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6 Top Tips: How To Choose The Best Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV)

Choosing a vehicle to suit your disability or circumstances can be difficult as there are many factors to consider. Some people may find it easier than others, but it’s very important to try and think long term. This is especially important if, like me, your disability or wheelchair is likely to change over a few years. I’ve had many wheelchair accessible vehicles throughout my life so I thought I’d share my top tips on how to choose the best wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV).

6 Top Tips How to Choose The Best Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) pinterest

What Is A WAV?

A WAV, short for wheelchair accessible vehicle, is an adapted vehicle designed to allow a passenger to remain in their wheelchair. There are different types of WAVs to suit various needs and circumstances.

For example, I have a Ford Connect Freedom™ WAV (shown in the photos below) with a ramp at the rear of the vehicle which allows me to sit in the back in my wheelchair.

Other wheelchair accessible vehicles allow passengers to sit up front next to the driver or allow the driver to remain in their wheelchair.

Ford Connect Freedom™ WAV parked on a snowy road surrounded by snow covered trees: 6 Top Tips How to Choose The Best Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV)
Ford Connect Freedom™ WAV parked on a snowy road surrounded by snow covered trees: 6 Top Tips How to Choose The Best Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV)
Ford Connect Freedom™ WAV parked on a snowy road surrounded by snow covered trees: 6 Top Tips How to Choose The Best Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV)
Ford Connect Freedom™ WAV parked on a snowy road surrounded by snow covered trees: 6 Top Tips How to Choose The Best Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV)

How To Choose The Best Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV)

There are so many things to consider when choosing a WAV. As much as they are important factors there really is more to think about than what make and colour to get.

Don’t get me wrong picking a colour and sticking with it was so difficult for me. I changed my mind every hour for weeks until I finally made my mind up. I blame my extreme indecisiveness.

1. Size

We’re made to believe that size doesn’t matter, but when it comes to choosing a wheelchair accessible vehicle, size really does matter. Do you need a small or large van? You are likely to have the WAV for at least 5 years (through Motability Scheme) so it’s got to be right and suit your needs now and a few years down the line. So consider possible changes in your needs and disability in order to size up the best option for you.

2. Are You A Backseat Passenger?

As I mentioned earlier, there are different types of WAVs and some allow the wheelchair user to either sit in the back or upfront next to the driver or be the actual driver. You have to decide which option you’d prefer because not all WAVs have both options available for the same make of car.

For example, there might only be one make of car that offers a wheelchair accessible vehicle with the option to sit upfront in your wheelchair. This option may also cost thousands more.

Of course, there is also the option of a drive from wheelchair WAV. Figure out where you would prefer to sit and take it from there.

3. Adaptions

Do you need hand controls to allow you to drive from your wheelchair? How are you going to drive your wheelchair into your wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV)? You will need to decide between a ramp or lift as each has different functions as well as pros and cons.

Ramps can be operated either manually or by a winch. Lifts are operated electronically so this may be suitable for larger vans. My wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) has a ramp as well as a winch if needed and this setup suits my needs perfectly.

4. Karaoke Carpooling

When choosing a wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) it’s important to consider who will be travelling with you. Do you travel with your friends or family on a regular basis? Do you have a carer who often accompanies you on journeys? Are solo car journeys your thing or do you love a bit of karaoke carpooling with friends and family? You will need to consider the minimum number of seats you will need.

We had the option of three seats in the back, but two of them would have to be folded down when I was in the vehicle. This just wasn’t a practical option for us as well as costing more money, which we couldn’t justify. In the end, we went for one passenger seat in the back which is only used by my nephew anyway.

5. What Do You Need To Take With You?

This one comes back to the size of WAV you need. If you need other equipment with you or if you like going on weekend breaks and road trips with lots of luggage then you are going to need lots of space.

Our WAV has space in the back for luggage and equipment we need to take away with us on trips as well as space for a passenger in the back with me as well as the front passenger. Sometimes it can be a tight squeeze, but we get there in the end.

6. Motability Or Private Purchase?

You have to weigh up the pros and cons for each, but the decision ultimately comes down to your personal preference and circumstances. We decided to go for a wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) through the Motability scheme as this was the most suitable option for us. Motability provides security and covers things like insurance, servicing, MOT and repairs.

