30 December 2012


Yesterday, we got a Motability car.

For non-UK readers, this will require some explanation. Due to my disability, I get some benefits from the government. If you get the right kind of disability benefit (high rate mobility component) and have at least a year remaining on it, then you can sign that benefit over to a car dealership in order to lease a car instead.

Until now, we'd gotten by with public transport and taxis, because it's a lot of money to sign away. And until recently, public transport and taxis were enough. But a few things changed.

First, we moved to a new town. In the old town, I could call for a taxi and it would be at the door in 5 minutes. Occasionally, if it were a busy time of day, it might take 10. In this town... well, 10 minutes is the minimum, and sometimes it's 20 or 30. Sometimes there isn't one available at all. So that is a problem. When every minute spent sitting up is a minute you'll have to pay for later, you don't want to spend some of those minutes sitting and waiting for a taxi after you're done at the doctor's and ready to go home.

Second, my husband's arthritis has gotten worse. He used to be able to walk into the town centre for mid-week shopping or various errands, but that's no longer an option for him. So we wanted the car for him to be in less pain. But also, it was getting to the point where it was cheaper to run a car than to not run a car.

We made this decision a couple of months back, but we had to wait until now because I didn't have a year left on my disability benefit. It was renewal time, so there was all of that paperwork to do, then mail off, then wait for weeks for an answer.

As soon as the paperwork came back, my husband called the car dealer and started the process towards getting us a car. I let him handle everything he was allowed to handle. The car would be in my name, but he's my designated driver. For Motability purposes, the car is for my use, but he can use it for anything that generally keeps the household running. He can't use it for running a delivery business on the side, but then again, I don't think most car leases would allow that. Anyway, both as the driver of the vehicle, and as the person who knows and understands (and cares about) cars, he was best suited towards making the decision about which car, which options, etc.

From the time we put in the order to the time we received the vehicle, was about three weeks. The dealer says it's usually about two weeks, but trying to do anything around the Christmas holidays is going to extend the time. The deal includes everything. Insurance, maintenance, breakdown service - all we have to pay for is the petrol. But even with petrol prices what they are, it's cheaper than taxi fare, and overall, we're going to be financially better off.

The process was smooth and painless, until it wasn't. The 'wasn't' was the part where I had to go to the dealership in person to accept the car and sit around for an hour and a half because they were cleaning the car. I have no idea what that was all about. I can understand the outside of the car getting dirty during transport to the dealership, but why would the inside have needed cleaning? I don't know. Had I been more alert and brainful, I might have said 'Er, we don't care, really, I'm in pain and want to go home.' But I didn't. So I got a bad case of Wheelchair Butthurt, and I'll be crashed out for a few days.

My husband loves his new toy. He went to the big car supplies store to get a phone bracket and de-icer and a sat-nav (heavily reduced in the after Christmas sales - so that part of the timing worked out for us) and has driven around a bit to get to know the car. He peeks out the curtains every so often to make sure the car is still there. He reads the car manual in his chair while I'm on the computer. It's all very cute.

The best part about the car is the options it gives us for getting a new dog. Canus Novus, we say, when referring to our prospective dog. My first dog had to be put down in September at the age of 13. We decided Canus Novus would have to wait for a bit. There's a wonderful park not far off, but it's down a very steep hill - not possible for my husband with his arthritis. The new car (Automobilus Novus?) has room in the back for both the wheelchair and a dog. I've been looking at dogs at the website of a shelter that's nearby. I hope we can go soon and meet some of them. Hopefully one of them will be Canus Novus.

So overall, I highly recommend the Motability program, for UK readers who qualify. But I wish they hadn't required a disabled person to get out of bed early on a Saturday morning to sit in a dealership and wait for a clean car to be cleaned just so they could say they handed it over to me rather than my designated driver. Blah.

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