What is out there now?

Are you flying to another city and find yourself in need of a car?

Do you need a bigger vehicle for when you are on holiday? There are 18 car rental agencies registered with the Southern African Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (SAVRLA) and they are increasingly aware of the travel needs of people with disabilities.

Rental options include:

  • A vehicle with hand controls
  • An adapted vehicle with chauffeur

Taxis with ramps

We have gathered the following information online to see which services SAVRLA companies offer, and did a search for “car hire with disability” or “with wheelchair”. We followed up these leads by cold calling the call centres of these companies, asking them which vehicles and services they had for people in wheelchairs.

Self Drive: rented vehicles with hand controls

Some rental companies will fit hand controls to their automatic vehicles but this service is limited to metro areas, major airports and the Kruger Park. They also request up to four days fitting time.

If you have never rented a car before, here’s what you need to know. Rentals are classed into groups reflecting the quality of the vehicle. Groups A to D are “budget vehicles”, while groups F, G, R and Z are “luxury vehicles”. The cars, costs and free kilometers offered in each group, vary across rental companies. For an automatic car, you will be offered group D and above. Here are examples of vehicles and the daily rate in each group (includes standard insurance and 200 free kilometers):

D = Honda Jazz R380 - R447

E = Chevrolet Cruze     R501 - R600

F = Honda Accord        R726 - R880

G = Mercedes C Class  R771 - R1133

K = Nissan X Trail 4x4 R1120

The daily rate is not the only cost. Add-ons include: a once-off contract fee, Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), Theft Loss Waiver (TLW), VAT at 14%, 1% tourism levy and if you want someone to share the driving, an additional daily cost will cover another driver. Common daily limits are 100km or 200km. You will be charged per kilometer over this limit and you may have to pay to fill the tank when you return the vehicle. Companies may automatically put the excess or petrol cost down as a deposit on your credit card. If you do not return the rental vehicle to the same branch there is a charge, this increases if the branch is located across provincial boundaries and renting from an airport branch has an 11% airport surcharge.

For a good explanation of all the car hire terms, such as “Collision Damage Waiver”, visit the Just Car Hire website on www.justcarhire.co.za.

Things you’ll need:

  • A credit card because of all the mileage charges.
  • A driver’s license that has been valid for 2 years.
  • To be over 23 years of age.

When you return the vehicle, ask to see the total you will be charged, as trying to sort it out later may become an inconvenience. It is usually cheaper to rent a vehicle for several days with the option of unlimited mileage, or over a weekend, or if you are 55 years of age or older, so check which specials the company may offer.

The National Parks have information on tour groups specialized for Persons with Disabilities and renting hand controlled vehicles via Avis or Budget. Whilst companies may offer hand controls, not all the call centre staff may be familiar with these services. We only found two companies that would drop the car off at your doorstep. Find out which hands-free fitting they use, as you may need some “getting to know your car” time and don’t forget your wheelchair parking disc.

Chauffeur, Point to Point, or Taxi Services?

Chauffeur services may be “point to point” or “at your disposal”. We focused on companies that offer disability access so you could stay in your wheelchair. Just like renting a car, chauffeur services are priced according to time and distance covered. Most companies just offer their services in metro areas, but Avis offers up to 12 hours of service, so from Gauteng you can go to Polokwane, Kruger Park or Nelspruit, just to name a few.  Sundays, public holidays and after hours services may incur additional charges. Chauffeur services are classified as “attendant care expenses” for tax purposes, so you can get a tax rebate.

The Dial-a-Ride system is active in Durban and Cape Town offering a point-to-point service for people with mobility impairments, or who need supervision to travel safely. They follow existing public transport routes between the CBD and low vehicle ownership areas, up to 50km away and it is popular with people wanting to commute to work or school.

For this service, you have to be accepted onto their database. It is, however, oversubscribed, which is unfortunately affecting their service quality.

Rikkis Taxis in Cape Town, offers a wheelchair friendly service with some of their London cabs, equipped with access ramps. Other taxi companies may offer a discount on their standard service, such as Zippy Cabs in Durban.

Keen to support fellow “rollers”?

We found two rollers who own car hire companies:

  • Rene Moses in Cape Town                         
  • Bongi Malope in Nelspruit          
  • Mpondo from Zuntle in Cape Town