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How to Buy the Best Car

How to Buy a Motability Car

By Daljinder Nagra

Article 4 of 4

If you can’t work or need a specially-adapted vehicle, the Motability scheme offers support to help you buy a suitable car and get around.

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The not-for-profit Motability scheme gives people with disabilities the chance to use their government-funded disability benefit to buy or lease a new car. In this guide we explain who's eligible for the Motability scheme, the cars they can drive and the special adaptations that can be made.

Want to just start browsing the best cars you can buy? Take a look at all our Best Buys.

Who is eligible for a Motability car?

From April 2013, the criteria for eligibility for the Motability scheme changed as part of the Government's welfare reform programme. Previously, it was open to anyone getting the higher-rate mobility component of the disability living allowance (DLA), but as it is gradually replaced by the new personal independence payment (PIP), recipients will have to be re-assessed.

Only those awarded the enhanced rate of the mobility component of PIP will be able to apply for a Motability car. Current Motability users who are not awarded the enhanced mobility rate after re-assessment risk losing their vehicles, though a grant is available (up to £2,000) to help those in this situation.

The Motability scheme is also open to people receiving the war pensioners’ mobility supplement and the armed forces independence payment, plus parents whose children are under 16 and entitled to the higher-rate mobility component of the disability living allowance.

Part or all of your disability allowance is used to pay for the Motability car you choose, and it's possible to pay extra for access to higher-end cars like the BMW 3 Series.

Buying vs leasing

Around 95% of Motability customers opt for a contract-hire (lease) arrangement. This includes car insurance and personal accident cover, RAC breakdown cover, replacement tyres and windows, servicing and maintenance, and a choice of new car every three years.

The more complicated alternative is for customers to buy the car through a hire-purchase agreement. Buyers first have to negotiate the sale price with their Motability dealer, and then foot the bill for all insurance, maintenance and car tax bills.

The Motability website has specific information on the hire-purchase agreements offered, and you may also like to read our car finance explained guide.

Who can drive a Motability car?

Don’t worry if you’re unable to drive yourself around; you can still apply for a Motability car and nominate two friends or family members to do the driving for you.

However, they can’t have had any serious driving endorsements, convictions or disqualifications in the last five years. There are also restrictions on young drivers and people who hold only provisional driving licences.

How often can Motability cars be used?

The Motability scheme aims to make disabled people as mobile as possible, so contract-hire cars come with a generous annual mileage allowance. In 2007, this increased to 20,000 miles for both three and five-year agreements.

Some wear and tear is expected by the end of the hire period – particularly small scuffs and scratches caused by wheelchairs and scooters – but significant damage will have to be repaired or paid for by the hirer. A £200 bonus may be awarded for cars returned in good condition.

What kind of car can I get with Motability?

Motability lets you choose from more than 2,000 cars and wheelchair-accessible vehicles, so you're almost guaranteed to find one that meets your needs.

However, only around 600 of these cars are exempt from ‘advance payments’ – ie. their hire cost is met completely by the higher-rate mobility component of the disability living allowance or the enhanced rate mobility component of the personal independence payment.

If you can’t afford to pay more, it doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck for choice – the popular Ford Fiesta, VW Polo and Renault Clio are all exempt from advance payments.

Or if you can afford to top up the allowance, you could choose a BMW 3 Series, Audi Q3 or a Mazda 6, among many others – you can see a full list of the cars available on the Motability website.

How do I know if a Motability car is suitable for me?

Space and practicality – including room for wheelchairs and other necessities – are likely to be some of the most important things to consider when choosing a Motability car.

Which?’s sister charity Rica has produced a Motability car search. This tool is free to use and will help you find an appropriate vehicle for your needs. Separately, Rica also has guides on how to choose a Motability car.

Think about whether you need a car with an automatic gearbox, as most steering and throttle adaptations will only work with automatic cars, and consider any convenience extras you might like, such as air conditioning. Like with any car purchase, it’s also worth taking an extended test drive to ensure the model you're considering really will meet your needs.

Where can I find a Motability dealer?

There are more than 4,500 Motability-approved dealerships in the UK, and you can use the Motability website to find those nearest to you. Some dealers offer home visits, while others will help you with transport to and from the showroom.

It’s recommended that you visit at least two different dealerships before you choose a car, as they may well have different models for you to look at. You should also take anybody who may use the car with you to the showroom so you can all get a feel for what the car would be like for day-to-day use.

Adapting Motability cars

The following adaptations are readily available through Motability’s Managed Adaptation Programme:

  • Mechanical hand controls
  • Steering aids
  • Permanent and wheelchair swivel seats
  • Left-foot accelerators and other pedal modifications
  • Remote control of certain functions
  • Wheelchair stowage (rooftop and in-car systems)
  • Person hoists
  • Pedal guards
  • Electronic handbrakes

Many of the more common adaptations are available free when you order your car, but you can see a full list of suppliers (and prices) on the Motability website.

Got a Motability car in mind but want to know whether it’s any good? Head to our car reviews for definitive verdicts on more than 700 new and used cars, including unique reliability and fuel economy data.

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