Drivers with disabilities should not be prevented from securing auto insurance at a reasonable rate. In fact, it’s illegal for insurance companies to charge higher rates to drivers with physical or mental disabilities, thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.[^1]

Although your insurance company can’t legally charge you a higher rate solely due to your disability, it can find indirect ways to raise your car insurance premium. You also may need extended coverage because of costly but medically necessary accessibility modifications.

This quick guide covers everything you need to know about disability car insurance, including why it might be so high and what you can do to make it more affordable.

How Do Insurance Companies Determine Your Premium?

Your insurance premium—the amount of money you pay each month to maintain coverage—is determined by various factors. These often include but are not limited to:

  • The type of car you drive
  • The cost of your car
  • The size of your car
  • Nationwide theft statistics for your car’s make and model
  • Your location
  • Your past driving record
  • How many years you’ve been an eligible driver
  • The annual mileage you typically put on your car
  • Your age
  • Your credit history
  • Your gender

California and a few other states do ban or limit the use of gender and credit scores in calculating auto insurance rates. Overall, though, your insurance company collects various personal facts and statistics to create a risk profile, which then determines your premium. Basically, the insurer wants to make an educated guess (risk assessment) about how likely you are to get into accidents.

People who pose higher risks are charged higher premiums. For example, driving and car accident data prove that male teenagers are one of the riskiest driving demographics. For all drivers aged 16 to 19, the fatal crash rate per mile driven is almost 300 percent higher than for drivers 20 and older. Males account for roughly twice as many of those fatalities compared with females.[^2] Because of this, male teenagers pay some of the highest insurance costs of any demographic.

Insurers use similar statistical evidence and decision-making to form conclusions about the rest of the key premium determinants.

Knowing Your Rights As a Driver with a Disability

When purchasing auto coverage, it’s important to know what kind of information your insurance agent can and cannot base your rates on. Insurance agents are legally required to evaluate drivers with disabilities by the same standards as any other driver.

However, your disability may indirectly cause you to pay more for car insurance, for example, if you have a history of crashes or if you seek additional coverage for vehicle modifications. The disability itself should not directly factor into price determination. Insurers should rely on DMV and medical reports (if applicable) that you are fit to drive.

If you believe that your insurance agent is discriminating against you by charging a higher rate because of your disability, there are a few things you can do:

How Disabilities Lead to Higher Car Insurance Costs

You may want more coverage if you’re driving with a disability, especially if you’ve modified your vehicle to make it more accessible—and consequently more expensive. Some of these necessary yet costly modifications include:

  • Pedal extenders
  • Floor-mounted steering
  • Steering column extenders
  • Scooter or wheelchair lifts
  • Tie-downs to hold wheelchairs and other equipment securely
  • Hand controls
  • Siren detectors
  • Emergency brake extensions
  • Left foot accelerator
  • Transfer seats

If you need some or all of these vehicle modifications, you could spend tens of thousands of dollars. Plus, some driving systems such as the Scott Driving System could cost you more than $100,000.[^3]

In addition to these costly technologies, the Department of Motor Vehicles may require that you pay for a doctor or occupational therapist to approve your fitness to drive or that you attend a driver rehabilitation program to be licensed.

Purchasing Additional Coverage Due to Your Disability

If you do need to outfit your car with expensive technology and accessibility modifications, insure them, too. If your equipment were damaged in an accident, you wouldn’t want to replace it all out of pocket.

Drivers typically have a few kinds of insurance coverage, including:

  • Liability insurance – This is the most basic kind of car insurance and is legally required in most states. Liability insurance covers any bodily injury and property damage that you cause in an accident.
  • Collision coverage – Collision coverage helps pay for damage to your own car after an accident, regardless of whether the accident is determined to be your fault.
  • Comprehensive coverage – This covers damage to your car while you’re not driving it. Comprehensive coverage helps you repair or replace your car in the event of extreme weather, fire, falling objects, vandalism, theft, and more.

In order for people with disabilities to receive additional coverage on their vehicle modifications, they usually need to purchase collision and comprehensive coverage first. Next is custom equipment coverage, an add-on to collision and comprehensive coverage.

Personal injury protection, also called PIP and no-fault, is another layer of coverage to consider. It applies regardless of fault and offers additional personal injury coverage for surgery, medical expenses, rehabilitation, and lost income, among other things. Some states require it, but think about this type of coverage if your state does not mandate it. Drivers with disabilities may already be at a disadvantage after an accident. PIP has the potential to help greatly.

Lowering Car Insurance Premiums for Drivers with Disabilities

Who doesn’t want to know how to lower car insurance costs? Every driver can benefit from discounted car insurance. Drivers with disabilities are no exception. Here are a few things that any driver, disabilities or not, can do to lower their rates:

  • Pay your yearly premium upfront – Many insurance companies lower your total yearly cost if you provide the money upfront rather than spread it throughout the year in quarterly or monthly installments.
  • Bundle your auto insurance – Lots of companies that offer auto insurance also provide other kinds of insurance such as homeowner’s insurance or life insurance. If you bundle your auto insurance policy with one or more of your agency’s other policies, you likely get a discounted rate.
  • Drive safely – Most insurance companies offer a discount to drivers who maintain a clean driving record for a certain amount of time. Other incentives for safe driving may include discounts for consistently wearing a seat belt and refraining from smoking, drinking, and other distracted driving behaviors.
  • Go green – This kind of insurance discount is becoming more popular as automotive technology evolves. You can lower your premium either by purchasing a vehicle with eco-friendly technology or simply by driving fewer miles each year.
  • Study for your exams – If you’re a student, you can reduce your insurance bill just by getting good grades. Many insurance companies offer good student discounts.
  • Sign up for your insurer's telematics program - The company monitors your driving, generally through a smartphone app or vehicle plug-in. Safe driving (and lower mileage) should mean somewhat lower rates.

Insurance companies can’t charge higher rates just because someone has a disability. However, they usually don’t give discounts to drivers solely on account of their disability. That being said, drivers with disabilities have a few specific ways to save money, including:

  • Lower state taxes – If you want to buy accessibility modifications for your vehicle and can provide a doctor’s prescription verifying your need, many states waive the sales tax on your modifications.
  • Reimbursements from manufacturers – If you’re buying a car and know you’ll modify it with specialty equipment, the manufacturer may reimburse you for some of the cost. It won’t necessarily cover the entire purchase but can be a good start.
  • Contact the VA – The VA, or Department of Veterans Affairs, has several programs that help veterans with disabilities obtain cheap vehicles, apply for adaptive modifications, and receive other discounts for their service. If your disability stems from military action, get in touch with local VA representatives about lowering your car costs.
  • Look into PASS (Plan to Achieve Self-Support) if you receive SSI – PASS helps people with disabilities return to work by letting them set aside money for work goals. Transportation, equipment, and tools fall under that umbrella.

Lower Your Rate by Comparing Insurance Quotes

As the saying goes, knowledge is power. Understanding the ins and outs of insurance coverage is not always easy but can make a big difference.

Drivers who want a lower rate should look beyond their current insurance agency. With Online Auto Insurance, you can easily access auto insurance quotes from across the industry in seconds—it’s not just fast, it’s also free.

Simply search by state or ZIP code to instantly get quotes from Allstate, Nationwide, Liberty Mutual, Farmers, and many more top industry providers. Online Auto Insurance also offers advice on the different kinds of insurance options so you know exactly how much coverage is right for your situation.

Stop settling for your inflated insurance premium and move on to better coverage at a lower price. Get personalized auto insurance quotes with Online Auto Insurance today.

Sources:

ADA. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, As Amended. https://www.ada.gov/pubs/ada.htm

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Fatality Facts 2018: Teenagers. https://www.iihs.org/topics/fatality-statistics/detail/teenagers

Driving Systems Incorporated. Scott Driving System. https://www.drivingsystems.com/scott-driving-system/

Notes

[^1]: ADA. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, As Amended. https://www.ada.gov/pubs/ada.htm

[^2]: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Fatality Facts 2018: Teenagers. https://www.iihs.org/topics/fatality-statistics/detail/teenagers

[^3]: Driving Systems Incorporated. Scott Driving System. https://www.drivingsystems.com/scott-driving-system/