A new way to hire accessible and adapted vehicles could provide an alternative to the Motability scheme for disabled people who rarely need to use their car.
The Accessible Vehicle Club (AVC) is being marketed as the UK’s “first ever accessible vehicle subscription service”.
Although AVC stressed this week that it did not see itself as a “competitor to Motability”, its marketing materials highlight how it could appeal to some potential customers of the disabled people’s car scheme, promising “no upfront hefty vehicle deposits”, “no 3 year lease tie downs” and “no fixed vehicles”.
AVC also claims to offer “a much more flexible, affordable and quicker service than other industry leading mobility schemes”.
The minimum upfront deposit for a wheelchair-accessible vehicle on the Motability scheme is £3,345, although some vehicles are available without a deposit and some customers receive grants from Motability for their advance payment.
Those leasing a Motability car must also contribute the higher rate mobility part of their personal independence payment (or equivalent benefits) of £71 a week.
An AVC spokesperson said: “With our 15 years’ experience and the community’s feedback (plus having attended numerous disability shows and events over the past decade and a half), we have heard frequently from drivers, who do not use their vehicle very often and then get tied into three year lease plans.”
The club has been set up by the Mobility Vehicle Hire Group (MVHG), which has previously focused on business customers.
The cheapest of its four subscription plans is £125 a month, which includes free delivery and collection, insurance and breakdown cover. Motability also offers free insurance, breakdown and servicing.
AVC’s cheapest plan allows up to 43 days hire a year of a small, adapted car, or alternatively 14 days of a large electric adapted car, 38 days of a small wheelchair-accessible vehicle or 21 days of a large wheelchair-accessible vehicle, with other vehicle types also available.
This means the cheapest subscription would be £1,500 a year, which is currently less than half the price of the cheapest Motability annual fee of about £3,700, although only providing access to a vehicle for less than one-eighth of the number of days of vehicle use that Motability customers enjoy.
The minimum hire terms vary, with a minimum of six days at a time for a small adapted vehicle on the bronze plan – so allowing them to take such a vehicle on seven six-day hires a year – while someone on the most expensive “platinum” plan would have a minimum hire term of just three days, allowing them 40 separate three-day hires of a small adapted vehicle for £4,200 a year.
AVC offers a “pick n’ mix choice of a diverse vehicle range”, so customers can, for example, use a small wheelchair-accessible vehicle (WAV) for a few days for shopping and appointments and then reserve a medium-sized wheelchair-accessible vehicle for a week’s holiday.
Among the adaptations available – at no extra cost – are push-pull hand controls, infrared controls, easy-release handbrake, boot hoist and pedals adapted for those unable to use their right leg.
An AVC spokesperson claimed they were “not a competitor to Motability” because “what they have provided and achieved over the many years they have been involved in this sector, is phenomenal.
“They offer their vehicle range and their three- to five-year lease packages.
“Our offering is another option for people who cannot afford thousands of pounds for upfront deposits and who maybe do not drive their vehicles as often, or as much, for them to justify on a long-term lease.”
He added: “We are starting this off and it is early days and we do not want to start to upset or tread on anyone’s toes.”
Motability declined to comment this week on the AVC offer.
Mik Scarlet, co-chief executive of the disability charity Phab, said his organisation supported the new organisation and MVHG, which he said had been “huge supporters of Phab and the work we do”.
He said: “When the AVC team raised the plans for a service to rival Motability I thought it was a great idea.
“I’m going to go down this route myself for my next vehicle and what’s on offer looks like a real answer for disabled people who need adapted vehicles and especially WAVs.
“Anything that offers disabled people choice is OK by me.”
Graham Footer, chief executive of Disabled Motoring UK (DMUK), which has also endorsed AVC, said: “DMUK is delighted to see this new scheme entering the market, which will give people with disabilities more choice with their personal mobility options.
“For people who don’t need a vehicle every day, all year round, this is a great way of getting a vehicle of their choice for the times when they need one.”
Helen Dolphin, who chairs the Motability Operations Consumer Group, and is also a long-serving member of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee – although not speaking on behalf of those organisations – said: “I never think it’s bad to have more choice.
“I can see the attraction for someone who doesn’t use their car very often.”
But she suggested the scheme might not work for her because she needs particularly expensive, high-tech adaptations made to her car.
*The charity Motability is a Disability News Service subscriber
Picture by Accessible Vehicle Club
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