Can You Own 2 Cars on SSI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based disability program run by the Social Security Administration (SSA). To qualify for SSI, you must have limited income and assets. This leads many SSI recipients to wonder – can I own more than one car and still receive benefits?

The short answer is – maybe, but it’s complicated.

SSI Eligibility Rules

To understand how car ownership affects SSI eligibility, you first need to know the program’s basic eligibility rules.

To qualify for SSI:

  • You must be 65 or older, blind, or disabled.
  • You must have limited income. There are thresholds for earned and unearned income.
  • You must have limited assets or resources. For an individual, you can have no more than $2,000 in countable resources. For a married couple, the limit is $3,000.

SSI is a program designed for those in financial need. The income and resource limits help target benefits to those who truly need assistance.

So how do vehicles factor in?

One Car Exclusion

The SSA recognizes that having a car is often essential, especially in areas without robust public transportation.

So under SSI rules, you are allowed one car that is fully excluded from the resource limit.

This means that no matter how new, expensive, or flashy your car is, it does not count against the $2,000 individual or $3,000 married couple resource limit.

You can own a Bentley valued at $200,000, and the SSA will ignore it when determining your eligibility for SSI.

The One Car Per Couple Rule

There is one important caveat – for married couples, there is still only one car exclusion.

If you and your spouse both receive SSI, you can collectively own only one vehicle that is excluded. If you own two cars between the two of you, the second car may put you over the resource limit.

The Problems with Owning Multiple Cars

Owning more than one vehicle per SSI recipient (or more than one per couple) can jeopardize your benefits. Here’s why:

  • Any cars beyond the one excluded vehicle are counted toward the resource limit. Their fair market values add to your total countable assets.

  • Even old, high-mileage cars have value. A car worth just $1,500 could tip you over the $2,000 individual limit.

  • The SSA does not care about how necessary additional cars may seem. No matter the reason, extra vehicles count.

However, there are some exceptions that allow SSI recipients to own more than one car in certain scenarios.

When You Can Own 2 Cars on SSI

While not a blanket allowance, the SSA makes a few concessions for SSI recipients who own multiple vehicles.

Co-Owned Vehicles

If you co-own a car with someone else, only your share of the car’s value counts toward your resource limit.

For example, if you jointly own a car worth $5,000 with your non-SSI sibling, only $2,500 of the value counts for you.

Inoperable Vehicles

Cars that are inoperable (broken down and cannot be driven) do not count at all toward the SSI resource limit.

You can own multiple inoperable vehicles of any value and they will not impact your eligibility.

However, it’s important to note that the SSA may follow up and request evidence that vehicles are truly inoperable. You can’t just claim a functioning car is broken down; you may need documentation from a mechanic.

Vehicles Used for Work

Vehicles that are essential for your job may be excluded from resource limits, even if they are your second car.

For example, if you operate a food truck, the SSA will likely exclude your food truck from the resource calculation, since it’s vital to your livelihood.

Separately Owned Vehicles

If you live with family or roommates who own their own cars separately from you, their vehicles do not count toward your resource limit. Only cars that you claim partial or full ownership of are included.

Rebutting Value Assessments

If the SSA overvalues your second car, leading to denial of your SSI benefits, you can challenge that valuation.

Get an appraisal done on the car and submit it to the SSA to correct the record. If the true value keeps you under the resource limit, you can successfully own two cars.

SSI Beneficiaries Should Carefully Consider Purchasing Multiple Cars

Given the risks, SSI beneficiaries should be cautious when considering buying additional vehicles. Before purchasing, ask yourself:

  • Is the second car essential? Will you use it often enough to justify jeopardizing your benefits? Is public transit a viable alternative?

  • Can you co-own? If the car will be shared with others, co-ownership may prevent the full value from counting against your limit.

  • What is the car worth? An inexpensive used car holds less risk than a new, expensive model. Verify the value won’t push you over the resource limit.

  • Can you pay it off immediately? If you can pay cash and fully own the car upon purchase, it won’t count as a second resource until you’ve owned it for 9 months.

For those dependent on SSI benefits, owning one reliable car is usually the safest option. But in special circumstances, and with proper planning, you can potentially own two vehicles while maintaining eligibility. Consult with an SSI attorney if you have questions.

Other Property Limitations for SSI Recipients

Cars are not the only type of property that is restricted for SSI recipients. The program’s strict resource limits also place limits on:

  • Real estate – You can own one home as your primary residence, but secondary properties could make you ineligible, depending on their worth.

  • Cash assets – This includes things like savings and checking accounts, cash on hand, and gift cards. They count toward the $2,000 individual / $3,000 married couple limits.

  • Investments – Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and CDs are considered resources unless held in special protected accounts.

  • Retirement accounts – Most accounts are counted, except for certain protected work-based accounts like 401ks.

  • Life insurance – If your policy has a cash value above $1,500 (individual) or $3,000 (couple), the overage counts toward your resource limit.

  • Collections – Collections of items like art, coins, stamps, or antiques are countable resources if convertible to cash.

  • Secondary residences – This could include a vacation property, timeshare, trailer/RV, or other second home. Exceptions are made if co-owned or generating rental income to support mortgage payments.

The SSA will look at all resources owned by an SSI applicant to ensure their total value does not exceed the stringent eligibility limits.

SSI versus SSDI – Program Differences

It’s important to understand that the SSI program has no relation to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). They have confusingly similar names but very different rules.

SSDI pays benefits to those who have earned sufficient work credits and paid Social Security taxes prior to becoming disabled. SSDI is not needs-based – your income and resources do not matter.

Under SSDI, you can own multiple vehicles of any value without jeopardizing your benefits. The only factor is having a medically determinable impairment that prevents substantial gainful activity (work).

So while SSI recipients face strict car ownership limits, SSDI beneficiaries enjoy no restrictions. Make sure you understand which program you qualify for and the very different eligibility criteria.


Owning more than one car while receiving SSI disability benefits is rarely advisable. The safest choice is to have a single reliable vehicle in your name or shared with a spouse. While the SSA makes limited exceptions for things like co-ownership and work vehicles, extra cars almost always put SSI recipients at risk of going over the stringent resource limits. Before purchasing any additional vehicles, consult with a Social Security attorney to review how it will impact your eligibility.

Can u buy a car while on SSI?


How many cars can you own on SSI?

If you receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), there is no limit to how many cars you can own. If you receive Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you are allowed to own one car.

How much can your car be worth if you’re on SSI?

The SSA is not concerned with the value of the vehicle. Owning one $20,000 car won’t count hurt you. However, owning two cars that are valued at just over $1,000 will count against you. While that may seem odd, keep in mind that they are looking at this as if you could sell excess assets in order to pay bills, etc.

Will buying a car affect my SSI?

The SSA lets you keep one car without it affecting your resources total, even if it is the latest model with all the bells and whistles. Specifically, the SSA says one car won’t count toward your resources limit if you or someone in your household uses the vehicle for transportation.

Does a car count as a resource?

This rule denied many needy families food benefits simply because they owned reliable transportation. In 2003, California enacted AB 231 (2003), which included statutory changes removing this vehicle-resource barrier to receiving food benefits.

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