The cost-of-living crisis will force more than half of older drivers to make fewer journeys and limit their own mobility, according to a new survey by leading disability motoring website MotaClarity. The poll of more than 1,000 drivers aged 50 and over found that 54% were considering placing self-imposed limits on their driving in order to save cash in the face of mounting household expenses.
39% of those questioned said that they were putting less fuel in their vehicle each time they visited the fuel station, and over two thirds (67%) said that fuel economy and running costs would be the number one issue when choosing their next car.
But it is the impact that this decision will have on the lives, physical wellbeing and mental health of those surveyed – almost a fifth of whom (19.4%) have a disability or mobility impairment – that is of most concern.
Three-fifths of the drivers with a disability or mobility issues that responded said that they face a direct choice between driving and heating their homes this winter.
This is despite the fact that more than 80 percent (81.5%) of all disabled drivers – many of whom lease a vehicle through the government-funded Motability Scheme – consider access to a car and affordable travel important to their quality of life.
A quarter (25%) said a reduction on their ability to travel would make it more difficult for them to do basic household tasks like food shopping. In addition, 23% said being able to drive less often would make them feel more isolated while the same percentage (23%) were worried it would reduce their quality of life.
The decision taken in early October by Motability to pay their customers £350 of the Good Condition Bonus (an incentive that rewards customers who return their leased cars in a good condition) early should go some way towards helping drivers with a disability and carers make the most of their vehicle during this challenging time.
On a positive note, almost a quarter of all the drivers questioned with a disability or mobility issues impacted by the rising cost of living (24.4%) say the issue will lead them to look seriously at swapping to a more fuel-efficient vehicle, including electric vehicles (EVs). Despite this, more than three-quarters (77%) are worried about high cost of EVs compared with petrol and diesel vehicles.
Graham Footer, Chief Executive of the charity Disabled Motoring UK, said: “As a charity we are concerned that the cost-of-living crisis will have a profound impact on the personal mobility of disabled people and could have a detrimental effect on their health and wellbeing.
“This research confirms what we already feared, that many disabled people will be left with stark choices and could become more isolated and lonelier as a result.”
Despite their fears though, experts from MotaClarity, which specialises in helping disabled drivers and carers access the best deals on vehicles, including wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAV) and associated mobility services, say it is possible for drivers to retain their full mobility and still stick to budget.
James Reeve, spokesperson at MotaClarity, said: “We have been hearing more and more from people who are genuinely concerned and fearful that they are going to have to cut themselves off from the world in order to save money as the cost-of-living rises.
“Having access to an affordable car can have a massive impact on a person’s quality of life and for people to now be cutting out even essential journeys because they can’t afford them is a real worry.
“This could have a serious effect on the mental health of a great many disabled and older people across the UK.”
But Reeve says MotaClarity has lots of ways of helping drivers and passengers with a disability and carers make motoring more cost effective.
“At MotaClarity our whole purpose is to improve the motoring experience for people with a disability, their family and carers. This begins with offering specialist advice, recommendations and vehicle reviews and extends to helping them find the best deals and the disability motoring specialists – including WAV suppliers, Motability car dealers, adaptation firms and Driving Mobility Centres – located close to them.
“It could even be that by switching from a petrol or diesel vehicle to a hybrid or an EV may help to keep people on the road.”