Understanding the Different Types of Wheelchair Lifts for Vehicles

Choosing the right mobility scooter or wheelchair lift for your vehicle isn’t always as simple as you might think. In fact, it takes a thorough understanding of each type of lift to make the right decision. Depending on the vehicle, mobility situation or wheelchair, certain types of automotive wheelchair lifts are going to be a better fit than others. The purpose of this guide is to give you quick insight into the different styles of automotive wheelchair lifts and to help you determine which will be most helpful to your situation.

Outside lifts

A mobility scooter lift mounted outside the vehicle

As its name implies, an outside lift is secured to the exterior of a vehicle, usually via a trailer hitch receiver, so that a mobility scooter or wheelchair can be transported from place to place safely secured to the rear of the vehicle. These types of lifts are popular because they can be used with virtually any size vehicle and don’t take up any interior vehicle room. Outside lifts also have the added benefit of being able to be transferred from vehicle to vehicle with relative ease.

Outside lifts are also more accommodating to those with minor accessibility issues and can be operated by a single person, provided that person can stand for two to three minutes while the lift is in operation. Outside lifts also frequently require tie-down straps and wheelchair covers to ensure the wheelchair is safe and secure at all times while in transit.

User capabilities required to use this lift include being able to:

  • Walk from the front to the rear of the vehicle and back.
  • Stand for two to three minutes while the lift operates.
  • Drive or push the mobility device onto and off of the platform.
  • Insert the key and rotate 90-degrees to turn on and activate the lift.
  • Apply pressure to hold the up and down buttons while the lift is in operation.

Examples of Outside Lifts

Hybrid Lifts

A hybrid style mobility scooter lift

Hybrid lifts are mounted in a vehicle’s cargo area and are generally installed in SUVs and vans, since space is needed to house the entire lift within the vehicle, as opposed to an outside lift. What makes hybrid lifts truly convenient is their drive-on platform, much like the one outside lifts have: a person can easily wheel themselves onto the lift, where the lift’s mechanical system will do the rest to raise and lower the mobility scooter into and out of the vehicle.

Even though hybrid lifts allow for a scooter to be transported securely within a vehicle, tie-downs and other restraints are still required and many hybrid lifts come with automated security features, such as hold-down arms. This style of lift is moderately easy to operate and may require some assistance.

User capabilities required to use this lift include being able to:

  • Walk from the front to the rear of the vehicle and back.
  • Stand for two to three minutes while the lift operates.
  • Drive or push the mobility device onto and off of the platform.
  • Fold down the seat back of the mobility device until it is in its most compact position.
  • Apply pressure to hold the up and down buttons while the lift is in operation.

Examples of Hybrid Lifts

Inside lifts and hoists

A wheelchair lift in an SUV

Inside lifts offer a more compact, cost efficient mobility solution at the cost of being marginally more difficult to operate. Inside lifts are mounted within a vehicle’s cargo area, much like hybrid lifts, however instead of being fully operational with the press of a button, these lifts swing outward to lift and load a scooter or wheelchair. Because the entire system is very compact, an inside lift can be applied in smaller SUVs, where limited space for a lift system might be an issue.

The reason inside lifts are slightly more difficult to operate has to do with the labor involved in securing the wheelchair and getting it into the vehicle—certain levels of dexterity, balance, strength and coordination are needed for this type of lift, where other lifts are almost entirely automated.

User capabilities required to use this lift include being able to:

  • Walk from the front to the rear of the vehicle and back.
  • Stand for two to three minutes while the lift operates.
  • Attach the docking device to the mobility device.
    • May require bending or kneeling, hand dexterity, balance and strength.
  • Fold down the seat back of the mobility device until it is in its most compact position.
  • Apply pressure to hold the up and down buttons while the lift is in operation.
  • Guide the mobility device through the complete lift cycle to avoid interference while raising, rotating and entering the vehicle.

Examples of Inside Lifts and Hoists

Summary

As originally mentioned, finding the right automotive wheelchair lift means assessing your mobility situation, your vehicle and your needs. Smaller vehicles may benefit from an outside lift, while other mobility situations may benefit from the completeness of a hybrid lift, while those with vehicular space restrictions and access to physical assistance may find inside lifts to be the best solution.

It pays to understand each type of lift, its pros and cons, and what each has to offer you in the way of mobility solutions before making an investment. If you need help deciding which lift is right for you, don’t hesitate to give the product experts at DiscountRamps.com a call today at 888-651-3431!

Click here to return to the Knowledge Base