Purchasing a Modified Vehicle

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When the call of the road is too loud to ignore, selecting a vehicle that can be modified in a way that will best suit a driver is of paramount concern. A modified vehicle is a huge investment, and for the sake of the driver, it’s best to make the right choices the first time.

In adaptive driving, vehicle selection is everything

Buying a car is a simple – if nerve-wracking – process for most people. Decisions such as whether to buy a car or truck, what kind of engine a person prefers, and what colors they like are not typically the source of hours of effort.

People who drive adapted vehicles because of a disability make those decisions as well, but then, there’s the process of finding a vehicle to accommodate their personal equipment and features that will be added to the vehicle. In most cases – but not all – it means a person will be buying a larger vehicle.

Because choosing a vehicle is a not a process that is not an easy one to make, there are several sources a person can turn to help them make choices that will enhance their experiences out on the open road.

How do I choose the right vehicle?

A team approach is generally the best approach when it comes to securing a new, modified vehicle. Once a driver completes a full assessment of his or her abilities behind the wheel with a certified driver rehabilitation specialist, both the driver and the specialist will have a better idea of what vehicle will suit a person’s needs.

Choosing a vehicle is dependent on several factors, including:

  • Whether a person with a disability will be driving, or riding
  • The nature of a person’s disability
  • Whether the driver requires equipment that requires a lot of space
  • How a person will enter and exit a vehicle
  • How many other passengers will be riding in a vehicle

There are other factors that a driver must consider before choosing a vehicle. These include:

  • If there is enough space for the vehicle at home
  • How much the vehicle costs
  • Whether it’s best to purchase a new, or used vehicle
  • Whether the vehicle will be driven long or short distances

Once a driver has considered all of the information and consulted with a specialist, he or she must choose a dealer – if he or she is purchasing a new vehicle. When choosing a dealer, a driver should consider the following factors.

  • If the dealer is a member of the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association
  • Whether the driver is confident the dealer can work with him or her to make sure modifications work
  • What kind of training the staff has received regarding mobility issues
  • What kind of warranty they provide on adaptive equipment
  • How dealer financing will affect the vehicle purchase
  • If the dealer provides service and parts related to mobility equipment
  • If the dealer offers a complete inspection of the vehicle and its moving parts before a buyer takes delivery
  • Whether the dealer can provide references regarding their work

A word about used vehicles – if a person finds a vehicle that has adaptive equipment, it might not have all of the best modifications that will make driving possible, or safe. However, if a person chooses to go ahead and purchase the vehicle consult with an adaptive driving specialist before signing on the dotted line.

In the case of used vehicles, the modifications that have been made are suited to the original driver’s needs. This, of course, does not mean that further vehicle modifications can’t be made to make it a viable choice for a new driver.

The first place to start is with a dealer that specializes in the make of a vehicle. One consideration a buyer of a used vehicle must consider is that dealer mobility incentives – those rebates and reimbursements that dealers offer to purchasers of new vehicles – will likely be off the table. However, non-profits may be able to pay in full or in part for modifications made to a used vehicle.

A driver is also responsible for making sure a vehicle meets all required National Highway Traffic Safety Administration guidelines. In this circumstance, a driver rehabilitation specialist will be immensely helpful.

What sources are available to help pay for vehicle modifications?

First, the bad news. Adaptive equipment and any service related to it are most often not covered by insurance due to the fact that driving is not considered an essential function or a medical necessity. Medicare also does not cover such services. If a person’s coverage does have provisions to pay for adaptive equipment, a person will likely need a doctor’s prescription before services will be paid for.

However, there is a silver lining: Non-profit groups, equipment manufacturers and even the automakers have stepped in to fill the gaps.

Finding ways to defray the costs associated with adaptive vehicle is an important endeavor because of the expense of adaptive equipment. Modifications can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $80,000 not including the cost of the actual vehicle, according to industry estimates. The best place to start looking for opportunities for financial assistance is the department of health and human services, or vocational services, in the state where a driver lives.

Non-profit and private sector organizations have programs that may help pay for all, or part, of the modifications a person needs to drive. The ability to obtain assistance often depends on several factors, including:

  • Physical need for adaptations
  • Personal income
  • How much a person can be assisted by a modified vehicle
  • If a person has insurance coverage that will help pay for modifications

Assistance may come in the form of:

  • Grants
  • Rebates from equipment suppliers
  • State programs that waive sales tax on equipment and installation
  • Federal deductions if modifications are considered a medical expense

The best place to find assistance on paying for adaptive equipment is the automakers. All major automakers have mobility programs that offer rebates on adaptive equipment in recognition of the expense incurred by a driver, and the potential growth in the numbers of people that may require equipment in the future.

How is a modified vehicle serviced and maintained?

The best place to have vehicles with adaptive equipment serviced and maintained is the auto dealership that handled the sale of the vehicle and the installation of the equipment. Because the equipment is likely under warranty, it’s likely that the driver will be required to take the vehicle to a certified dealer. Aftermarket modifications – those installed after the sale of the vehicle – should be services where the new equipment was installed.

When shopping for a vehicle, maintenance is a topic that a driver must discuss with the mobility representative because of the expense involved. Also, the safety implications of equipment that fails out on the road need to be addressed through vigilant service.

As part of a service agreement, with or without a warranty, the dealership should be able to provide the following:

  • Continuing service
  • Availability of technicians
  • Replacement parts
  • Ability to accept third-party payment
  • Ability to execute repairs competently and quickly
  • New equipment and installation covered with a new warranty
On the Go!

a man in a wheelchair traveling an wonderful road

On the Go!

Transportation, for a person with a disability, is a major concern because when he or she can’t get from place to place, it tends to restrict him or her from participating in other life activities. Advances in technology have made private vehicle travel attainable, and even more preferable. More and more, individuals with a disability are able to modify their vehicles and obtain adaptive driver’s licensure to enhance independence. Whether traveling by air, by bus, on a train or in a wheelchair, travel must be safe and convenient for all.