Tips for Purchasing and Adapting a Vehicle for Disabled Drivers

So many U.S. Veterans are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with disabilities. It’s extremely important for them, as well as for others with disabilities, to be able to easily purchase and maintain vehicles with adaptive devices.

Shockley Honda in Frederick, MD can assist you in your shopping and purchasing process.

Here are some basic steps to facilitate your goal of getting the right vehicle for you:

Evaluate Your Needs

1. Consult with your physician to make sure you are physically and psychologically prepared to drive. Being evaluated too soon after an injury or other trauma may indicate the need for adaptive equipment you will not need in the future.

2. Find a qualified evaluator. The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) maintains a database of certified driver rehabilitation specialists throughout the country. Your insurance company may pay for the evaluation. Find out if you need a physician’s prescription or other documentation to receive benefits.

3. Review the evaluator’s report containing specific recommendations on driving requirements or restrictions, and a complete list of recommended vehicle modifications.

Investigate Cost Saving Opportunities

A vehicle with adaptive equipment can range between $20,000 to $80,000, so, it pays to investigate public and private opportunities for financial assistance:

• Your state’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.
• U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
• Nonprofit associations that advocate for individuals with disabilities.
• Your private health insurance or workers’ compensation.
• Car and truck manufacturers with rebate or reimbursement plans for modified vehicles. (Check with dealers in your area.)
• Tax credits
o Some states waive the sales tax for adaptive devices if you have a doctor’s prescription for their use.
o You may be able to claim medical deductions on your federal income tax return.

Licensing Requirements

Check with your state’s registry of motor vehicles. You cannot be denied the opportunity to apply for a permit or license because you have a disability. However, you may receive a restricted license, based on your use of adaptive devices.

Select the Right Vehicle

Selecting a vehicle for modification requires collaboration among you, your evaluator, and a qualified vehicle modification dealer. Although the purchase or lease of a vehicle is your responsibility, making sure the vehicle can be properly modified is the responsibility of the vehicle modification dealer. Be aware that you will need insurance while your vehicle is being modified, even though it is off the road.

The following questions can help with new vehicle selection and/or modifying a vehicle you already own:

• Does the necessary adaptive equipment require a van, or will another passenger vehicle suffice?
• Can the vehicle accommodate the equipment that needs to be installed?
• Will there be enough space to accommodate your family or other passengers once the vehicle is modified?
• Is there adequate parking space at home and at work for the vehicle and for loading/unloading a wheelchair?
• Is there adequate parking space to maneuver if you use a walker?
• What additional options are necessary for the safe operation of the vehicle?

If a third party is paying for the vehicle, adaptive devices, or modification costs, find out if there are any limitations or restrictions on what is covered.

Note: Always get a written statement on what a funding agency will pay before making your purchase.

Choose a Qualified Dealer to Modify Your Vehicle

Even a half inch change in the lowering of a van floor can affect a driver’s ability to use equipment or to have an unobstructed view of the road. So, take time to find a qualified dealer to modify your vehicle.

Begin with a phone inquiry and ask these questions:

• Is the dealer a member of the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) or another organization that has vehicle conversion standards?
• Do they work with evaluators?
• Will they look at your vehicle before you purchase it elsewhere?
• Do they require a prescription from a physician or other driver evaluation specialist?
• How long will it take before they can start work on your vehicle?
• Do they provide training on how to use the adaptive equipment?
• What type of training has the staff received?
• What type of warranty do they provide on their work?
• Do they provide ongoing service and maintenance?
• Do they stock replacement parts?
• How much will the modification cost?
• Will they accept third party payment?
• How long will it take to modify the vehicle?
• Can the equipment be transferred to a new vehicle in the future?
• Will they need to modify existing safety features to install the adaptive equipment?

While your vehicle is being modified, you will, most likely, need to be available for fittings. This avoids additional waiting time for adjustments once the equipment is fully installed. Without proper fittings you may have problems with the safe operation of the vehicle and have to go back for adjustments.

Note: Some State Agencies specify the dealer you must use if you want reimbursement.

Training on the Use of New Equipment

Both new and experienced drivers need training on how to safely use new adaptive equipment. Your equipment dealer and evaluator should provide information and off-road instruction. You will also need to practice driving under the instruction of a qualified driving instructor until you both feel comfortable with your skills. Bring a family member or other significant person who drives to all your training sessions. It’s important to have someone else who can drive your vehicle in case of an emergency.

Some state vocational rehabilitation departments pay for driver training under specified circumstances. At a minimum, their staff can help you locate a qualified instructor. If your evaluator does not provide on-the-road instruction, ask him or her for a recommendation. You can also inquire at your local motor vehicle administration office.

Maintain Your Vehicle

Regular maintenance may be mandatory for compliance with the terms of your warranty. Some warranties specify a time period during which adaptive equipment must be inspected. These “check ups” for equipment may differ from those for your vehicle. Make sure you or your modifier submits all warranty cards for all equipment to ensure coverage and so manufacturers can contact you in case of a recall.

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