Age discrimination is feared as older people face skyrocketing costs for car rental and travel insurance

Older travelers have many advantages when it comes to travel. Not only can they normally avoid the high season travel costs, they also benefit from numerous age-related discounts. In this country, for example, people over 60 get access to cheaper train and bus travel, there are discounts on National Trust and English Heritage membership, as well as some museums and – abroad – on Interrail passes and even hotel rooms. For example, Marriott offers a discount to guests 62 and older.

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 rentals.

Disproportionate and unfair results

It analyzed data from Moneysupermarket.com and found that the average cost of one-way weekly travel insurance to Spain for people aged 25-54 has risen from £7.98 in 2019 to £10.65 in 2022. That’s an increase of 33 percent. But for people over 85, both the base cost and the increase are much higher. The average seven-day premium for that age group for the same destination had risen from £40.15 to £107.99 – a 169 per cent increase. And for the 75-84 age group, policy costs have risen on average by 60 percent.

Which? Travel questions whether the pace at which these prices have increased is reasonable. The editor, Guy Hobbs, said: “Companies often have the legal right to adjust their prices and policies based on age, if they have just cause, but we are increasingly seeing cases where the results for older customers seem disproportionate and unfair.”

A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers responded by highlighting the high cost of treatment: “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 file a claim for what can be mind-bogglingly expensive overseas emergency medical treatment costs.

The ABI advises people to look for the best value and make sure you buy a policy that is best suited to your needs, not just choosing on price. Our online guide will help you with that.

But disproportionate price increases aren’t the only barriers seniors face when buying travel insurance — they may even have a hard time getting travel insurance. Which? Travel has found that 95 percent of insurers set a maximum age limit for new customers. And many people who are automatically covered as part of their banking arrangements can find themselves without travel insurance after a certain age – usually 70 or 75 – or have to pay an annual supplement of between £65 and £75.

Car rental costs and bureaucratic hassle

Car rental is another area where older travelers are likely to pay more. Which? reports that broker DoYouSpain.com advertised rates from companies with fees for senior drivers between €60 (£53) and €252 (£221) for a two week rental from Malaga airport. And in Malta, it says, Sixt charges an extra €6.50 per day for over-70s.

In addition, older travelers can also face a significant bureaucratic burden. Which? says it has seen a number of instances where customers must provide a letter from both a doctor and an insurer, and then still require a driving test. It adds that these requirements are often hidden in the terms and conditions documents – with many drivers getting caught (and left out of pocket) after failing to bring the required documentation with them at the counter.

So what should we think of this age discrimination? There is no doubt that travel insurance and car rental companies had a bleak time during the pandemic and premiums and costs would inevitably rise as a result. But the travel industry as a whole relies heavily on older travelers. They usually have money to spend and, just as importantly, travel off-season – they fill rooms, seats and cabins at times when hotels, airlines and cruise lines would otherwise struggle to sell them.

These price increases should therefore be a warning to the travel industry. In particular, it needs to work with insurers and car rental companies to ensure they don’t bite the hand that feeds them.


As an older traveler, have you been bothered by high prices from travel insurers and car rental companies? Share your experiences below

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