If you or a loved one rely on a wheelchair to navigate, you probably know all too well how cumbersome this equipment is to move around. Investing in a vehicle wheelchair lift can make a big difference. This is a piece of equipment that allows you to secure your wheelchair to your vehicle so you can take it with you. The two most popular vehicle lift options include an outside wheelchair lift and an inside wheelchair lift. Read on to help you find out the differences and determine which one will be the best fit.
Outside Wheelchair Lift
If you want to transport your wheelchair and don’t have much money or space to devote to this task, an outside wheelchair lift that attaches to the back of your vehicle can be a reasonable option. This simple wheelchair lift can be affixed right to a trailer hitch on the back of your van or bus where it can secure the wheelchair in place. (If you don’t already have a trailer hitch, a garage or U-Haul should be able to install this item to use for a wheelchair lift.)
There are a few benefits you can expect when you decide to use an outside wheelchair lift. For instance, this lift won’t take up room inside your vehicle if space is limited. This type of wheelchair vehicle lift can also be less expensive to install than some of the inside models. On the other hand, there are also some drawbacks to an outside vehicle lift. This includes the fact that this outdoor mode of transportation leaves your wheelchair unprotected and exposed to the elements. Using an outside wheelchair lift means that the wheelchair will protrude from the back end, making it more difficult to navigate the vehicle, especially in parking lots and other tight spaces. In addition, it may be hard for other drivers and pedestrians to see the wheelchair in the dark, which could result in an accident. That’s why the experts recommend playing it safe by using reflectors on an outside vehicle wheelchair lift and on the wheelchair itself.
Inside Wheelchair Vehicle Lift
If you have enough room inside your vehicle and have the budget to spend on an inside wheelchair lift, then it can worth exploring what you can find on the market today. An inside wheelchair lift helps to hoist and then secure your wheelchair inside your vehicle. Exactly how this is accomplished can vary depending on the type of lift that you select. Some wheelchair lifts require you to step out of the chair before moving it into your van, while others can accommodate the rider right in the wheelchair. The latter option certainly adds to the convenience of using this type of wheelchair transportation.
On the flip side, it’s important to understand that an inside wheelchair lift can often require significant space, and they can also be expensive to install since modifications (such as removing passenger seats) often must be made to the vehicle. Such factors can discourage some would-be-buyers.
How A Wheelchair Lift Operates
In addition to deciding where you want your wheelchair lift to be located, you’ll also need to consider the logistics on how you want the lift to operate. There are several common choices you can find today
Platform Wheelchair Lift
A platform wheelchair vehicle lift ca n is installed inside your vehicle. This option is most commonly used in public transportation. The wheelchair lift works with a platform that can be folded straight up and either attached outside of your vehicle or inside it, depending on the design you select. This wheelchair lift can be a good choice to support very heavy wheelchairs and/or bariatric patients. It also can often be operated with the rider still in the wheelchair. If this benefit is important to you, you’ll need to specify this when you shop, since not all platform wheelchair lifts are created equal. In addition, if you plan to use a platform wheelchair lift inside your vehicle, keep in mind that it can take up a large amount of room and may block the doorway for other passengers.
Under-Vehicle PlatformWheelchair Lift
You can also find an under-vehicle platform wheelchair lift that enables you to lower the lift mechanism to the ground so you can put the wheelchair on it, then raise it up and secure it under your vehicle so it won’t be in the way of driving. The advantage to this lift is that it doesn’t take up precious inside space, yet it may require extensive modification of the vehicle’s exhaust system to operate it, making it more expensive than it’s worth in many cases.
Hoist Wheelchair Lift
A hoist wheelchair lift can be a good type of inside lift that’s convenient for personal use. This design works like a crane, attaching to the wheelchair in order to lift it up and place it into the vehicle. While it’s a relatively inexpensive type, the downside is that it can be cumbersome to use and also must be used only on a wheelchair without a rider in it.
Rotary Wheelchair Lift
Another inside vehicle wheelchair lift is a rotary lift. This option contains a swinging platform that’s attached to the inside of vehicle. This section can be rotated out of the vehicle and lowered down so the wheelchair can be put onto it, then it is lifted back up and swings inside. A great deal of room inside the vehicle is needed to accommodate this wheelchair lift design.
