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Buying New, Second-hand, or Hiring a WAV?

Buying New, Second-hand, or Hiring a WAV?

Buying new, second-hand, or hiring a WAV?

Think carefully about what you need from your wheelchair accessible vehicle.

Read the WAVs checklist

  • Do your research to find out what’s available.
  • The right vehicle can help you be more independent.

The wrong WAV could be worse than useless and an expensive mistake.

Buying a new WAV

You can buy a new WAV directly from a WAV converter, who will adapt a vehicle with the assistive technology you require.

  • The process can take time – involving demonstrations, an assessment, the conversion itself and the
    fitting of adaptations.
  • The converter will be able to tell you what features are available in their product range.

Speak to more than one converter and ask them to show you suitable vehicles.

Buying a second-hand WAV

Some converters and some other suppliers sell second-hand WAVs which means:

  • they’re usually cheaper
  • you won’t have to wait for the vehicle to be converted
  • you may have to search for a while to find one that meets your needs
  • if you have specialist needs, you may not be able to find a suitable second-hand vehicle

Anything you buy second-hand may be affected by safety and reliability issues.

The seller may have had an inspection carried out and/or offer a warranty. If not, you may want to
think about carrying out your own inspection.

Hiring a WAV

There are also companies that offer a WAV rental service:

  • You can get a WAV on a short- or a long-term rental agreement.
  • This may suit you if you’re only going to be using a wheelchair temporarily, or you need a replacement
    vehicle while another WAV is being serviced.
  • If you have very specialised needs, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to hire a suitable vehicle.

Test drive

It’s essential that you try out any WAV that you’re thinking about buying. It’s also a good idea to try
more than one, ideally from more than one converter. Converters can bring a vehicle to your home
for a demonstration. You are under no obligation to buy.

  • It will take some time for you to test a vehicle.
  • Make sure you can do everything that you’ll need to be able to do yourself. Get anyone who’ll regularly use
    the vehicle to try it out, too.
  • Take your time to go over it properly and make sure you’ll be comfortable.
  • Think of places which you often travel to and drive to some of them.

The converter’s sales staff will let you try out anything you need.

It’s important that you understand how everything works and check you can do it yourself. Insist
that they let you operate the ramp, tie-downs and restraints on your own.

If you need a heavily adapted or specially customised vehicle, it may not be possible to try some
However, ask to try and view a similar vehicle to test the off-the-peg equipment and assess it for

Type of WAVS

Simple passenger WAVs are where the passenger travels in the back.

Other types of WAVs include:

Things to think about


Different suppliers offer different levels of service and:

  • bring a WAV to you so you can have a demonstration, without putting you under any obligation to buy
  • deliver the vehicle to you if necessary and make sure you can use all the equipment
  • extend to you all the usual (and statutory) consumer rights

Read more about your consumer rights

Suppliers may not all provide other services to the same extent. Ask whether they can carry out a
full assessment and what guarantees or maintenance plans they offer.

Members of the Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Converters’ Association (WAVCA) commit to a
customer service code.


It’s the supplier’s responsibility to provide you with a safe and legal vehicle, but you need to make
sure they’re taking active steps to meet this responsibility. Ask them for an assessment of
your needs and that they can provide all the documentation you’ll need.

Read more about WAVs regulations and standards.

Build quality

Different suppliers have different quality standards. Use your demonstration as an opportunity to
judge the vehicle:

  • Are the components robust, firmly attached and nicely finished?
  • Is the equipment easy to operate?
  • Are there squeaks, rattles or road noise when driving along?

Other services

If you need specialised equipment, such as specialised adaptations, choose a supplier that is able
to fit these as well. Often this will be a specialist adaptation company, rather than just simply a WAV

Published: 9th March 2020

Source: RiDC

Page URL:

Car Search

Car Search

The RiDC’s unique car search has fact sheets showing measurements, photos and accessibility features of over 1,700 vehicles. 

You can search for:

  • features including seat heights, headroom, door openings and boot sizes
  • cars that can take an unfolded standard wheelchair  
  • cars which are available on the Motability scheme

Advanced car measurements

Quick search

By make

How the RiDC measure cars

Car search FAQs

Published: 9th March 2020

Source: RiDC

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Driving a WAV

Driving a WAV

There are two types of wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) that can be driven by a person who uses a wheelchair: drive-from-wheelchair WAVs and internal-transfer WAVs. See the pros and cons below, based on our research with wheelchair users.

WAV user transferring inside to a swivel seat

Drive-from-wheelchair WAVs

Drive-from-wheelchair WAVs are becoming more common. The driving controls are adapted for you to operate from your wheelchair. Usually this means some form of hand controls, though other solutions are possible. 
Find out more with RiDC’s information about specialised car controls.

