Guide to car insurance for disabled drivers
- Historically car insurers and comparison sites have struggled with assessing changes to vehicles for usability issues and may have classed a change like any other 'modification'
- Due to this, disabled drivers may have faced a smaller choice of insurers and higher prices
- Use our service to assess options, but if you struggle to find the right deal consider the Motability scheme or going direct to a specialist insurer
- When you find the right policy, check terms and conditions with care to ensure it covers what you need. For example, would a replacement vehicle be fully adapted to your needs?
Drivers with disabilities have plenty of problems to overcome in achieving mobility without the extra obstacles that can arise from gaining adequate car insurance.
Even though most insurers have responded to the legal demands of discrimination legislation, more understanding is required to ensure all drivers are given a fair deal.
"Historically, it has sometimes proved quite difficult for disabled drivers to get competitive prices," said car insurance expert Scott Kelly.
"Most insurers are now striving to be as compliant as possible, although there are still pockets within the industry that aren't doing particularly well.
"Some insurers have regarded vehicle modification as a reason not to quote. That's where [comparison sites] have had problems.
"But things are changing and disabled drivers can assist themselves by ensuring that they select the right modifications on the comparison sites - and that they are registered with the right type of licence with the DVLA."
Drivers must inform the DVLA of notifiable medical conditions and disabilities and tell them if those conditions or disabilities get worse.
According to the Disability in the United Kingdom 2016 report by the Papworth Trust, there are 1.9 million licensed disabled drivers in the UK, and around 400,000 adapted vehicles in the UK
The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 makes it an offence for insurers to refuse cover on the grounds of disability or to discriminate by charging higher premiums to drivers with disabilities.
Drivers who qualify for the higher-rate disability living allowance are eligible to join the Motability scheme,† where a new car can be leased, with the arrangement including insurance cover.
But if a driver doesn't meet the eligibility criteria then they'll need to seek their own insurance cover, sometimes for a vehicle that has been adapted or modified in line with their own disability.
Helen Dolphin, director of policy and campaigns at Disabled Motoring UK,† says there may be a number of reasons why a disabled driver requires insurance outside of the Motability scheme.
Our advice to people who have enormous insurance quotes is to have a look at what Motability can do and if they're eligible. If not, then consider some of the specialist disabled insurers
Helen Dolphin, Disabled Motoring UK
"It may be that someone becomes disabled after the age of 65 and therefore they don't qualify, or maybe they don't meet the strict criteria, or perhaps they want to keep a car longer than for the three-year period, or they just want a second-hand car," said Dolphin.
"The main issues for those people are when they feel insurers have charged them over the odds, or they haven't even been able to get quotes at all after going through comparison sites.
"Some of the problems with online insurers have been surrounding modifications. The way they were categorised meant that driving around with an enormous spoiler on the back of a car was seen as the same as driving with hand controls.
"To an insurer, the modifications signified 'boy racer who's likely to drive too fast', but the reality is obviously quite different.
"Hopefully, things are changing, but our advice to people who have enormous insurance quotes is to have a look at what Motability can do and if they are eligible. If not, then consider some of the specialist disabled insurers."
What to consider
It's important to establish what's covered, particularly with cars that carry wheelchairs, hoists or ramps, or those that have been adapted with hand controls or swivel seats.
Check the extent of the cover in the event of an accident or theft, and whether or not a replacement vehicle will be provided. Will it, too, be fully adapted?
If no suitable replacement is available, does the policy offer an allowance to cover for the costs of taxis whilst your car is off the road? There can also be an issue with personal assistants or carers. Can they be added as named drivers or any driver options? Do they have business use cover?
Fish Insurance says that, in general, disabled drivers represent a lower risk
Some insurers also offer discounts for Blue Badge holders,† the scheme that enables people with severe mobility problems to park nearer to where they need to go.
Where to find insurance
When you're looking for your insurance, we'd encourage you to try Gocompare.com's easy-to-use comparison service, but if you can't find a suitable policy for your needs then companies such as Fish Insurance, En Route and Chartwell offer policies aimed specifically at disabled drivers.
Fish Insurance says that, in general, disabled drivers represent a lower risk, while figures from disability charity the Papworth Trust claim that disabled drivers drive 47% less than non-disabled drivers.
Helen Dolphin adds: "From what we know, the number of claims from disabled motorists is actually quite small when compared to other motorists.
"Perhaps some insurers are just dealing with a fear of the unknown. I'm a quadruple amputee, so I've got no limbs at all, but I can still drive a car. To an insurer, they're probably thinking, 'how on earth can that happen and is it safe?'
"I like to think I'm as safe as any other driver. I've only ever been involved in one accident and that was when someone drove into the back of me at a roundabout because they were on their phone."
By Graham Thomas