phrase to prevent another from using it.”
Driving less will also lower your car insurance rates. By limiting the miles you drive annually and notifying your insurance provider of this change, this should lower your rates.
As with any other age group, seniors might also want to increase their deductible if they drive less, since they would have a lower risk of getting into an accident, and their premiums will go down.
Many insurance providers will also suggest you reassess what is covered on your basic auto insurance policy such as adjusting your physical damage coverage.
With most insurance companies, physical damage coverage is a combination of both collision coverage and comprehensive coverage, both of which cover damage to your vehicle.
Collision insurance coverage covers damage to your car if you are involved in an accident. If your car is old and the collision coverage won’t cover the costs to fix the entire car, or if you don’t drive that often and are at low risk of getting into an accident, you might not need this type of coverage.
Comprehensive insurance coverage is another element that many senior citizens tend to drop from their auto insurance policy. This covers incidents other than crashes, like theft, or damage caused by severe weather. Depending on your needs, you might not feel it necessary to keep this coverage if you don’t drive very often. Comprehensive insurance is sold with a deductible, and you can always raise your deductible to reduce your monthly rates.
You should consider the value of your car before you purchase or remove this type of coverage from your policy, because if your car is old, the comprehensive and collision coverage will only pay out up to the current market value of the vehicle. If the car is older, or not worth much, it might not be worth keeping the physical damage coverage. If you drive a newer car, then it probably makes sense to keep it.
One last piece of advice is to shop around. Each insurance company has their own way of determining rates for seniors. One could charge significantly more than another. The only way to find out which offers the best deals is to request quotes from several insurers and compare rates.
When determining whether or not your car insurance policy meets your current needs or whether or not you need to update it, there are a few different things to take into consideration.
There are six basic types of coverage that can be included in a car insurance policy. There is personal injury liability, personal injury protection property damage liability, collision, comprehensive, and uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. However, depending on your preferences, you might opt to omit some of these elements, and add on additional riders and endorsements.
You also might want to reassess who is included in your car insurance policy. Maybe you’ve been divorced, remarried, or widowed. You might not have revised your policy, and in this case you might be paying more than you need to for your insurance. If you have an older car and can’t or don’t want to buy a new vehicle, you might want to consider getting safety features installed to reduce your premiums. You should also consider “bundling” your home and auto insurance with the same carrier. Doing this can get you a sizable discount on your premiums.
In order to make changes to your policy to better fit your current needs, it is important to contact your insurance agent or broker and discuss any changes that you want to make. They might even offer you discounts depending on how long you have been with that provider.
If you make adjustments to your policy and are still not happy with your monthly premiums, you may want to shop around and compare car insurance quotes for senior drivers from other companies, to ensure you are getting the best deal.
Seniors can reduce their risk of an accident by taking some basic safety precautions while on the road.
As we age our eyesight weakens, so it makes sense to look into ways to make it easier to read what is on your dashboard. You may be able to add a back-up sensor or camera to your vehicle. Some cars even have self-parking features that help you parallel park.
It also might be in your best interest to reduce the amount that you drive if you feel uncomfortable on the road. If it’s late at night, foggy, snowy, or rainy, you might choose to wait for conditions to improve before driving.
It could also come in handy to install a voice-activated GPS in your car, so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road to read a map when not sure where to go.
Matt McColm believes there is no set age where people should stop driving.
“There are people who can handle their vehicle well into their 90s. If a person starts having near misses or an unusual amount of collision claims in a year then it might be time to address the driving needs of your elderly loved one, McColm said.” “I have never seen a person not written because of age; it has always been because of incidents like multiple traffic infractions/collisions.”
While handing over your driver’s license can feel like you are giving up your freedom, you are increasing your personal safety and that of those around you in the process. Giving up your license can feel debilitating, but there are many other options to get you around on a day to day basis. Your town may have better public transportation than you’d think. Many cities and counties have buses and vans that can pick you up and drop you off. You may want to contact the AARP for further details on alternative transportation options for seniors.
Losing your ability to drive can be tough on you and your family, but remember that there are many alternatives to driving, and you are looking out for your best interest, and the best interest of everyone else on the road.
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