How to Choose the Right Vehicle Lift for Your Scooter or Wheelchair

According to information from the United States Census Bureau, nearly one in five people in the U.S. have a disability. For individuals in the group who are mobility-impaired, a scooter or wheelchair is a wonderful way to travel more extensively. They are perfect for moving around your home, the local store and for getting around the neighborhood.

When selecting a vehicle lift to transport your scooter or wheelchair, you need to consider whether you will be driving yourself or will be the driver for another passenger. Many people with disabilities can maintain their independence on the road with the help of the correct equipment.

When you’re thinking of purchasing a scooter or wheelchair, it’s important to consider the bigger picture. You need to stop and ask yourself whether your chosen model is easily portable. It’s important to research your options in terms of available wheelchair and mobility scooter lifts.

Car lifts for mobility scooters and wheelchairs are an important lifeline for every scooter or chair user, and it’s imperative that you use the correct one to suit both your vehicle and your wheelchair or scooter.

What is a Mobility Lift?

A vehicle mobility lift is a tool that helps physically impaired users to get around by themselves or with the help of assistants. This is a wonderful option for mobility product owners who need to charge their scooters or wheelchairs and for those who need to travel longer distances.

Installing a vehicle lift in a car or van means that a scooter or wheelchair can be safely stored within the car with minimum effort, and transported to its destination for use. This can mean the difference to the between a homebound life or being able to explore the world and enjoy experiences that many able-bodied individuals take for granted.

First Things First: What You Should Consider

In order to use your car by yourself or with an assistant, you will need to purchase a vehicle wheelchair lift. It is important to choose one with controls that can be easily accessed either via remote or from within the car.

There are two main decisions that need taken into consideration when choosing the right vehicle lift.

  • Where will the wheel lift be use? First, you need to decide whether you are going to use your lift through the rear or side doors of your vehicle. Both options are viable, however, not all models are designed to work in both locations.
  • What is weight of the passenger? Your second decision depends on the combined weight of the scooter/wheelchair and of the user. Sliding/single arm lifts that have either one fixed and one sliding arm or one arm in a fixed position have a lift capacity of around 600 — 800 pounds. Using this type of life allows the front passenger seat to tilt back, whereas fixed dual-arm lifts do not.

Adaptive Controls

When deciding on the correct lift for your needs, it is important to take the following into consideration for its safe operation as well as ease of use:

  • Your range of motion, strength and flexibility.
  • Your reaction time and coordination./li>
  • Your ability to drive after the installation of equipment – you need to ensure there is adequate space available.
  • Your personal ability to make decisions and judgments.

What is the Difference Between a Carrier and a Lift for my Wheelchair or Scooter?

Generally speaking, a carrier is a platform that is attached to the exterior of your vehicle. You drive your scooter or wheelchair onto this for transportation purposes. A lift is designed to lift your wheelchair or scooter to the back, inside or the trunk of your vehicle.

Deciding on which option is best for you is a personal choice. It also is dependent on your own physical capabilities in terms of device operation, as well as the type of vehicle and equipment you own. Also, you need to decide whether you feel most comfortable with your scooter or wheelchair being carried inside or outside your vehicle. Your decision between these options depends on your carrying preferences, as well as your physical capabilities in operating the device and the type of equipment and vehicle you own.

Types of Mobility Lifts

There are various different types of mobility lifts, and each have their own plus points dependent on your needs. The three main types are power, manual and hybrid lifts. It is important to note that not every type of lift will be suitable for your vehicle and for your own personal needs. In addition, space always has to be one of your primary considerations.

Power

Mounted on the outside of your vehicle, a power lift for wheelchair or scooter users is the perfect choice when space is limited, as they automatically fold against the vehicle when not in use.

Most models also offer a swing-away option for trunk access. These lifts allow passengers to use the vehicle without any obstruction. They also preserve maximum cargo room. Power lifts can be either battery pack operated or alternatively wired up to the car battery.

Manual

Manual vehicle lifts are a very popular option as they generally provide the most economical option. The key features of manual lifts are:

  • Available in aluminum or steel.
  • Use “tie-down” straps for securing your wheelchair or scooter.
  • Most fold up against the car when not in use.

Manual lifts do require some effort to release the ramp and therefore may not be the ideal choice for someone with limited dexterity or strength. This type of lift also does not swing out of the way for trunk access.

Hybrid Lifts

A hybrid wheelchair lift for car and vehicle use is designed to have the chair loaded outside the vehicle, however the chair or scooter is then carried inside it. This is a good option if you’re worried about the effects of the weather or highway hazards on your mobility equipment.

Categories of Vehicle Mobility Lifts

There are two general types of installable vehicle mobility lifts for wheelchair and scooter-accessible vehicles.

