When you set out to buy your first wheelchair lift or scooter lift, you want to begin with confidence. You grab your laptop or your smartphone and begin searching wheelchair or scooter lifts and then it hits you: You have no idea where to begin. If you feel this way, you aren’t alone. As with many things we try to learn about in this age of enlightenment, there is a lot of information online to sift through.
The goal of this piece is to help reduce the noise and give you some details on the different options that are available. This way, when you get a chance to meet with a Certified Mobility Consultant face-to-face to move forward with a purchase, you’ll have a basic understanding of your options. Often a buyer does his or her research and thinks they knows what they want, only to completely change directions after visiting a showroom and seeing the different lifts in action. However, after reading this, you should have some idea of what’s available when you go to shop.
Some of the decision is about finances, and some of the decision depends on the type of vehicle you drive and the weight of your mobility device. The individual’s physical abilities also come into play. Some lifts are fully automatic while others require manual manipulation to be used.
Let’s examine some differences between wheelchair and scooter lifts so that you can have a better understanding of what makes them unique.
INTERIOR VS. EXTERIOR LIFTS
We’re going to be segmenting our options into two categories: interior & exterior wheelchair van lifts.
INTERIOR WHEELCHAIR/SCOOTER LIFTS?
If you have an SUV, van, or hatchback, then an interior lift might be a great option. As the name suggests, these lifts go inside the vehicle after the wheelchair or scooter is in place. Some are platforms, in which case you place your mobility scooter on a lift, and then it goes inside your vehicle at the touch of a button. Some are hoists, which lift your chair or scooter for you, and then either turn to put your chair or scooter into the vehicle or must be manipulated manually to be positioned in the vehicle.
EXTERIOR WHEELCHAIR LIFTS
Not every vehicle was designed with the idea of handling cargo like a wheelchair lift. If you don’t have a specific wheelchair van or larger vehicle, you might not be able to accommodate an interior lift design. If you have a traditional trunk, small hatch or need to use the full interior seating of your vehicle, an exterior lift might be a better fit! Some models fold up when not in use, similar to a bike bracket on the back of your vehicle for traditional wheelchairs, but there are also models like the Bruno Chariot , which is similar to a small trailer that follows your car and totes your wheelchair or scooter behind it.
PLATFORM VS. HOIST MODELS
Now that you know whether you need an interior or exterior model, the next step is determining whether you need a platform or hoist model.
Platform models take up a little more space, and they are more expensive, but they are easier to use. You simply drive your chair or scooter onto the platform, step off, and press a button to lift it up and position the chair in the vehicle. In the case of the Chariot style exterior lift, it’s extremely easy to use.
These types of lifts can either be automatic or manual. The lift hoists the vehicle with the touch of a button, but some must be manually turned to position your chair or scooter into the vehicle. There is a price difference to have an automated positioning function.
As great as it would be to say that budget isn’t a consideration, it is something to keep in mind. From basic bracket style lifts for traditional wheelchairs, to fully automatic power chair lifts, it will run from $1,000 to $6,000 installed. Automation and weight capacity also factor into the cost. Remember that if the higher end units are out of your budget, that doesn’t mean a less expensive option won’t do the work. You might be able to save some money by choosing an option that has to be manually positioned into the vehicle. If you can perform that task without hindrance, it’s something to consider as it can save you money.
Do your homework, but prepare to be flexible. Rely on the experts, whether they be from your dealership, medical provider, rehab specialist, or just someone you know who has been through the wheelchair lift purchase process before. It is most important that you choose a lift that fits your abilities and lifestyle, to make your day to day experience easier.