Staying Mobile, Staying Safe: Car Care Tips for Seniors and Their Adult Children

Staying mobile is crucial for senior independence, but age-related changes and older vehicles necessitate extra care. There are several ways for seniors and adult children to work together and ensure safe and reliable car use.

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Staying Mobile, Staying Safe: Car Care Tips for Seniors and Their Adult Children
6 Min Read May 29th, 2024

In today's world, staying mobile is essential for maintaining independence and quality of life, especially for older adults. Transportation is a cornerstone of senior independence. The number of senior drivers on the road is steadily increasing. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, over 37 million licensed drivers aged 60 and over are in the United States. Aging populations in Canada, the U.K., and Australia are also increasing the number of senior drivers.

These numbers will continue to grow significantly in the coming decades. Driving remains an important way for people to stay connected to life, visit loved ones, run errands, and participate in activities they enjoy.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) emphasizes the importance of staying up-to-date on car maintenance for mature drivers, promoting safe driving habits alongside regular vision screening.

One factor to consider is the age of the vehicles many seniors drive. Studies show that, on average, cars driven by those over 65 tend to be older than vehicles driven by others. An analysis by S&P Global Mobility, a leading automotive research firm in the United States, says the average age of a car or light truck on the road today (as of May 2024) is 12.6 years old. Regular maintenance becomes even more critical to ensure the vehicle is safe and reliable.


Almost every state requires drivers to carry a minimum amount of car insurance in the United States. The specific types and amounts of coverage needed vary by state but generally include liability insurance for bodily injury and property damage. Some states may also require additional coverage like uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) protection, which kicks in if you're hit by a driver with no insurance or not enough insurance to cover your damages. Comprehensive coverage for newer vehicles may be wise, and if you have a carload, required. It's important to check with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to understand your state's specific car insurance requirements.

Similar to the U.S., all Canadian provinces require car insurance by law. The specific coverage amounts vary by province,

In the U.K., all drivers must have at least third-party liability insurance (TPL) to operate a vehicle legally. TPL covers any injuries or damage you cause to others and their property in an accident. It's important to note that TPL doesn't cover damage to your own car.

U.K. drivers can protect their investment with comprehensive car insurance that can help fund fixes in the event of a collision. You could consider GAP insurance for your car as extra financial protection: this covers the loss in value should your vehicle be written off. 

Ensuring that seniors maintain proper car care promotes safety and independence. The following tips offer a helpful starting point for keeping seniors mobile and ensuring their vehicles are up-to-date and ready for the road.

Why Car Care Matters

Taking care of your or your senior loved one's car isn't just about keeping it looking shiny. Regular maintenance offers a range of benefits that directly impact the entire family, especially the driver, and your vehicle's overall health. Here's why car care matters:

  • Safety: Regular maintenance reduces the risk of unexpected breakdowns and keeps the car in top condition for safe driving.
  • Reliability: Proper care helps the car run smoothly and avoid costly repairs down the road.
  • Resale Value: A well-maintained car holds better value for future resale.

Getting Professional Help

The foundation of good car care lies in preventive maintenance. Here's how to get professional help to keep your vehicle in top shape:

  • Scheduled Maintenance: Refer to your car's owner's manual for the recommended service schedule. This typically includes an annual service with a qualified mechanic checking all essential components.
  • MOT Checks: If you live in the U.K., don't forget the legally required MOT check, which ensures a vehicle is roadworthy and an annual review of all essential components conducted by a qualified mechanic.

The United States has no mandatory national vehicle inspections like the UK MOT test. However, some states may require emissions testing for vehicles over a certain age. Check with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for specific requirements in your area.

Simple DIY Maintenance

The U.K. Automobile Association emphasizes the importance of vehicle maintenance for older drivers.

Routine checks and maintenance, such as ensuring battery health and brake efficiency, are vital to avoid unexpected issues and enhance driving safety. These practices help maintain the vehicle's reliability and support the driver's confidence on the road. Regular maintenance not only keeps the vehicle in top condition but also addresses the unique needs of older drivers, ensuring they remain safe and independent.

