Older travelers have lots of advantages when it comes to travel. Not only are they normally able to avoid the expense of traveling in peak season, they also benefit from plenty of age-related discounts. In this country, for example, over-60s get access to cheaper rail and bus travel, there are discounts on National Trust and English Heritage membership, as well as some museums and – overseas – on Interrail passes and even hotel rooms. Marriott, for example, gives a discount to guests aged 62 and over.
But according to a report published by Which? Travel on Friday, not everything in the garden of later life is rosy. Rising costs and age restrictions in other areas are hitting older travelers disproportionately hard, especially when it comes to insurance and car hire.
Disproportionate and unfair outcomes
It analyzed data from Moneysupermarket.com and found that the average cost of a week’s single-trip travel insurance policy to Spain for those aged 25-54, has gone up from £7.98 in 2019 to £10.65 in 2022. That’s a rise of 33 per cent. But for those aged 85 and over, both the basic cost and the increase is far higher. The average seven-day premium for that age group for the same destination had gone up from £40.15 to £107.99 – a rise of 169 per cent. And for the 75-84 bracket policy costs have risen by an average of 60 per cent.
Which? Travel questions whether the rate at which these prices have increased is reasonable. The editor, Guy Hobbs, said: “Legally, companies are often within their rights to adjust their prices and policies on the basis of age, if they have a justifiable reason, but we’re increasingly seeing cases where the outcomes for older customers seem disproportionate and unfair.”
A spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers responded by emphasizing high treatment costs: “The cost of travel insurance will reflect a number of factors, including your age and travel destination. The older you are, or if you have a pre-existing medical condition, the more likely you are to need to claim for what can be jaw-droppingly expensive overseas emergency medical treatment costs.”
The ABI advises people to shop around for the best value and be sure to buy a policy most suited to your needs, not choose on price alone. Our online guide will help you do that.
But disproportionate price increases are not the only barriers facing older people buying travel insurance – they may struggle to buy it at all. Which? Travel has found that 95 per cent of insurers set a maximum age threshold for new customers. And many people who are automatically covered as part of their banking arrangements may either be left without travel insurance after a certain age – typically 70 or 75 – or have to pay an annual supplement of between £65 and £75.
Car rental costs and bureaucratic burdens
Car hire is another area in which older travelers are likely to have to pay more. Which? reports that for a fortnight’s rental from Malaga Airport, broker DoYouSpain.com advertised rates from firms with senior driver fees ranging between €60 (£53) and €252 (£221). And in Malta, it says, Sixt charges an additional €6.50 (£6) per day for those over 70.
What’s more, older travelers may also have to cope with a significant bureaucratic burden. Which? says it has seen some examples where customers have been required to produce a letter from both a doctor and an insurer, and may still then also require a driving assessment. It adds that these requirements are often buried in the terms and conditions documents – with many drivers caught out (and left out of pocket) after failing to have the required documentation when at the desk.
So what should we make of this age discrimination? There is no doubt that travel insurers and car hire companies had a bleak time during the pandemic and premiums and charges were bound to rise as a result. But the travel industry as a whole is heavily dependent on older travellers. They typically have money to spend and, just as importantly, travel outside peak season – filling rooms, seats and cabins at times when hotels, airlines and cruise companies would otherwise struggle to sell them.
So these price increases should be a warning to the travel industry. It needs to work with insurers and car hire companies in particular to make sure they don’t bite off the hand that feeds them.
Have you been affected by steep prices set by travel insurers and car hire companies as an older traveler? Please share your experiences below