Owning a Car is Expensive
Owning an automobile can be costly, whether or not you are making payments on it. Even if your car gets good gas mileage and you are no longer commuting to a job, gasoline alone may cost you $100 to $200 a month. In addition, you will need to pay for insurance, tires, oil changes, repairs and your state registration fees. Eventually you will probably need to replace the car, which could require a large outlay in cash and/or an even larger monthly payment. As a result, owning a car could become too costly for many retirees.
Health Conditions Could Keep You From Driving
As we age, many people develop health issues or take medications which make it difficult or impossible for them to drive. While you may be healthy and active when you first retire, you may eventually develop vision problems, Parkinson's Disease or be undergoing chemotherapy and no longer able to drive safely. In addition, many medications used by seniors, including sleeping pills, painkillers and other prescriptions are not safe to take before driving.
Affordable Alternatives to Driving a Car
Fortunately, there are reasonable alternatives to owning an automobile. If you move to an over-55 retirement community, such as one of the many Sun Cities across the US, Laguna Woods Village in Southern California, or The Villages in Florida (to name a few), you may be able to drive around your community and to local shopping areas in a golf cart. Electric golf carts are generally significantly less expensive to own and operate than automobiles. Because of their lower speeds, they also tend to be safer to operate. Golf carts are not your only choice for transportation.
Many retirement communities have their own community buses to drive residents to various activities. Some Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) have vans which will take people to nearby businesses, doctor's appointments, churches, movie theaters, shopping centers, etc.
If you occasionally need to travel outside your immediate neighborhood, public transportation such as cabs and buses are an affordable alternative for the occasional trip to a business appointment or local airport. A $20 or $30 cab ride three or four times a month is still much cheaper than owning and maintaining a personal vehicle.
Cities with Walkable Neighborhoods and Public Transit
If you do not want to move to an over-55 community, you can still find great neighborhoods where you will not need to own a car. The Millennial Generation has proven to us that it is possible, affordable and enjoyable to live in safe, walkable communities with an assortment of public transportation choices. Many small towns would fit this description, as well as popular neighborhoods within some large cities.
Forbes Magazine's February 28, 2017 issue included an article titled "No Car, No Problem." In the article they published a list of great communities which are not only walkable, but also have access to public transportation, Uber, Lyft, and/or car rentals by the hour. They eliminated cities with high crime rates, assuming that seniors would not want to walk around a dangerous community. You can find their full list at forbes.com/retire-without-a-car, but below are their top nine recommendations, including the city and specific neighborhoods they mentioned:
Arlington, VA - Clarendon/Courthouse, Ballston, and Lyon Village
Boston, MA - Beacon Hill, Back Bay, North End
Denver, CO - Capitol Hill, Downtown, Cherry Creek
Fort Lauderdale, FL - Colee Hammock, Flagler Village, Downtown
Minneapolis, MN - Lowry Hill East, Lyn-Lake, Whittier
Portland, ME - Parkside, West Bayside, Downtown
Providence, RI - College Hill, Federal Hill, Fox Point
San Francisco, CA - Nob Hill, North Beach, Hayes Valley
Seattle, WA - Belltown, Queen Anne, Downtown
What if You Want to Remain in Your Current Community?
If you do not want to move to an over-55 golf cart accessible community or to one of the cities mentioned above, take the time to explore the transportation options within you own community. It is a good idea to do this before you lose your driver's license, become ill, have major surgery, or decide to give up your car for other reasons.
Contact the local bus company to find out about the routes in your neighborhood. You may even want to practice riding the bus before you actually need to give up your car. Go to the local senior center and find out what transportation options are available specifically for senior citizens. Many towns offer special on-call vans or buses for senior citizens and the disabled, or they offer discount coupons for local cab rides. Some will provide free or low-cost transportation to the closest train or subway station, which will greatly expand the areas you can reach without driving a car.
In addition, you will need to drive less if you take advantage of grocery delivery services or online shopping. In addition to Amazon.com, you can also use the websites of Walmart, Target, Macys and most pharmacies. If you cannot get out to these businesses on your own, knowing they will deliver whatever you need to your door can be a tremendous relief.
With a little planning and preparation, you may discover how easy it can be for you to give up your car without feeling isolated or deprived.
If you are looking for more information about where to retire, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, common health issues, changing family relationships and more, use the tabs or pull down menu to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.
Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be published by Griffin Publishing in the fall of 2017.
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