We seniors don’t drive as much as we used to, and – thankfully – we don’t get as many tickets. Although some of the things that we can do to minimize the cost of our automobile insurance are available to all drivers, some of them fit nicely into choices that we find ourselves making anyway as we settle into retirement, with the time to enjoy some of the fruits of our labors.
While many of us wouldn’t mind taking a stab at being a youngster again, it wouldn’t be any fun to be hit with the insurance premium that would entail. As a decent driver in his 60′s who likes to use a bike and leave his 1994 Camry in the driveway most of the time, I pay only $348 a year for basic coverage. That would jump to $1116 if an 18-year-old grandson were the principal driver of my car. As long as he’s there, my driving record doesn’t matter a bit; as Dennis Hagerty of State Farm in Novato, CA, explains, the cost is figured for the biggest risk on the policy, not the record of the person who’s paying the bill.
Loyalty and Multi-line Discounts
Without a teenager on the tab, our years of driving experience is a strong factor in our favor – as is the loyalty discount that companies give when we’ve stayed with them a long time. Closely related is the multi-line discount which companies give when you buy all of your policies at the same shop.
That last advantage may, however, prove illusory. As Ronny Jetmore of the Jetmore Insurance Group in Lusby, MD, says, drivers should “realize that many times the best deal is obtained by splitting up their policies. My own policies [including several associated with his business] are each with different companies, and this saves me $1,500 annually.” Research is the key here; having an agent who’s not beholden to one of the large firms shop around for you is an easy way to get it done. “I’d be surprised if most drivers didn’t save $400 – $600 a year with that strategy,” Jetmore says.
Get Rid Of Unnecessary Coverage
Do you need all that insurance? If you have an older car, deleting comprehensive and collision coverage may already have occurred to you. It’s one of the advantages – like avoiding finance payments – that comes with owning a car ten or fifteen years old. And if you have two cars and your policy includes a provision for a rental car when yours is in the shop, you can probably drop the rental-car coverage and make things work temporarily with that second car.
Of course, it’s always to your advantage to report a minimum of tickets and accidents, and this is even truer as we get older. Jetmore advises seniors to “raise collision deductibles as high as you can stand – collision claims and age simply do not go well together.” But if you’re driving less now that you don’t have to show up for a job every day, make sure your insurance agent knows about it. Since I drive fewer than 1500 miles a year, my premiums are skewed downward significantly; if I got involved in long commutes again, it could cost me another $110 a year.
City v. Country Living
If you’re considering moving somewhere else to enjoy your later years, it doesn’t hurt to remember that your premiums are likely to be considerably lower if you move from an urban center out into the country. If you end up in a place with adequate public transportation and can cut down the number of miles you drive every year – along with the number of possible tickets and accidents – that could make a real difference in what you spend on insurance. If I were to quit the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, and relocate to Weed up near the Oregon border, my yearly premium would drop from $348 to $110.
If you’re making a move, it might be a good time to consider putting your insurance needs up for bid. While insurers are happy to offer a “loyalty discount” for your consistent patronage, their commitment to you inevitably ends at the bottom line. Don’t expect them to stand by you if you run into a string of bad luck, counsels Jetmore: “If you have too many claims in a short period of time, they’ll drop you as quickly as the law allows.”
If your household includes an older person who has been attracting the notice of the insurance company – not to mention the neighbors and, perhaps, local pedestrians – there may come a time when you want to keep your premiums at a reasonable level by excluding that person from your policy. You should do this if a driver loses their license or turns it in. In some instances, the insurance company may do it themselves if they perceive a pattern of claims.
While State Farm offer a mature-driver discount, Hagerty cautions not to expect much savings from the driver-safety courses that you can take online or in person. The AARP offers both options, for less than twenty bucks apiece. Although many courses promise a 10 – 15% reduction in your premiums, Hagerty figured mine at a more realistic 4%.
Bottom line for keeping your insurance premiums low? Do some comparison shopping. Live in a peaceful place. Drive less, and make sure you get credit for it. Stay out of trouble, and keep your deductibles high. And tell you grandkids to buy their own insurance.