Help & Advice

The Ultimate Guide to
Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles

Help, advice and the best deal

We can help simplify the buying process and provide the key important help and advice you need when buying a WAV.

Wheelchair accessible vehicles are commonly referred to as ‘WAVs’ – which are essentially 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 wheelchair to car seat transfers.

— SCOTT SPENCER, Founder of WAV Compare

Wheelchair accessible vehicle

Purchasing a wheelchair accessible vehicle is a big decision, there are several different types of wheelchair accessible vehicles. Deciding which one would be best for you will depend on your individual needs and requirements, comparing just the price is not the answer. However we hope the following guide provides all the information you need to help find your perfect WAV. Keep reading to discover how WAV Compare can assist you to find your perfect wheelchair accessible vehicle.


What is a wheelchair accessible vehicle?

A WAV is a vehicle that has been built or modified to allow access by a person in a wheelchair. For many wheelchair users, the act of transferring from their chair and into a normal car can be uncomfortable, and sometimes even painful, or dangerous. With a WAV, you can enter into the vehicle seated safely and comfortably in your own chair.

What kinds of wheelchair accessible vehicles are there?

There are three main types of WAVs.

Passenger WAVs

Passenger WAVs. In this type of vehicle, the wheelchair user is a rear travelling passenger. They enter the vehicle in their wheelchair using a ramp/tail lift, through a rear or side door. The wheelchair is then secured in place using wheelchair restraints.

Driver WAVs

Driver WAVs. This type of WAV enable the wheelchair user to drive from their wheelchair. These vehicles usually have been modified with adaption controls to meet the capabilities of the driver.

Ride Up Front

Ride Up Front. This is an increasingly popular type of conversion. These WAVs have the wheelchair user position ‘up front’ next to the driver in the traditional position of a front passenger.

What size of WAV do I need?

This will depend on what you want to do with your wheelchair accessible vehicle. A small WAV has room for the driver, one wheelchair user, and sometimes one other passenger. These are ideal for running around town as they are economical and easy to park. If, however you want to carry more passengers or lots of luggage, you will need to look for a larger vehicle. Remember to take into account where you will be parking the vehicle and if its suitable to fit in your garage, on your drive or on the road.

Other decisions that you must make about your
Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

Whether you are going to buy a vehicle that is already converted or have a custom
conversion done there are several basic things to consider when choosing a suitable WAV

Ramp or Lift

It’s always worth considering whether you would need a manual ramp or an electric tail lift. Although wheelchair chair accessible vehicles with ramps are made to be lightweight and simple to open/lift, it may be more suitable for some to have an electric opening ramp or tail lift that opens via a remote.

Side or Rear entrance

Rear entrance WAVs are more common than side entrance ones. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Rear entry gives you space behind the vehicle to deploy the ramp or lift for access this is good for bay parking but when parallel parking there is always the possibly someone else has parked close to the rear. Side entry is usually more desirable able and is good for when parking on a large drive but isn’t always suitable when parallel parking as the ramp usually cannot be used on the pavement, meaning the wheelchair user would need to enter the side on the road, where there could be could be oncoming traffic.

Fuel tank size

Frequently the floor of the vehicle is lowered to make the ramp access easier. This means that sometimes the size of the fuel tank is reduced. If you live a long way from a petrol station this could be a problem.

Internal transfer WAVS

Internal transfer WAVS are modified to allow the wheelchair user to pass easily from the wheelchair into the driving seat. They then stow the chair in the vehicle.

Drive from wheelchair

Drive from wheelchair WAVs allow the user to control the vehicle directly from their wheelchair which enters into the driving position through either a side or rear door and locks down behind the steering wheel.


Have you checked the measurements?

We recommend to measure the wheelchair user whilst in the chair

A. Height
B. Length
C. Width

You can then check the measurements with the dealer/seller as photos don’t show an accurate size of the vehicle, always allow some extra space.

Majority of manual/push-wheelchairs fit into wheelchair accessible vehicles but It is always best to check all measurements.

Electric wheelchairs tend to be larger than manual wheelchairs.

They also tend to be heavier in weight, so it is essential to know the measurements as well as the weight of the chair with the wheelchair user in.

You will need to check before buying that the vehicles ramp/lift weight capacity is suitable.

The Vehicle measurements we recommend to measure are

  • ramp/lift width
  • internal wheelchair position width
  • Entry height and internal height
  • Wheelchair position length
  • Ramp/lift weight capacity

This is to ensure all points of entry and internal space are suitable for the wheelchair passenger to enter and travel comfortably.

If the vehicle is a drive from it is also import to check what locking system is used for the wheelchair to be secured into place as they aren’t universal. Locking systems will only work if compatible with the wheelchair.

Some vehicles are adapted so that the wheelchair user can transfer via swivel seat from their wheelchair to driver seat.

Please note: We always recommend that you to view a wheelchair accessible vehicle in person before purchasing, whether you have a manual or electric wheelchair you should always check the vehicle is suitable in person..

Other choices that are the same when you purchase any vehicle

Automatic or manual

This usually is a choice of personal preference of the driver. For a wheelchair user who will be driving it is more common to have an automatic gearbox as this reduces the adaptations required.

New, used, or hire

There are, of course lots of advantages in purchasing a new vehicle, but prices can be prohibitively high for many people. However, at WAV Compare we offer a wide selection or pre-owned vehicles at very competitive prices. Hiring is a great option if you just want a WAV to go on holiday or for occasional use. It is also a good idea to hire a vehicle before buying a similar one. That way you can check it out before purchasing.

Latest blog post

Why should you buy a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle?

Purchasing a WAV can enrich your life. It will give you the freedom to visit new places as well as making visits to the shops or to the hospital a safe and pleasant experience. No more waiting for public transport, no more difficult transfers into a regular car, no more relying on someone else. With your own wheelchair accessible vehicle you can enjoy life to the full.

Buying a wheelchair accessible vehicle

Always purchase from a reputable and recommended dealer, or, if you are buying privately do so through a site such as WAV Compare. We can help you to find the new or used vehicle that best suits your needs. When you find your ideal vehicle, be sure to take the vehicle for a test drive and check our all aspects to make sure you feel safe and comfortable using them.