Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles: Everything You Need to Know
Also known as WAVs, a wheelchair accessible vehicle offers more freedom, flexibility, safety, and comfort to the mobility impaired. The term is used to describe any vehicle (car, minivan, or bus) that has been adapted to cater for wheelchair users.
The majority of these are adapted for disabled passengers, rather than drivers, although the latter is also possible and usually comes with a higher degree of customisation. Passengers should be able to enter the vehicle in their wheelchair using a ramp or lift to one of the rear or side doors. Meanwhile, driver-adapted cars have additional adaptations so that a disabled person can either drive directly from their wheelchair or enter the driver’s seat from an internal transfer.
In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about the different types of wheelchair accessible vehicles available, and how you can buy or rent one. We will also talk about choosing the best wheelchair accessible vehicle for your needs. Do you need to rent mobility equipment on your travels? Check out Strive Mobility’s full range of hire equipment, delivered anywhere in mainland Britain here: https://www.strivemobility.com/mobility-product-categories/
What is a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle?
Passenger adapted WAVs generally have a few different features that make them unique. They usually have ramps or lifts that allow wheelchair users to get in and out of the vehicle. Meanwhile, wider doors and aisles, lowered floors, and higher roofs make it easier to move around inside. Most bigger cars and vans can be adapted as they are, or you can buy or rent one that already has the additional facilities you need.
Should I Rent or Buy One?
It all depends on your needs. If you have, or care for someone with long-term mobility issues, purchasing makes the most sense and will likely save you time, money, and hassle in the long term.
On the other hand, if you’re only going to be using a wheelchair temporarily, you can lease WAVs on both short and long-term rental agreements. Hiring might also be a good idea if you don’t generally need special transport at home, but are planning to travel a long distance and need a little more comfort and flexibility. It’s also an option if you want to trial a WAV for a short time before making a purchase, or if your current vehicle is in for repairs.
Motability is a UK-based charity that helps you use your mobility allowance towards the leasing of an appropriate vehicle, with over 500 adaptations available depending on your needs. The not-for-profit also offers grants and financial aid to those unable to afford the WAV they need using their regular allowance.
Where to Buy a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle
Purchasing a WAV is slightly different to purchasing a regular car. You generally can’t buy them straight from the manufacturer, as they have to be converted by a specialist dealership first. Many of these specialists create WAVS from popular SUV-style models, meaning you won’t have to make those modifications yourself. The most popular WAV specialist in the UK is Allied Mobility, while Brotherwood is another reliable option.
With both new and used options available, speaking to a specialist can help you narrow down the best vehicle for your needs. They can also help you convert a new or existing vehicle with the appropriate modifications for your needs.
What is the Best Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle to Buy?
Wheelchair accessible vehicles come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some of the most popular options include adapted versions of a Peugeot Rifter, a Volkswagen Caddy and a Ford Torneo. As the UK’s most popular, the Peugeot Rifter comes in two sizes depending on the configuration and number of additional seats you require (up to five).
For the maximum space and capacity, you can look into minivan WAVs such as the Mercedes Vito, which offers roomy internal headroom and excellent window visibility for all passengers, allowing 1 wheelchair user and up to 6 additional passengers to travel together in a little added comfort. Meanwhile, the Ford Tourneo is just as large and can also accommodate up to 7 total passengers, including one model that allows for two wheelchairs.
When choosing which WAV to buy, many specialist dealerships offer at-home demonstrations, allowing you to test out various models before you make a purchase. You can also look for online reviews and speak to others who have purchased WAVs in the past to help make an informed decision.
Can You Buy Electric Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles?
With fuel prices at an all-time high, and concern for the environment ever-growing, it’s not surprising there is now quite a demand for electric wheelchair accessible vehicles. While the industry has been a little slow to catch up, the market is finally starting to see some of the popular electric models converted into WAVs.
