A Disabled Driver's Guide to Car Buying

Elizabeth Long

Having the ability to get yourself where you need to be, enjoy your hobbies and be able to see friends is a huge source of happiness and fulfillment. It gives you a sense of freedom and independence, and is also vital in reducing reliance on other people when you make plans.

For some people with disabilities, choosing the right car is an important step on their journey to an independent life. Ultimately, the right car for you will depend on your own individual needs, how far you intend to travel, and any equipment that you might need to bring with you. It's important to be sure that the car is right for you, so doing your research and trying out a few models before you buy is the best policy. Here, we list a few things that you might want to consider before you get started.

Car Buying Guide

Automatic vs Manual

Choosing between automatic and manual is a question for every driver. Some people love the ease of an automatic, whereas others enjoy the control you get over the driving experience with a manual. 

For those with disabilities, the smoother drive that an automatic offers can make a difference when it comes to enjoying a comfortable drive. Drivers with limited mobility may also benefit from not having to regularly move the gear stick or press on the clutch.

However, automatics do tend to be more expensive than manual cars. A manual may also give you better control over engine braking and foot braking, which is particularly important in winter weather conditions.

Car Buying Guide

Buying a new car vs modifying your existing car

The choice between buying a new car and then getting it adapted, buying a second-hand adapted car, or getting an existing family vehicle adapted is a personal choice, based on requirements and your financial situation.

Buying a new car and then getting it adapted for a wheelchair, for example, might suit you if you're looking for a vehicle that is perfectly tailored to your needs, and is likely to be reliable as it's not done any miles. You may also get a guarantee on this type of car, which can be reassuring. However, they are likely to be the most expensive choice, and it can take a while to go through the process of demonstrating, assessing, converting and fitting. 

Buying a second-hand adapted car can be a cheaper option, especially if you're confident with the adaptations that you need. Whilst you might have a little wait to find one that is right for your needs, once you've found it, you can just purchase it and be on your way. However, it's important to be aware that you're unlikely to get a warranty with this option, so you need to accept the potential additional costs if anything goes wrong.

Car Buying Guide

If the adjustments you need are smaller and can be done with modifications around the driving seat, such as hand controls, then you can look at adapting an existing car, rather than needing to buy a new one.

Could an electric car be right for you?

Electric cars are the up-and-coming favourites of government policy, in a fight to try and reduce the effects of climate change. But they can also be a good car option for drivers with disabilities, due to the smoother ride, reduced noise and lower running costs. They also offer non-grip charging, which can be helpful for people who struggle with joint pain, artificial limbs or muscular issues. 

If you do decide to look at an electric vehicle, just make sure to factor in the cost of installing a charging point at home, and perhaps find out where the charge points are if you drive any regular longer routes.

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