It’s time to buy a vehicle that will give you your freedom (or keep giving you your freedom). The buying process can be confusing, particularly when needing a balance between budget, practicality, comfort and safety. That’s why this article explores features to look for when buying a converted car or wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV).
When writing your checklist, there are a few things important things to keep in mind…
How Will You Get Into Your Car?
This is one of the first things to think about when looking to purchase. If it’s hard for you to access your car, travelling can become difficult and unenjoyable.
For WAVs there are two main types of entry: rear and side entry. Both can be accessed with the help of a ramp or lift.
There are many options available to make accessing a disability converted vehicle easier, after selecting the ideal base car. The key things to consider include:
- checking the width of door openings to ensure you can easily get in/out
- how far seats can be moved so you can access your seat, and
- if the steering wheel can be raised for smoother access
Car modifications such as portable grab rails, fold-down steps and programmable swivel seats can also be added to complement the accessibility of a converted vehicle.
It’s also important to consider your accessibility when parking and storing the car. So, make sure the ramp and all other features will fit in your garage, car port, street side or wherever else you expect to park your car – whether at home or while you’re out and about.
Ramps are the most common disability conversion for cars. They can be installed on either the passenger side or the rear of your car depending on your preferences. Ramps are available in three types:
- Portable, as you will need to position it each time.
- Mounted (non-powered), requiring manual opening and closing.
- Powered, which automatically opens and closes.
Take a look at this page to find out more about installing a ramp to access your car.
Door Automation and Openers
Most cars can be fitted with automatic doors and ramps, making it much simpler for wheelchair users to access the car with ease. These can include wheelchair hoists with automatic door closure or rear door straps for reachability.
Keyless Entry and Proximity Keys
Rummaging for keys is a real hassle, and thankfully most newer car models offer both keyless entry and proximity keys. This is one of the simple features to look for when buying a converted car that can be very handy and time saving.
If your car is without keyless entry, there are other options readily available to you, including smartphone control.
There are a variety of hoists available to help you safely enter the car or securely store equipment. These include:
- Sling Lift: Used to help transfer a person in a wheelchair to and from a converted vehicle.
- Wheelchair Lift: An automatic platform that lifts a person into the car whilst in their wheelchair.
- Storage Lift: Designed to lift an empty wheelchair so it can be stored internally or externally.
Choosing the right lifting system for you depends on the type of equipment you have, whether you plan to drive or travel as a passenger (or both) and which options are can be supported by your car. We recommend discussing this with your vehicle converter.
Mobility Equipment Storage
Storing mobility equipment can take up space, but there are clever modifications that you could find or later add to your vehicle, such as:
- Towbar mounted wheelchair and scooter carrier.
- Mobility scooter or power wheelchair trailers.
- Internal/external storage boxes.
- Roof racks/hoist.
Once again, the best option for you will depend on your equipment and what can be supported by your car. Make sure you discuss these with your converter.
In wheelchair accessible vehicles, restraints help secure a wheelchair while travelling in the driver’s seat or front and rear passenger seats.
There are two main types available:
- Tie-down systems.
- Mechanical wheelchair docks.
Looking for more information on features to look for when buying a converted car? Or more general information on owning and maintaining a disability converted vehicle?
That’s understandable; it’s a big part of your life (or will be). Our A-Z Guide on Disability Converted Cars will provide you with many more resources and helpful tips to consider before making your final decision.