There are some items the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers exempt resources/assets. You are probably wondering, “What does that mean.” Such items are not counted against the $2,000 asset limit for individuals and the $3,000 asset limit for couples, are not counted in determining eligibility, and if a beneficiary has such items will not jeopardize his/her Supplemental Security Income SSI benefits.

One of such items that is exempt is one automobile/vehicle per household regardless of value. We should probably emphasize one vehicle. The automobile/vehicle can be of any value. The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers an automobile/vehicle “any registered or unregistered vehicle used for transportation.” Some examples of automobiles/vehicles include:

  • Cars
  • Trucks
  • Motorcycles
  • Boats
  • Snowmobiles
  • Animal-drawn vehicles
  • Even animals

Yes, you read it correctly animal-drawn vehicles, and even animals.

Vehicles that do not meet their (SSA’s) definition of an automobile/vehicle are:

  • A vehicle that has been junked
  • A vehicle used only as a recreational vehicle (SSA’s Example: a boat used on weekends for pleasure)

However, for the above vehicles that do not meet the definition of automobile/vehicle, theequity value of the automobile/vehicle is a resource.
The Social Security Administration specifically states the following when applying the exclusion:

“Exclude one automobile per household, regardless of the value, if the eligible recipient or couple or a member of the eligible recipient’s or couple’s household uses the automobile for transportation.”

What if a Recipient of SSI and/or Deemor Has More Than One Automobile/Vehicle?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) follows specific guidelines below to apply the exclusion when more than one automobile/vehicle is owned per household:

  1. Apply the exclusion in the manner most advantageous to the recipient.
  2. Apply the total exclusion to the automobile with the greatest equity value if the eligible recipient or couple or deemors own more than one automobile used for transportation of the eligible recipient/couple or a member of the eligible recipient’s or /couple’s household.
  3. The equity value of any automobile, other than the one wholly excluded per SI 01130.200C.1., is a resource when:
    • An eligible recipient, couple or deemor owns it; and
    • You cannot exclude it under another provision (for example, property essential to self-support, plan to achieve self-support) or conditional benefits do not apply.

We strongly urge you to read/review the following further suggested readings to familiarize yourself with the Social Security Administration’s rules regarding vehicles. In addition, contact your local Social Security Administration Office if you have further questions.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided by CPT is for informational purposes only and is intended to be used as a non-legal guide prior to consultation with an attorney familiar with your specific legal situation. CPT is not engaged in the practice of law or in rendering legal advice or counsel. No such legal advice or counseling is either expressly or impliedly intended. This form is not a substitute for the advice or counsel of an attorney. If you require legal advice, you should seek the services of an attorney. © 2017 CPT All rights reserved.

Further Reading and Sources:
 – link to the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) Online for verification of the value of cars (SSI resources)
Urbatsch, K., & Fuller, M. (2016). Administering the California special needs trust: A guide for trustees and those who advise them (2nd ed.). Bloomington, IN: IUniverse.

Read our blog post regarding Excluded/Exempt Resources: