The Pros and Cons of Choosing a Disabled Placard Over Disabled Plates

Dr Handicap - wheelchair sign
Dr Handicap - wheelchair sign

There are various forms of disabled parking placards and license plates available in the U.S. today. The types of disabled placards available are:

  • Permanent (for people with a permanent disability);
  • Temporary (for people with a temporary disability);
  • Family (for households with two or more disabled people living at the same address);
  • Wheelchair (for people who drive an electric wheelchair); and
  • Program/organization (for organizations that transport disabled people).

An alternative to a disabled placard is a disabled license plate. In most U.S. states, if you have a permanent disability, you have a full driver’s license, and you own your own vehicle, you are entitled to choose either a disabled parking placard or a disabled parking license plate, and if you are a military veteran you are entitled to a Disabled Veterans plate. But which is the better option for you?

Here are the pros and cons of choosing a disabled placard over disabled plates.

Dr. Handicap - parking permit

Placard Pros

Placards Are Usually Free

Placards are free in almost all U.S. states. License plates have a fee in most states (although in many it is very cheap). Replacement placards may or may not cost a small fee, depending on the state. For many people, the affordability factor is a pro for placards.

Placards Have a Quicker Application Process

In all states, the application process for disabled placards is very similar to the application process for disabled plates. It always involves a visit to a local medical professional for examination and verification (or, in the case of Disabled Veterans plates, a trip to the local Veterans Affairs office), and then submitting the relevant paperwork and fees (if applicable) to either the local Department of Motor Vehicles or tax collector’s office. In most states the turnover is quicker for disabled placard applications. An applicant will usually have their new placard within 14 days, whereas a plate can take a few weeks longer.

Placards Are More Transferable and Versatile

Disabled plates are suitable for people who own their own vehicle and who always use that particular vehicle. Placards are a much better option for people who sometimes drive their primary vehicle but also sometimes travel in other vehicles, because they are highly mobile and can easily be transferred from one vehicle to another, and once the holder is traveling in any vehicle their disabled placard can be used for that vehicle. For people who do not drive but use their badge when traveling in other people’s vehicles, placards are obviously a better option. This high level of transferability and versatility is a definite pro for placards.

Placards Tend to Have a Longer Shelf-Life

The time until a placard expires is usually longer than the time until a plate expires. In most states, permanent placards are valid for five years, whereas license plates need to be renewed every one to two years or when the holder’s driver’s license or ID expires. In many states, a replacement placard is automatically mailed to the holder a few weeks before the current placard is due to expire. This doesn’t happen with license plates, so some people might prefer placards for convenience.

Dr Handicap - parking

Placard Cons

Placards Are Less Secure and Durable

Placards, due to their mobility and the fact that they are not screwed onto a vehicle, are much easier to lose, damage, or to have stolen than license plates. License plates are made of metal and are rarely lost or stolen. They are usually only damaged in a car accident. The more secure and durable nature of plates gives them an advantage over placards.

Placards Have No Options For Personalized Design

Placards come in various colors and designs, depending on their state of origin and the type of placard. But personalizing the design of your disabled parking placard is not an option. So if you want to make your disabled badge original and interesting, and for it to tell people a little bit about who you are, a personalized license plate is your only option. In some states, regular disabled plates can be personalized, but in all states Disabled Veterans plates can be given a personal touch by emblazoning them with the crest of the wing of the military, or the military unit in which the holder served. They can also be marked with the emblem of the war in which the holder fought. This is a definite pro for disabled plates, and Disabled Veterans plates in particular.

Areas of Neutrality

In many areas, neither disabled placards nor disabled plates hold an advantage. Holder’s rights are the same in every state, whether your badge is a placard or a plate. Both placards and plates afford their holder the same ability to travel and park in other U.S. states. The medical qualifying conditions are also the same for both placards and plates (unless you have a temporary disability, which will only entitle you to hold a temporary placard, as temporary plates do not exist).

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