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The Ultimate Guide to Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs)

Wheelchair accessible vehicles are commonly referred to as 'WAVs' - and are vehicles that are designed to accommodate the travel needs of passengers or drivers using a wheelchair. WAVs make lives easier and safer with the main benefit that you can remain seated in your own wheelchair without the need of chair to seat transfers.

 

There are several different types of wheelchair accessible vehicles and the right one for you will depend on your individual needs and requirements - comparing just the price is not the answer with a WAV and we hope the following guide provides all the information you need to find your perfect WAV. You can contact us directly here.

Before you start...


Looking through a list of WAVs for sale can be a difficult, there are many different types and conversions. Before you start searching through listings ask yourself the following questions:

 
  1. Will the wheelchair user be a passenger or driver?

  2. Are they happy to sit in the rear of the vehicle?

  3. How many passengers plus wheelchair user do you need room for?

  4. Is the wheelchair itself manual or electric?


Keep the answers to the above in mind when you are reading the below and looking for a WAV.

 

How WAV Compare can help:

 

WAV Compare was founded by Scott Smith, a wheelchair user himself, with the aim being to inform and help people find a WAV that is suitable for their individual needs.

You can find out more about using WAV Compare
here.
 

WAV Types


There are 3 main types of WAVs and then a number of adaptations available - it's important to know how each type differ so you can determine what best meets your needs.
 

Rear passenger

 

Rear passenger WAVs are the most common type of conversion - where the wheelchair user sits in the back and access is via a ramp or lift at the rear of the vehicle.

Most rear passenger WAVs with a manual ramp have a lowered floor so that the ramp is less steep when deployed and so that there is enough headroom for the wheelchair user when sitting inside the WAV. The seating layout and access options are dependent on the type of conversion, the make and model of vehicle and by which converter.

Rear Passenger WAVs

 

Ride Up Front


A ride up front WAV is where the wheelchair user can sit alongside the driver - up at the front in the usual front passenger position. They are a popular choice as overall the position is preferred than sitting in the back, especially when there is usually only a driver and the wheelchair user.

 

The conversion either consists of a rear ramp that enables the wheelchair user to go straight to the front or there is a front side entry conversion (Kia Sedona or Fiat Doblo) where you can slide and pull out a ramp all located at the front passenger door.

 

A ride up front is more specialist, the original new conversion costs more and there are less on the used market - this results in them being more expensive, maybe even double the price of a rear entry manual ramp option.
 

Ride Up Front WAVs

 

Drive From Wheelchair


The wheelchair user does not have to be the passenger - a drive from wheelchair WAV enables you to remain securely seated in your wheelchair and drive the vehicle. There are numerous adaptations available so anyone can drive, these include hand controls through to full sensor control, meaning you can even drive using only one hand.

 

From time to time you may need another person to drive your vehicle, even if as the wheelchair user you are the primary driver. In many drive from wheelchair WAVs, the front passenger seat can be swapped with the driver’s side. In addition, these vehicles have a docking system so that you can travel as a passenger, as well as a driver.  You will want to ask a wheelchair accessible vehicle sales representative more about this specific feature.

 

Drive From Wheelchair 

 

Sizes & Seats


There are small, medium and large WAV’s - plus minibuses! - generally the bigger the WAV the more passengers it will be able to accommodate plus the wheelchair user. Large WAVs and minibuses can also accommodate more than one wheelchair user.

 

When you see '3 passengers plus wheelchair' - this is including the driver, so usually means the driver + front passenger + 1 in the rear along with the wheelchair user.

Screen Shot 2016-09-27 at 14.14.10.png
 

There are different conversions - for example you will find Renault Kangoo's suitable for 3 and/or 4 passengers plus the wheelchair user - to read more about conversions, check the Conversions section on the left.

 

Small WAVs:


A small WAV is converted so that it is suitable for 2 or 3 passengers and 1 wheelchair user , with the access being a rear manual ramp with or without a winch.

 

Popular makes and models include:


Small WAVs

Renault Kangoo | Peugeot Partner | Fiat Doblo | Vauxhall Combo
 

View small WAVs for sale - Used | New | Motability

 


Medium WAVs:


Slightly larger, a medium sized WAV is converted so that it is suitable for 4 or 5 passengers and 1 wheelchair user , with the access being a rear manual ramp or powered rear lift.

 

Popular makes and models include:
 

Medium WAVs
Peugeot Expert | Vauxhall Zafira | Kia Sedona | Volkswagen Caddy
 

View medium WAVs for sale - Used | New | Motability

 


Large WAVs:


If you need space for more passengers or more than 1 wheelchair user then a larger WAV or minibus would be needed. These are suitable for 6 or 7 passengers and 2 or more wheelchair users , depending on the converter , with the access being a powered rear lift.

