Vehicle Modifications or Contribution Towards the Purchase Cost of a Vehicle

This policy must be read in conjunction with the Driving Programs policy.

Policy

The TAC can pay the reasonable costs of modifications to a vehicle regularly used by a client to enable them to enter and access a vehicle, load a mobility aid, drive or to be transported safely if they are unable to drive or be driven safely due to transport accident injuries.

Where the existing vehicle cannot be modified, or the client does not have access to a vehicle, the TAC can assist the client to purchase a vehicle by contributing a reasonable amount to the purchase cost of a suitable vehicle selected by the TAC.

It is also the TAC's function to promote the prevention of transport accidents and safety in the use of transport.

Transport Accident Act 1986 reference: s.12(2)

For the TAC to consider contributing to the cost of modifying or purchasing a vehicle that the client intends to drive themself, the client must have:

  • a medical clearance to drive and have been cleared by VicRoads to drive
  • a current and valid drivers licence and be legally able to drive (i.e. must not be disqualified or suspended from driving), and
  • access to an appropriate registered vehicle for driving and for assessment by VicRoads (in the case of modifying a vehicle).

For information about a treating health practitioner's responsibility in assessing fitness to drive, see the 'Assessing Fitness to Drive for Commercial and Private Vehicle Drivers' report, October 2016, from the National Transport Commission.

Before commencing any modifications to a vehicle or purchasing a vehicle which the TAC is being asked to provide a contribution towards, the client is required to obtain the TAC's prior written approval and/or sign a Vehicle Modifications Agreement (VMA).

Transport Accident Act 1986 references: s.60(3) and s.60(3A)

Definitions

In this policy:

  • Adaptive equipment refers to accessories or driving devices installed in a vehicle to cater for drivers and passengers with disabilities, such as hand controls and a floor or roof mounted hoist.
  • Vehicle modifications refer to making alterations which affect the structural integrity of a vehicle, the internal design, occupant seating and restraints, etc. to cater for drivers and passengers with a disability.
  • Subsequent vehicle refers to the situation where the current TAC modifed or purchased vehicle needs to be replaced because of the client's transport accident injury needs.
  • Projected life expectancy of a vehicle refers to the useful life of a vehicle. This is determined after taking into account the vehicle's maintenance and service history, its condition and safety, the number of kilometres travelled and its age.
  • Market value refers to the estimated re-sale value of a used vehicle according to the Glass's Guide website, which provides vehicle pricing information.
  • Capital items in a Vehicle Modifications Agreement (VMA) refer to specific items of equipment or assets, including motor vehicles, which have been purchased partly or wholly by the TAC.

Guidelines

DETERMINING ELIGIBILITY TO PAY FOR VEHICLE MODIFICATIONS

When is modification of a vehicle required?

It may be necessary to install adaptive equipment or modify a vehicle to meet the client's specific disability requirements and physical capabilities as a result of the transport accident injury.

Who is involved in determining the client's transport and vehicle needs?

In consultation with the TAC, an occupational therapist or a Framework occupational therapist qualified in driver assessment and training will assess the client's transport and vehicle needs. The client's needs are documented in the TAC's Transport Needs Assessment form and the Vehicle Needs and Modifications Assessment form. These forms capture all relevant information required to assess the client's specific injury related transport and vehicle needs.

The TAC may refer the client to an independent medical assessor to determine their safety to drive a modified vehicle.

Transport Accident Act 1986 reference: s.71(1)

VEHICLE MODIFICATIONS AGREEMENTS

What is a Vehicle Modifications Agreement?

A Vehicle Modifications Agreement (VMA) is an agreement that details the conditions of use, maintenance, insurance and ownership of the equipment. The Vehicle Modifications Agreement includes:

  • subsequent ownership
  • changes of ownership
  • the frequency of modifications and changes of ownership
  • maintenance of the vehicle's adaptations or modifications
  • ongoing vehicle costs such as comprehensive vehicle insurance and registration.

When does the client need to sign a Vehicle Modifications Agreement?

The client or their representative is required to sign a TAC Vehicle Modifications Agreement when the cost of the modifications or the contribution by the TAC to the purchase cost of a vehicle exceeds the Capital Service Agreement limit.

Transport Accident Act 1986 references: s.60(5) and s.60(6)

CONTRIBUTING TO THE PURCHASE COST OF A VEHICLE

Can the TAC help a client who does not have access to a vehicle that can be modified or the existing vehicle is not suitable for modification?

