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Car Hire for People with a Disability

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Travelling with a Disability? Read our Car Hire Advice…

If you need to hire a car with adaptive driving devices or wheelchair access, where do you go? It can be hard to find advice, so we’ve tracked down some information for you…

Renting a car is immensely popular with travellers, and for good reason. Having a hire car gives you far greater flexibility in your travel plans and these days, with more competition, it’s cheaper than ever before to get behind the wheel and explore by car.

If you have a disability or reduced mobility the good news is that renting a car can be easier thanks to the range of adaptive driving devices available, but the bad news is that with some rental companies it’s hard to find out just what – if anything - is available.

If you’re travelling with a wheelchair or mobility aid, you may also want to rent a larger vehicle or a special wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV), and you’ll need to know about seating, roof height, lift/ramp options and so on. We’ve found that the main car hire companies generally don’t provide WAVs, but there are specialist companies that can help.

It can be tricky finding the information you need, so we’ve done some of our own research to help if you’re travelling with a disability. We will keep adding to this as we find out further information from our suppliers and other rental companies, so keep an eye on it over the coming months.

Which Car Hire Companies offer Adaptive Driving Devices?

Most of the major car hire companies and some specialist smaller companies now offer adaptive driving devices for those with a disability or reduced mobility. Budget, Avis and Europcar in the UK, for example, offer Lynx hand controls, while Hertz offers both hand controls and infra-red auxiliary control.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car is less specific, but says it will do its best to offer a range of devices, depending on the location, while some companies, such as Thrifty UK, advised us that they do not offer any sort of adaptive driving devices.

What sort of adaptive driving devices are available?


src: www.lynxcontrols.com
Hand controls are the most common. Many companies use Lynx Hand Controls in the UK, which allow any automatic vehicle to be driven by a driver with a disability by adapting the brake and accelerator pedal of an automatic car to hand operation. The advantage of these is that they are portable and do not require specialist fitting, meaning they can be installed and removed in just a few minutes. Companies such as Budget also include a steering ball, which is a steering wheel aid that is compatible with cars that have a drivers’ airbag.

Some companies offer infrared auxiliary controls, which allow the driver to have control over items such as the indicators and windscreen wipers using the same hand that controls the steering wheel. Hertz offers this on all of its vehicle groups at all of its UK locations.

Enterprise Rent A Car told us that they will always try to satisfy requests for vehicles with hand controls, left foot accelerators, spinner knobs or pedal extenders as soon as they can, but sometimes they may need two or three business days notice, depending on the location of the branch where the rental is required.

In addition, panoramic mirrors are also available with some rental companies, and if you require one of these you should request it at the time of booking.

Can I book any type of vehicle to drive with these devices?

It depends on the type of device that you will be using as certain hand devices – such as the Lynx system – can only be used on an automatic vehicle. But as long as you choose an automatic car you can reserve any make or model! The company you book with should be able to advise on any limitations there may be on the type of vehicle you should reserve.

How much notice do the companies need for these devices?

Most companies ask for a minimum of 48 hours notice to book any adaptive driving devices, but the more notice you can give them the better. That way if you have any specific questions you will also have time to ask them and get the information you want prior to your rental. Hertz actually says it only needs 24 hours notice, so if you’re doing things last minute they may be able to help, alternatively Enterprise Rent-A-Car says that at some major airport locations adaptive driving devices may be available with as little as 8 or 24 hours notice.

Is there any extra charge for adaptive driving devices?

No – to our knowledge those car hire companies that offer these devices provide them as a free service.

Are these devices available in all locations?

Availability of these devices can vary, depending on the company and the location. Countries such as the UK do seem to be at the forefront of accessible driving with some companies such as Budget offering devices at every UK location. Major locations in Europe and the USA and Canada, also generally offer adaptive driving devices, but you should always check availability at your preferred location before finalising travel plans.

What happens if I break down? Is it easy to get a replacement car that works with the devices?

Because these devices are fitted to standard cars it’s easy to get a replacement car if yours breaks down. Simply follow the procedures outlined by your rental company and ensure that when you speak to them to arrange your replacement car you clarify that you have the driving device and that the replacement car must be suitable for this – for example it must be an automatic car if you have Lynx hand controls.

How do you book/reserve adaptive driving devices?

Some rental companies, such as Hertz, offer a dedicated number to call for drivers with a disability, while with other companies you simply call the general reservations number. We would always recommend you call the company you are booking with to ensure you get the most accurate and up-to-date information. Their staff will then be able to advise you on vehicles, talk you through the type of devices available and discuss things such as opening times at your pick up location.

Do I need any special documentation to collect the car?

As with any rental, you will need your full driving licence and a valid credit card. You should also take with you two copies of your rental agreement and we would suggest any emails you have confirming your requirements/reservation for adaptive driving devices.

What about opening hours for pick up of the car?

Opening hours of car hire companies vary by location – for example, some are open through the night, while others may close at 7pm or on Sundays. If you know you’re on a late flight, always check the opening hours of your car hire company. If one company isn’t open, another one may be, so check before you book to avoid difficulties later.

Will someone be available to show me how to use the controls?

Yes, the companies we have looked at should have a specialist in their adaptive driving devices who will be able to fit the device and show you how it works. If you haven’t used one of these devices before they may even go for a quick drive with you to ensure you understand how they work. Speak to your rental company in advance to find out if this is possible.

If I need to have a surrogate driver is this possible and what are the requirements for this?

Travellers with a disability who do not hold a current driving licence can still rent a car with many companies through a surrogate driver. The surrogate driver must have a valid driving licence and meet the minimum age restrictions and other standard rental requirements, but companies such as Enterprise Rent-A-Car make no additional charge for the stand in driver.

Enterprise also says it offers a pick up service to both the renter and nominated driver, and for visually impaired customers the branch staff should read the rental agreement to the customer. The rental agreement is then completed in the normal way, with the surrogate driver being added as an additional driver. If only one person is driving the vehicle there is no additional driver fee.

The surrogate driver will not need to provide a credit card to underwrite the financial requirements – this will be the responsibility of the main renter, who – for Enterprise Rent-A-Car - will be qualified as normal by the company, with the exception of the driving licence. The surrogate driver then does not need to be qualified, other than a driving licence check.

Which companies offer Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAV)?

In all of our research to date, none of the major rental companies specifically offered Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles, however depending on your requirements they do suggest renting a larger category of vehicle if you need wheelchair storage.

If you have a specific requirement for a WAV, we would suggest you contact a specialist company such as Adapted Car Hire, Adapted Vehicle Hire, or Angel Vehicle Hire. These companies offer a range of WAVs and some offer a nationwide service.

Do any companies offer door-to-door delivery and collection?

Some specialist rental companies such as Adapted Car Hire offer a nationwide door-to-door delivery and collection service.

In summary, our advice would be to take a look at your preferred rental companies online and then call them by phone to discuss what is – and what isn’t – possible. Yes, some companies are more focused on this area than others, so compare your options depending on where you are travelling to and when.

As with most travel itineraries pre-planning is the key. Take your time and get all the information you need and it should be easy to hit the road and explore by car.

* While we have made every effort to ensure the details in this article are accurate, they may be subject to change by the individual rental companies therefore please check with the rental companies before you book.