As you approach retirement age, driving becomes a tradeoff. You have greater experience and have handled many different situations, and you are comfortable behind the wheel. This experience, combined with a good driving record, has earned you car insurance discounts over time.
On the downside, you are probably starting to notice declining eyesight and slower reflexes, and you are more set in your ways. You may find that safety features on newer cars such as warning systems or anti-lock brakes difficult to get used to, and in some cases, downright distracting.
Once you approach age 70, you will find another downside – your car insurance rate will begin to rise based on simple statistics. From a risk standpoint, drivers in their early 20's and their late 70's represent the same number of auto accident injuries and deaths per mile driven, and that simple fact will start to neutralize your previous discounts.
However, it is possible to recover some of these discounts by taking a driving safety course. The effect on your insurance will vary by the course that you take, the state you live in, and your insurance company, but successful completion of one of these courses will typically lower your rates.
Senior-oriented driver improvement courses are designed to help you deal with the changes in your reflexes and to update you on the proper use of the newest safety features in cars. Other senior topics such as the effects of various medications on driving are emphasized.
The Smart Driver™ program from AARP is one of the largest and most well-established driving programs targeted toward the older driver. It is information-oriented, and it does not contain a driving test. AARP claims that 97% of program participants change at least one of their driving behaviors based on the information they learn. AAA also offers driving improvements programs through local AAA facilities or as an online course.
You will also want to check with your insurance company and state insurance commission for local driver improvement programs that are available to you. Before signing up for any of them, check with your insurance agent – there may be a more senior-oriented option available in your area.
As well as taking a driving refresher course, there are other ways you can reduce your car insurance rates. Some options include:
- Type of Car – If you are driving an older car, you may be missing out on updated safety features that could bring your insurance down. If you do decide to get a newer car, look up the safety ratings online. Give up on the ragtop convertible.
- Drop Collision and Comprehensive – Conversely, if you are driving an older car that is mostly depreciated out, your collision and comprehensive payments are probably not worth the replacement value of your car.
- Drive Less – If you are driving less, as many seniors do, check with your insurance company for any available discounts. You may also consider usage-based insurance, which can save you considerable money if you really do drive less, which is the case with most seniors.
- Shop Around/Bargain – If you have a good record and a longstanding relationship with an insurance company or an agent, they may be willing to forgo some automatic rate increases – especially if you combine them with education programs. If not, stay open minded to changing insurance companies.
Even if you take one of these options, it is worth enrolling in a refresher driving course. It may help you become a better driver, and that is good not just for you, but also for the rest of us. Be safe, save money, and continue enjoying all the pleasure -- and freedom – that driving provides. Road trip!