10 Tips for Test Driving Mobility Cars
Purchasing the right mobility vehicle for you is critical. Your WAV will quickly become a valuable lifeline to living your life to the fullest. So choosing the best mobility car for you is of the utmost importance.
Except shopping for a wheelchair accessible car isn’t as easy or straightforward as your normal Ford Fiesta. Not only do you need to check everything with the car is mechanically sound. But you also need to check the conversion itself.
We have put together this blog post, which is essentially a checklist of everything you need to look for, ask or test when you go to test drive your first, or your next WAV. We’ve also included a handy checklist at the end of this post for you to print off and take with you, to make sure nothing goes left unchecked.
Not sure what a WAV is, or what you’re looking for in a WAV? Then stop here and go and read our buyer’s guide to WAVs - essential reading if you’re buying your first WAV.
Accessing the wheelchair accessible vehicle
One of the first things you’ll need to do at the start of your test drive is get into the vehicle. As you manoeuvre into the vehicle pay close attention to how it feels - is it easy for you, or you and your carer, or do you struggle? If you find yourself needing to duck your head or move awkwardly to access the vehicle think about how that will make you feel over time. Something which may not annoy you at this point could become a constant source of irritation after the first couple of weeks.
Check the ramp or lift
If the vehicle you are test driving operates using an automatic lift, make sure to test the lift several times. Run it with nothing on it and with the wheelchair user in place. This will give you a feel as to whether it is reliable and comfortable to use. Inspect the lift closely to ensure there is nothing which looks out of place. If there are any glaringly obvious quick fixes, or signs of damage don’t be afraid to ask the dealer for more information.
If the vehicle you’re test driving operates with a manual ramp test unfolding it and stowing it away. Is it lightweight enough that you can stow it easily? Is it easy and simple enough to fold out? Check that the wheelchair user can manoeuvre themselves into the vehicle, or that your carer can do so without a struggle.
In order to ensure total comfort for the passengers there should be a certain amount of adjustability in the seats. You want to be able to adapt and move the seats to fit your needs.
Once the wheelchair user is seated inside the vehicle check how easy it is to secure the chair in place. If you’re both struggling to get secured this small task will quickly become a daily bugbear. Seat belts which are easily reached will make your day-to-day life much easier.
Visibility inside the WAV
Once inside the vehicle take a moment to look around. Make sure you, or whoever is driving, has good all-round visibility. Think about reversing the vehicle, if you’re struggling with visibility then this simple task will be a daily challenge which you needn’t be faced with.
Now you’re comfortable and out on the test drive use your ears. Listen out for any noises, we’re not talking about noises from the engine but the interior structure. Try and take a route which means you take the vehicle on a dual carriageway or motorway and through city roads. Listen out for any rattling or clanging coming from the conversion. Does the wheelchair sit securely at high speeds and over speed bumps? Something which seems like a small rattle on a test drive can quickly turn into a source of irritation, or more importantly a distraction to the driver.
The chances are you’ll be using your WAV on an almost daily basis so you need to make sure everyone is comfortable. Is the driver comfortable, could they manage a long distance in the vehicle? Are the passengers and wheelchair user comfortable?
Exiting the vehicle
The test drive isn’t over once you turn the engine off. As you exit the vehicle you must still pay close attention to how it feels, even if accessing the vehicle went smoothly. Is your exit as easy?
Wheelchair accessible vehicles come in all shapes and sizes. Especially in used WAVs, you’ll find one conversion completely different to another because everyone’s needs are different. If your test drive was successful then find out what is fitted as standard in the vehicle. Make sure all of the essentials are fitted as standard. Your essentials include:
- Wheelchair user seatbelts
- Wheelchair restraints, most tend to have four different restraints to secure the wheelchair safely
- Access point for wheelchair user (i.e. ramp or a lift)
If the vehicle is missing a part of the conversion you’ll need, find out how much that’ll cost and whether your dealer can arrange that for you. Most dealers should be able to offer further conversion work on a vehicle so, for example, if you test drive a vehicle you like but the conversion as it is won’t work for you then there are a number of changes a converter can make to get it right for you.
At Southern Mobility Vehicles we work closely with a converter and so can offer a number of bespoke changes, including:
- Fitting Ricon 6-way seats
- Making changes to fixed seats, such as tilt or fold fixtures, or even changing to standard seats
- Changes to wheelchair docking stations, whether that’s adding more or removing them
- Fitting Turny seats, making access even easier for wheelchair users
- Adding bespoke driver hand controls
- Adjusting power steering to be lighter and easier to handle
- Adding additional wheelchair fixings and seatbelts
If there are any niggling questions or worries ask the dealer for more information. To put your mind at rest they should be more than happy to offer information or their advice if that’s what you need. After all we’re aware that this may be the first time you’ve been in a mobility car, let alone bought one. We work with them everyday, so ask away!
Any wheelchair accessible car dealership should expect and allow you to be thorough during your test drive. After all if you’re forced into purchasing a car which isn’t suitable for you it’ll only reflect badly on the dealership in the long run.
Now you’ve read up on all the things you should be looking out for you can print off our WAV test drive checklist below to take along with you.