There are over 600 Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (or WAVs for short) available to lease through the Motability Scheme, so there’s a lot of choice for those people looking for a vehicle that they can use with their wheelchair. But with so much variety, how do you choose which WAV is right for you? In this article, we are going to try and help you answer that question by having a closer look at the different types of vehicles on offer.
When you are choosing a new WAV, it is essential to consider several factors: who will be travelling in the WAV, the size and weight of the wheelchair that will be used with it and additional equipment or needs passengers and drivers may have. These are all factors that will point you in the right direction for your new WAV.
From here, there are other matters to think about, such as the size, how you will get in and out of the vehicle, the type of fuel you would like and the type of transmission that suits you best. How the vehicle drives and is operated will be defined by these characteristics and the decisions you make.
WAVs come in a variety of sizes, starting in the small class, with cars like the Citroen Berlingo or Peugeot Rifter. These vehicles are better for lighter loads and often have tighter points of entry. This makes them the preferred choice for users with light wheelchairs who don’t need to carry too many items with them. It is worth remembering that small WAVs aren’t available with powered lifts and only use ramps.
From here, the size increases to the medium category, which is broken up into two parts: medium-small and medium-large. Examples of cars in this category are the Ford Grand Tourneo Connect and Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life—longer wheelbase variants of the Ford Tourneo Connect and Volkswagen Caddy. They are medium-small and both feature a greater level of interior space, making it ideal for WAV users who need to carry more items or passengers. A medium-large WAV is the smallest size you need in order to opt for a powered lift instead of a ramp. Popular Medium-Large WAVs include the Ford Custom and Citroen SpaceTourer.
Large WAVs, like the Renault Master and Peugeot Boxer, all come with lift access mechanisms. These are the best choice for users with heavier chairs who require more space and larger points of entry. Speaking of entry points, in the large WAVs, passengers with wheelchairs always access the car from the rear, whereas in the medium and small vehicles, access points from the side may be available in some models.
Much of the time, your fuel type is down to personal preference. Diesel engines are often more economical and are better for moving heavier weights, so you will find these engines are the only options in larger WAVs. But smaller vehicles may come with petrol engines, which are often preferable for people covering a lower number of miles.
Like fuel choices, gearboxes can be a matter of personal preference, but many motorists find modern automatic units to be the most comfortable and relaxing way of driving. Automatics are often more expensive than a manual gearbox and sometimes they can hesitate slightly while they calculate how to deploy the engine power. This is a reason why some drivers still prefer a manual, where they can feel and adjust to a vehicle a little more.
When you are looking for your next new car, whether it is a WAV or otherwise, it is always vital to take a test drive. Indeed, Motability Operations’ WAV and Adaptations Account Manager, Graham Lloyd, says that a planned test drive route is best.
He explained: “Try and emulate a journey you already know well—to the shops, the GP surgery or school run, taking in a variety of road surfaces and speed limits so that you can get a real idea of how it will feel to live day to day with a WAV.”
“If possible, include roundabouts and any hills you may usually pass over so that the wheelchair user can understand whether small changes, such as a rise in their centre of gravity, will still be comfortable.”
Graham added: “Travelling in a wheelchair in a car is very different to a standard car seat, so it is a good chance to get as much appreciation of that as possible before making the decision to change.”
Find your next WAV
You can see the full line-up of WAVs and other cars available on the Motability Scheme by checking out our car search tool.
The Motability Scheme allows you to swap all or part of your mobility allowance for leasing a car, scooter or powered wheelchair. For more information about joining the Scheme, please use our eligibility checker and request a free information pack.