In a drive-from-wheelchair WAV, you need to be able to:

  • open the door
  • deploy the ramp or lift
  • get inside
  • secure yourself and your wheelchair without assistance

Most have hands-free entry systems – you push a button on a remote control to open the door and deploy the ramp or lift automatically. There will also be an automatic docking system to secure your wheelchair. All of this will be designed around you and your wheelchair as part of your assessment from an experienced mobility adviser – for example at a Mobility Centre.

This all means that drive-from-wheelchair WAVs are usually a lot more expensive than passenger WAVs.


All features of drive-from WAVs are powered, so you need to be able to use the remote control easily. Check:

  • Is the remote control comfortable to hold?
  • Do you prefer buttons or switches?
  • Will you be able to keep pressure on the button or switch?
  • Will you be able to use the button or switch accurately?


  • Because you may be travelling by yourself, make sure you will be able to get out in an emergency.
  • Drive-from-wheelchair WAVs are typically fitted with fail-safe devices for the doors, ramps/lifts and docking systems. These include battery backups and manual over-rides.
  • For added safety, it’s often a good idea to fit an automatic fire extinguishing system.

Other drivers

  • You will need to let others drive the vehicle from time to time.
  • In many drive-from-wheelchair WAVs, the front passenger seat can be moved over to the driver’s side, and there is a docking system on both sides so you can travel as a passenger.~

Assessment and training

  • If you’re going to use adapted controls, you may need a professional driving assessment and training.
  • You may need to have dual controls fitted to use when you’re training.
  • Your local Mobility Centre will be able to carry out the assessment and will also tell you about specialist driving instructors in your area.

Internal-transfer WAVs

Some wheelchair users prefer to transfer to a driving seat because they find it more comfortable or easier to drive. Sometimes it’s necessary to transfer because your wheelchair may not be suitable for driving (see also wheelchairs for WAVs). Using the standard car seat also means that you don’t need to fit a specialist seat belt.

By contrast, an internal-transfer system may not be suitable if you have a specialised seating system in your wheelchair.

WAVs can be adapted to allow you to enter with your wheelchair or scooter (by ramp or lift), secure the wheelchair or scooter in the vehicle, and then transfer to the driving seat. You can replace the standard car seat with one that swivels and slides so that you can transfer into it more easily.


All features of internal-transfer WAVs are powered, so you need to be able to use the remote controls easily.Check:

  • Is the remote control comfortable to hold?
  • Do you prefer buttons or switches?
  • Will you be able to keep pressure on the button or switch?
  • Will you be able to use the button or switch accurately?


  • You’ll need a mechanism for securing the wheelchair. You need to be able to operate this by yourself.
  • Because you may be travelling by yourself, you need to be sure you’ll be able to get out in an emergency.
  • For added safety, it’s often a good idea to fit an automatic fire extinguishing system.


  • Transferring between the wheelchair and the seat does take some effort – make sure you can do it, even on a bad day.
  • Make sure there is enough room in the vehicle to let you transfer comfortably and that there are handholds and supports where you need them. You may need to fit extra hand rails or other supports.

Assessment and training

If you’re going to be using adapted controls, you may need a professional driving assessment and training.

You may need to have dual controls fitted to use when you’re training.

Your local Mobility Centre will be able to carry out the assessment and will also tell you about specialist driving instructors in your area.

Published: 5th March 2020

Source: RiDC

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Hoists for Wheelchair Users Getting into a Car

Hoists for Wheelchair Users Getting into a Car

A hoist can help you transfer from a wheelchair into a car.

Things to think about

Help is needed
Although hoists can in theory be used alone, in tests we carried out some years ago none of the disabled people who tried equipment out for us could use them without help.

To use a hoist without help, you need:

  • strength and dexterity
  • to be able to bend your head to duck under the car door frame
  • some upper-body control for balance
  • to be able to lift your feet over the car sill
  • to be able to remove and stow the detachable arm safely
  • to be able to pull the wheelchair in after you (alternatively, get a rooftop or other hoist fitted to help you do this – see our information on getting a wheelchair into a car)

Even with help, it can be difficult to use a hoist if you are stiff, have limited control, or are very tall or big.

Hoists may not be suitable if you have spasms: if your limbs jerk, you could hit them against the car.

Using a hoist on a steep hill can be more difficult because you may hang at an angle, which means more pushing is needed.

Some people feel there is a lack of dignity using hoists transferring and go for WAV instead


This is a personal matter, and mostly depends on the size and shape of the sling.

