For people with limited mobility, getting from the furthest spot in the parking lot to the door of your local grocery store or community service center can take enormous energy. Whether you broke your leg and are waiting for it to heal or you have a permanent, invisible disability, the last thing you need to worry about is finding a parking spot

You also shouldn’t need to worry about higher car insurance rates; the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits insurers from charging more solely on the basis of disability. However, if your vehicle has been modified with adaptive equipment or you drive a wheelchair van, you may pay higher rates. 

Placard holders may also want to opt for additional coverage, like roadside assistance, which can be helpful for a driver or passenger with a disability. And if your car has special equipment, you may need extra coverage to protect it. But these add-ons don’t have to break the bank. If you compare rates across insurance providers, you can find cheap car insurance that meets your needs. With Insurify, you only need to provide your information once, and you’ll get customized quotes from up to 20 different insurance companies. That way, you can save time and get the best deal. 

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What are handicap placards––and how do they work?

What are handicap placards?

Handicap placards allow drivers and passengers with disabilities to park in handicap parking spaces. Not all people with disabilities can get a disabled parking placard––your healthcare provider will likely need to certify that you have a disability that limits your mobility. But this requirement is waived in some states for people with a visible disability who apply in person at their local Department of Motor Vehicles

Once you have a parking pass, you can display it in your vehicle or someone else’s vehicle in which you are a passenger. Typically, it hangs from the rearview mirror or is displayed on the dash. This will prevent you from getting ticketed for parking in a handicap spot or next to a blue or green curb. 

How do handicap placards work?

Though handicap placards work a little bit differently in each state (and some states use stickers, not placards), there are generally three types of personal handicap placards:

  • Permanent handicap placards, which are typically valid for 2–10 years
  • Veterans with severe disabilities placards, which are typically valid for 2–10 years. As the name implies, these placards are specifically for U.S. military veterans with disabilities. 
  • Temporary handicap placards, which are typically valid for six months. These placards are for those with short-term disabilities, like a broken leg that requires a wheelchair or cast. 

In most states, each one looks different so that they’re easy to identify, but all placards display the international symbol of access. Your doctor will need to specify whether your disability is temporary or permanent on your application. If it’s temporary, there will be a limit to the number of times you can renew it. If you have a permanent disability, you’ll still need to renew your placard regularly, though less often. You also have the option to get disabled license plates instead of a handicapped placard, which isn’t an option for people with temporary disabilities.

“But you don’t look disabled!”

Not all disabilities are visible. To be eligible for a handicap parking placard, a person needs to have a disability that affects their mobility, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be visibly unable to walk. Respiratory issues, lung disease, needing portable oxygen, cardiac conditions, and vision impairments can also qualify someone for a handicap placard. You might not be able to tell if someone has one of these disabilities, but they can still benefit from the parking privileges that come with having a handicap parking permit. If you see someone parked in a handicap space with a handicap placard, rest assured that they have a good reason to do so.

How do I apply for a handicap placard?

The process of getting a disability parking placard varies slightly from state to state, so you should consult your state’s DMV website for details. Here’s how the process works in California:

  1. Fill out the Application for Disabled Person Placard or Plates for you or your family member with a disability.
  2. Ask your medical doctor or other healthcare provider to complete and sign the “Medical Provider’s Certification of Disability” portion of the form.
  3. Pay the $6 fee for a temporary placard (there’s no fee for a permanent placard).
  4. Mail your completed application.
  5. Once you receive your placard, you can start parking in handicapped spots.

Fees are low in most states, ranging from $0 to $20. In some states, such as New York, the DMV doesn’t issue the handicapped placard. Instead, you bring your application form to the office of the city clerk. 

Can I use my handicap placard in someone else’s car? 

Yes. As long as you are always either a driver or passenger in the other person’s car, you’re allowed to use your handicap placard in a vehicle you don’t own or even drive. This holds true for rental cars as well. That’s one advantage of having a handicap placard rather than handicap license plates; you can move a placard freely from one vehicle to the next. 

Can someone else use my handicap placard?

It’s illegal to use someone else’s handicap placard if they are not in the vehicle with you, so you can’t give your handicap placard to someone else to use. If law enforcement catches you improperly using a handicap placard that isn’t yours to park in a handicapped space, a police officer could charge you with an infraction or a misdemeanor. If convicted, you could spend up to six months in county jail or pay fines of up to $1,000. 

Can I use my handicap placard in another state?

Most states will honor a handicap placard issued in another state, but you should check the DMV website for the state you are traveling to. In some instances, you may be required to apply for a temporary permit, which would require you to bring a statement from your doctor along with you. If traveling outside of the United States, check local laws in your destination. Some countries, such as Canada, have a reciprocity agreement with the U.S. that will allow you to use your handicap placard

Handicap Placard: Do's and Don'ts FAQ

Can I use my handicap placard in someone else’s car?

Yes. You are permitted to use your handicap placard in any vehicle in which you are either the driver or a passenger. Just don’t let anyone borrow your handicap placard when you’re not in the vehicle, as this would be a violation of state law.

Do handicap placards expire?

Yes. Both temporary and permanent placards expire. The expiration date will vary by state, but temporary placards typically last six months, and permanent placards typically last two to five years. In some states, like Nevada, they’re good for up to 10 years at a time.

How can I find affordable car insurance?

The easiest way to find affordable car insurance is to compare customized rates across insurance providers. That’s because every insurance company weighs your information a little differently when determining your rate. With Insurify, you can view rates from dozens of providers in one place, which beats the hassle of organizing quotes from different insurance websites. It’s easy to identify the best value with Insurify, and you might be surprised how much you can save.

Finding Cheap and Affordable Car Insurance for Drivers with Disabilities

Drivers with disabilities deserve affordable car insurance. If you want plenty of coverage that doesn’t break the bank, your best bet will be to compare customized car insurance quotes from different providers. You could visit each company’s website and organize your quotes in a spreadsheet, but that can be time-consuming and frustrating. If you want an easy way to compare auto insurance rates apples-to-apples, head over to Insurify. It’s easy to toggle between types of coverage to find a premium that fits in your budget.

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Updated November 12, 2020

Lindsay Frankel is a Denver-based personal finance writer for Insurify. Her work has been featured in publications such as LendingTree and FinanceBuzz. When she's not writing, you can find her enjoying the great outdoors with her rescue pup, playing music, or listening to audiobooks.