Volta Mobility is a forward-thinking brand that specialises in 100% electric WAVs, with conversions available for the Citroën ë-SpaceTourer, Peugeot e-Traveller and Vauxhall Vivaro-e Life. If you are thinking of buying over renting, purchasing an electric wheelchair accessible vehicle is the smart choice – not only for the environment but also for saving on fuel costs over the long term.
Can My Existing Car be Converted?
This depends on what kind of car you currently have, and what kind of modifications you need. Generally, WAVs are created from larger people carrier style cars, meaning if you have something very compact, it’s unlikely you will be able to convert it. This is because many cars are designed with a sloping roof to the rear, which doesn’t provide enough headroom for a wheelchair user. Similarly, cars with a four-wheel-drive system can’t be adapted because the driveshaft runs right through the middle, meaning the floor can’t be lowered.
If you already own a large car with a flat roof to the rear, you may be in luck. Otherwise, your best option may be to sell your current car and put the money towards converting something new.
Where to Hire a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle
If you need a wheelchair accessible vehicle for a short period of time, you may want to consider renting one. There are a few different companies that rent out these vehicles. Wheelchair accessible vehicles for hire can be found at most of the same specialist dealers that sell them. You can also find a short-term rental at household companies such as Enterprise and Hertz.
Finally, you’ll find specialist hire firms such as Adapted Vehicle Hire, which are likely to have a larger range to suit more specialist needs. These types of companies also have a higher focus on customer support with staff who can understand your needs and offer specialist guidance and support.
Things to Consider when Choosing a WAV
Whether you’re planning to rent or buy, you need to be sure you’re selecting the right vehicle to suit your requirements. Here are a few crucial points to consider before you sign on the dotted line:
- Size: You need to make sure the vehicle you choose is big enough for your needs and family, but not so big that it won’t fit in your garage or driveway.
- Safety: Always ask about special safety features such as restraints, and check that any new or used vehicle adheres to national safety standards and/or undergoes testing where required.
- Price: When budgeting, be sure to think about things like insurance and fuel consumption, as well as the actual price of the vehicle. Some charities, such as Motability, may be able to offer financial help to those that need it. WAVs are generally more expensive than regular vehicles due to the additional cost involved in conversion.
- Comfort: Consider the comfort of both wheelchair users and other passengers. Will everyone have enough legroom and be able to see out of a window easily? Comfort also extends to how easily you can get in and out, including the performance and speed of the ramp or lift. Booking a demonstration with a WAV provider can help you get a feel for these things.
- Features: In addition to any mobility modifications, are there any additional features you can’t live without? This includes everything from air conditioning and sat nav, to central locking and automatic transmission. Make a list of all of the must-haves before you start shopping.
- Performance: It’s worth thinking about things like fuel consumption, but also taking it for a test drive to see how it handles and how noisy it is.
- Storage space: If you have to travel with a lot of mobility equipment, make sure your vehicle has ample storage space in addition to the spot where you’ll secure your wheelchair.
Where Can I Travel In a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle?
Anywhere you like! Generally, vehicles with wheelchair access can be driven anywhere you would take a regular car, height restrictions notwithstanding. This means you can still travel around the country and experience fun days out if you or a member of your family is mobility impaired. You may also be able to travel to other countries, although be sure to check your insurance before you travel.
Many of the wonderful attractions across the UK have special parking and facilities for those with disabilities, making the experience easier and much more enjoyable. Check out our blog on the best disabled friendly attractions in Scotland for some fun travel inspiration!
How to Hire Other Mobility Equipment
If you’re travelling anywhere in Britain with someone who has mobility issues, Strive Mobility can help. We offer a range of wheelchairs, scooters, hoists and hospital beds for hire, helping to make your trip simple and hassle-free.
Hiring mobility equipment leaves more space in your vehicle for other luggage while reducing the amount of time spent moving equipment from A to B. Anything you need to rent can be done through a quick and painless online process, with all prices – inclusive of delivery and collection – clearly visible. We will have everything you need ready and waiting at your destination, meaning all that’s left to do is get on the road.
Check out our full range of mobility equipment for hire here.