The TAC can make a contribution to assist the client purchase a suitable second-hand or new vehicle selected by the TAC. The client is eligible if they:

  • have a significant long-term physical, sensory or cognitive disability
  • have difficulty in accessing services in the community as a driver or passenger because of the transport accident injury
  • provide a written explanation from the occupational therapist and automotive engineer on why the existing vehicle is not suitable for modification.

To determine the amount the TAC considers to be a reasonable contribution towards the purchase of a new or second-hand vehicle, the TAC will consider the age of any other vehicle the client uses. If the vehicle the client had used at the time of their transport accident was:

  • more than 4 years old, the amount of the TAC's contribution will be equivalent to the purchase cost of a 4-year-old vehicle, or
  • less than 4 years old, the amount of the TAC's contribution will be equivalent to the purchase cost of a vehicle of the equivalent age.

For example, if the client used a 3-year-old vehicle prior to the transport accident and now wishes to purchase a current-year vehicle, the amount the TAC contributes towards will be based on the equivalent cost of the existing 3-year-old vehicle.

For example, if the client used a 20-year-old vehicle prior to the transport accident and now wishes to purchase a current-year vehicle, the amount the TAC contributes towards will be based on the equivalent cost of a 4-year-old vehicle.

Transport Accident Act 1986 reference: s.60(3A)

How is the TAC's contribution determined?

The amount of the TAC's contribution is determined by considering the following factors:

  • The current market value of the vehicle the client used pre-accident, if that vehicle is still being used today.
  • The market value at the time of the accident of the vehicle the client used pre-accident, if this vehicle is no longer used by the client.
  • Whether the client (or in the case of a minor, his or her parent or guardian) owned, leased or rented the vehicle.
  • How often the client was using vehicles at the time of the transport accident.
  • How often the client will, or is likely to use a vehicle in the future.
  • The market value of any other vehicle the client uses or to which the client has access.

Transport Accident Act 1986 reference: s.60(3B)

The TAC will deduct from the purchase cost of the vehicle, an amount to represent the market value of the vehicle owned or regularly used by the client. The balance that remains represents the TAC's contribution.

In determining the market value of the vehicle owned or regularly used by the client, the TAC may also use:

  • any monies received from the comprehensive motor vehicle insurer.  If the vehicle was not insured, the TAC may use the market value of the vehicle according to the Glass's Guide website (this is applicable when the vehicle was written-off in the transport accident).
  • the market value of the vehicle the client regularly used such as the partner's or parent's vehicle, (applicable when the client did not own a vehicle pre-accident).
  • the amount the dealership or private buyer pays for the vehicle, (applicable when the client sells the existing vehicle in order to purchase a second-hand or new vehicle for modification).
  • the market value of the existing vehicle (applicable when the client retains the existing vehicle and purchases a second-hand or new vehicle for modification).

How is a suitable vehicle selected?

In selecting a vehicle that is suitable for modification, the TAC will consider the information in the transport and vehicle needs assessment forms completed by the occupational therapist in consultation with the automotive engineer and the services of a vehicle broker. See also the TAC's howsafeisyourcar website and the Vehicle Information Package (VIP) on the VicRoads website.

The TAC may also consider the opinion of any independent medical examiner when selecting a vehicle that is suitable for modification.

ONGOING VEHICLE COSTS

Once a vehicle is modified, who is responsible for the vehicle's maintenance and repairs?

The TAC's liability is limited to maintaining and repairing the vehicle's adaptive equipment or modifications due to normal wear and tear.

The TAC has no liability for:

  • maintenance and repairs that all vehicle owners are expected to undertake on a vehicle in order to keep them in safe working order
  • repairs that form part of the equipment supplier's or vehicle modifier's warranty
  • any loss or damage that does not arise from normal wear and tear to the adaptive equipment or modification.

The owner should contact their comprehensive motor vehicle insurer for any loss, theft or damage claim.

Can the TAC replace, rather than repair, adaptive equipment installed in a vehicle?

The TAC can replace rather than repair adaptive equipment installed in a vehicle, when:

  • it is not cost-effective to repair the equipment
  • the projected life expectancy of the equipment has expired and the occupational therapist/automotive engineer recommends new equipment, or
  • the equipment no longer meets the client's needs because of a change in the client's medical condition or functional status.

Who owns a vehicle once it is adapted or modified?

