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Buying and Using an Adapted Auto or Truck

StreetWise Resource Guide for People with Disabilities

  • Summary
  • Vehicle Adaptations
  • Negotiations

Buying and Using an Adapted Auto or Truck

Even though you may need a vehicle with modifications, there is no need to pay more than you have to. This page gives you a some information on the types of vehicles and modifications available and tips on the negotiations.

We also recommend you review StreetWise For Auto Buyers. The things you'll learn about how the auto buying business works will help you here, too.


Vehicle Adaptations

Vehicle adaptation options offer you many choices. Depending on the adaptations needed, you may be able to have them made on your current vehicle. You can buy a new or used vehicle that has been custom adapted or buy a new vehicle and have it adapted to your specifications. Some adaptive equipment will only work with specific makes and models of vehicles.

Getting Started

Start with the Adapting Motor Vehicles For People With Disabilities brochure from NHTSA. It covers the process of obtaining a vehicle with adaptive equipment. The process includes evaluating your needs, selecting the right vehicle, choosing a qualified dealer to modify the vehicle, being trained on the equipment, and maintaining the vehicle. Several sections list questions to ask to help in decision making. The site also includes a detailed list of resources.

NHTSA also has a section on Automotive Safety Issues for Persons with Disabilities. It contains consumer information, regulations and standards, research reports, and research notes.

The ABLEDATA website has information on vehicle accessories including automotive accessories, van accessories, driving controls, and wheelchair and scooter carriers. It also includes information on vehicles including automobiles, recreational, vans, and wheelchair driven.

Van Conversions

Here's a sample of companies offering minivan and full-size van conversions. Some have an inventory of new and used vans.

  • BraunAbility makes modification which can be installed on all multiple minivan makes and models. It is rear entry with lowered floor modification. Conversions include manual, automatic, and independent driver. Various seating options are also available.

  • Rollx Vans is an all-in-one conversion van manufacturer. They sell direct to you, deliver the van right to your door, and even offer at-home service. They offer mini-vans and full-size vans.

  • Vantage Mobility International provides minivan and full-size van conversions as well as scooter lifts.

  • AMS Vans sells and rents new and used handicap accessible vans. Browse wheelchair vans on their website or in their indoor showroom in Atlanta, GA. AMS also offers van conversion, handicap van classifieds, adapted vehicle mobility equipment, trade-ins, and more.

Vehicle Conversions and Adaptive Equipment

These companies provide modifications to vehicles other than vans including SUVs and pickup trucks. These companies may also provide other adaptive equipment such as transfer or swivel seats.

  • Access Unlimited makes adaptive transportation and mobility equipment. The Multi-Lift is a personal transfer system for home and car. The Easy Base is a portable base for the Multi-Lift. Glide 'n Go is a transfer assist seat for vans and trucks. The Easy Reach is an extending chair lift for vans. EZ-Transfer is a foldaway seat for cars and trucks. Mini-Touch is a compact, steering-wheel mounted control pad/steering knob. The Stand-Ease is a power lifting bar for cars.

  • 4 Lift Chairs offers internal mobility lifts designed to lift your manual wheelchair, power wheelchair, or mobility scooter into your vehicle for transport. Lifts for trunks, rear storage areas, and truck beds are available. They also have external mobility carriers designed to carry your manual wheelchair, power wheelchair, or mobility scooter on the outside of your vehicle.

  • Bruno Independent Living Aids has the Turning Automotive Seating product which can be installed in various cars, SUVs, minivans, pickup trucks and full-size vans . They also have vehicle lifts for wheelchairs, scooters, and power chairs.

Auto Manufacturers

Many auto manufacturers offer some type of mobility program. They may also have a reimbursement or financial assistance program for adaptive vehicles. Here are a few of the manufacturers' programs. To find if a manufacturer offers a program, search the site using the word mobility. Not all manufacturers mention their program on their site nor do some of them have a search capability.

Negotiating Tips for Buying or Leasing an Adaptive Vehicle or Accessories

Sellers of adaptive vehicles and accessories have a right to make a profit on you. But we think you have a right to buy or lease any vehicle or accessory for the lowest price possible.

Because the seller's objective is to maximize their profit on you-and because sellers are much more experienced than you probably are in negotiating-caution is your best byword: slow down! Do lots of research! And know the answer to most questions before you ask them.

Tips that work:

  1. Ask for references

    Are you, for instance, planning to buy a vehicle equipped with hand controls chosen and installed by a dealership? How do you know the products and installation are good? The only way is to talk with other customers who have bought the same products from the same dealers. If a seller won't give you that information, think twice before you buy or lease from this source.

  2. Make sure the seller knows you have other sources for adaptive vehicles and accessories

    The car business is a business of supply and demand. If a seller believes he or she has something unique, the seller tries to charge more for it. Always have an alternative source!

  3. Negotiate the price of the vehicle separate from the price of the adaptive items

    Some sellers like to mask the profits they make on you by giving you a "lump sum" price for a vehicle equipped with adaptive parts or accessories. Don't fall for that. First, find out what the seller paid for the vehicle you like without any adaptive additions. The StreetWise Auto Buying Guide can help you find that cost. Then look separately at the charge(s) for the adaptive elements.

  4. Negotiate the price of the adaptive elements

    Dealers can mark up "add-ons" as much as they want. For instance, some dealers might mark up a hand break adapter by one hundred percent; some might mark it up 200 percent. Don't be afraid to negotiate that markup, and do your best to compare charges for each adaptive element. Does one dealer want $300 to install a particular item? What does another dealer want for the exact same item?

  5. Look objectively at the manufacturers of adaptive items and their individual warranties

    Many times, adaptive items on a vehicle can have an impact on your life and safety. Even though most adaptive items are safe and developed carefully, caution is always your friend when it comes to any product. Adaptive technology is no exception.

  6. Follow all the StreetWise for Auto Buyers advice as you begin to shop

    DCU has the most powerful member education program in the country when it comes vehicles. Apply all our principles to your purchase! Why not head to the StreetWise Auto Buying Guide right now?