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older drivers always pay more

debunking a car insurance myth

It's easy to assume that older drivers are always going to pay more for auto insurance. After all, their often-impaired vision, memory, and reflexes tend to lead to increased accidents and other mishaps. And higher accident frequency equals higher car insurance premiums, right?

Not necessarily. For a variety of reasons, some of which hold true for all drivers and some of which are particular to seniors, this myth colors over many shades of gray.

Older drivers can save on car insurance

While it's undeniably true that senior drivers have higher crash rates than their middle-aged counterparts, and thus often pay a prettier penny for their car insurance, several factors can help lower their car insurance rates. For instance, many car insurance companies offer discounts for drivers between the ages of 55 to 70 since their wealth of experience usually makes them very safe drivers. Generally, it isn't until around 70 that senior drivers may begin to see increased rates.

Even then, there are ways to save.

How senior drivers can save on car insurance

Seniors can take advantage of all the savings methods at others' disposal, but a few methods are especially apt for aging motorists. Here are a few suggestions on how seniors can lower their car insurance rates.

Safety first

By picking a safe car (such as an IIHS Top Safety Pick), loading up on safety devices like LoJack®, and taking senior-focused safe-driving courses, seniors can save a bundle on their car insurance.

Consider coverages

Seniors driving older automobiles may want to think about dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverages. As a rule, if your vehicle is worth less than 10 times the amount you pay for those coverages, it may not be worth keeping them.

Seniors can also consider raising their deductibles. While having to pay a $1,000 deductible might seem steep on a fixed income, comprehensive and collision claims occur, on average, only once every 11 or 12 years per driver, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Setting your deductible amounts aside in an interest-accruing account and bumping up deductibles can lead to significant savings.

Drive less

Car insurance companies take into account how much you drive when determining your car insurance rate. If you've begun to limit your driving, make sure your insurance company knows — you may be able to get a car insurance discount for driving limited miles.

Now that we know how seniors can save, let's look at why they might need to.

Why age affects car insurance rates

As those who've earned their senior discount can attest, age is a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, mental and physical deterioration commonly associated with age can severely impact driving skills. On the other, age brings both breadth and depth of experience — an invaluable tool when it comes to driving.

As people age, vision, cognitive abilities, and reflexes tend to dull. And these changes can make seniors somewhat riskier drivers to insure. Elderly drivers might more easily miss road signs and have slower reaction times. Plus, the elderly tend to be more physically fragile. Even a minor fender bender can have significant effects on their health. Elderly drivers are also more likely to use medications that can also affect their driving abilities.

Due to these factors, seniors' crash involvement rates (PDF; see page 4) begin to rise at age 70 and jump significantly at 80. But it's not until 85 that their crash rate surpasses that of teen drivers — so, on average, senior drivers still have lower rates than teenage drivers.

Not only are seniors more likely to get into accidents, they're also more likely to be injured and even killed in them. In fact, 75 percent of people who die in crashes involving older drivers are the drivers themselves or their older passengers. This isn't necessarily due to decreased ability: Studies have shown that seniors' physical fragility is the primary cause of their increased fatal crash rates.

As the Baby Boomers age, the number of seniors on the road is rising at a rapid rate, and these seniors tend to drive more than previous generations of the elderly. Still, the frequency of their crash involvements is actually dropping, and though the reasons for this downward trend aren't clear just yet, it may have to do with elderly drivers' tendency to limit their driving by avoiding driving at night or in inclement weather and steering clear of interstates and highways.

Why seniors' car insurance rates might not go up

There's another side to the story. Senior drivers have a wealth of driving experience to draw on, and that gives them an edge. Even if they're unable to respond as quickly to changing circumstances on the road, they're likely to have much more experience driving in a variety of dangerous conditions and adjusting appropriately to them.

Experience plays a huge role in car insurance rates — in fact, the lack of it is a primary reason new drivers tend to pay much more for coverage.

Senior drivers also tend to drive less, which positively impacts premiums. After all, the less you're on the road, the less likely you are to be involved in an accident.

Many car insurance companies also join restaurants, movie theaters, and amusement parks in offering senior discounts. Plus, in response to seniors' higher crash rates, many defensive and safe driving courses crafted specially for seniors have arisen, creating yet another discount opportunity.

Seniors don't always pay more for car insurance

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While seniors aged 75 and up do rank among the more potentially dangerous drivers on the road, there are numerous ways for senior drivers to save. By taking advantage of their driving experience, shopping for the right car, getting senior driving education, and limiting their time behind the wheel, even the most venerable driver can find ways to save on car insurance.

Related links

Driving and auto insurance tips for seniors
Get more tips on saving on car insurance and optimizing your driving skills.

Learn how young and mature drivers can save on car insurance
Find a great resource on driver safety courses for motorists of all ages.

Car insurance myth: new cars cost more to insure
Contemplating getting a newer, safer car, but worried you'll pay more for insurance? Dispel your concerns with this myth-busting insight.

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