Consumer research for older and disabled people

Text Size:

Current Size: 100%

Cars for families of disabled children

Rica is a UK consumer research charity. Based on unbiased research with consumers, we aim to provide practical information. Here we consider the issues that affect disabled children and their families when choosing and using a car. We look at standard features on vehicles plus unique information on postural support including car seats and harness information for disabled children.

3 children inside car, one of them in a wheelchair


  1. Introduction (this page)
  2. Choosing a family car
  3. Getting in and out
  4. Car seats for disabled children
  5. Children with learning disabilities
  6. Medical needs
  7. Equipment
You can download the complete guide: Family cars (PDF)
Or you can receive printed publications by post (UK only).
Acknowledgements: This guide was produced by Rica with funding from Motability and in partnership with the Forum of Mobility Centres.


We look at some specific issues affecting disabled children and their families, including: 

  • getting your child into and out of the car
  • how best to support their posture while travelling
  • ways to deal with challenging behaviour in the car 
  • transporting equipment

We consulted with disabled people, parents and other experts.
We incorporated the Top 10 family car buying tips from the Which? website.

This is basic information and advice for people to get the right equipment to meet most needs. However, for highly specialised needs, talk to relevant healthcare professionals - a therapists or nurse specialist - or get advice from an independent Mobility Centre.

Rica has other motoring guides which may be useful as well:

A few things to think about

  • Think about the future: Is your child still growing? Is their condition changing? Will you still be able to get them in and out the same way three years from now?
  • Children usually grow quite quickly until the age of about 13 (for girls) or 14 (for boys). They normally double their weight in the six years up to puberty. Growth starts to slow at that age, and has normally almost stopped by around 16 (for girls) or 17 (for boys).
  • The usual minimum age for driving cars is 17. But if you receive the higher rate of the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance, you can drive at 16.

Tips for smoother travelling

  • Make preparations when you are travelling by car with your disabled child, who may have specific needs for comfort, feeding, safety and so on.
  • Make sure you have enough warm and dry clothes in case you have to make a stop somewhere in bad weather.
  • Pack any food and medical supplies you may need - and assume your journey will take longer than expected.
  • Make sure you have enough water.
  • Check that your mobile phone and any medical devices are fully charged.
  • The AA gives advice on what to check before setting off, and the supplies to carry in your car - see the AA's Seasonal driving advice pages.
  • To keep an eye on a child sitting in the back, you can attach an additional mirror to the windscreen or rear-view mirror.
You can also download this as a complete guide: Family cars (PDF). Or you can receive printed publications by post (UK only).

Last updated: December 2012

Introduction | Next: Choosing a family car