Powering A Wheelchair Lift
In addition to the style of vehicle wheelchair lift you select, you’ll also need to decide how you want it powered. Do you prefer a manual lift design or one that is battery powered? When deciding on the power type, there are some considerations to keep in mind.
Manual Wheelchair Lift
If you go with a manual vehicle wheelchair lift, it will be the most cost-effective option but it can also be heavy and difficult to manipulate, especially for older and disabled people.
Power Wheelchair Lifts
Power wheelchair vehicle lifts cost more, but they are also much more convenient, so the price of a power vehicle lift can be well worth it. Most power wheelchair lifts operate either through a battery that is contained inside the vehicle, or they run right through the car battery itself. If you use an onboard battery, it will need to be charged frequently. If you go with the car battery for power, it is more convenient, but it is also more expensive to install. Just be sure if you go with this option, there is a manual backup system in place just in case the battery should die.
When you’re exploring the range of wheelchair vehicle lifts and trying to determine what’s the best fit for your needs and situation, there are some questions to ask that can help guide you in making your decision:
- Do you prefer your wheelchair lift be on the outside or inside? You’ll need to weigh the cost, convenience, and space needed to come up with your preference on this.
- What type of material do you want the wheelchair lift to be made from? Some materials like steel can be prone to rust, particularly if your wheelchair vehicle lift is attached outside of the car. If you have a heavy electric wheelchair, you’ll want to pick a wheelchair lift material that’s very strong and durable.
- How strong and able are you, in order to operate the wheelchair lift mechanism? This is important, since you’ll need to have the proper strength and physical ability to manage the wheelchair lift for vans or other vehicles. This means that you’ll need to find a model that works for your specific situation.
How To Find
When you’re looking for wheelchair vehicle lift for vans, you can contact area medical supply companies and find out what type of vehicle modifications and equipment they can provide. You can also check with any wheelchair suppliers, since some of them may offer accessories to serve these items. You can also do a search for wheelchair vehicle lifts online and explore the wide range of choices. These include the Scooter Store, US Medical Supplies, Wheelchairnet.org, American Wheelchairs.com and the Mobility Resource.
You can also consider buying a new or used wheelchair accessible handicap van or car that comes already equipped with a wheelchair vehicle lift. This can be a very expensive option, depending on what you select.
Finally, you can visit the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists to search for members in your area who specialize in modifying vehicles for special needs.
What It Costs
The cost of a wheelchair vehicle lift depends on a wide range of factors. The equipment itself is an important part of the price, but the installation can also be significant, particularly if major modifications need to be made to the vehicle itself. Then size of the lift, and whether it’s manual or battery powered, will also impact the cost of wheelchair vehicle lift. All of these elements need to be weighed together.
Here are some general guidelines to help you estimate what you might spend on a vehicle wheelchair lift:
Outside Wheelchair Lift
An outside wheelchair lift costs about $500 for the most basic manual model and goes up to about $2,000 for a battery-powered option with more features included. You’ll probably also want to invest in a cover for your wheelchair vehicle lift, which can be about $150, plus another $100 or so for a cover for the wheelchair itself. This can be a small price to pay to protect these items from the weather.
Inside Wheelchair Lift
A simple arm or hoist inside wheelchair vehicle lift that allows you to store the wheelchair in your vehicle costs about $700 for the manual design and can cost up to $2,500 for a more intricate battery powered design.
Inside Platform Wheelchair Lift
An inside platform wheelchair vehicle lift ranges in cost from about $2,000 to $3,500, depending on the type and features you select.
So, you can expect a cost between $500 and $3,500 on a wheelchair lift, depending on what you select.
Keep in mind that lift installation may be extra. Always ask what’s included before you make any final purchase decisions. The wheelchair lift installation costs will depend on what is involved.
A Final Note
Wheelchair vehicle lifts, or wheelchair lifts for vans, are not covered by Medicare, so you’ll need to be able to cover the costs on your own or look for alternative funding sources. Some car manufacturers will help cover the costs of adding wheelchair vehicle lifts. In addition, some municipalities and states have programs to help cover the costs involved in modifying equipment to help people with disabilities. These options can be well worth exploring if you find the cost to be more than you can handle on your own.
Last Updated: Feb 12, 2012