Conversions, financing options, vacation rental – the different facets of automobility
Conversions, financing options, vacation rental – the different facets of automobility
As long as autonomous vehicles are not legally allowed to be on public roads, we have to take matters into our own hands and get behind the wheel. Persons with reduced mobility are especially interested in financing options and car adaptations. When vacation time comes, even people who don’t own a car, sometimes wished they had their own (temporary) set of wheels. When does the government offer assistance in the purchase or conversion of a car? How do you spot a good vehicle conversion service? And what options do people with disabilities have in terms of accessible rental cars?
This year, REHACARE will once again provide information on the current trends in the conversion industry or provide advice on conversions. Hall 6 is the place to be.
The pros and cons of traveling by train are debatable. If you are a person with a disability, a train journey can sometimes be more cumbersome than it is for travelers without disabilities. Accessibility in train stations is one issue, non-working elevators another, and let’s not even talk about the punctuality of trains or rather the lack thereof. And what happens if you are stranded somewhere because trains are not running thanks to extreme weather conditions? Just get a rental car or hail a taxi? A difficult feat if you have special needs. That’s when travel frustrations quickly spoil the mood.
Maybe this might not have happened had you taken your own car – provided you don’t spend hours caught in a traffic jam or endless hours looking for a parking space because somebody decided to use the disabled parking space but shouldn’t have. But first you have to be able to finance a car with all of its necessary adaptations. And before you even get to that point, you first have to jump through some bureaucratic hoops.
Vehicle conversion services are able to assist and answer questions pertaining to financing options and cost reimbursement. Generally speaking, if a person is severely disabled and undertakes at least partial employment that’s subject to German social security, the Motor Vehicle Assistance Regulation (KfzHV or Kraftfahrzeughilfe-Verordnung) reimburses up to 9,500 euros of the vehicle purchase price. However, this amount is also subject to the person’s income and is only approved if no other alternative such as traveling by public transport or carpool is a viable option. Meanwhile, conversions are fully reimbursed regardless of income. This also applies to passengers with disabilities (called "passive drivers" in Germany). The responsible agency is determined based on certain criteria, which can be established by the service centers of the German rehabilitation providers. An overview of agencies is available at www.reha-servicestellen.de. By the way, manufacturers offer special discounts for new cars and vehicle sales tax exemptions or tax reductions. The German Federation of Car Owners with Disabilities specifies the discount amounts of various car manufacturers on its website. A blog post by mobilista.eu (as of 2013) provides a detailed and easy-to-understand overview of what items receive funding or are subsidized based on the applicable conditions. The vehicle conversion service Kadomo also provides a list. As previously mentioned, vehicle conversion services are experts in this particular subject area. You can search at autoanpassung.de for a specialist in your area.
If a new car is not in your budget, a used vehicle might be an option. Under certain circumstances (the car is less than three years old, mileage is less than 25,000 kilometers and the vehicle still holds at least 50 percent of its original value), it too can be subject to financial aid. Some vehicle conversion services also provide a list of used converted cars on their sites.
And if your own vehicle breaks down or is at the shop, service providers such as KIRCHHOFF Mobility offer a so-called mobility service that provides customer support even in the event of an accident.
Your trusted vehicle conversion service has a seal of approval
When it comes to vehicle conversions, it’s crucial to find an expert who has specialized in this field. There a variety of specialists, who have found their niche and offer unique services. "Initially, it’s key to conduct a thorough needs assessment and offer consulting services. This includes workshop employees who create quality products, yet also exhibit mechanical creativity and flexibility at the same time, "explains Holger Pape, sales manager at KIRCHHOFF Mobility.
In addition to years of experience in the respective field, DIN EN ISO 9001 also indicates whether companies meet the necessary quality requirements when it comes to vehicle conversions. This is the most widely used and most important standard in quality management.
Aside from a variety of vehicle conversion companies at the European level, whose work is based on these quality specifications, a majority of German companies has joined together to form the Association of Vehicle Converters for People with Restricted Mobility (VFMP). In our article "Experience, Quality and Innovation – EMG and VfmP Signal Automotive Conversion Company Quality", we took a closer look at various associations of vehicle conversion services in Germany and Europe.
Especially on holiday a rental car can make sense. You can see more of your travel destination and are more flexible in your daily planning. Assuming you have found a provider who also offers accessible rental cars for people with disabilities.
Temporary "flexible" mobility – Rental cars at home and abroad
What happens if you are unable to afford your own car or you don’t want to own a vehicle because you are quite mobile without one and – with a few exceptions- don’t depend on it? People with disabilities also have the option to rent a car if they need one. However, it should be noted that a distinction must be made whether the vehicle is intended for active drivers or disabled passengers. The Berlin company rolli in motion offers rental cars in and around Berlin for passengers with disabilities and even makes a driver available if needed. The company also provides a pick-up and delivery service to your vacation destination. Other service providers such as Paravan offer rental cars for active disabled drivers. The company from Aichelau collaborates with AVIS and offers an adapted VW Paravan Maxi Caddy in over one hundred locations across Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Sodermanns features a small rental car fleet. A list of nationwide accessible vehicle providers can be found at mobilsein.de. It should be noted that early reservations are recommended in all of these cases.
Hertz is a great contact point if you are looking for adapted rental cars abroad, especially in the U.S., New Zealand or Australia. That being said, it is generally unlikely that you won’t be able to find accessible rental cars for people with reduced mobility in the United States. European countries are a different story and there are vast differences between the individual countries. When you visit the Canary Islands, Cicar is the right destination that offers options for both active drivers and passengers with disabilities. The company also presents its services on the Spanish mainland and the Balearic Islands.
If you want to make sure that a suitable rental car is available at your vacation destination, it’s best to consult with a travel agency directly or put your trust in experts specialized in accessible travel to plan your holiday. If you still need some inspiration for your vacation, check out our Topic of the Month April.
Similar to what was shown at the REHACARE 2017, Költgen is also converting motorcycles. The company, based in Krefeld, adapts the machines individually to the driver for almost every type of mobility restriction.
Summer time is RV and motorcycle time
But why bother and look for an accessible hotel plus a vehicle that’s adapted for persons with reduced mobility, when you can have both and explore the world in a recreational vehicle? Famous German vehicle conversion services have been specializing in the adaptation of mobile homes for some time. For a summary of the latest developments in this market and especially in the world of recreational vehicles, check out our article titled "The motorhomes are suited for both drivers and passengers".
Apart from an increasing number of motorhomes on German and European freeways, the roads during the summer time are also heavily frequented by motorcycles. Whether it is weekend outings in the surrounding areas or cross-country excursions in the spirit of the movie Easy Rider - the fascination of motorcycles also takes hold of people with disabilities. Wilhelm Költgen made a virtue of necessity. His company specializes in converting motorcycles. Költgen even has a solution for people with paraplegia - the Feetless Biking System (FBS). In addition to its retractable stabilization wheels, the system also features a dual integrated manual braking system and an electric shifter, allowing unrestricted biking. According to the Krefeld-based company, its team will find the perfect solution for any type of mobility impairment.
Whether classic cars, sports cars or tractors – there are now almost no limits to conversion.
Conversion without borders
Holger Pape attests to the fact that conversion knows (almost) no bounds at this point: "There are many adaptation solutions today. There is a right conversion option for nearly every customer. Sometimes you just need to develop special solutions or make customizations." Vehicle conversion services are experts when it comes to special solutions and custom adjustments. Having said that, companies like KIRCHHOFF Mobility don’t just specialize in adapting passenger cars. They also convert other types of vehicles such as light-duty commercial trucks – that being vehicles that bridge the gap between passenger cars and heavy trucks like the Volkswagen T Series - or "even more unusual vehicles such as tractors, forklifts, etc. From conversions to accommodate Thalidomide victims with a foot steering system and special steering column to left-handed forklifts trucks and tractors with a passenger lift", people with disabilities can sit behind the wheel of almost any type of vehicle.
Needless to say, older people also benefit from vehicle conversion in general. After all, mobility is crucial to maintaining a high quality of life even as we age. VfmP Chairman Frank Rösner agrees and that’s also why aside from economic globalization, demographic change is a central issue for the VfmP. "If people live longer, they also want to stay mobile for a longer time."
Anne Hofmann (Translated by Elena O'Meara) REHACARE.com
Read more editorials in Topic of the Month's August here: