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The Costs of Asking Your Parents to Give Up the Car Keys

Posted: May 4, 2015

From being empathetic to getting paperwork in order, this can be quite a journey. 


It's a sensitive subject. Do you know how you'll talk to your parents?

By  


A senior man hands a woman a set of car keys.If your parents thought it was stressful when they taught you how to drive, you'll probably all come to realize those were fun, heady days, compared with telling your parents: It’s time to give up your keys.

Asking – or telling – your parents to give up their car is not only an emotional decision, but a financial one, too. Because you may not only have a car to sell. You may end up taking on a part-time, unpaid job as a chauffeur, a role your parents once took on for you. Like the wheels on that car, what goes around comes around.


But if that's where you are on the highway of life, it doesn't have to be the worst road trip ever. Consider these issues, if you want to reduce some financial and emotional costs.             

Put yourself in their shoes. You may be dangerously close to an outburst if your elderly father parked in your garage when the garage door was down, but think about what you're about to do.

"Giving up one's independence is absolutely one of the most difficult transitions that the elderly have to go through and baby boomers caring for their parents have to handle," says Lynette Whiteman, executive director of Caregiver Volunteers of Central New Jersey, a nonprofit organization in Toms River, New Jersey. "When we spoke to my father about his inability to drive, he said, 'You might as well put me in the grave.'"

"There's the potential for depression and isolation when you take somebody's ability to be mobile and engage productively in society," says Lydia Manning, an associate professor of gerontology at Concordia University Chicago. She particularly likes an idea that was put forth in the book, "The Driving Dilemma: The Complete Resource Guide for Older Drivers and Their Families," by Elizabeth Dugan.

"Before you ask your parent to give up their car, try giving up your own car for two weeks to get an idea of what you're asking them," Manning suggests.         

Even if you aren't willing to do that, or simply can't, Manning says that just the thought of how you might get around for two weeks sans wheels should make you more empathetic and creative when trying to devise ways for your parent or parents to remain mobile without a car.

And keep in mind that your parents may be safer drivers than you think. At least they're probably not texting behind the wheel like many of their younger counterparts.

"Are you being hyper vigilant? You want to make sure you're making a fair assessment of their driving abilities," Manning says, adding that tools exist to help you make that determination. For instance, AAA has a website that offers tools and resources for evaluating an older person's driving ability.

Remind your parents of the cost of having a car. Yes, your parents may have to hire the occasional cabdriver, or pay a relative or go with a ride-sharing service like Uber, but they're about to save a small fortune, too.

"The cost of insurance, depreciation and related auto overhead is much greater than hiring a driver," says Walter Zweifler, a senior financial appraiser in New York City.

He knows of what he speaks. Zweifler is 83 and very active – still working and playing racquetball and horse riding every week. But he says, "After a series of automobile accidents, we decided that we owed it to our environment as well as our survival to give up the car."

Zweifler admits that not owning a car is inconvenient, "but like a lot of things in the aging process, you make accommodations and get on with your life."

And, again, you save money. According to AAA’s just-released 2015 “Your Driving Costs” study, it costs the average car driver $8,698 ever year (this is assuming you drive an average sedan and are still making payments).

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