There are a wide variety of available options when it comes to choosing the right mobility solutions for your wheelchair accessible vehicle, but with the help of our local NMEDA dealers, Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialists and informative blog posts, we hope to ease the decision making process. One of the most difficult decisions is whether to choose a ramp or a lift to guarantee safe entry into your mobility vehicle. Both options can get you safely in and out of a new or used wheelchair van, but really the decision is a matter of budget and personal preference.

Choosing a Wheelchair Ramp

There are three main options when it comes to choosing a ramp for access into your accessible van: portable, motorized, or manual. One overall benefit of choosing a ramp is if you have, or are purchasing, a handicap lowered-floor van with a ramp they tend to be much less expensive, take up less space and are more fuel-efficient compared to a full-size van that is used for most lifts. Portable ramps are some of the least expensive and easiest to install. These ramps have the ability to be used with multiple vehicles, and be removed whenever they are not a necessity. Motorized ramps boast added convenience in their motorized movements and higher degree of autonomy, but with that comes more expense. With limited mobility, a powered ramp may be the difference between entering and exiting the vehicle on your own, or needing assistance to enter and exit. The last type of ramp is the manual ramp, which is less expensive but requires much more effort to extend and retract the ramp. When shopping for the specifics of your wheelchair accessible vehicle, further research the pros and cons of ramps, and with the help of NMEDA choose what’s best for you!

Choosing a Wheelchair Lift

Lifts are usually installed in full-sized vans, but help to effortlessly raise a person in a wheelchair into a vehicle. Be aware that all lifts depend, at least in part, on a battery. If your battery is weak or dead, the lifts will not work. Another thing to consider is if using a scooter some are longer than the standard platform on lifts and will need extended platforms. The first type is a hydraulic lift that uses a pump and cylinder filled with fluid pressure that enables the pump to raise and lower the lift. An electrical mechanical lift operates either by chain or screw rod, powered solely by the battery. A gravity lift has power to lift and fold, while gravity lowers the platform to ground level. Platform lifts are much more complicated and require two doors or a sliding door on the side of the van. A fully automatic platform lift will fold, unfold, lower and rise by a switch. A semi-automatic platform lift requires manual folding and unfolding and necessitates assistance. The last type of lift never folds it is called a swing lift because it “swings” inside, outside and up-and-down. Less room is needed to enter and exit the van, which provides a parking convenience. Finally, when purchasing a lift, be sure to check on the use of raised doors. If needed, your lift will have to be ordered for the extended doors. Determine if this is necessary before completing your vehicle equipment decisions. It will help you avoid very costly errors.

Final Decision

There are many choices and options for every type of mobility need and NMEDA is here to help with as much information and assistance possible! Always remember to contact a NMEDA dealer before purchasing to verify you’re buying the right type of ramp or lift suited for your lifestyle.

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 on

8 responses to “Ramps v. Lifts: Which One is Right for Your Mobility Vehicle?

  1. I am a 54 year old single female who has suffered from two strokes but needs a wheelchair accessible vehicle because I have a 21 year old son with cerebral palsy and it would be so awesome to be able to leave home with my son and go to dinner and a movie without having to take someone else with us. We have not had much quality alone time since I suffered the first stroke in 2009

  2. Is there any help/agency/program available for the purchase of a handicapped accessible vehicle? I live alone, am 67, and have limited funds. Thank you.

  3. I never realized that some scooters need a longer lift than others. Oftentimes, when I am in a parking lot, I see a lot of customized vans. It must be a pretty big project to customize a vehicle for a wheelchair. How much would it be to install a standard lift?

    1. Hi Cheryl,

      The cost to install a standard lift depends on a variety of factors. We recommend contacting your local NMEDA dealer to get an accurate quote based on your needs. You can find one near you here.

  4. I have a handicap accessible van with a ramp I brought it for my daughter about five or six years ago. But now it is not working I don’t have a lot of money but I really need to get it fixed do you know where I could go to have it fixed and get some help paying for it. My daughter as cerebral palsy so since the ramp is broke we can’t get out like we did before

    1. Hi Betty,

      We recommend contacting your local NMEDA dealer for help on repairing your wheelchair accessible van. You can look for the one nearest you here.

  5. Wow, I had no idea how important the battery was to power a lift for a wheelchair accessible van. My best friend recently because chronically ill and had to get a wheelchair, so we’re looking to help her get a good van she can use with wheelchair accessibility. We were thinking a lift might be best since she’s not strong enough to push herself up a ramp. Thank you for the information about looking into hydraulic, electrical, and gravity lifts to see which ones will suit her needs best.