Table of Contents
- Types of Car Modifications and Adaptive Equipment
- Average Costs of Adaptive Devices and Vehicle Modifications
- What Cars are Best for Vehicle Modifications?
- Requirements for Getting an Adapted Driver’s License
- Car Insurance Laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Financial Assistance for Modified Vehicles
- Resources for Drivers With Disabilities
What Cars Are Best for Vehicle Modifications?
When looking for an adaptable car, there are plenty of specific details to consider. The vehicle should be able to handle the extra weight and capacity of the modifications. Additionally, a new vehicle should already come with many standard accessibility features. These include dashboard-mounted ignition, omni-directional seat adjustment, and entry/exit support handles.
The following makes and models are considered great options for drivers with disabilities. Their unique specifications make them ideal for adaptive equipment.
- Ford Mustang: For those looking for a bit of fun with their ride, the Mustang is a great choice. It is easily able to support carriers, lifts, and power-assist seating.
- Chevrolet Silverado: Able to easily handle the weight of modifications, the Silverado is a fine choice for an adapted vehicle. Its cab doors open wide to allow easy entrance, and the bed makes a great spot for a wheelchair lift.
- Jeep Grand Cherokee: Strong and robust, the Grand Cherokee can be outfitted with lifts, power seats, and driving devices. The Grand Cherokee also supports running boards, and installing them can provide a $400 refund.
- Scion xB: Though currently out of production, 2004-2006 Scion xB makes a great adapted vehicle. These model years can be fitted with a rear-mounted wheelchair ramp. Additionally, it readily accommodates lifts, steering devices, and hand controls throughout.
- Subaru Forester: The Forester can be modified at the factory for hand and foot controls. And, since it’s a compact SUV, it provides a sturdy and spacious platform that isn’t too big or difficult to get into.
- Hyundai Sonata: Though it is a sedan, the Sonata is a safe and comfortable ride. Full of tech and easy to enter, it provides an accessible and affordable vehicle.
- Toyota RAV4: Able to be factory modified for powered lift seats and rear lifts, the RAV4 is a study, compact SUV.
- Lexus RX: The Lexus RX is a full-size luxury car. Spacious and easy to get into, it also features ample tech assistance.
Should You Modify Your Existing Vehicle or Buy a New Vehicle?
It’s becoming more and more workable for people to modify existing vehicles. Still, there’s an appeal to buying specialized vehicles or trading in your old car for a model that’s better suited for upgrades.
A new vehicle will allow you to incorporate the exact modifications you require, tailored to your specific needs. By shopping for a new (or new to you) vehicle, you can ensure that it will be large and strong enough to fit the equipment you need. The downside of purchasing a vehicle is the price.
Alternatively, you can adapt your existing vehicle to meet your needs. This is typically cheaper since you don’t need to purchase a new car. However, there are some downsides. Not every car is suitable for all adaptive systems.
If your car isn’t suitable, trading in an existing vehicle can offset some of the expense. If money isn’t a factor, consider recycling or donating your old car — especially if it has existing modifications that another person with disabilities could make use of.
You can also look at other cost-saving steps, such as purchasing used tires. Used tires from reputable sources can save you money. And those funds can be better used on modifications.
Ultimately, the choice will come down to each person’s needs.
Requirements for Getting an Adapted Driver’s License
Once you have a vehicle that is adapted and ready to drive, it’s time to get your license. But, it is a more involved process than the standard path to a driver’s license.
- Meet with your primary care doctor. Your doctor will give you a physical to ensure you meet the health and ability requirements needed to operate an adapted car.
- Work with a driver rehabilitation specialist. This professional will examine the car and the adaptations to ensure they are safe and proper. They will also evaluate the driver to ensure they have the necessary skills needed to drive, such as dexterity and range of motion. If all goes well, the specialist will sign off and you’ll be allowed to start practicing driving with your adaptations.
A disability is not a legal reason to deny a person a license. By starting with a physician and rehabilitation specialist, you prove that you have shown the necessary ability to drive a car. Of course, depending on your disability, you might be granted a restricted license. These restrictions can require corrective eyeglasses must always be worn. Other hearing-alternative car alerts can be installed.
If all of these are met and training is passed, you will be well on your way to becoming a driver.
Find a Driver Rehabilitation Specialist
Once you and your physician have determined you are able to drive, you’ll need to work with a driver rehabilitation specialist. These individuals will test the driver and the adapted vehicle. These evaluations look at many factors, including:
- Range of motion
- Reaction time
- Psychological health
The specialist will work with the individual to ensure their vehicle, equipment, and abilities are suitable and working.
These specialists work with people of all needs, ages, and disabilities. To find an evaluator, look in the national databases that list all accredited specialists.
How To Register for a Driving Evaluation
Once you’ve ensured that you and your vehicle are ready for the road, you must take a driving evaluation. Registering for an evaluation starts with searching for a specialist. Each will have different processes for registering.
During the evaluation, the driver will be tested on their ability to both drive and use the adapted equipment in the vehicle. This includes reaction times and decision making, as well as vision and other physical abilities.
The specialist will often suggest adaptive solutions that will make you a better driver. This can range from wheelchair lifts to electronic driving systems. Based on the equipment used, evaluations can take between three and eight hours.
Car Insurance Laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Any discrimination against people with disabilities is illegal. The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures that insurance companies cannot deny car insurance because of a disability or due to the use of adaptive equipment.
The ADA has been in place since 1990. Since then, it has protected people with disabilities. In addition to protections against discrimination in the area of insurance, the ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability in the following areas:
- Government positions
- Public accommodations
- Commercial facilities
With that being said, some disabilities will affect insurance rates and amounts. While the disability itself won’t cause a price increase, the needed modifications to the vehicle may. For example:
- Wheelchair lifts and ramps add value to the vehicle, increasing insurance premiums.
- Drivers with vision and hearing impairment may be considered to have added risk, which can increase premiums.
How To Get Car Insurance for Adaptive Equipment
Getting car insurance as a person with a disability is nearly the same as a person without a disability. Premiums will be influenced by any verifiable risks and any changes in vehicle value that the disability or adapted modifications bring.
Aside from this, the process is the same. Be sure to shop around for the best rates. Look for discounts or rebates offered for driving modified vehicles.
Car Insurance Discounts for People With Disabilities
In addition to rebates and discounts for modifications, there are other ways to save on insurance costs. All drivers should shop around before purchasing insurance. Different providers will offer different rates and premiums; so, naturally, the best insurance provider for you will vary depending on your needs and other factors, with or without a disability.
Resources for Drivers With Disabilities
Equipping a vehicle with adaptive modifications is a personalized process. Many questions will arise during the process. Fortunately, there are many resources to help drivers with disabilities. The following sources are full of information.