Although the TAC can pay for modifications or contribute towards the purchase cost of a modified vehicle, the TAC does not own the vehicle. Depending on the client's particular circumstances, the owner of the vehicle is the client, the immediate family member or the employer.

Transport Accident Act 1986 references: s.60(5) and s.60(6)

Who is responsible for the vehicle's day-to-day running costs, registration and comprehensive insurance?

The owner of the vehicle is responsible for the vehicle's running costs, including ensuring the vehicle is registered and comprehensively insured at all times. However, the TAC can contribute to the motor vehicle's insurance costs where the modifications to the vehicle results in an increased insurance premium. In this case, the TAC can pay the difference in cost between the pre and post-modification insurance for that type of vehicle.

Transport Accident Act 1986 references: s.60(5) and s.60(6)

COMPLIANCE CERTIFICATES

Is there a certification process for vehicle modifications?

Substantial modifications need approval and certification from a Vehicle Assessment Signatory Scheme (VASS) assessor who inspects the modifications to ensure the vehicle complies with design and safety standards. For further information see Road Safety/Vehicle Safety - 'VASS approval certificates for modified, imported, and individually constructed vehicles' on the VicRoads website.

MODIFICATIONS TO A PARTNER'S, PARENT'S OR EMPLOYER'S VEHICLE

If the client does not own a vehicle, can the TAC modify a vehicle owned by their partner, parent or employer?

Modifications can be made to a vehicle that the client uses but does not own. The owner of the vehicle must provide proof of their ownership of the vehicle and agree in writing:

  • to the modifications
  • to allow the client the use of the vehicle on a long-term basis to access services in the community or for work.

Transport Accident Act 1986 reference: s.60(3)

Should the owner wish to convert the vehicle back to its standard configuration, the TAC cannot fund this when modifications are major and the changes needed are to the main structures of the vehicle. However, the TAC can consider reimbursing the reasonable cost to the owner if the conversion is only for the removal of the adaptive equipment or the modifications are minor.

MODIFICATIONS TO MORE THAN ONE VEHICLE

Can the TAC pay for modifications to more than one vehicle?

The TAC will consider paying for minor or adaptive modifications to more than one vehicle where the client reasonably requires this to enable him/her to return to work duties. For example, when a client requires the use of a steering wheel spinner knob in 2 vehicles to be able to drive their private vehicle as well as the employer's vehicle.

TRANSFERRING MODIFICATIONS TO A REPLACEMENT VEHICLE

Can the TAC pay to have modifications transferred to a replacement vehicle if the client has received payment for minor adaptive modifications and later purchases a replacement vehicle?

The TAC will consider paying the costs of transferring adaptive equipment installed in an original vehicle to a replacement vehicle, only if the replacement vehicle is being purchased because:

  • the projected life expectancy of the original vehicle has been reached, or
  • it is more cost-effective to purchase a replacement vehicle rather than to repair the existing vehicle.

SUBSEQUENT VEHICLES

If the TAC has previously contributed towards the cost of a modified vehicle, can the TAC contribute towards the cost of a subsequent vehicle?

The TAC is unable to contribute towards the cost of replacing a vehicle that has minor modifications, as this is considered as a normal expense that the client would have been required to pay regardless of their transport accident.

However, the TAC can consider contributing towards the purchase cost of a second vehicle that requires major modifications due to the client's transport accident injuries. In this case the TAC will pay for the reasonable cost of modifications required to the subsequent vehicle. The client must contribute the trade-in value of the previously modified vehicle and meet any extra cost of the subsequent vehicle above the trade-in amount that is above the cost of the vehicle that the TAC has selected. The TAC will select the suitably modified subsequent vehicle.

The TAC will only contribute towards the purchase cost of a subsequent modified vehicle where:

  • the previous vehicle no longer meets the client's transport accident injury needs due to an accident-related change in the client's medical or functional condition
  • the previous vehicle cannot be repaired and requires replacement.

The TAC does not consider it reasonable to pay for modifications to a subsequent vehicle when those modifications are commercially available features of a motor vehicle. For example, modifications such as automatic transmission or electric windows, where the TAC has already paid for modifications that are commercially available features, or the client's motor vehicle already had or has this feature.

MINOR AND MAJOR MODIFICATIONS

What type of modifications can the TAC pay for?

The TAC can pay for a range of modifications, from minor adaptive changes to major modifications, depending on:

  • the nature of the transport accident injury
  • whether the client's functional limitations are temporary or permanent
  • whether the proposed changes are for the client to be a driver or a passenger
  • the opinion of an occupational therapist and/or the automotive engineer about the most appropriate modifications required to address the client's mobility and/or access needs
  • the opinion of an independent medical examiner about the client's safety to drive a modified vehicle.

CONCESSIONS AND EXEMPTIONS

Are there any concessions or exemptions the client can claim?

There are some Commonwealth and State Government concessions or fee exemptions which may be available to a person who requires the use of a modified vehicle. These may include:

  • No GST when purchasing a modified vehicle - A disabled employee is eligible to purchase a car GST free up the value of the ATO's car limit amount, if the person has been issued with a Permanent Disability Certificate from Health For Industry LTD (HIF). For further information see 'GST and cars purchased by eligible people with disabilities' at the ATO website.
  • Concession on registration fees - A holder of a Centrelink Pension Concession card is eligible for a concession on their vehicle registration and the TAC charge. Health Care card holders are eligible for a concession on registration only. Private vehicles with major modifications for wheelchair access may be exempt from registration fees. For information about vehicle registration concessions or exemptions appropriate to your individual circumstances, please refer to the VicRoads website.
  • Exemption from stamp duty -Vehicles designed or modified to carry a person whose mobility is seriously impaired may also be exempt from stamp duty. For information about this exemption, please refer to the VicRoads website. Information is also available on the State Revenue Office (SRO) website.

In relation to vehicle modifications what won't the TAC pay for?

The TAC will not pay for:

  • the full purchase cost of a motor vehicle
  • modifications to a vehicle that will not be approved by VicRoads for registration purposes
  • modifications to enable the client to drive a vehicle, if the client has not received medical clearance, and licencing approval by VicRoads, to drive the modified vehicle
  • modifications for a client who has been assessed as unsafe to drive
  • modifications that are not required due to transport accident injuries
  • costs to convert a vehicle back to its standard configuration once major modifications have been paid for by the TAC
  • modifications to a vehicle for a person other than the injured client
  • modifications to a vehicle for a pre-existing medical condition
  • modifications that provide no functional benefit to the vehicle user, for example if the client will only use the vehicle to access the community infrequently and/or for short periods of time and other means of transport would be suitable (i.e. taxi transportation)
  • modifications that do not comply with the relevant State, Territory or Federal Vehicle Standards/Regulations and the Vehicle Standard - Australian Design Rules (ADR's)
  • ongoing costs associated with keeping a vehicle on the road, such as registration, comprehensive insurance and running costs
  • modifications to a vehicle outside of the Commonwealth of Australia
  • repairs to adaptive equipment or modifications that are subject to the equipment supplier's warranty, vehicle modifier's warranty or the vehicle's insurance policy
  • services provided more than 2 years prior to the request for funding except where the request for payment is made within 3 years of the transport accident. Refer to the Time Limit to Apply for the Payment of Medical and Like Expenses policy.

View Vehicle modifications - TAC Client information sheet

Vehicle modifications - TAC Client information sheet

Summary:

This information sheet outlines who can apply for TAC-funded vehicle modifications to ensure safety, accessibility and independence as a driver or passenger. It also explains the assessment and approval process, examples of vehicle modifications (e.g. hand controls to operate the accelerator and brake) and the legal contracts involved.

View Using modified vehicles - cost exemptions

Using modified vehicles - cost exemptions

Summary:

If you need to use a modified vehicle as a result of your transport accident injuries, you may be exempt from paying some normal costs associated with purchasing and owning the vehicle.

View Transport needs assessment form (for Provider use only)

Transport needs assessment form (for Provider use only)

Summary:

This form is used to assess the transport needs of TAC clients as a result of their accident injuries. It considers the client's transport requirements in relation to travelling to work, school, treatment/rehabilitation, recreational activities and day-to-day tasks (e.g. shopping, banking) as well as providing recommendations for how the TAC can assist.

View Vehicle needs and modifications assessment form (for Provider use only)

Vehicle needs and modifications assessment form (for Provider use only)

Summary:

This form is used for assessing applications for TAC-funded vehicle modifications to ensure the safety, accessibility and independence of clients as drivers or passengers. It looks at the person's transport needs as well as whether their current/pre-accident vehicle is suitable for modification and, where relevant, has the capacity to fit a wheelchair.