‘Tis the Season to Volunteer (with Your Car)

drive and volunteer with your car for the elderly

For those looking to keep the spirit of giving alive this holiday season, the old standbys are still excellent: gift drives and donations, soup kitchens and food drives, acts of service and support. But since cars and driving are our thing, we’d like to suggest seeking out opportunities to volunteer with your car this year.

Transportation is still difficult – yet necessary – for many people. Elderly and disabled people often cannot drive or do not have access to a personal car, and with too many people in the U.S. living far from public transportation, many volunteer organizations need drivers. If you’re looking to donate your time (and space in your car, truck, van, or SUV), we’ve got some great ideas to get you involved.

soup kitchen volunteer with your car

Deliver Holiday Meals

Many giving organizations need help with food distribution, especially around the holidays. The Greater-Chicago Food Depository, for example, needs volunteers to distribute 70 million pounds of boxed-up food to hungry families this season, and God’s Love We Deliver, a New York City organization, is also looking for volunteers with cars. We’ll bet there’s a similar program in your area looking for volunteers who can drive!

*During Your Lunch Hour  

One in six seniors struggles with hunger, and the elderly population is rapidly increasing. Throughout the country, Meals on Wheels pairs seniors who either cannot get out for groceries themselves, can no longer cook for themselves, or cannot afford food with volunteers who bring them a midday meal. Volunteers pick up meals at a central location and drive to deliver them at lunchtime (which means you can donate your lunch hour to help out a senior in your area).

Without support from programs like Meals on Wheels, millions of seniors are forced to prematurely trade their homes for nursing facilities. The Meals-on-Wheels program can provide a year of lunches for the cost of one single day in the hospital. You can find a local program and donate here.

Driving Seniors

Drive a Senior in the Austin, Texas area notes that elderly people of all income levels will become transportation-dependent at some point in their lives, and that we outlive our ability to drive by seven to 10 years.

The organization matches seniors with volunteers who drive them door-to-door to doctor’s appointments, grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, beauty shops, barbers, support groups, and more. You can volunteer for a round trip (which takes two to three hours) or a one-way drop off, which typically takes an hour.

Similar volunteer opportunities are available in Maryland, Wisconsin, Oregon, New York, Connecticut, and many other places throughout the U.S.

drive and volunteer with your car for the elderly

Improve Our Roads

Through Adopt-a-Highway, businesses and individuals pledge to keep a section of a highway free from litter throughout the year. If you round up a group of friends or family and give them a ride in your car, you can take care of your cleaning duties in no time, and keep your local roads clean.

With OR Without Your Car…

Check out Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America. The century-old organization pairs adult volunteers with at-risk youth, helping to foster what often become lifelong mentoring relationships. These one-to-one relationships help children realize their full potential. The organization stresses how special outings between “bigs” and “littles” are, especially fun events that allow children to be playful, have fun, and relax.

Volunteers certainly don’t need a car (or other vehicle) to volunteer with BBBS, but if you have one, you could add to a child’s experience.

Finding ways to pitch in around your community can be as simple as an internet search or a perusal of your local paper, or even the bulletin board at your local grocery store. You can also try sites like Volunteer Match and Serve.gov (which helps people find volunteer opportunities throughout the U.S.).

Plus: Car Insurance Considerations When You Volunteer with Your Car

If you’re planning to make volunteering with your car a regular part of your routine, first, we’d like to applaud you for your generous efforts. And second, we recommend you take a moment to factor in a few auto insurance considerations. From The Zebra’s own licensed insurance agent and adviser Neil Richardson:

  • Your regular car insurance policy should cover you while volunteering as long as you aren’t being compensated or reimbursed for the use of your vehicle. (Transporting people, goods, or driving for a fee is considered commercial vehicle use and is not covered on a personal auto policy).
  • If you plan to let another volunteer drive your car on a regular basis, you will need to list that person on your policy.
  • Consider adding medical insurance or personal injury protection (PIP provides coverage for medical expenses and work loss for you and all of your passengers after a crash, regardless of fault) to your policy if you’re going to be transporting passengers since regular liability coverage doesn’t extend to people injured in your vehicle.

Many organizations that accept volunteer drivers require them to have sufficient auto insurance, but even if an organization doesn’t explicitly state that they require insurance, you shouldn’t drive other people or goods around without it. (You shouldn’t drive at all without auto insurance, to be clear, but especially don’t take on volunteer opportunities if you’re not adequately covered).

  • Jay Williams

    Julia…if you want insurance information from someone that actually knows what they’re talking about, feel free to contact me. Mr. Richardson’s comments are not entirely correct.
    First…I can give anyone permission to drive my car and coverage still applies. There are only a couple companies that require drivers to be listed.

    Second…many states don’t have Personal Injury Protection. In fact more states don’t have it.

    Third…if you’re riding in my car and I’m at fault in an accident, liability will protect me if you sue me. If you’re suit is successful, my liability will pay damages up to the policy limit.

    • Neil Richardson

      Hello Jay,

      Thanks for the interest. Happy to clarify things further:

      First: If a driver contacts his insurance company and asks if it’s okay to let someone drive his car “regularly,” the insurer will say that person must be added to the policy or risk the policy being canceled. If a driver lets a friend borrow his car one time, that would be considered “permissive use.”

      Second: Yes indeed: “medical insurance OR PIP”

      Third: We certainly do not want to recommend that it’s perfectly fine to be underinsured. Indeed, IF your lawsuit is successful, liability will apply – but it’s a big “if,” and not one most drivers wish to toy with. Having medical coverage on your policy means your passengers don’t have to sue you for their bills to be covered. (And we think most people, if not all, want to avoid being sued.)

      Thanks, and let us know if you have any other questions!