Consumer research for older and disabled people

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Wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs)

Here's 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. 

Woman in wheelchair entering MPV via side-entry ramp


  1. Introduction (this page)
  2. Choosing a WAV
  3. Regulations and standards
  4. WAVs for passengers
  5. WAVs for drivers
  6. Side vs rear entry
  7. Ramps vs lifts
  8. WAV sizes
  9. Wheelchairs for WAVs
  10. How to buy or hire a WAV

You can also download this as a complete guide: Wheelchair accessible vehicles (PDF). Or you can receive printed publications by post (UK only).

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.

Acknowledgements: This guide was produced by Rica with funding from Motability and in partnership with the Queen Elizabeth Foundation and the Forum of Mobility Centres.


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. 

This information 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.

WAVs for drivers 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. You can either drive-from your wheelchair or transfer from your wheelchair into the drivers seat.

As a guide, new WAVs can range from £12,000 to £40,000 depending on the type of vehicle and WAV you choose. 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