Consumer research for older and disabled people

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Car controls - choosing the right car

Most simple adaptations can be easily fitted to any car. If you already have a car, think about the pros and cons of adapting it with those of buying and converting a new car.

The pros and cons of keeping your car
Advantages  Disadvantages
  • it's likely to be cheaper
  • it's familiar
  • it may have features you like
  • newer cars may have useful standard features or options
  • you can choose a car that is easier to adapt
  • you may get financial help or VAT exemption on a new car
IMPORTANT Check that your car or the car you plan to get can be fitted with the adaptations that you want. Don't buy or lease a car until you've checked with the adaptation company that this can be done.

Most cars can be adapted fairly easily, and all can be fitted with the simpler hand controls for steering, acceleration and braking that are described in this guide. However it can be difficult and more expensive, or even impossible, to fit some of the more complex controls to some cars. For example, the electronic circuits in many new cars can cause problems if you try to fit the more sophisticated controls. This will be a growing problem as technology changes. Similarly, some steering and braking systems, especially on newer cars, can be more difficult to adapt. For adaptations like these, you need to talk to a specialist adaptation company.

You can save money and protect the value of your car by getting a car that can be converted relatively easily and by choosing controls that can be fitted without major work to the car's interior. Discuss all of this with the adaptation company before you start.

Standard equipment that may help:

Locking and ignition:

  • remote central locking
  • windows that close automatically when the car is locked
  • push-button start

Primary controls - for accelerating and braking, changing gear and steering:

  • automatic (or semi-automatic) transmission
  • adjustable steering wheel position
  • cruise control to maintain a constant speed - some cars have adaptive cruise control that adjusts your speed to match the car in front
  • easy-to-use parking brake - some cars have electronic ones

Secondary controls - for things like the horn, lights and indicators:

  • easy-to-use controls - check you can reach them and they don't need too much force
  • automatic wipers and lights
  • electric windows and door mirrors
  • heated windscreen and door mirrors
  • steering-wheel controls for audio equipment - some can be controlled by voice

Seating:

  • seats that can be moved up and down, backward and forward, to help with getting in and out and adjust to a comfortable driving position
  • some cars have electrically operated seats, and some of these have memory functions, so you can always find your way back to your setting
  • some people find sports seats give them greater support and comfort
  • adjustable lumbar support

Other features:

  • satnav to help you find your way
  • parking sensors or cameras - some cars now come with automatic parking systems, which will steer you into the space when parallel parking
  • heads-up displays, which project your instruments on to the windscreen so you don't have to look down
  • automatically¬†dimming rear-view mirrors to reduce dazzle and glare

Look for a car that's easy to get into and out of - large and wide door openings, doors that open wide, and handholds in places that are convenient for you. If you need to carry a lot of luggage or equipment, look for a spacious boot with a low sill for easy loading.

Also see:

Choosing a car

Our online car search  which has seat and boot measurements and other features.

Last updated: May 2017


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