We had to cover the advance payment and then only fuel costs. Every 5 years we can renew our lease and get a new vehicle. In order to get a vehicle from Motability, you must be willing to give up the mobility component of your DLA or PIP.

Buying a wheelchair accessible vehicle privately can be a lot more expensive. However, that may suit you better especially if you need one urgently or do not receive any qualifying benefits. By purchasing a WAV privately you will be responsible for all costs including insurance, service, MOT etc.

Ford Connect Freedom™ WAV parked on a snowy road surrounded by snow covered trees: 6 Top Tips How to Choose The Best Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV)

Please leave some of your tips on how to choose the best wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) in the comments below.

More on this topic…

The Pros and Cons of a Sit Upfront Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle
5 Top Tips: How To Look After A Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV)
Free Kwik Fit Mobile Tyre Fitting Service at Home for Motability Scheme Customers
What To Do When Your Motability Scheme Vehicle Breaks Down
Driving with a Disability: What to do if you Break Down
Driving a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) in the UK

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This post is in collaboration with WAV Compare but, as always, all content and opinions are my own.

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Meet Emma

Hello I’m Emma. My mission is to show you the possibilities of accessible travel through my travel guides, tips and reviews. I also share personal stories, live event reviews and more.

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13 Responses

  1. Hello Emma. I have recently (Aug 2017) changed to a WAV as I now use a powered wheelchair. It took me some time to find one that I was happy with having been used to standard saloon cars. The idea of driving around in a van didn’t really appeal to me but, it was a matter of needs must. My biggest problem was getting out of the vehicles that I tried. I almost gave up on the idea until Richard at Allied Mobility put me onto a device called a Transfer Plate which would lift me to a standing position. Brilliant indeed. Eventually I went for the VW Caddy Vista, a full 5 seater and more than enough room behind the seats for wheelchair. Up front payment was considerable but it is for 5 years. My local dealer is excellent. Therefore, I guess although it’s a van, it does what it says on the tin and what I need.

  2. That’s cool that lifts use electricity to work and do well in large vehicles. My dad has recently found that he needs to use a wheelchair to get around. We’ll have to get a wheelchair lift installed into our van.

  3. Hi Amanda. Thanks for your comment. I hope you find a suitable wheelchair accessible van for your Dad. Have you found any that you’re interested in?

  4. I had to change to a WAV last year as I needed to use my powered wheelchair when going out to parks, restaurants and stopping for the odd coffee. My problem with chosing vehicle was being able to get out from driving seat with the vehicles I tried and liked. Problem solved with the fitting of an “Elap transfer plate” which lifts me to a standing position. Definitely worth a look for all wheelchair users who still drive.

  5. In choosing a WAV with a rear ramp for a manual wheelchair be very careful to ask about the winch installed. The winch installed with the Berlingo Automotive Group conversion is brilliant and will cope on the steepest incline, even if you do accidentally leave the wheelchair brakes on! It also allows the wheelchair and occupant to be slowly and safely removed from the vehicle. On the other hand the winch on the VW Caddy GM conversion we recently provided with on a courtesy vehicle, whilst ours was being repaired, was bordering on dangerous. It could barely cope with loading the wheelchair on a slight incline and just let go when you pressed the out button on the winch remote. The important lesson here is that not all winches are the same!

  6. Does anyone know which large WAV is most suitable for a Quickie wheelchair with a person in it who is 5feet 10inches

    1. Hi Angela. Thank you for your comment. I think for the most accurate information you may be best to speak with the WAV dealers who can best advise based on the actual measurements of your wheelchairs. Personally I have a Ford Tourneo Connect and a Quickie wheelchair, I’d say there would be enough space but I’m not sure what exact Quickie wheelchair you have.

      1. Thank you – I’ve almost resorted to banging my head against a brick wall – we need a large van – we were lucky enough to have been awarded a motability grant but everything they suggested was too small for my son and then our family ….. we have a quickie Salsa 2 and every demo I’ve seen online (Covid is an issue atm obviously) have been for manual chairs – Thank you for this advice this is what I’ve been looking at for us

        1. Thank you for your comment, Anna. Please let me know how you get on finding a suitable WAV. I’d love to know which one you choose and how it works out for you all 🙂

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