Buying a car when you’re a driver with a disability doesn’t have to be an impossible feat. Here are 7 car buying tips for drivers with disabilities.
There are many life-altering impacts that come along with having a disability, and some of them present transportation challenges. Unlike traditional car buyers, who may be primarily focused on fuel efficiency and safety ratings, buyers with disabilities have a unique set of car shopping considerations.
If you use a wheelchair, you are likely already aware of how your health impacts your transportation needs. If you have chronic health problems, you may not have considered how your health impacts your next car purchase. You can avoid making a costly mistake by taking these seven tips into consideration before buying your next vehicle.
1. Choose options that reduce physical strain
When you have limited energy, the last thing anyone needs to do is waste it rolling up windows or hauling sliding doors shut. Thankfully, most new vehicles come equipped with power windows and power sliding doors, but it’s important to check for them on used cars. Likewise, opting for power steering, an automatic transmission, and selecting a power rear cargo door can really reduce strain on your arm and shoulder muscles.
2. Consider your medical supply needs
Many people with disabilities use medical supplies that need to be plugged in. One simple way to ensure these needs are met while on the road is by purchasing a car with plenty of electrical outlets. Additional outlets can be important for people who rely on ventilators, IV pumps, feeding tubes, or other types of assistive devices that need to be plugged in. However, they can also be useful for those who need food or medications to be kept cold while traveling. Extra cupholders and spaces for snacks are helpful for people whose health conditions require frequent snacks and beverages.
3. Bring your medical equipment shopping
There is nothing worse than buying your dream car only to get it home and discover it doesn’t meet your needs. For people with disabilities who rely on wheelchairs or other mobility devices, it is even more critical to know exactly what you need before you sign on the dotted line. It’s always best to bring all of your medical equipment along car shopping so you can see how well it fits. If that’s not feasible, measure all of your medical supplies (twice!) and calculate your required cargo space to avoid any unpleasant surprises down the line.
4. Look for just the right fit
If you have mobility challenges or joint or muscle pain, getting in and out of a car can be a painful proposition. Like Goldilocks, finding the least painful vehicle for you is an individual process that requires just the right fit. For some people, it’s easier to get in and out of a taller vehicle, like an SUV. For others, lower-to-the-ground cars are more practical. The best way to find the right fit is by trying out different vehicle types at the dealership. Don’t be afraid to be picky—you’re the one who will suffer the consequences if you aren’t!
5. Prioritize your comfort
Comfort is always a consideration when buying a car, but for people with disabilities these options can be the difference between a car that’s a dream or a nightmare. Looking for a vehicle with quality suspension and a smooth ride can help individuals with chronic pain remain comfortable. Larger vehicles tend to have a smoother ride and also provide more of that much-needed cargo space for medical equipment. Whatever your individual health concerns, make sure to let your dealer know so they can suggest options to make traveling easier for you.
6. Focus on reliability
No one enjoys car repairs, but individuals with disabilities can be especially impacted by car repairs. Having your perfectly-selected vehicle in and out of the shop can leave you in the lurch and struggling to find transportation to suit your needs.
Reading car reviews is a great way to find a vehicle that will keep you on the road instead of in the repair shop. Likewise, buying an extended warranty can give you peace of mind (and financial security) if something does end up going wrong with your vehicle somewhere along the way.
7. Buy the car you’ll need in 5 years, not today
Unless you plan to only drive your car for the next year, you need to take into consideration how you expect your health to progress during the lifetime of your car.
One woman with mitochondrial disease, Rachel Burke, said she nearly purchased a vehicle a few years ago that would’ve been completely inappropriate for her needs today. Thankfully, a local dealer explained to Rachel that she should consider how her transportation needs might change in the future, and Rachel decided to purchase a minivan that could be converted into a wheelchair van instead of one of the smaller vehicles she had her eyes on.
Since then, Rachel has progressed from using a manual wheelchair that easily fit in the trunk of her car to relying on a power wheelchair full-time. Had Rachel opted for a smaller vehicle, she would have had to trade it in much sooner than she planned and suffer the financial consequences as a result.
Still need help? Ask CarStory’s concierge service.