While it’s fashionable to say that 60 is the new 40 these days (and trust us, people in their 30s don’t say this) a hard fact of modern life is that people are living active lives far longer than previous generations. With that comes a substantial increase in the number of seniors driving. According to the last U.S. Census, there are more than 35 million licensed drivers over the age of 65 on our roadways.
Selecting a car for a senior driver is much different than for the average driver. Senior drivers have different needs from a vehicle. In general, they do not want a fancy, luxury car that can think and almost drive itself, and they tend to downplay the importance of high performance features. Older drivers need a car that is safe, comfortable and won’t make auto insurance prices skyrocket through the roof!
Why it’s good to be a senior
Senior drivers do have advantages while driving on the road. They are more experienced behind the wheel, they generally do not have the same distractions as most drivers, such as screaming children in the backseat, talking on their cell phone or the infamous texting while driving. You typically won’t see seniors racing each other on the road or witness a high incidence of road rage with senior drivers. Senior drivers tend to have fewer distractions on the road and will likely be driving less in general.
The perks of maturity
Elderly drivers often qualify for several car insurance discounts that are either designed to reward senior drivers or that recognize that seniors have earned a certain level of acknowledgement. Some fairly standard discounts that benefit an older driver include:
- Multi-policy or bundling coverage discounts (where you insure your vehicle and home through the same insurer)
- Mature driver discounts
- Affinity discounts (discounts for being members of a group or association such as AARP or AAA)
- Good driver discounts (for years of safe driving)
- Mileage discounts (reduced premium based on driving less than the average number of miles in a year, something seniors routinely do)
These discounts will help offset the insurance premium seniors will pay, a great benefit for people on a fixed income.
Does age really matter?
When it comes to insuring senior drivers, rates can sometime be surprisingly high. A controversial question between senior drivers and car insurance companies is if age becomes a factor when determining insurance premiums. Most insurance companies will say no. Statistics suggest otherwise as most drivers will see a base rate for car insurance coverage increase when they reach age 70.
In some ways this would only make sense. Elderly drivers are more likely to have slower response times, health conditions that can impair their driving abilities, and may be taking medications that can impact driving.
Be safe, not sorry
Regardless of the reasons why a car insurance company would raise auto insurance prices, purchasing a safe vehicle is one of the best ways to lower costs and protect mature drivers. One great place to look for a safe vehicle is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and its 5-Star Safety Ratings Program. You can see current results of these tests by visiting www.safercar.gov. There you will find a large database of vehicles with safety information, vigorous crash testing data and videos, and rollover safety ratings. The reports will tell you about seat belts and head restraints, air bag protection, child/passenger features and more.
Additional safety features seniors should look for include:
- Anti-lock brakes (ABS)
- Backup cameras
- Traction control
- Anti-theft devices
Be a comfort connoisseur
Wisdom comes with age, and age comes with physical discomforts. Senior drivers deserve a vehicle that is comfortable and will have room for their more mature torsos. Mobility is always an important consideration and seniors should shop for cars they can easily get in and out of. Look for features that make it easier for the car to conform to the driver, such as:
- Telescoping steering wheels
- Adjustable height seats
- Adjustable pedals
- Lumbar/lower back support
- Heated seats
- Good suspension for a smoother ride
Top 5 recommended cars for senior drivers
The following list was compiled from the NHTSA’s 5-Star Safety Ratings Program with other considerations, including comfort, ease of access and cost-effectiveness:
1) Chrysler 300C (2007 – 2014 models)
2) Cadillac CTS (2007 – 2014 models)
3) Lincoln MKZ (2008 – 2014 models)
4) Mercury Milan (2008 – 2010 models)
5) Volvo S40 (2008 – 2010 models)
Looking at this list, you’ll see there are many options for pursuing a great used car while still guaranteeing that you will get the performance and safety important to a senior driver. The safety and reliability of any of these models will help you keep a lower base premium rate in place for your car insurance coverage. If you find a great used model, you may be able to save further by eliminating certain coverage options.
When you start considering a great car for a senior driver, take your time and do your research. Purchasing a good vehicle for the mature years is an important choice. Not only will selecting a safe vehicle help protect you, it will help offset car insurance rates that can become very costly.
License: Royalty Free or iStock
source: Image of 2014 Chrysler 300c courtesy of Chrysler Motors
Jeffrey Davidson is a writer and advisor with more than 25 years of experience working for insurance and financial services institutions. He currently writes on insurance topics for Reply!. You can find his related article on resources for finding great car insurance options.