Modifying a car for a disabled driver

Adapting a car for a disabled motorist can make a big difference when it comes to getting around. If you have a disability or care for someone with mobility issues, our guide will help you get up to speed on modified cars for disabled drivers.

Adapting a car for a disabled motorist can make a big difference when it comes to getting around. If you have a disability or care for someone with mobility issues, our guide will help you get up to speed on modified cars for disabled drivers.

Julie Daniels
Insurance expert
5
minute read
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Last Updated 22 AUGUST 2022

How can I modify my car for a disabled driver?

Nearly any car can be modified for a disabled person, whether it’s to make driving safer and more comfortable or getting in and out of the car easier.

In most cases, the driver can use the original controls with adaptations in place. This allows other drivers to use the car too. But almost all adapted cars for disabled drivers will need an automatic gearbox.

How do I adapt a car for upper-body disabilities? 

If you’ve lost the use of one arm or have limited arm strength, you have a few options. You could:

  • Fit a steering wheel ball or joystick to help you turn the wheel more easily
  • Mount a touchpad near the steering wheel to operate the indicators, windscreen wipers and headlights
  • Move the handbrake to the right of the driver’s seat.

If you’ve lost the use of both arms, you could try a foot-operated steering wheel.

How do I adapt a car for lower-body disabilities? 

If you’ve lost the use of one of your legs or have reduced leg strength, you could:

  • Move the accelerator pedal to the left of the brake
  • Fit an electronic accelerator behind the steering wheel
  • Move the pedals closer to the driver’s seat.

If you’ve lost the use of both legs, you could use hand controls instead of standard foot pedals.

How can I adapt my vehicle for a wheelchair?

Some wheelchair users have problems getting in and out of vehicles. Cars with easy access for disabled drivers can make life a lot easier. 

Some modifications make it easier for wheelchair users to move between their wheelchair and the car seat. These include:

  • A transfer plate, which provides a smooth surface between the wheelchair and car seat
  • A person hoist, which physically lifts you in and out of the car
  • A swivel seat, which makes it easier to move from the car to your wheelchair.

Another option is a wheelchair-accessible vehicle (WAV). These allow a wheelchair user to drive or travel as a passenger while seated in the wheelchair. WAVs are often larger vehicles, such as MPVs, because the seats are removed to accommodate the wheelchair. 

Other possible adaptations include:

  • An automatic ramp or lift to give you access to the car from the back or side
  • A lowered floor for extra headroom
  • An automatic wheelchair-loading system.

Is it better to buy a new car or modify my current car?

It depends on the kind of changes you need to make. In many cases, a few simple car mobility aids will allow you to keep the vehicle you feel most comfortable driving. And customising your own car is often cheaper than buying a new one.

Can I modify my car myself? 

You’ll likely need a specialist supplier to fit more complex disability aids. This is likely to make them expensive, in which case, it may be more cost effective to buy a new car that’s easier to adapt.

You can also consider buying a wheelchair-accessible vehicle (WAV). This won’t be cheap, but it can be tailored to your own specifications. Before you fit any modifications, it’s worth seeking expert advice to make sure you get the right adaptations for your needs.

The government is already adapting the Highway Code to make way for driverless cars. In the not-too-distant future, these could transform the lives of disabled people, giving more independence.

Can I get car insurance for a car with disability modifications?

Insurance providers aren’t allowed to refuse cover on the grounds of disability, thanks to the Disability Discrimination Act 2005. Nor can they discriminate by charging higher prices to drivers with disabilities.

If you’re modifying your car, you’ll need to let your insurance provider know to ensure you’re fully covered. It’s also worth checking that you can get a modified courtesy car if you have an accident, and whether you can add carers to the policy as named drivers.

Here at Compare the Market, we can help you compare disability car insurance to find a great-value deal.

What are the laws about driving with a disability?

You’ll need a valid driving licence to legally drive in the UK, and you must comply with the medical standards of fitness to drive.

You need to let the DVLA know if you develop a disability or medical condition that might affect your driving or if an existing disability gets worse. If an accident or illness leaves you with a physical impairment or disability, you’ll need to have an assessment. The DVLA will be able to tell you if you need to adapt your car with special controls.

You can get an independent assessment of your driving needs from government-backed charity Driving Mobility, which has centres throughout the UK.

Frequently asked questions

Can you drive with a prosthetic leg?

It depends on your personal circumstances, but there’s no reason you can’t drive with a prosthetic leg. It might just take a bit of practice and a few simple adaptations.

As with any disability or medical condition that may affect your driving ability, you must tell the DVLA if you’ve had a limb amputated. You might be issued with a licence to drive an automatic car or a car with specialist controls, but you’ll only be refused a licence in extreme cases.

What’s the Motability Scheme?

The Motability Scheme allows disabled people to lease a new car using their mobility allowance. You can also lease a scooter, powered wheelchair or wheelchair-accessible vehicle. And you could fit a range of adaptations at little or no extra cost.

Can you buy a pre-modified car for a disabled driver?

Yes, you can buy cars designed with the disabled driver in mind. Disability car suppliers offer models that are adapted for disabled drivers, alongside a range of mobility cars, MPVs and wheelchair-accessible minibuses.

Where can I rent a disabled car?

These days it’s perfectly possible to hire a modified or adapted vehicle at no extra cost from mainstream car rental companies.

How much does it cost to modify a car for a disabled driver?

How much you pay to adapt your car will depend on a number of factors, such as the type of vehicle you drive and the modifications you need. If you lease a car through Motability, they’ll arrange the insurance for you.

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