  • Platform Mobility Lifts — These specifically designed lifts allow you to wheel your scooter or chair onto a platform. The platform is then raised to place the equipment into the vehicle, which is then secured by a guardrail to prevent it from moving while the vehicle is in motion. This category of lift allows you the option to stay seated within your chair or scooter while being placed within the vehicle.
    These mobility wheelchair lifts can be installed at the back of the vehicle or on the side. Side mounted lifts allow for more room within the vehicle, so are a space-saving option. Unfortunately, they require larger parking spaces. In contract, lifts installed at the rear of the vehicle allow for parking in more confined spaces, but are not great in terms of in-vehicle storage space.
  • Arm Lifts — This is a good and workable option if you wish to place your equipment into your vehicle for storage purposes. Arm lifts are a popular option because they run via electric motor (or by hand), and are compatible with many different types of vehicles. These lifts, typically installed on the vehicle trunk, pick up the chair or scooter and places it within the vehicle.

How Does a Wheelchair/Scooter Lift Work?

A vehicle lift will safely transfer your mobility equipment into your vehicle. Power scooter lifts also assist you in boarding your vehicle. In general, vehicle lifts work by:

  • Bringing a platform out of the vehicle under power or manually
  • Placing the equipment onto it and then securing it
  • Placing the platform back within the vehicle

Platform lifts are the most user-friendly as:

  • There is no dismantling of the wheelchair or scooter
  • The equipment can be secured to the platform prior to loading
  • The user does not need a great deal of dexterity or strength to load the equipment.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recognizes the need for safety for platform lift systems, and has mandated that all wheelchair-accessible vehicles must be equipped with a safety lift interlock. This prevents the operation of the vehicle and lift in unsafe situations — for example, when the vehicle attempts to move while the lift is in use. Based upon data gathered by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, as part of its National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database, it’s estimated that 248 injuries occur each year because of malfunctioning lifts.

How Do I Know Which Carrier or Lift Will Work With My Vehicle and My Wheelchair or Scooter?

It is easy to feel confused by the amount of information available on choosing lifts for mobility scooters and wheelchairs. There are so many different types to choose from, and due to their differing weights and sizes, not all lifts may be compatible with your vehicle.

When selecting the right wheelchair lifts for vehicles, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • First, you need to verify the make, model and year or the vehicle you wish to have the lift installed on. A wheelchair lift for vehicle use must work with the build of your car.
  • Next, you need to know what type of chair or scooter you will be using. Ensure you know the exact make and model of the mobility product in order to determine its weight and dimensions. This is extremely important as equipment that is too heavy can damage your vehicle, lift and make it unsafe to use.
  • If in any doubt, speak to your dealer in order to find out what vehicle lifts are compatible with your vehicle and wheelchair/scooter. We are always on hand to discuss all aspects of choosing the right vehicle lift for your equipment and requirements.

Can I Install The Mobility Equipment Lift on My Vehicle By Myself?

You may be wondering if it is possible for you to install your mobility lift by yourself. Generally speaking, the answer to this is no. Unlike hitch-mounted carriers specially designed to carry your equipment externally to your vehicle, scooter lifts for vehicles require specialized installation.

Lift installation includes drilling into the storage space or trunk of your chosen vehicle and wiring the unit up to your car battery. A non-professional should never attempt this for safety reasons.

Does Medicare Pay For a Vehicle Mobility Lift?

Medicare may cover part or all of the vehicle modifications in certain situations in accordance with an evaluation by a qualified doctor. Medicare provides an online coverage tool to help to determine what items and services are covered.

In addition, your state’s Medicaid program may cover your vehicle modifications through a waiver. To find out more, consult with your state’s Medicaid office.

Furthermore, there are programs available from manufacturers of newly purchased automobiles that may cover part of your costs.

Three Step Process for Choosing the Right Wheelchair or Scooter Lift

Once you have determined your need for a wheelchair or scooter life, it is imperative that you give a great deal of thought to choosing the right model for your needs. There are three important steps in the process of choosing the right lift:

Number 1: Needs Assessment

When assessing your general situation and needs, it is important to consider the following:

  • What make and model of scooter or wheelchair do you have? The dimensions, size and weight of your equipment will help you to pinpoint your available options.
  • Ensure you know the exact year, make and model of the vehicle you wish to install the lift on.
  • Are you or the person who will be operating the lift and are you able to operate the type of lift you want? If you have limited dexterity and strength, you will need a lift with more power features.
  • Will you need to transport other passengers or items in your vehicle? You need to ensure you will have enough space in your vehicle if this is a consideration.
  • What is your budget? Prices of vehicle lifts can vary considerable depending on the available features, therefore, it is important to decide on a workable budget for your needs.

Number 2: Product Options

Once you have all the information you need, you can then explore your product options in terms of buying wheelchair vehicle lifts. It is important to undertake thorough research at this stage so you can make a list of models that will suit your needs.

