Specialist insurers offering cover specifically for the over 50s don't necessarily offer the best deal for older people. In fact, in a recent investigation into carinsurance, in some cases they were found to charge older people up to four times more than traditional insurers.
The investigation, by Which? involved researchers shopping around for car insurance. They searched for insurance for a 51-year-old, 61-year-old, and 71-year-old driving a BMW and living in a five-bedroom house in Cambridge.
The over 50s specialists were more expensive for all the three ages - except Saga's quote for the oldest driver. In some instances they were hundreds of pounds more expensive than the cheapest insurance from traditional insurers.
The best deals in the study for the 71-year-old were from LV= at £330 and John Lewis Insurance at £342. Over 50s specialist Castle Cover, meanwhile quoted £1,364, Rias £1,187 and Age UK £919.
Harry Rose, Which? Money Editor, said: "Specialist providers targeting over-50s are often offering more expensive products, and consumers may be much better off looking beyond the specialists for the best deal." He added that this was particularly concerning because some older people may be less inclined to shop around, and may have faith in providers targeting them so specifically.
Are they a rip off?
There are a few extenuating circumstances. Age UK argued that the researchers weren't using a typical example, because their customers don't drive high-spec sports cars. Castle Cover and Rias, meanwhile, explained that the premiums quoted to the researcher had been much higher than normal because the system had detected that false information had been provided.
The specialists also highlight that they tailor their services to more mature drivers. It means they offer things like 'any driver' cover, so if you are taken ill, another driver can take over. You can also get insurance that will arrange for you to be driven home and contact a loved one for you if you are involved in an accident.
There are also some people who will definitely be better off with a specialist. Older drivers who find it difficult to get cover elsewhere can get it from the specialists - many of them have no upper age limit, so you can still get insured in your 90s.
What can you do?
Some of these perks may appeal, but the experience of the mystery shoppers is a handy reminder of how important it is to shop around for insurance across the board, rather than assuming that a specialist insurer is going to be the cheapest for your specific situation - or the most suitable.
Every single insurer has a completely different way of assessing risk, and identifying the kind of customer they most want. It means there's an insurer out there looking for someone exactly like you. Unfortunately how they assess risk, and who they target, is completely confidential, so you need to do the legwork and shop around for yourself.
A hunt should start with a few comparison sites (as they don't all have the same insurers to choose from). It should also take in direct quotes from insurers who don't feature at all on comparison sites, to make sure you are getting as broad a picture as possible and finding the cheapest possible deal.
When you're comparing price, it also pays to look at what you are getting for your money, to make sure you are comparing like-for-like. It's also important to check how your insurer is rated for things like claims management and customer services. There are a number of star ratings services which will check an insurer's reputation, but independent ratings company Defaqto is a good place to start.