Wheelchair Ramp vs Lift: Which One Is Right for You?

Van customized with a wheelchair lift

When it comes to making your van more wheelchair accessible, you have two options: a wheelchair ramp or a lift. Both of these systems are an effective way to get you in and out of your van, but depending on your budget, vehicle, and preferences, one method may be better than the other.

Before you order a ramp or a lift, take some time to read up on the differences between the two to make sure you are making the right decision for you and your van.

Wheelchair Lifts

Vehicle wheelchair lifts are mechanical devices that are meant to bring ease and peace of mind to people in wheelchairs. These lifts operate like one-person elevators by lowering a platform to be even with the ground and then lifting the passenger slowly and safely up into the van.

Wheelchair lifts have a lot of moving parts. Because of this, they are generally larger and take up more space than a wheelchair ramp would. This size makes them a somewhat unrealistic choice for people who do not own full-sized vans.

When installing a lift, your van will need to have either a raised roof or a lowered floor. This will ensure that passengers are able to remain in their wheelchair while they are in the van and still have comfortable head room. Wheelchair lifts can vary in terms of how they work:

  • Hydraulic lifts are the most common and most popular kind of lift because they can handle heavier steel materials and are able to lift higher than other lifts can.
  • Cassette lifts are stored under the van when the van is in motion. When it’s time to get on board, they slide out from under the van and lift you up to the van.
  • Electric lifts are made of light aluminum, which means they cannot handle incredibly heavy passengers/wheelchairs but are less weight for the van to carry.
  • Platform wheelchair lifts are the most basic of the lift systems. They consist of a simple platform that goes up and down with no extra features or flash.
  • Vertical folding lifts are possibly the most versatile of the lifts. This lift allows for passengers that aren’t in a wheelchair to enter the van without having to deploy the lift.

In terms of downside, you have to think about the problems that owning a large van would bring with it. Parking will be harder in a larger vehicle, the wheelchair user may not be able to see out of the windows without a lowered floor, you’ll spend more on gas, and you may not have as much garage/parking space as you’re used to. However, if these things don’t bother you as much, then a wheelchair lift may be right for you.

Wheelchair Ramps

For those who do not have a large enough van for a lift, a wheelchair ramp is your best option. Wheelchair ramps can be either a manual or power conversion.

Power Conversion Ramp

If the wheelchair ramp is power-operated, it is often controlled with a remote control or a button. This power operation is as convenient as it gets: you press a button, the door opens, the ramp emerges and extends, and the van lowers if need be. Then, once you get into the van, another press of a button will retract the ramp and close the door for you.

Manual Conversion Ramp

Manually operated ramps are also user-friendly. They work the same way as a power operation ramp, but they are spring-loaded to make it easy to pull out and store away.

When it comes to ramp placement in your van, there are two main access points: rear-entry and side-entry. Rear-entry ramps deploy from the back of the vehicle; side-entry ramps extend outward from the driver’s or passenger’s seat. Rear-entry allows for a less steep ramp angle, but if you plan to drive your van, side-entry is the way to go.

One big advantage of a ramp system is the fact that whether you buy or convert a van, your roof will either be raised or your floor lowered. This is beneficial for a few reasons. First of all, if you lower the floor, it is a more forgiving angle when you move up and down the ramp. Secondly, when you’re in the van, a lowered floor/raised roof will be more comfortable for head room and also allows you to see out of the window.

Overall, when comparing wheelchair ramps and lifts, ramp systems are typically easier to operate and require less maintenance than lift options. Ramps can either fold up vertically or retreat into the floor of the van. A ramp system is also lighter than a lift system, which will save you money on gas in the long run. You can also save money on your vehicle because you don’t have to buy a large van like you do for a lift. You can convert any size of van into a wheelchair accessible vehicle with a ramp.  

Your Life. Your Ride.

Having a wheelchair should not limit your accessibility. Today’s technology allows people in wheelchairs plenty of options, whether you have a full-size van or a minivan. If you are looking for a new or used wheelchair accessible vehicle, check out our vehicle inventory at Rollx Vans. Get a van that works for your life today!

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