Older drivers and new cars: What you should know

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 28, 2012

(BPT) – You’ve spent a lifetime carefully saving your dollars and cents for important life moments – college tuition, a new house and retirement. But as you age, it’s more important than ever to make smart spending and lifestyle decisions. This doesn’t mean that you have to resign yourself to driving a vehicle that was new when you opened your first 401(k) account, though. In fact, people age 50 and older now account for 62 percent of buyers of new vehicles sold in the U.S., according to a study from AARP and J.D. Power.

If you plan on driving in style after you retire, here are some smart spending and lifestyle tips to help put you behind the wheel of the right ride.

It’s all in the timing

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You may already know that the end of the month – any month – is a better time to go car shopping than the beginning or even middle. That’s because sales people are eager to sell as many vehicles as possible before the month ends in order to qualify for bonuses from manufacturers.

The same principle is in play at the end of the year – times five. Reducing inventory at the end of the year is essential for dealers to increase their revenue, and the final quarter of the year is their last chance to secure a spot in the black for the year. Dealers are also challenged to keep your attention at a time when many people are being bombarded with sales messages while they holiday shop.

Timing your purchase for the end of the year, or the end of a month, can help ensure you find the best deals available.

Safety pays

You’ve been working hard to make good investments your entire life, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that following safe driving practices is one investment that will pay off in the long run. In addition to helping to keep you and your car safe, safe driving insurance discounts can add up quickly.

Additionally, in some states, taking a driver improvement course may help lower your insurance rates. AARP Driver Safety offers a course specifically designed to help drivers 50 and older refresh their driving skills. Taking a course can also help you manage health-related changes that are a natural part of the aging process. To find an AARP Driver Safety classroom course near you, visit www.aarp.org/drive, call 888-227-7669, or enroll in an online course – available in both English and Spanish. Participants may be eligible for a multi-year insurance discount upon completion of the course. Other restrictions may apply so they should consult their insurance agent for details.

Let’s talk tech

Auto makers have been using technology to improve vehicle performance, usability and crash safety for decades. The current hot trend in auto-making expands the use of technology to help drivers maneuver more safely.

You can now find a range of new car models – and not just luxury brands – that offer a variety of safety features. From an alarm that warns you when it’s unsafe to pass a slower vehicle in front of you, to a warning light that alerts you to vehicles in your blind spots, technology can help drivers be more aware of their surroundings. Some vehicles are even equipped with sensors that warn you when a crash may be imminent, and help you avoid the accident altogether.

The high-tech accessories and systems can be especially useful for drivers 50 and older who may face natural heath-related changes in vision, hearing and reaction time.

With smart spending plans, older drivers are able to invest in a new vehicle that fits their lifestyle and their budget.