For individuals with disabilities, having access to a handicap accessible vehicle can be life changing and the key to gaining independence. However, purchasing a new or used wheelchair accessible vehicle may not be feasible for everyone. Wheelchair carriers are a great way to make most vehicles more accessible, allowing a wheelchair to be stored and transported with ease. Deciding which type of carrier is best for you may seem overwhelming, but when working with a qualified mobility professional, the process can be made quite easy.

It is important to know what specifications you require before beginning to look at carriers. The type of vehicle and wheelchair you have both make a difference in which style of carrier will be most beneficial for you. Also, your ability to fold and lift your chair is an important factor, as some lifts are manual and require more effort from the user.

There are four basic styles of wheelchair carriers: automatic car-top carriers, bumper mounted carriers, hitch-mounted carriers, and pick-up truck carriers. Understanding each of the four styles and talking to a NMEDA Quality Assurance Program Dealer will help you make an educated decision on which is best for you.

Automatic Car-Top Carrier

The automatic car-top carrier is mounted to the roof of a vehicle. An electric motor-driven hoist picks up the wheelchair and folds it as it rises. The carrier is automatic and controlled by a switch. This is a great option for those who need extra space inside their vehicle, and for those who cannot manually lift their chair. This style only works with manual chairs, and cannot lift extremely heavy weights. It’s also extremely important to consider the size of your car, as the carrier may be too heavy or long for your car model.

Bumper-Mounted Carrier

The bumper-mounted carrier is a simple style for use with a manual wheelchair. The wheelchair has to be manually folded and lifted on to the carrier, which may require some users to seek assistance. If your vehicle has a molded bumper, a QAP dealer may need to drill holes into the bumper during installation. The holes can be plugged if you ever decide to remove the carrier in the future. In many cases, the bumper-mounted carrier also makes it harder to access the car’s trunk.

Hitch-Mounted Carrier

The hitch-mounted carrier is a popular and cost-effective option for many wheelchair users. The carrier tilts down to load the wheelchair, and tilts up to lock into place. It can attach to any draw bar or ball mount already on the back of your vehicle. Some are manually operated, and some are automatic, allowing you to choose which best fits your needs and budget. Most hitch-mounted carriers also provide easy access to the trunk of the car.

Pick-Up Truck Carrier

The pick-up truck carrier is a great way to make your truck handicap accessible. The wheelchair is lifted into the bed of the truck by an electric-driven motor. It is important to note that the wheelchair has to be manually folded before it’s placed on the lift. If you need help transferring or folding your wheelchair, you may need additional caregiver assistance to use this style of carrier.

For additional information on which type of carrier will work best with your car, and how you can purchase one, please contact your local NMEDA QAP dealer.

The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) is an advocate for mobility and accessibility for drivers with disabilities. If you need help with converting or buying a handicap accessible car, truck or van, please consider one of our Quality Assurance Program mobility equipment dealers.

2 responses to “Wheelchair Carriers: What Type is Right for You?

  1. I have passed the point of no return. There is progressive weakness of my para spinal muscles and my the muscles that enable me to stand for any length of time or to walk safely any distance of more than 10 feet. Next the muscles from the base of my left spine are causing pain as well as weakness. This is due to a combination of Post-Polio Syndrome (Polio – Bulbar in 1945) and an at sea transfer by helicopter from the USS Enterprise where I was a Naval Flight Surgeon to a small Canadian Destroyer where a sailor had a Grand Mal Seizure. I w2as lowered by a horse-collar during a thunder storm. The helicopter was caught by a gust which sent me in to a swing. I hit a gun mount which prevented my ending up in very cold water. I did not immediately realize that I blew 2 discs. This was the cost of constant pain not relieved by 2 surgeries. I receive commendation by the USN, The Canadian Navy and the Canadian Department of Defence.

    I think I would prefer a wheelchair that could quickly be broken down and re-assembled. It hurts to walk more than a couple of feet.

    The combination+ Post-Polio has been re-lent-less. I finally reached the day I feared. More than a few feet, I had severe pain after walking a few feet; after 10-15 feet weakness sets in. In the past 2 weeks, I fell 3 or 4 times. No injury!

    I believe that powered assistance is needed, I still can drive; I cannot walk or stand.

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