If a conversion van isn’t currently in your budget but you still want to travel by van, you may consider purchasing a wheelchair lift. Wheelchair lifts help you safely store your narrow wheelchair in the vehicle and bring it with you while you’re on the go. There are different types of vehicle lifts for your narrow wheelchair. The three main types are inside lifts, outside lifts and hybrid lifts.
Outside Vehicle Lifts for Narrow Wheelchairs
True to its name, an outside vehicle lift is attached to the outside of a vehicle by a hitch. It consists of an actuator and platform that help secure and transport the mobility device. Out of the three types of lifts, outside vehicle lifts are the easiest to use, most accommodating and most compatible with any size vehicle. They are also convenient in that they won’t take up any space within the vehicle. Another benefit to outside vehicle lifts is their ease of transfer. If you are traveling with multiple people who have different vehicles, this lift can be easily transferred from vehicle to vehicle.
This lift is operated by inserting and turning a key and applying pressure to hold the toggle switch in the direction that you’d like the lift to go. Other than being able to stand for two to three minutes while operating the lift, there are no other demanding physical requirements for using this type of lift. Outside lifts often require tie-down straps and wheelchair covers to ensure wheelchair safety and security while on the go.
Inside Vehicle Lifts and Hoists for Narrow Wheelchairs
Inside lifts are mounted in the rear part, also known as the cargo area, of the vehicle. This type of lift is more difficult to operate than others because of the manual work involved in securing the power wheelchair and getting it into the vehicle.
Inside wheelchair lifts contain a hoist mechanism that swings outside of the vehicle to load and lift the narrow wheelchair into the vehicle. This lift system is compact, making it perfect for smaller vehicles where space might be an issue.
Minimum requirements to operate an inside vehicle lift include being able to walk from the front of the vehicle to the rear, and back, standing up to three minutes while the lift is in use and attaching the docking device to your narrow wheelchair. Additional requirements include folding down the back of the seat of your power wheelchair until it is in its most compact position, holding down the button on the control while operating the lift and guiding the electric wheelchair to avoid any interference while operating the lift. If you are traveling with a caretaker, they can assist in using an inside auto lift for your narrow wheelchair.
Hybrid Vehicle Lifts for Narrow Wheelchairs
Hybrid lifts, as you can probably guess, function both inside and outside the vehicle to load your narrow wheelchair onto the platform and then into the vehicle’s cargo area. The lift itself is mounted within the cargo area of the vehicle but moves out and down to load your wheelchair into the vehicle. While not as easy to operate as outside vehicle lifts, they’re still easier to operate than inside vehicle lifts.
This lift includes some of the benefits of an outside lift, such as being able to drive the motorized wheelchair onto the platform. Tie-down straps and other restraints are still required to secure your wheelchair onto the platform. Before purchasing a hybrid vehicle lift, make sure that you can walk from the front of the vehicle to the rear, and back. You need to stand for two to three minutes while the lift operates, fold down the seat back of the narrow wheelchair until it’s compact and apply pressure to hold the toggle switch while the lift is in operation. Operating this lift may require assistance.