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At any age, a decline in mobility can make it difficult to maintain your usual lifestyle at home. Fortunately, tools like wheelchair lifts can help you out . They empower people who use wheelchairs to move in and out of their vehicles safely, postponing talks of assisted living facilities and nursing homes and allowing them to age in place comfortably.
However, it’s important to find a quality product that meets your specific needs before you purchase a wheelchair lift. The Forbes Health editorial team analyzed data on more than three dozen lift products to choose the top wheelchair lifts for vehicles. From stability to price to special features, read on to discover the top models that made our list.
Note: Product prices are accurate as of the publication date and are subject to change.
This versatile hybrid auto lift conveniently attaches to the outside of a vehicle and loads the wheelchair inside the vehicle, making it ideal for smaller cars that can’t accommodate an inside lift. For those looking to save a little money, it comes with free delivery and can be self-installed.
We love how this option lifts a power wheelchair or scooter with just the push of a button. A docking device for your wheelchair is included for no extra charge, which is a nice plus. This lift also features a fold-down lift head that allows for partial third row seating access in some cars.
This heavy-duty lift has an aluminum deck built to last for years (according to the company), and the universal design means it can transport almost any kind of wheelchair without any modifications. It works in a variety of cars, too.
This outside auto lift is easy to install on the back of a vehicle, and the fold-down ramp can be used in three different positions, making it versatile. We also like that it features a universal design so it can hold almost any type of wheelchair.
This wheelchair lift is simple to store in your car whenever it’s not in use. With an easy-to-use design, it folds and stashes away in your car with just the push of a button. It can also be easily removed when you no longer need it since it doesn’t require any modifications to your vehicle.
This easy-to-use lift can be self-installed, so you can skip the price of an installation fee. The platform features small ramps so you can safely drive your chair off it. The platform is also pretty large and can accommodate most wheelchairs easily.
To determine the best wheelchair lifts for vehicles, the Forbes Health editorial team analyzed data on more than three dozen lift products, ranking them and assigning star ratings based on:
Simply put, a wheelchair lift is a mechanical device that lifts a wheelchair on a motorized platform. They can be used inside or outside the home and are generally used in places where a ramp isn’t possible. For instance, you might use a wheelchair lift to get from one floor of a house to another or when getting in or out of a car or van. They give someone in a wheelchair more mobility than they would have otherwise.
They are more than just machines, says James (Jim) Dan, Ph.D, a geriatric clinical advisor and member of the Senior Helpers Board, a nationwide aging in place assistance service. “They are absolutely liberating devices,” he says. “With lifts, folks can stay in their own homes and be able to function like they always did—free to go where they want when they want and participate in activities of daily living.”
There are a few different types of wheelchair lifts, including auto wheelchair lifts. “Wheelchair lifts are commonly installed at facilities or on vehicles,” explains Sachin Nagrani, M.D., the medical director for Heal, a national home-based primary care provider. “At home or at a facility, the lift may be indoors or outdoors,” he adds. “Lifts are generally powered by either screw drive or hydraulic drive and are built to residential or commercial grade.”
“Vertical platform lifts can raise a wheelchair [from just a few] inches to 10 feet or more,” says Dan. “They help you gain access to an outdoor porch or an entry door.” They travel straight up and down and are probably the most common type of lift.
“Incline lifts stimulate a staircase,” explains Dan. They move diagonally across a barrier and travel at an angle.
There’s no platform with hoist lifts—instead, a crane-like element uses a rotating arm to pick up the wheelchair. This arm can place the wheelchair in its destination (typically a van or truck) and then lower it to the ground again when needed.
Auto lifts help people in wheelchairs get in and out of cars, and there are three basic types: inside lifts, outside lifts and hybrid lifts. “Inside lifts protect the wheelchair and may allow you to remain seated in the wheelchair during transit,” explains Dr. Nagrani. “Outside lifts preserve space inside the vehicle and require fewer modifications to install but subject the wheelchair to the weather. Hybrid lifts offer the same benefits as an inside lift but install on the exterior of the vehicle.”
A wheelchair lift is a big purchase, so there are a lot of things to keep in mind before buying one. You have to figure out which type of wheelchair lift makes the most sense for your lifestyle and then look at various factors, such as safety features, size, budget and more.
You want a wheelchair lift that’s safe and secure. Dr. Nagrani recommends looking for the following safety features:
Be sure that the wheelchair lift you’re considering purchasing can accommodate the weight of both the wheelchair and the user. Most of the wheelchair lifts for vehicles on our list are designed to lift the wheelchair exclusively and are often better suited for lightweight models, as well as mobility scooters.
Think about where you want your wheelchair lift and how you want to use it. Measure the area where you plan on putting it to be sure that the lift fits appropriately.
Proper installation is an important part of your wheelchair lift purchase. A licensed installer should be the one putting the wheelchair lift in place since most locations require construction for the install. With that said, many wheelchair lifts for vehicles are much simpler to install than ones for homes and can often be installed by the consumer.
The cost of wheelchair lifts varies greatly. Costs can range from $1,000 to $15,000, according to Dan, and ultimately depend on the type of lift, size, safety features and more.
For instance, a basic vertical lift can cost approximately $5,000 while inclined lifts can cost between $2,000 and $5,000. Again, prices vary significantly, and what you spend ultimately is up to you and your budget.
Insurance may cover the cost of a wheelchair lift, and it’s something you should look into with your plan. “Traditional federal Medicare coverage does not cover lifts, but Medicare Advantage (MA) programs may,” says Dan. “Each MA plan offers different benefits, which should be explored. Medicaid programs, which are state-run, do cover lifts in many situations.”
Dr. Nagrani adds that Medicare doesn’t pay for residential wheelchair lifts because they’re considered home modifications. “Private insurance plans and Medicaid may vary, as there are many different plans available,” he adds.
If your insurance doesn’t cover a wheelchair lift and you can’t afford one, Dr. Nagrani recommends looking into other options. “State and local governments and nonprofits also exist to support the needs of seniors within the community,” he says. “These programs may have eligibility requirements and can be found on the Eldercare Locator website.”
Compare Best Wheelchair Lifts For Vehicles
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Find Wheelchair Cushions For You
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Jessica Booth is a New York-based freelance writer who regularly writes about health, wellness, parenting, food, travel, beauty and more for a variety of publications. She currently writes for Forbes Health, Insider, The Daily Beast, Brides, Redbook, Woman's Day, Women's Health, Scary Mommy, Romper and Life Savvy. Her byline has also appeared on Refinery 29, Cosmopolitan, Delish, Greatist, The Inventory, and Bustle. She previously worked as the editor-in-chief of Gurl.com, part of Defy Media.
Portable Electric Mobility Scooter Alena is a professional writer, editor and manager with a lifelong passion for helping others live well. She is also a registered yoga teacher (RYT-200) and a functional medicine certified health coach. She brings more than a decade of media experience to Forbes Health, with a keen focus on building content strategy, ensuring top content quality and empowering readers to make the best health and wellness decisions for themselves.