For individuals who use wheelchairs in the UK, the importance of having an accessible vehicle goes beyond daily transportation needs—it extends to day trips, exploring the rich landscapes and historical sites that the UK offers. This comprehensive guide will delve into the key considerations for choosing wheelchair-accessible vehicles (WAVs) for sale in the UK, especially if you plan to take multiple-day trips.
Assessing Your Physical Needs
The first and most important step is to evaluate your physical needs and capabilities, considering the unique challenges that day trips present. This will determine the type of vehicle and accessibility modifications required.
Do you drive yourself or need a passenger WAV? If you’ll be the primary driver, make sure the vehicle can fully accommodate your wheelchair in the driver’s position. If you need a passenger WAV, focus on ride comfort from the passenger seat.
What are your specific mobility needs? Do you need a ramp for entry/exit? How much clearance is needed for your wheelchair inside the vehicle? Will you need to transfer to a seat? Understanding your exact requirements is essential.
Do you require special controls? Look into adapted driving equipment like hand controls if needed. Also, consider needs for steering, accelerating, signalling, etc. The vehicle should optimise independence.
Consider your current and future needs. You may require increased accessibility down the road. Investing in a WAV now that can grow with you is wise.
Assessing Your Lifestyle Needs
While physical accessibility is critical, also think about how the WAV will fit your lifestyle and perform when going on day trips:
Passenger capacity – Will you need to transport family, friends, or assistants too? The number of passengers you’ll regularly carry determines the required seating capacity. Measure between wheel wells – some vehicles may state they hold four passengers but actually only have space for one wheelchair.
Storage – What type of items will you need to store in the vehicle for daily use or travel? Wheelchairs, walkers, oxygen tanks and other medical equipment take up space, so ensure there is adequate boot storage capacity. You may also want storage bins or racks installed inside for easy access to key items while driving.
Comfort – Features like climate control, seat warmers, more padding, adjustable seats, and entertainment systems increase ride comfort over long distances. Assess the overall comfort for both driver and passengers.
Parking/manoeuvrability – Look into more compact WAVs if parking space is limited where you’ll be driving regularly. Take measurements of your garage, parking space dimensions, width of access paths, and any tight corners to ensure your WAV will fit.
Terrain – If you plan to drive to places with uneven or muddy roads, gravel tracks, grass, hills etc., then higher ground clearance, all-wheel-drive models, and more heavy-duty suspension could be useful. But this may trade off with parking/manoeuvrability.
Fun & style – While accessibility comes first, also consider your personal taste and how fun it is to drive. Splurge on upgrades like leather seats, premium sound systems or a sleek colour if it brings you joy. Driving can be an enjoyable experience.
Budget – What you can afford to spend on the WAV purchase and any required custom modifications also comes into play. Get quotes for different options to find the best fit for your budget. Set aside contingency funds in case more adaptations are needed down the road.
Take time to carefully consider all these lifestyle factors when choosing your wheelchair accessible vehicle. Test different models and component setups to find the combination providing you the accessibility, convenience, comfort and driving experience you desire.
Choosing Vehicle Type
Armed with a clear understanding of your accessibility and lifestyle needs, you can now zero in on the right type of wheelchair accessible vehicle for an enjoyable day trip experience in the UK. Common options include:
Converted vans – An existing van modified aftermarket to make it wheelchair accessible is a cost-effective option. Ramps, lifts, lowered floors, and wheelchair anchor points can be added to standard vans. Converted vans tend to be highly customisable to match your needs.
Minivans – With sliding side doors and lowered rear floors, minivans provide a nice balance of accessibility and space. Their passenger-friendly shape makes minivans a top choice for transporting families, with room for multiple wheelchairs if needed. Side entry ramps allow access without a lift.
SUVs – The higher ground clearance of SUVs can make access easier than lower sedans, reducing the need for expensive modifications. All-wheel drive models provide versatility to drive over varied terrain that would challenge other wheelchair accessible vehicles.
Full-size vans – If you require maximum interior space for multiple passengers or large power chairs, full-size wheelchair accessible vans are the way to go. Their boxy shape provides expansive flat floorplans that can be outfitted with roomy side entries, lifts, and multiple securement stations.
Compact vehicles – For a primary driver not needing to accommodate passengers, compact cars and small SUVs make parking, garaging and everyday driving much easier. Their smaller footprint provides greater manoeuvrability for accessibility in tight spaces. However, passenger capacity and interior storage space are extremely limited in a compact WAV.
Partnering with a mobility retailer that offers a range of new wheelchair accessible vehicles for sale is recommended. They can guide you through selections to find your perfect match. You can also consider adapted used vans which provide value.
Key Accessibility Components
To make your wheelchair accessible vehicles purchasing decision, familiarise yourself with the variety of available accessibility components:
- Ramps allow roll-in access via the side or rear. Manual, power, or automatic deployment.
- Lifts raise and lower wheelchairs into the vehicle. Require more time and coordination.
- Doors and frames should be a good width to accommodate your chair. Consider power doors and lowered frames.
- Flooring might be lowered, raised, or flat. Match to your wheelchair needs and personal preference.
- Tie downs/docking systems safely secure your wheelchair frame during transport.
- Seating and transfers must be configured for your specific mobility.
- Hand controls/steering devices enable independent driving.
- Other controls may be moved or adapted to improve access.
Consult mobility specialists to select the perfect components for you. Mix and match to create a fully personalised WAV to help ensure you have a safe and comfortable travel experience.
Finding the Right Dealer
Shopping for your wheelchair accessible vehicle requires an experienced mobility dealer who understands your needs. Look for:
- Extensive WAV inventory – More selections to find the best fit.
- Knowledgeable staff – Providing guidance on vehicles and modifications.
- Certified technicians – Expertly installing accessibility components.
- Personalised service – Helping configure your perfect custom WAV.
- Ongoing support – For maintenance, repairs, and future adaptation needs.
- Rental options – To trial vehicles before purchase.
Finding a dealer you trust and working collaboratively will lead to finding a WAV that gives you the independence and flexibility you deserve, especially on trips out.
Take Your Time Evaluating Options
Selecting the ideal wheelchair accessible vehicle for day trips is a substantial investment that warrants ample time and consideration. Set aside time to research different vehicles, assess how they fit your physical and lifestyle needs, and weigh pros and cons before deciding.
Test driving is also essential. Try out multiple vehicles to get a feel for access, comfort, ease of driving, and suitability before making your choice. Dealers will often let you take demo vehicles home for more extensive testing.
Owning a wheelchair accessible vehicle tailored to your needs opens up exciting possibilities for day trips across the UK. Take it slowly, do in-depth test drives, and don’t compromise. Investing in the ideal wheelchair accessible vehicle allows you to get around comfortably and safely.