16 Jan My car insurance went up. Is my age a factor?
Q. My husband and I have been insured with the same insurer 40 years. Last year and then again this year our policy premium was increased substantially. Nothing has changed as far as coverage: no accidents, no tickets. I am 73 and my husband is 77. I asked the insurer if age was a factor and she said yes, but it’s just one factor that goes into determining rates. Is this age discrimination?
A. Yours is a great question and one we’re guessing many seniors ask.
Lots of items can affect your car insurance rates. These include the kind of car you’re driving, your driving habits and records, your credit rating, demographic factors and the coverages, limits and deductibles you choose.
And yes, your age is a factor.
Typically, when a policyholder advances in age from 64 to 65, their household is reclassified as a senior household. That means premiums increase because of a higher perceived risk, said Loretta Worters, spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute.
She said the higher rates for seniors are based in part on real data.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Administration, impairments in three key areas — vision, cognition and motor function — are responsible for higher crash rates for older drivers.
“Certainly this is not all older people, but this group, as a whole, is impacted by these factors,” she said.
She said studies show older drivers are keeping their licenses longer and driving more miles than ever before. The age group also has higher fatality rates, meaning older drivers are more easily injured than younger people and are more apt to have medical complications and die from those injuries, she said.
But there are strategies senior drivers can take to lower their premiums and sharpen their driving skills.
While New Jersey doesn’t offer any benefits specific to seniors, 34 states and the District of Columbia mandated premium discounts for older adults, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
“All but Massachusetts require older drivers — usually age 55 and over — to complete an approved-accident prevention course,” Worters said. “In addition, 12 states mandate discounts to all drivers — including older drivers — who take defensive driving or other drivers’ education courses.”
In many cases, consumers can save on premiums by choosing higher deductibles or eliminating coverages for older cars that are paid in full, Worters said. But remember, a higher deductible means you will pay more out of pocket in the event of an accident. You will need to decide how much you can afford to pay if an accident occurs.
In New Jersey, consumers can save premium dollars by choosing their health care insurers as primary in the case of auto accident-related injuries, Worters said, noting you should check with your health care insurer before choosing the Health Care Primary Option.
As we know, New Jersey remains most expensive state in the nation for auto insurance.
Worters said lawsuits are a large factor in New Jersey insurance rates.
“Consumers can save premium dollars by choosing the Limited Right to Sue (Limitation on Lawsuit Option), which limits suits for pain and suffering except in cases of death or permanent injury,” she said.
But that, of course, could have consequences should you ever get into an accident.
Always shop around, try to bundle your insurances with one carrier for discounts and consider a vehicle with safety features such as anti-lock breaks, air bag and passive restraint systems and anti-theft systems, which will all bring discounts to your car insurance policy.
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This story was originally published on Jan. 16, 2020.
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