This guide provides information on wheelchair accessible vehicles (usually shortened to WAVs), which allow you to travel in your wheelchair or to transfer from your wheelchair to a car seat. It will help you to decide what type of wheelchair accessible vehicle is right for you, and how best to get a WAV.
- Introduction (this page)
- Choosing a WAV
- Regulations and standards
- WAVs for passengers
- WAVs for drivers
- Side vs rear entry
- Ramps vs lifts
- WAV sizes
- Wheelchairs for WAVs
- How to buy or hire a WAV
If you're able to transfer out of your wheelchair into the driving seat, you may prefer to do this. For safety and comfort, it's always better to travel in a car seat if you can. There's more on this topic in our other guides: Getting into and out of a car and Getting a wheelchair into a car.
A wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) can make a great difference for disabled drivers and passengers. Travelling in your wheelchair means you don't need to transfer in and out, or stow it in the boot, so you can travel more freely. If you have someone who helps you, it can save them from injuring themselves by lifting you or your wheelchair. If your wheelchair has a specialist seating system, you can benefit from the support or pressure relief it gives you in the car too.
There are a lot of things to think about when you are choosing a WAV. This guide will help you decide what you need. We look at what WAVs are, the standards and regulations that apply to them and the various types that are available.
Wheelchair accessible vehicles range in size from ones that will take just the wheelchair user and one other person, to those that will accommodate several other passengers as well. Other vehicles, such as wheelchair accessible vans or minivans that have room for more than one wheelchair passenger, are generally used as taxis or minibuses.
WAVs are fitted with ramps or lifts to allow the wheelchair user to get in. You are either pushed into the vehicle or you propel yourself. Some WAVs that have wheelchair access by a ramp may also be fitted with winches as an aid or a safety measure if your helper is frail or insecure. Once inside, the wheelchair is fixed in place using a tie-down system and you have a restraint system like a regular seat belt. Wheelchair tie-downs consist of straps that need to be clipped onto the wheelchair by hand, or fully automatic docking systems that lock on to a plate or spigot attached to the wheelchair.
Drive-from-wheelchair WAVs allow you to be completely independent. These are likely to be heavily adapted and built around you and your wheelchair. They need to have automatic doors, ramps and docking systems to enable the driver to be fully independent.
As a guide, new passenger WAVs cost from £12,000 but can often cost £20,000-£45,000 depending on size and type. Drive-from-wheelchair WAVs cost from £26,000 but can cost over £40,000. For second-hand WAVs, there are a number of dealers or you can buy privately.
For information on companies that make, equip or sell WAVs, see our Useful contacts, which gives names and addresses of suppliers and fitters, and details of the services they provide.
Last updated: April 2015
Introduction | Next: Choosing a WAV