A Guide to Disability Car Insurance for Disabled Drivers and Passengers

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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal for insurance companies to charge higher car insurance rates for drivers with a disability. However, disabled drivers and passengers may face more expensive premiums.

Higher quotes for disabled persons can stem from added safety risks associated with certain medical conditions. Additional cost factors include vehicle modifications and the increased costs of insuring mobility-enhanced vehicles or disability-adapted cars such as wheelchair vans.

This guide describes the general rules, cost factors and coverages of car insurance for disabled drivers and passengers, opportunities to find cheap rates and what to know about auto insurance discrimination laws.

What is disability car insurance?

There is, in fact, no such thing as a disability car insurance policy, as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents insurance companies nationwide from charging higher premiums to disabled drivers and passengers strictly on the basis of their disability. Disabled drivers and passengers will get the same car insurance policies as other drivers, though they may elect for additional coverages, such as mobility car insurance coverage, that offer certain protections for damages to specialized vehicles or custom equipment.

Disabled drivers and passengers may include individuals with the following conditions, though this list is not exhaustive:

  • Amputee or parapalegic
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Epilepsy
  • Hearing or vision loss
  • Mental health illness or neurological conditions
  • Stroke
  • Wheelchair use

Living with a disability or physical-handicap doesn't mean a driver is more at-risk for an accident. However, there are some medical conditions that are considered driving impairments that can affect safety and require medical approval to legally be on the road.

If you have a disability or serious medical condition, be sure to discuss with your doctor how it affects your ability to drive. Doing so will help ensure your own safety and that of other drivers, and identify any potential safety risks that could affect your car insurance premiums.

Cost factors of car insurance for disabled drivers and passengers

Insurance companies may charge disabled drivers and passengers higher premiums if:

  • Their medical condition is considered a safety risk.
  • There are increased costs to insuring mobility-enhanced or disability-adapted vehicles.

However, federal law prohibits insurers from selling more expensive car insurance policies to disabled drivers and passengers solely on the basis of their disability.

Disabled drivers and passengers should always disclose their medical conditions and vehicle modifications to their insurance company, as failing to do so could result in a loss of coverage or refusal of payout following an accident.

Disabilities and safe driving

Disabilities should only impact your car insurance rates when a medical condition increases safety risk to yourself and other drivers on the road, and this risk is reflected by a change in status to your drivers license. Insurance companies cannot deny coverage or charge disabled drivers more solely on the basis of their disability.

For example, if you have a State Farm auto insurance policy, you won't be charged higher rates for having a disability specifically, but you may be charged more if a disability causes an impairment that affects your ability to drive safely.

One medical condition that may increase driving safety risk, and thereby raise quotes, is epilepsy, a neurological disorder that can result in unanticipated loss of consciousness. Such episodes can pose a safety risk to the operator, their passengers and other drivers on the road.

While being diagnosed with epilepsy doesn't necessarily prohibit someone from receiving medical approval to drive, this approval may be subject to certain constraints, and the added safety risk may permit insurance companies to charge higher rates.

If your doctor deems you unfit to drive, they will likely inform the DMV or an appropriate state court to suspend your license. In some cases, a doctor will approve a disabled driver to be on the road, subject to certain conditions. For instance, individuals with serious vision loss may be prohibited from driving at night.

Any medical approval required to drive will be reflected on your driver's license. And if medical approval is required to drive, car insurance companies can quote higher premiums due to the increased safety risk.

Car insurance for disability-adapted vehicles

Disabled drivers and passengers often face higher car insurance rates due to special vehicle modifications that raise the cost of insuring their mobility-enhanced or disability-adapted vehicle, such as a wheelchair accessible van.

Although car alterations and special equipment can make your vehicle more expensive to insure, your insurance company should cover disability-adapted cars or vans fairly and provide reasonably priced quotes. Be sure to disclose any car modifications to your insurance company, so you do not risk losing coverage and reimbursement when filing an auto insurance claim. Car modification disclosures can also help ensure that all of the custom equipment in your mobility-adapted vehicle is properly repaired or replaced following an accident.

