A hoist can help you transfer from a wheelchair into a car. This section lists some things to think about when deciding whether a hoist is for you, and explains how to fit and use one.
Things to think about
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 guide, 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.
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.
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.
Overview of the hoists available
Milford Person Lift
Price including fitting: £2,445
Lifting capacity (kg/stone): 110/17.3
Distributed by: Autochair
- use in a vehicle and around the home
- optional mobile base (£795) or wall bracket (£295), battery and charger
- lift arm weighs 8kg (17.6 lbs)
- hoist motor can be upgraded to lift 127kg (20 stone) for £100
Price including fitting: £1,350
Lifting capacity (kg/stone): 130/21.9
Distributed by: Elap Mobility
- requires no modification of the car - attaches to standard roofbars
- transfers easily between vehicles
- manual lift (using ratchet) and slide into car
Last updated: November 2013