Accessible Vehicle Modifications and Insurance

Oct 08, 2021 01:02 PM EDT | Staff Reporter

Accessible Vehicle Modifications and Insurance

(Photo : Photo by Vinayak Sharma on Unsplash)

Accessible Vehicle Modifications and Insurance

The auto world has come a long way in the past hundred years. In the old days, having a disability may have prevented you from having the opportunity to travel by car. But now, many people with disabilities can modify their vehicles to accommodate their driving or riding needs.

These modifications do change the situation for car insurance, though. Car insurance for wheelchair-adapted vehicles and vehicles with other modifications isn't always straightforward.

Any time you change what's in or on your vehicle from how it came from the factory, you'll have to get a special kind of insurance coverage if you want your investment in modifications covered.

We'll look at some of the most popular modifications, how much they cost, and how to go about getting insurance coverage for an accessible vehicle.

Common Vehicle Modifications for Disabilities

Several modifications can be made to a vehicle so that a disabled driver has access to controlling the car. The list below is general and by no means exhaustive, but it highlights some of the most common accessibility modifications.

Driver Modifications

For a driver in a wheelchair or with other physical disabilities, various modifications can make a vehicle accessible.

●       Hand controls - If you can't use your feet to operate the pedals on your vehicle, you can modify your car to allow you to operate the accelerator and the brake with your hands.

●       Pedal extenders - Getting pedal extenders is one of the most straightforward modifications available for individuals who can't reach the pedals.

●       Electric wheelchair lift - Scooters and electric wheelchairs are too heavy and bulky to manage to get into a vehicle by hand. A lift can get the mobility device loaded into the bed of a truck or a hitch platform.

These updates to a vehicle can revolutionize a disabled person's independence. You can also fabricate your vehicle to allow for passenger accessibility.

Passenger Modifications

For some people, the most comfortable way to travel is in their wheelchairs. Often, these chairs are custom fit for the person and provide the right support in just the right places. A wheelchair lift with wheelchair anchor points is the easiest and safest way to travel in these cases.

Sometimes, the necessary modifications are as simple as an assist bar that temporarily fits into the door frame and gives an individual a handhold to help with transfers into and out of the vehicle.

A valet seat is costly, but it eliminates the potentially problematic transfer through a door frame. The car's seat rotates and swings out of the vehicle with a valet seat to aid in a seamless transfer from a wheelchair to the car's seat. Once the person is seated, the car seat will lift back into position inside the car.

Cost of Vehicle Modifications

The cost varies depending on the necessary modifications. For example, outfitting a passenger van with a wheelchair lift and docking station can cost up to $30,000.

If the modifications necessary only include a ramp and docking station, you may be able to keep your budget around $10,000. If, however, you need to lower the floor of your vehicle to account for the extra headspace necessary for an individual in a wheelchair, or if you choose a lift rather than a ramp, the project will cost more.

Often, these costs don't fit into a family's budget because they're so high. If you're considering a major vehicle overhaul to make it accessible, you may want to consider grants.

More people need accessible vehicles than there are grants available, though, so some families turn to fundraisers. If you choose this route, you'll learn a lot by getting in touch with a family that has already successfully raised funds for an accessible vehicle. Let their experience save you from making any of the mistakes they learned from.

Even if you're able to secure a grant and you're able to use a fundraiser to pay for more of the necessary modifications, you may need to look into finding vehicle financing that fits your budget.

Insurance for a Wheelchair-Accessible Vehicle

Insurance is based on many factors. Your driving history, age, and even credit rating are all components that go into the formulation of your car insurance premiums.

The higher your risk to an insurance company, the more your premiums will be. If you've caused an accident or two in the past few years, or if you've gotten a DUI or several tickets for traffic violations, you can count on paying high rates no matter what type of vehicle you drive.

And that brings up another critical component in your car insurance rates - your vehicle. If you choose car insurance coverage that protects your vehicle and not just the damage you might cause to others, generally, the more expensive your vehicle, the more expensive your insurance premiums will be.

Most car insurance policies will cover vehicle modifications up to $1,000, but since retrofitting a vehicle to be accessible is significantly more expensive than that, you'll have to find a different resolution.

Some insurance companies have special policies available for modified vehicles. If your insurance company offers that option, you will have to determine an agreed-upon value of your car. The receipts for the modifications should help you establish a fair and accurate value.

If your current insurer can't provide appropriate coverage for your vehicle, you'll need to shop around. In some cases, you'll need to purchase insurance from a specialty car insurance company.

Insurance companies can't discriminate against people because they have a disability. In other words, they can't charge you higher rates because of a disability. But they are completely within their rights to charge you more for vehicles that would cost more to repair or replace.

Wheelchair-accessible vehicles have modifications that make them more expensive, so you will pay higher insurance rates than you would for the same vehicle pre-modifications.

To help you save money on car insurance, some general rules also apply to wheelchair accessible vehicles:

●       Compare quotes

●       Maintain a good driving record

●       Improve your credit score

●       Look for applicable discounts

Vehicle modifications can help make the world more accessible for individuals with disabilities. Even though those modifications often come with a hefty price tag, the freedom they provide is worth working toward.

Make sure you protect the investment in accessibility with an adequate vehicle insurance policy.

About The Author : Melanie Musson is an auto insurance expert who writes and researches for She enjoys sharing her knowledge of insurance with others so they can make wise choices that build and protect their financial stability. 

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