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Best Car Features for Caregivers

When you're a chauffeur for older adults, children or people with certain disabilities, what you drive matters

Best Cars for caregivers- minivans are good choices for people who need to help children into car seats as well as older seniors who have trouble getting into back seats

The right car for you and the people you're caring for. — Amana Images/Getty Images

En español | Caring for someone else can mean a lot of stress — and a lot of time in the car. Driving to doctors' appointments, tests, the pharmacy and even just trips around town can take on another level of complexity when you're responsible for someone else's needs.

See also: AARP Driver Safety

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But if you have a car that supports your caregiving efforts, life will be that much easier. Here's what caregivers need to look for when shopping for a car.

Access for people

If you or someone you're caring for has limited mobility, ease of entry and exit is a big deal in a car. Life will be easier for people caring for children if little ones can get into the car by themselves or, at the very least, if you don't have to contort yourself to buckle them into car seats.

Avoid low-slung sports cars and mile-high trucks and SUVs. Instead, minivans and crossovers offer good ease of access.

Minivans, such as the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey, don't require a huge step up to get into the vehicle, and their seats are at hip level for many adults, which means they're easy to lower yourself into and get out of. Most minivans also offer doors that can be opened and closed remotely.

Crossovers ride slightly higher than cars do, but not as high as off-road SUVs, so getting in is easy. Look for doors that can swing wide and provide plenty of interior room for everyone to get situated. (The Toyota Venza, Jeep Patriot and Hyundai Tucson all have easy-access height and doors.)

Access for stuff

Caring for someone else often means traveling with a lot of stuff. Make things easy on yourself by getting a car that can handle extra cargo and makes loading and unloading easy. Most crossovers and minivans offer remote-opening rear hatches. For example, on the GMC Terrain, you can hit a button on the key fob and the cargo area will open. That's a big help if you're fumbling with children and bags in a busy parking lot.

Also consider how high the cargo load floor is, particularly if the person you're caring for has heavy equipment that needs to be transported. On some crossovers, you have to lift very high (above your hips or waist) to get items into the cargo area. If you're dealing with a heavy wheelchair, that will take a toll on your back. Before buying a car, take the gear you usually carry with you to the dealership and see how easy it is to load and unload.

Desirable technology features

One way a car can make caregiving easier is by having the right interior technology. Depending on your needs, the technology can be as simple as a radio so you can play soothing music for an agitated passenger. Or the technology can be a communications service that will connect you to emergency workers if needed.

A navigation system can be a big help to any caregiver, particularly if you travel out of town a lot. Most navigation systems can quickly find and direct you to the nearest hospital or pharmacy; some can even use the phone book to find doctors' offices.

The navigation system on many Ford, Honda and Hyundai models can find medical care easily. (They can also locate restaurants and movie theaters, for when you need a break!) Since navigation systems on new cars can be expensive, you might try a portable unit, which can be purchased at an electronics store. Portable GPS devices usually cost less and do many of the same things as installed models.

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