 

Popular makes and models include:

 

Large WAVs
Renault Master | Volkswagen Transporter | Peugeot Boxer | Vauxhall Vivaro 
 

View large WAVs for sale - Used | New | Motability


Things to consider include:

 

  • How many passengers will typically travel in your vehicle?

  • How much equipment do you generally carry with you?

  • What size vehicle are you comfortable driving?

  • Where will you store your vehicle?  Is your drive or garage large enough?

  • What is the size of the wheelchair? Is it manual or powered?

  • Size of the wheelchair user? Are they very tall?

 

Ramp or Lift

The entrance to a WAV will be either via a ramp or a lift - at the rear or side or the vehicle. The type of wheelchair, the assistance required and the size of the WAV will determine which is the best option - things to consider include:
 

  1. Is the wheelchair manual or electric?

  2. Does the wheelchair user require help or assistance? and by whom?

  3. What size in the wheelchair?

  4. Is rear or side access going to be best?
Screen Shot 2016-09-27 at 16.12.52.png

Ramp entrance:


The most common type of entrance is a manual rear ramp, where the ramp is folded out from the rear of the vehicle. There are some variations depending on the conversion (See Conversions section) and often a winch is preferred to help and assist with getting the wheelchair user up the ramp into the vehicle.


Things to consider:
 

  • The length of the ramp - the longer the ramp the less steep it is and therefore easier to wheel up.

  • Spring loaded - some ramps have springs which make it easier to raise and lower.

  • Folding - there is a mid-folding type, which makes it easier to raise and lower but also keeps the rear window for viewing out of.

  • Rear or side access - the majority are at the rear, although side access ramps are available.

 

Lift entrance:


WAVs are available with a lift - usually a rear platform lift that is operated using a remote control. A lift is often the preferred choice if the wheelchair is electric or the user requires assistance where pushing up a ramp is too difficult.


Things to consider:

 
  • Lifts are power operated - although reliable they do need servicing regular to ensure they continue to be in perfect working order.

  • Cost is higher - compared to a manual ramp a powered lift is more expensive, so this type of WAV is often dearer compared to the manual ramp alternative.

  • Size of WAV - a lift takes up room and therefore is usually only available with large WAVs.

Conversions

You’ll often notice that certain makes and models have different conversions - the reason is that there are a number of converters , some of them convert (take a standard vehicle and make it wheelchair accessible) the same makes and models of vehicles - so one Renault Kangoo might be different to another in terms of seat layout and access because it has a different conversion.

Most of the converters sell direct to the public brand new converted WAVs - available to buy privately or via Motability . You’ll also find some of the converters sell used WAVs, which are usually those converted by themselves.

The conversions do differ slightly - and people in the trade may prefer one type over another. They all pass strict testing and are certified, so rather than pick a conversion on the name it’s best to go with what is best for your needs. For example, you may have a wider wheelchair so a conversion which only has one seat in the rear may be best or having a ramp which folds and is spring loaded may be of benefit and make it easier to lower and raise.

We currently work with and recommend the following converters:

Allied Mobility - find out more.

Cartwright Mobility - find out more.

Brook Miller - find out more.

Sirus Automotive - find out more.

Jubilee Automotive - find out more.

Accessible Vehicles - find out more.

Gowrings Mobility - find out more.

 

Things to consider:

  • Most conversions mean the fuel tank has been made smaller, so the MPG will be lower than the standard non-converted version.

  • Lowered floor - nearly all conversion have a lowered floor, so there is enough head room and the ramp is not too steep. But this does make floor clearance less, so if you live 'off-road' it might be worth looking into those with the most floor clearance.

  • Room in the back - if the conversion is for 3 plus a wheelchair user then there will be one less seat and more room in the back, when compared to 4 + wheelchair user

 

Used, New, Hire & Sell

Used WAVs

There is a wide selection of WAVs available on the used market - available to buy from private individuals and motor dealers, many of which only specialise in WAVs. You can browse the used section of WAV Compare here and then in the top right hand corner of any WAV listing easily find the seller details, where you can email or call them direct.

You may wonder where the used WAVs come from - the vast majority are 'ex-Motability' where they have been provided by Motability from new and then returned when the lease ends after 5 years. They then become available to buy as trade and available for sale on the used market. In general this is good news, they have only had one owner and will have full service history. As you may know yourself, getting wheelchairs in and out of a car is not always easy, so often you’ll find a few more scratches and bumps on a used WAV.