  • You should sit upright or lean slightly backwards in the sling. Without enough support you may need to lean forward to balance, which can feel insecure.
  • If the sling is too low or too high you risk bumping into the car.
  • You may want to think about a sling that supports your neck and shoulders, or has extra fabric. You can buy a sling separately from the hoist, but it’s best to speak to your OT or a specialist before you do this.

Ease of use

If you can, try before you buy – hoist suppliers can demonstrate their products.
You need to be confident that you can use the hoist easily.
You’ll need to check both the hoist and the car you intend fitting it into to see if:

  • there is enough space between the car seat and the top of the door for you to swing in without having to bend your head and neck too much
  • the doors are wide enough
  • door sills are low and narrow enough for you to swing in without hitting them with your feet
  • protruding dashboards and winged car seats don’t get in the way
  • whoever helps you can manage the hoist

Our previous test of hoists suggested that smaller people who have no difficulty bending their head or neck could probably use any of the hoists tested in all but the smallest cars.
Larger people and people who are stiff needed more headroom and wider doors.


  • To fit these hoists, a small mounting bracket is bolted to the car.
  • The main arm of the hoist then fits onto the bracket, and the spreader arm fits onto this.
  • The sling is attached to the spreader arms.
  • The arms can be removed when not being used, leaving just the bracket in place.

If you want to sell the car, you can remove the bracket, and use grommets to fill the holes.
The second-hand value of the car shouldn’t be affected if you have had a hoist fitted.

Which cars?

Hoists can be fitted to most cars. MPVs and two- and three-door cars have more room for a hoist, but most four- and five-door cars can be fitted with one.

Passenger’s or driver’s side?

All of the hoists in this guide can be fitted to either side of the car. However, they are not often used by drivers.

If you drive, check with a Mobility Centre to see if a hoist would be the best way for you to get into a car.

Using a hoist

1. Getting into the sling

  • The sling is a canvas seat – you sit on it and it lifts you in.
  • If transferring is difficult, it may be easier to sit on the sling on your wheelchair while still indoors.
  • Some people find they can slip the sling underneath more easily if they put a sheet of plastic or bubble wrap on each side.

2. Attaching the sling to the hoist

  • The sling needs to be attached to the ‘spreader’ arm of the hoist – you or a helper can do this.

3. Getting into the car

  • This can be difficult – you may have to duck under the door frame as you swing into the car.

Afterwards, the hoist’s arms must be removed and secured safely.

4. Getting out

  • You need to get the wheelchair in the right position, and then use the hoist to lower you on to the wheelchair.
  • You then need to detach and stow the arms.

Published: 5th March 2020

Source: RiDC

Page URL:

Find Independent Disabled Driving Organisations that Provide a Range of Mobility Assessment Services and Advice.

Find Independent Disabled Driving Organisations that Provide a Range of Mobility Assessment Services and Advice.

Driving Mobility is a UK-wide network of independent disabled driving organisations that provide a range of mobility assessment services and advice.

There are 20 main disabled driving centres throughout the UK: each centre has satellite driving centres which may be more convenient for you to get to. Satellite centres may have limited assessment facilities and opening times.

If you live in Scotland – please note that if our ‘Find a Centre’ results show that your nearest Driving Centres are our Newcastle or Penrith Centres, as a Scottish resident you will unfortunately not be able to attend either of these Centres. This is due to NHS commissioning rules which state that services
for clients who live in Scotland and whose GP is based in Scotland are funded through NHS Lothian and not by an English NHS Trust. You should
therefore contact the Scottish Driving Assessment Service who will be able to help with your enquiry.

If you live in Wales – please note that as assessments in England are supported by the Department for Transport but in Wales by the Welsh Government,
you will therefore need to attend for an assessment in your country of residence.

Click Here to visit Driving Mobility to search for your nearest centre and view a map of information centres.

Published: 27th February 2020

Source: Driving Mobility

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Leasing cars, wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAV), mobility scooters and powered wheelchair.



Types of car


Find a car dealer

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles


What is a WAV

Features of a WAV

Find a WAV supplier

Scooters and Powered Wheelchairs


Types of scooters

Types of powered wheelchairs

Find a scooter or powerchair dealer

Published: 7th February 2020

Source: Motability

Story URL:

Transport of Wheelchair Seated Passengers

Transport of Wheelchair Seated Passengers

This leaflet provides a quick guide to the very basic requirements for the transport of wheelchair seated passengers traveling in road vehicles.

The Travel Safe leaflet should be used in conjunction with the PMG Best Practice Guidelines for the Transportation of People Seated in Wheelchairs.

Or you can download a .pdf copy by clicking below.

Published: 2019

Source: PMG (Posture & Mobility Group)

Story URL:

PDF Link: