Driving and arthritis

What does the law say about driving with arthritis?

You only need to tell the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) about your arthritis if:

  • it’s affecting your ability to drive
  • you use special controls for driving.

Visit the government’s driving and arthritis page for more information.

Any disabilities you disclose to the DVLA will also need to be disclosed to your car insurance provider.

However, your car insurance provider shouldn’t be charging you any more for your insurance, unless they can prove that your condition makes you a higher risk.

Medical conditions can make it a little trickier to get quotes, but don’t let that stop you – use comparison sites to find the one that’s right for you.

Your car

When it comes to buying a car, you might want to consider getting one with an automatic transmission. These cars change gears on their own, so you might find them easier to drive.

You could also try the extra features suggested below:

  • padding your steering wheel with a cover or even foam tape
  • a neck support for the headrest
  • a moulded backrest
  • swivel cushions
  • seatbelt reaching gadgets
  • panorama rear-view mirror and mirror extensions – to cover your blind spots and provide a better view of the traffic behind you.

You won’t need to mention the above features to the DVLA. But if you adapt your car to have special controls to make driving easier you should speak to them.

If you’re not sure if you need special controls for driving, you should mention this to the DVLA. They will be able to decide if you need to adapt your car to drive it safely. If you do need adaptations, Driving Mobility UK will be able to conduct an independent assessment of your adaptation needs.

How can I make driving more comfortable?

  • On longer journeys make sure you take regular breaks to get out and stretch.
  • Adjust your seat and steering wheel, so that they are the right height and position for you.
  • Try out any new car adaptations on your bad days, rather than on your best.

Who can I get advice from?

Driving Mobility is a UK wide network of independent organisations that provide a range of mobility assessment services and advice. The main services they provide include:

  • access assessments – cover techniques and adaptations to get in and out of a car
  • driving assessments – which look at your ability to drive. The assessor can give advice on how to make driving easier and on gadgets which might help, for example steering aids or more complex adaptations
  • tuition service for new or returning drivers – they can assess your needs and teach you how to drive in specially adapted vehicles if required.

You can use the Driving Mobility website to find your nearest centre.

Blue Badges

You may be eligible for a Blue Badge for parking, which can be issued from your local council.

You’ll qualify automatically if:

  • you’re on the higher rate mobility component of the Disabled Living Allowance (DLA)
  • you receive Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and scored eight points or more in the 'moving around' area of your assessment
  • you receive the War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement (WPMS)
  • you received a lump sum payment as part of the Armed Forces Compensation scheme (tariffs 1 to 8) and have been certified as having a permanent and substantial disability.

To check your eligibility and how to apply for a Blue Badge, go to GOV.UK

A Blue Badge costs up to £10 in England and Northern Ireland, and £20 in Scotland. It’s free in Wales.

Financial help

If you're receiving one of the following mobility allowances you may be able to join the Motability scheme and lease a car, scooter, powered wheelchair or Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle:

  • the Higher Rate Mobility Component of Disability Living Allowance (HRMC DLA)
  • the Enhanced Rate of the Mobility Component of Personal Independence Payment
  • the War Pensioners' Mobility Supplement (WPMS)
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP).

You must be in line to receive one of the above benefits for at least the next 12 months.

If you receive any of the benefits above, you can also apply for a road tax exemption. There is more information about financial help you may be entitled to and how to apply, on GOV.UK.

Mobility scooters

If walking longer distances is becoming more and more of a struggle, you might consider getting a mobility scooter.

You can buy them or lease them through several different schemes.

Some councils run Shopmobility schemes where you can hire wheelchairs and scooters to go shopping or get about the town. Visit GOV.UK to find out about community transport services and Shopmobility schemes in your area. 

There’s also a huge market for second-hand mobility scooters, so shop around and see what works best for you.

When getting a second-hand mobility scooter, it can be a good idea to go to a registered supplier, who’s reconditioned or serviced it, as they may even offer a short warranty.

Speak to your doctor or occupational therapist for more advice. You can check the Living Made Easy website for more information on what to look for when choosing a mobility scooter.

Think carefully about when you should be using a mobility scooter, as it’s really important to keep moving and to do daily exercises that include strengthening, stretching and cardio exercises. Even just walking a little every day will help to keep your muscles strong and prevent your joints from stiffening up.

For more information on staying active see our exercise pages.