Here are some easy tasks you can do yourself between professional services:

  • Oil Levels: Check your oil regularly using the dipstick. Ensure the oil level falls between the minimum and maximum markings.
  • Fluids: Monitor the windshield washer fluid, coolant, and oil levels. Use the appropriate fluids recommended in your owner's manual to top them up as needed.
  • Tire Care: Proper tire inflation is crucial for fuel efficiency and safety. Check your tire pressure regularly and inflate it to the recommended levels on a sticker inside your driver's door jamb. Look for any signs of wear and tear on your tires, such as cracks, bulges, or low tread depth. Replace worn tires promptly. A simple trick to check tread depth is to insert a 20p coin to check tread depth. If the coin's outer rim is visible, your tires need replacing. In the U.S. and Canada, insert a penny (the kind with President Lincoln or Quenn ELiaeth (soon to be changed to King Charles facing you) head-down into the tread groove of your tire. If the top of the head is obscured by the tread, your tread depth is likely above the minimum safe limit (usually around 2/32 inches). If you can see all of the head, it's time to replace your tires.
  • Fuel Efficiency: Avoid letting the fuel level drop below a quarter tank. This can help prevent problems like engine sputtering and potential damage to the fuel pump.

Keeping Your Car Looking Great

  • Washing and Waxing: Regular washing removes dirt, grime, and other contaminants that can damage the paintwork over time. Use car washing products designed for your car's paint, and be gentle to avoid scratching the surface. Waxing your vehicle periodically adds a layer of protection and keeps it looking shiny.
  • Interior Care: Vacuum regularly to remove dust and debris from carpets and upholstery. Wipe down surfaces with a slightly damp cloth to keep the interior clean and fresh.

Additional Tips

  • Consult Your Owner's Manual: This is your car's instruction guide. Refer to it for specific maintenance recommendations and information on how to perform basic checks.
  • Park Smart: Whenever possible, park your car in a shaded area or a garage to protect the interior from sun damage and extreme temperatures.
  • Be Aware of Warning Signs: Pay attention to any unusual noises, vibrations, or warning lights on your dashboard. These might indicate a potential issue that needs addressing.

Technology has also become vital for today’s senior drivers.

AAA's RoadWise Driver program highlights the importance of senior drivers staying updated on the latest vehicle technologies and driving techniques to adjust for age-related changes like slower reflexes and weaker vision. By taking comprehensive driving improvement courses, senior drivers can extend their safe driving careers and maintain their independence.

These tips will keep anyone's car safe, reliable, and looking its best for many years to come. Always monitor a senior's ability to drive safely. Taking the keys away from an older parent or family member is difficult and life-changing for the individual. Be sure to see their driving skills firsthand before taking away the keys. 

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About the Author

Jacob Thomas is a part-time writer who focuses on health, wellness, and retirement topics, including aging, caregiving, insurance, and long-term care. His writing serves as a means to delve into his interests and provide valuable information for those dealing with aging parents and preparing for their own future and retirement plans.

LTC News Contributor Jacob Thomas

Jacob Thomas

Contributor since August 10th, 2023

Editor's Note

As we age, it's essential to recognize the physical, emotional, and financial burdens that come with declining health. This reality should be a significant consideration in your retirement planning.

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The best time to add an LTC policy to your retirement plan is when you are younger and healthier. Most people do so in their 40s or 50s; however, affordable LTC Insurance options exist for those in their 60s and older, depending on health.

A qualified independent LTC Insurance specialist will ask you detailed questions about your health, family history, and retirement objectives before they provide quotes; otherwise, the quotes may not be accurate. 

A true LTC Insurance specialist represents the top-rated insurance companies that offer long-term care solutions and will ask these detailed questions before providing you with accurate quotes from all the top companies. 

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