Number 3: Evaluate and Decide

Every model of wheelchair and scooter lifts for vehicles has its pros and cons, so making the right choice involves trade-offs. Think about whether you may need to purchase a new vehicle for your needs. You also need to consider seating. At this point, the best choice you can make is to speak with a consultant who will be able to help and guide you in terms of what will work best for you as an individual.

Vehicle Lift FAQs

You no doubt have some more questions about vehicle lifts. Some of the most popularly asked are:

I want to be able to sell my car in the future. Will the lift leave marks? Can it even be removed?

In the majority of cases, wheelchair and scooter lifts are removable, with the vehicle showing only minimal signs of wear or damage. Occasionally, some minor repairs and cosmetic work may be required.

Will I be able to move my lift into a new vehicle later on?

Generally, if you purchase the same make and style of vehicle, there should not be an issue with this. If you are purchasing a totally new vehicle model or type, you may need to buy a new lift which will work with the dimensions of the new vehicle.

I’m planning on buying a new scooter or wheelchair in the future, will I need a new lift too?

It is likely that you will not need a new lift under these circumstances, however, it is better to check with your consultant just to be sure.

Other Important Considerations

Wheelchairs and scooters are wonderful tools for moving from place to place. Purchasing lightweight or foldable models is a wonderful way in which to minimize carriage issues, however a more robust model may be more sensible for you if you prefer your mobility device to be more durable and reliable. Heavier scooters and wheelchairs will always need transported by a vehicle lift.

Wheelchair vehicle lifts are life-changing pieces of equipment that will afford you freedom and movement no matter what your needs and physical limitations. A wheelchair car lift doesn’t need to cost the earth either. There are many practical, affordable and adaptable models on the market which will help you strike a workable balance between you, your mobility equipment and your vehicle.

Ambulation issues need no longer be a barrier to living your life in the way you wish. With a good vehicle lift, a completely new world of freedom and accessibility is open to you.

Ready to Shop for a Vehicle Lift

Now you have all the information that you need to make an informed choice in terms of purchasing the right wheelchair and scooter lifts for your requirements, there are a few things to remember:

  • Never purchase a used vehicle scooter lift without checking whether it will work with your vehicle and mobility equipment.
  • Take your time when choosing the right solution for your needs.
  • Don’t rush out and buy a new vehicle without firstly exploring your current available options.
  • Purchase a wheelchair vehicle lift that will suit you as an individual. Recommendations from others are fine, however you need to thoroughly research each model to see whether it will work for you. If you feel that you will struggle with a manual lift, don’t buy one – you will never use it. A vehicle lift is a large financial investment; it is therefore important to choose one that will work with you rather than against you.
  • An exterior life is a cost-effective option if you live in a warm climate. It keep in mind that it will need a cover, and that these lifts can be a hazard when parking up as they hang from the back of your vehicle. Purchasing a robust wheelchair and scooter lift for car use should therefore be one of your primary considerations.
  • Always plan for the future. If you feel that your physical capabilities are in decline, speak to your mobility consultant about your needs, and discuss what options are available to you, including buying a lift for a scooter or wheelchair.
  • Read vehicle lift reviews for the model(s) you are considering purchasing. A lift might look and sound amazing but nothing surpasses finding out about other people’s experiences of the equipment.

Towson Medical Equipment Co., Inc offers a vehicle mobility lifts for your scooter or wheelchair. Call our office at 410-882-4005, contact us through our online form, or come by one of our two locations in Maryland (Parkville and Olney) to see the best vehicle lifts for you!

Sources

https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/miscellaneous/cb12-134.html
http://www.nhtsa.gov/DOT/NHTSA/Rulemaking/Rules/Associated%20Files/Lift_FinalRule_Dec-27-02.pdf
https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2000/07/27/00-18773/federal-motor-vehicle-safety-standards-platform-lift-systems-for-accessible-motor-vehicles-platform
https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/your-medicare-coverage.html
https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2002/12/27/02-31891/federal-motor-vehicle-safety-standards-platform-lift-systems-for-accessible-motor-vehicles-platform
https://www.disability.gov/can-find-help-make-vehicle-accessible/
https://www.medicaid.gov/Medicaid-CHIP-Program-Information/By-State/By-State.html
http://www.mobilityworks.com/blog/wheelchair-and-scooter-lifts-a-great-way-to-enhance-your-mobility
http://www.elevatordesigninfo.com/how-does-a-wheelchair-lift-work
http://www.mobilityworks.com/wheelchair-lifts/how-to-choose-a-wheelchair-lift.php
http://www.vantagemobility.com/blog/how-to-choose-the-right-mobility-vehicle
http://www.numotion.com/store/pages/Information-About-Wheelchair-&-Scooter-Lifts-.html
http://www.spinlife.com/vehicleLiftGuide/index.cfm
http://www.spinlife.com/category.cfm?categoryID=225
http://www.nmeda.com/choosing-right-ramp-lift-wheelchair-accessible-vehicles/
http://blog.kerseymobility.com/?p=194

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