BAS Brand Ambassador Helen Dolphin MBE talks us through different aspects to consider when buying a new vehicle.

If you were about to join the Motability scheme for the first time, or your lease was coming up for renewal, you were probably a bit disappointed to read that Motability is currently unable to accept any new orders for vehicles because of  COVID-19. Anyone with a lease that is coming to an end will have it extended, so there is no need to worry.  New applications will be accepted from 1st July, however, there is still plenty you can think about and plan in the meantime, so when you are able to place an order, you’ll be all ready to go.

If you are an existing customer, you may want a similar vehicle to what you already have or you may be wanting something completely different. I’ve had the same car twice now because it suits all my requirements, but I’ll probably be looking at something different next time as I feel like a change.

Vehicle size and type

When looking for a new vehicle the first thing to consider is what size and type of vehicle do you want. It’s worth thinking about what you need to transport, who travels with you and what you’ll be using the vehicle for. I always need to look at big cars as it has to be able to fit my three-year old son in his car seat, my wheelchair and my assistance dog Fairport. as well as all the luggage I like to take everywhere with me. In the large car category there are estate vehicles, 4X4’s and SUV’s, so still further decisions to make

At the moment I’m OK transferring from my wheelchair but potentially in the future I may be looking to switch to a wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV). Once you’ve decided on the size and type of vehicle you need you can hone it down to a few that you would like to consider further. Although you can’t look at them or test them out most vehicle manufacturers have excellent web sites and you can see the vehicles in great detail.

Vehicle accessibility

If you need to know exact measurements for access or stowage for a vehicles then the consumer organisation RIDC may be able to help. They have a unique car search with fact sheets showing measurements, photos and accessibility features of over 1,700 vehicles. You can search for features including seat heights, headroom, door openings and boot sizes as well as cars that can take an unfolded standard wheelchair  and cars which are available on the Motability scheme. This is particularly useful to help with deciding on a vehicle when you can’t get out to measure it yourself.  Click here to visit RIDC

Fuel types

Not all vehicles have all the fuel options so this may influence your choice further. My current car has a diesel engine which is what I was recommended at the time as running costs for a diesel are generally less if you have high mileage. However, from a financial perspective there is now less difference between a petrol and diesel car especially since diesel fuel costs more than petrol. There are a number of websites which help you calculate what would be best for you and I used the RAC quiz to help me decide. . The quiz showed me that as I do about 20,000 miles annually on mainly motorways diesel still works out best financially. It is also reassuring to know that all new diesel engines must comply with Euro 6 regulations which are the cleanest in history. There are advantages and disadvantages to both diesel and petrol cars, so it is important to choose the right vehicle for you.

There are an increasing number of Hybrid and electric vehicles available on Motability. Hybrid vehicles have a combination of an electric motor and standard combustion engine to reduce vehicle emissions. Electric cars have zero exhaust emissions, but they have to be recharged regularly, so are not suitable for everyone. You will need to have access to off-road parking, such as a private driveway or garage in order to have a home charging point fitted.

Once you have decided what type of transmission, engine type and size of vehicle you want I’d usually recommend Motability’s car search tool to narrow down your search, but this is currently unavailable. However, you should still be able to make yourself a shortlist to help you complete your search once we’re all out of isolation.


If you need adaptations to enter/exit your vehicle or driving adaptations this is also a good opportunity to have a look at what is now available. You may have been driving with the same adaptations for many years without investigating if there is something better. With most of us having lots of time on our hands this is a good opportunity to do some research. I spent some time with BAS earlier this year trying out a number of their driving and transfer adaptations and I was amazed at what is now available. We made a number of videos of me demonstrating them which I hope will be helpful for other disabled drivers.