Consumer research for older and disabled people

Text Size:

Current Size: 100%

Car controls - choosing the right car

Rica's consumer information, aimed at older and disabled people, is based on independent research, the experiences of consumers and experts and is completely unbiased.

Car controls - choosing the right car

Most simple adaptations can be easily fitted to any car. If you already have a car and are newly disabled, think about the pros and cons of adapting it compared 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 car adaptation supplier and fitter that this can be done.

Simpler hand controls for steering, acceleration and braking can be fitted fairly easily on many cars.

Complex controls:

  • can be difficult to fit and are more expensive
  • sometimes can't be fitted on new cars because the electronic circuits of the controls cause problems
  • which are steering and braking systems can be more difficult to adapt.
  • mean you need to talk to a specialist car adaptation supplier and fitter and get advice from a mobility centre

If you can:

  • get a car that can be converted relatively easily as it can save money and protect the value of your car
  • choose controls that can be fitted without major work to the car's interior
Important: Always discuss all options with the car adaptation supplier and fitter before you start.

Standard equipment that may help

(Also see our information on car technology)

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 and backward and forward can help with getting in and out and adjust to a comfortable driving position
  • electrically operated seats, some with memory functions, so you can always find your way back to your setting
  • sports seats for some people give greater support and comfort
  • adjustable lumbar support

Other features:

  • satnav to help you find your way
  • parking sensors or cameras
  • 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.

Our online car search will help you find seat heights, boot measurements and other car features.

Also see: Choosing a car

Last updated: July 2017


Previous: Your abilities | Next: Getting the right car controls | See also: Car technology web portal