Wheelchair accessible vehicles - A Buyer's Guide.

It's a complicated journey. I speak with plenty of people looking to buy wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) to know they don't find it an easy process. Some have been looking for over a year and are getting quite stressed with the whole process. It isn't like buying a Ford Mondeo, you can't just punch in the exact model you want and get a hundred results on websites like Autotrader. What you will often get is a trail that can often fizzle out to something you didn't want after getting your hopes up. Here are a few tips and some insider information that might help you from us here at Southern Mobility Vehicles.

It is important to measure the wheelchair user from the floor to the top of their head sitting in their wheelchair; this will often eliminate certain vehicles and avoid disappointment, wasted journeys and quite possibly an injury. We can measure any vehicle for you and let you know quickly, we also offer a free market place check on what will work for you whether you want to buy from us or not, just ask us for more information.

What is your budget; should you finance or consider the Motability scheme if eligible? Motability isn't always right for everyone and we are always happy to give you an honest answer on this if you tell us what you are looking for. Remember you can always use your higher rate of mobility allowance towards finance payments and, you ultimately then have an asset that can be used for your next deposit, just ask us and we will do some comparisons for you. Low mileage vehicles even on an older plate are still very reliable and we offer more protection than most for your peace of mind should you buy from us.

Where can the wheelchair user sit? Broadly speaking there are five types of wheelchair position in a wheelchair accessible vehicle or WAV as they are also known; drive from, transfer, upfront, mid and rear. A "drive from" WAV means the wheelchair user drives the vehicle and a number of aids are usually built into the vehicle to ensure that entry is easier and driver aids such as electric tailgate and ramp plus hand controls to make for a smoother experience. A "transfer" WAV is a vehicle adapted for the wheelchair user to find it easier to move from their wheelchair to the driver's seat and will involve a driver's seat that will move and turn to allow an easier transfer. It may also have hand controls and other adaptations such as an electric lowering ramp and tailgate. An "upfront" WAV is where the wheelchair passenger sits securely next to the driver in the space where the passenger seat would have been. A "mid" seating position is between the second row of seats just behind the driver and passenger in the middle of the vehicle. Often this will mean the wheelchair user is between two other seats and this is often preferred to the "rear" wheelchair position. A "rear" positioned wheelchair can be in the third row of seats or in a vehicle that has maybe just one seat or, it could have no seats at all. Remember too that most vehicles have different numbers of seats and in different positions so it’s important to do your research on what will work best for you. Some vehicles are fitted with what are known as "carer seats" and these are usually narrower to allow more wheelchair access and are still completely legal. All of our vehicles have a "walk round" video and plenty of pictures so you can see exactly how each vehicle is laid out.

Do you want petrol or diesel, manual or auto? Be aware that petrol autos are rarer than diesel autos because the majority of the market is heavily driven by the Motability scheme so the second hand vehicle market is a mirror of what they have converted in the first place. We do try and stock vehicles from a wide range and always have high spec vehicles in stock as well as lower spec ones too as we find having a cross section of everything that is available helps people to have a choice. It's important to remember that not all vehicles converted are done by Motability and we always ensure we have a few individual WAVs available. Remember too that vehicle manufacturers change their vehicle specifications which does mean a vehicle that has been converted in the past can no longer be converted and sometimes it doesn't take much to prevent this as the floor is usually lowered to make it a WAV.

All converters are the same aren't they? The short answer is absolutely not. There are two aspects to buying a WAV that immediately make it harder for buyers to find what they are looking for and compare them too; the conversion itself and the vehicle make and model. We make it easier for you because we only stock good quality vehicles converted by the best converters, it saves you and us a great deal of grief! Take the Renault Kangoo for example. You can buy what seems to be a great value Kangoo for £3,995 with 60,000 on the odometer which isn't a lot or, you can pay £8,995 for a Kangoo that seems exactly the same with 20,000 miles on the odometer. Why is this? Well if you know as we do that one conversion cost £2,000 and the other £8,000 or even more then you know the difference comes down to build quality. Things like premature rust, failing parts and creaks and clatters are more than a nuisance they are often very expensive to put right. They will usually involve a visit to the company that converted it and this may not be a local to you either and, what will you do without your wheelchair accessible vehicle for several days? The disruption to your lives could be substantial so we advise you to pay a little more for some certainty and you will end up with good value.

We hope this will help keep your stress levels down a little and make your journey to the right wheelchair accessible vehicle easier. We here at Southern Mobility Vehicles know you are not buying a WAV because you want to but, because you need to which is why we always go the extra mile in helping you get to the right vehicle for the wheelchair user in your life.

Enquiry Form