Commonly used disability-adapted equipment and vehicle accessibility modifications for disabled drivers and passengers include:

  • Amputee rings
  • Automatic doors
  • Hand controls
  • Keyless entry and ignition
  • Parking brakes
  • Pedal and seat belt extensions
  • Power seats
  • Siren detectors
  • Special mirrors
  • Steering devices
  • Wheelchair ramps, adjustable seats and restraints

Coverages for disabled drivers and passengers

If you are a disabled driver and passenger, you may consider opting for additional coverages, such as roadside assistance and mobility car insurance coverage, that accommodate your disability and protect you in the event of bodily injury or damage to your vehicle.

A standard full-coverage car insurance policy typically includes the following coverages:

  • Personal liability reimburses injuries or damages to other drivers and their property.
  • Collision and comprehensive covers vehicle damage.
  • Personal injury protection (PIP) and medical payments (MedPay) cover the costs of bodily injury to you or your passengers in an accident.
  • Uninsured and underinsured motorist reimburses you for bodily injury and vehicle damage in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver.

Additional coverages that may be valuable to a disabled driver or passenger include:

  • Roadside assistance coverage offers towing services, roadside assistance and pick-up immediately following an accident.
  • Adaption or special equipment coverage reimburses damage to custom parts installed in your vehicle, such as wheelchair ramps or special mirrors. Be sure to confirm that your policy also covers equipment that is not necessarily attached to your car, such as a walker, wheelchair or motorized scooter.
  • Mobility car insurance coverage reimburses the costs of temporary transportation if your disability-adapted vehicle is under repair following an accident.

How to find cheap car insurance for disabled drivers and passengers

The best way to find cheap car insurance is to shop around. Premiums vary drastically across insurers, including assessments of both safety risk and car modification, so comparing quotes across insurance companies is always a critical first step.

Disabled drivers and passengers may also consider the following options to find cheap car insurance:

  • Search for discounts: Car insurance companies typically offer multiple discount options for which you may be eligible. Examples include low mileage, senior driver, homeowners and loyalty discounts.
  • Opt for a telematics, or usage-based, insurance policy: Such policies use data transmitted from your car to charge premiums based on your driving habits and mileage.
  • Exclude yourself from the policy: If you are strictly a disabled passenger and do not plan to drive, you can exclude yourself from the policy and list another nominated driver as the named insured. Importantly, this will mean you technically do not have insurance coverage, but the policyholder may receive lower rates if they do not require medical approval to drive.

Many automobile manufacturers also have vehicle mobility programs that offer rebates as high as $1,000 to support any special modifications to your car or van. When buying or renting a car, you will also purchase the appropriate disability-adapted equipment and receive reimbursement directly from the manufacturer.

Scooter insurance

Some disabled drivers will elect to drive a moped or scooter instead of a car or van. You can shop around for moped and scooter insurance, as many large national insurers like GEICO have reasonably priced scooter insurance policies.

What to know about auto insurance discrimination laws

If you are a disabled driver or passenger, or you are temporarily on disability and need car insurance, it is always important to know your rights to protect yourself against car insurance discrimination. An important federal law is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prevents insurance companies from charging higher policy premiums to drivers solely on the basis of their disability.

Other federal consumer protection laws prohibit companies from rejecting customers on the basis of their gender, race, religion and disabilities. You should also always check local laws to identify any additional protections for disabled drivers and passengers in your state of residency.

Beyond disability discrimination, there are several state protections you should be aware of. Three states — California, Massachusetts and Hawaii — have passed legislation that prevents insurers from using your credit score to determine car insurance quotes.

Furthermore, several states — Hawaii, Massachusetts, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and some parts of Michigan — have begun to ban car insurance gender discrimination, preventing insurers from using gender as a rate-bearing variable.

Lastly, if you are low-income, unemployed due to disability or on Medicaid, these are not reasons to be denied car insurance, and there are often local resources such as disability-focused nonprofits that may help you find cheaper rates. Similarly, if you are a disabled veteran or military member, there are many opportunities to find cheap car insurance and policy discounts.

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