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How seniors can save on auto insurance

January 27, 2023

Seniors represent the fastest-growing population group in Canada and many drive.

It is estimated that more than 4.6 million aged 65 or older held a valid driver's licence in 2021. In the coming decades, even more seniors will be behind the wheel. As motorists mature, driving takes on new potential challenges, particularly when it comes to safety and the cost of auto insurance.

While age alone does not determine a person’s ability to remain a safe driver, changes in your abilities make some activities more difficult. These can include:

  • Vision: You may experience glare and it may be more difficult to see in the dark or scan the environment.
  • Physical: You may feel weaker, stiff, experience pain or move more slowly.
  • Cognition: It may be more difficult to remember things, make decisions or do activities when there are distractions.
  • Reaction time: You may find it more difficult to react quickly in different situations.

In Ontario, once you hit the age of 80, you are required to participate in a driver’s licence renewal program to test your driving abilities. The program takes about 90 minutes to complete and includes:

  • A vision test
  • In-class screening assignments
  • A driving record review
  • A 45-minute interactive group education session
  • A road test (if necessary)

In Alberta, at the age of 75 and every two years after the age of 80, you must provide a medical report from your doctor to renew your driver’s licence. You may be required to take a driving assessment test if your doctor deems it necessary. For other provinces, see this list of driving requirements for seniors in Canada.

Warning signs of unsafe driving

The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists says some of the following may indicate warning signs of unsafe driving. They include:

  • Driving too fast or too slow for the conditions
  • Having trouble with lane changes or left-hand turns
  • Lack of attention to objects in one’s peripheral vision
  • Having minor ‘fender benders’ or near misses
  • Noticing that other drivers are showing a lack of patience
  • Losing your way or having less confidence in your driving skills
  • Missing stop signs or traffic lights
  • Confusing the gas and brake pedals
  • A passenger needs to help you

These warnings don’t mean it’s necessary to stop driving, but it’s likely important to at least adjust your driving habits. For example: limiting driving at night, in bad weather or during rush hour or on limited access highways, maintaining a safe following distance; taking breaks if driving a long distance and being careful during lane changes or merging. Also, be sure to have regular medical checkups and always know how medications may affect your driving ability. Taking a refresher course to hone your driving skills may also be beneficial.

Ways for seniors to lower premiums

Like at any other age, premiums depend largely on your personal driving record and insurance history. As you enter your 70s and 80s, you may notice your premiums increasing. Each insurance provider calculates risk differently, so senior drivers can often find savings by switching to another provider. Here are some other ways to reduce your premiums:

  • Retirees or professional associations. Ask your current provider about the types of discounts they offer for affiliations to groups such as the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.
  • Have a broker shop the market. A broker can help you find the best package and premium for your budget.
  • Discount for a shorter commute. If you’re driving less as you transition into retirement, the lower mileage may qualify you for a discount.
  • Claims-free discount. If have a clean driving record and have never filed a claim, many insurers will offer a discount.
  • Combine insurance policies. Insurers will often give a discount for bundling your home and auto insurance.
  • Raise your deductible. If you’re driving less, you can increase your deductible, provided you can afford it if you need to file a claim to repair your vehicle.
  • Decrease/lose the coverage you don’t need. If you own an older car, it may be worthwhile to reduce coverage. Optional collision and comprehensive coverage, for example, correlate to the value of your vehicle. Talk to your broker before making changes.
  • Enrol in a usage-based insurance program. Telematics technology — a method of monitoring and gathering data from vehicles including location, driver behaviour, and activity — is designed to encourage drivers to be more careful behind the wheel by rewarding them with a premium discount. It is a device that can be installed in your vehicle or download on your phone.
  • Stay healthy: Take care of your health and make sure you have regular checkups for eyesight, hearing and general well-being.
  • Conduct regular vehicle maintenance. Driving a safer car with better features can reduce premiums.
  • Loyalty discount. Ask for this discount if you’ve been with the same insurer for a long time.

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