Older driver? How to cut car insurance costs
We often hear tales about elderly motorists doing something dangerous, such as driving the wrong way on a dual carriageway but it is important not to tar all drivers in their later years with the same brush. Statistically, their accident record is much better than that of teenage drivers, and some claim the over-70s are actually the safest age group on our roads.
The problem is that while there are much fewer collisions involving older motorists, these drivers are more likely to make larger claims when an incident does happen. For this reason, insurance tends to be costly. New figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) show that the average claim for those over 90 is £3,656, compared to £2,216 for someone aged between 56 and 60.
As a result, drivers over 90 pay an average premium of £478, compared to £277 for a motorist aged between 56 and 60. Further findings from the ABI show that, in general, drivers aged over 70 pay higher premiums than those in their middle age.
"There is a clear link between the age of a driver and the risk of making an expensive claim on a car insurance policy," says Rob Cummings, general insurance manager at the ABI. "Rising life expectancy is leading to an increase in the number of older drivers who naturally want competitively priced insurance. But the price of cover is based on risk, including the higher average claim costs as drivers get older."
While the choice for older drivers is more limited than for younger ones, findings from price comparison site GoCompare.com show that in a study of 236 car policies, only 3% had a maximum age limit of less than 70. There may be fewer options but it is still important to scour the market.
As an older driver, you might assume you will get the most affordable cover from a specialist such as Saga or Rias but this may not necessarily be the case.
"While some firms specifically advertise to older drivers, there are lots of other insurers competing for business," says Matt Oliver, car insurance spokesperson at GoCompare.com. "Non-specialist firms can offer similar levels of cover at a competitive price. The key is to compare quotes from lots of insurers to find the right policy for you."
Shopping around is particularly important at renewal time, although older drivers say they often experience an unwillingness among insurers to take them on, or to offer them competitive deals.
"You may find that while your existing insurer will continue to cover you as you get older, the options for shopping around decrease," warns Janet Connor, managing director of AA Insurance.
If you are struggling to find cover, it might be worth looking at a telematics policy. With this type of policy, you have a black box installed under your dashboard that can measure how well you drive, including your speed, position on the road, driving style and time
of journey. Insurers can then use this information to reward careful motoring with lower premiums.
"Telematics policies are typically associated with young and inexperienced motorists but are also available to older drivers and could be a good way to make savings," says Simon McCulloch, director of insurance at Comparethemarket.com. "This might be the case if, for example, you do a low mileage, only drive locally, or never drive in rush hour."
You may be able to bring your premium down by clearing out your garage and informing your insurer that you park off-road.
"If you don't have any named drivers on your policy, it may be worth adding a son or daughter, as this could reduce your premium," says Connor. "Equally, if you have got named drivers on your policy, there is also the possibility that your premium could reduce if you remove these motorists."
Another easy way to cut premiums is by paying a higher excess. But you must ensure you can still afford the excess if you do have to make a claim.
Downsizing to a smaller car with a small engine could also bring insurance costs down.
With people living longer, the population of older drivers is rapidly increasing. The problem is that roads have got a lot busier, cars have got a lot faster, and the issue of when older people should give up driving is one that prompts a lot of debate.
On the one hand, for many pensioners, their car is a lifeline to the outside world, and especially for those who live in rural areas with little public transport.
But this need for independence has to be balanced against the safety of both the elderly motorist – and other people.
At present, if you wish to continue driving past 70, you must renew your licence every three years by "self-declaring" that you are fit. There is no cost to do this but you must confirm that you have not been advised that you should not drive by a medical specialist, such as a GP or optician. Many have called for compulsory eye tests and a legal requirement to retake the test at 70. But for now, at least, there are no plans in place to change the existing rules.
"In the UK, there is currently no fixed age at ￼which a person should stop driving," says Connor.
"But someone should give up either when advised to do so, or when they really feel their judgement – and general health – impairs their ability to control the car safely."
Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, agrees that arbitrary age limits aren't the answer.
"Ability and safety, not age, should determine if someone should be allowed to continue driving," she adds.
In a positive move, an Older Drivers Task Force has now been set up by the Road Safety Foundation with support from the government, and is working to review best practice for motorists in their later years.
Its aim is to provide practical support for elderly drivers and their families through initiatives such as driver assistance technologies, better in-vehicle protection and road design for older drivers. The body is expected to report its findings to the government in mid-2016.
Courses for older drivers
In the meantime, if someone does want to go on driving in later life, it is essential that they are aware of their limitations. This might mean, for example, that they choose not to drive when it's dark, or on motorways.
Helpfully, there are now several courses available to help older drivers boost their confidence and check they are safe to remain on the road. Older motorists can, for example, improve their skills with the Mature Drivers Assessment, a 60-minute test in their own car, run by the Institute of Advanced Motorists.
Elsewhere, the AA Driving School offers 'Drive Confident', while Rias last year launched a 'Drive Fit' campaign. The police also run courses for older motorists whose driving has been deemed hazardous. If they believe the driver in question should surrender their licence, they will inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.
This is more usually a feature of car insurance but it can also crop up in contents, mobile phone and pet insurance policies. An excess is the amount of money you have to pay before the insurance company starts paying out. The excess makes up the first part of a claim, so if your excess is £100 and your claim is for £500, you would pay the first £100 and the insurer the remaining £400. Many online insures let you set your own excess, but the lower the excess, the more expensive the premium will be.
Association of British Insurers
Established in 1985, the ABI is the trade body for UK insurance companies. It has more than 400 member companies that provide around 90% of domestic insurance services sold in the UK. The ABI speaks out on issues of common interest and acts as an advocate for high standards of customer service in the insurance industry. The ABI is funded by the subscriptions of member companies.