New WAVs

All used WAVs were once brand new! - so there is a huge range of new WAVs available to buy fully wheelchair accessible direct from the converter. You’ll notice that some of the converters sell the same make and model of vehicles, for example the Fiat Doblo is a popular choice and is sold by a number of converters. The best one for you will depend on your requirements and you can find out more about conversions in the previous section.

Wheelchair users don't pay VAT:

When you buy a new WAV (or in a fact any motor vehicle), you are registered disabled and a wheelchair user then you may be eligible for VAT relief - where no VAT is charged. There is a more in depth PDF available from HMRC which you can view here .


Don't be afraid to ask for a free home demo!

There are not 100's of specialist WAV dealers across the UK - so often finding one on your doorstep where you can pop along and view a huge selection of WAVs is not possible. You might be lucky - check out our dealer search here, where you can search via your postcode or region.

Most dealers are happy to bring a WAV to your house - where you can have a free home demonstration and see if it’s suitable for you - give them a call and ask.

 

Motability Scheme

The Motability scheme enables you to lease a car, scooter or wheelchair in exchange for your higher rate mobility allowance and there are a number of WAVs available on the scheme.

 

A WAV leased via Motability will cost you a minimum of £16,200 over 5 years and you do not own the vehicle. Whilst Motability can be a great scheme - but it's not always the best option  for everyone and it is certainly worth considering all the options and how a used WAV with private finance compares.

 

Hire a WAV

If you don't need a WAV long term then hiring a WAV may be a good option - you can hire for 3 days or lease for up to 12 months. It depends on your individual circumstances but it can allow you to 'try out' a WAV and see if it's going to work for you and if you are not sure how long the vehicle will be needed then a rolling WAV hire where you can extend monthly may be ideal.

Hiring a WAV for a few days will cost more than compared to an ordinary non adapted car - this is due to the cost of the vehicle being higher to purchase originally and because of the availability being a lot less. Most towns have numerous places where you can hire a Ford Focus with delivery only being a few miles down the road. With WAV hire there are less than 5 companies in the whole of the UK who hire WAVs on any scale so delivery and collection costs can be an issue, especially for hire of less than 1 week.

To find out costs all you need to do is complete our quick form here .

Sell your WAV

We have 100’s of visitors each and every day - all looking for a WAV. If you have a WAV for sale then we provide the ideal platform to advertise and reach these people.

Adding a WAV listing is easy - you simply create an account and login using a username and password, add the description and upload photos. For multiple dealer listings we can upload for you and offer our unique ‘website match’ where we match your website to the WAVs listed on WAV Compare.

List and sell your WAV today!

Private seller - click here.

Specialist dealer - click here.

Adaptations

A fully converted WAV will consist of a ramp or lift for access but there are a number of adaptations that can make life easier and those that still allow the wheelchair user to drive with ease, including:

Hand Controls
 

Hand controls can be fitted to nearly every automatic car - in simple terms they fit under the steering wheel and when ‘pulled’ the car accelerates and when ‘pushed’ the brakes are applied. They can be fitted from around £500 and enable you to drive a car without the need to use your feet!

Steering Ball
 

A steering wheel ball simply clamps onto the wheel gives you enhanced mobility and control - often used in conjunction with hand controls but ideal if hand grip is an issue or extra control is preferred on larger vehicles.

Left Foot Accelerator
 

Designed for drivers who are unable to operate the accelerator pedal with their right foot, this adaptation allows a driver to operate an accelerator pedal on the left of the brake pedal with their left foot. There is a mechanical and electrical version available and a vehicle can be converted easily, allowing you to switch between right and left foot and with no loss of acceleration, including the kick down.

Swivel Seat
 

Depending on your mobility you may want to access the WAV using your wheelchair - but then transfer into either the passenger or drivers seat. You will find some WAVs have already been converted and called ‘transfer seat’ but it is also an option to have this adaption fitted after depending on your requirements.

Electric Winch
 

An electric winch is fitted within the WAV and using the belt and various connectors you fasten this to the front of the wheelchair - the winch will be remote controls and helps assist the wheelchair up the ramp and into the vehicle, taking the load and making it easier for the wheelchair user and/or passenger assisting.

WAV Compare

WAV compare makes finding and comparing WAVs easy - there are hundreds available for sale from private sellers and dealer across the UK. To enhance your browsing experience look out for the following.

click the plus to add any WAV to your garage.

click the plus within a circle to view a comparison chart.