The Ultimate Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Buyer’s Guide

accessible vehicle buyers guide

It looks like you are going to have to buy a wheelchair accessible vehicle, but until recently you didn’t know what one was; don’t worry, you’re not alone. Here at Southern Mobility Vehicles, we meet with so many people who are desperately searching for the right wheelchair accessible vehicle and some have been on a fruitless search for more than a year. After all, it’s not like you can just punch in the exact model you want and get a hundred results on Autotrader. We are also aware that you are not looking for your dream car here either, but you do want to be in an informed position at the very least.

It may be of course that you are on your second or third vehicle or, you are even further down the WAV buying experience, but we do hope just a small part of this extensive blog will help you in some way. We don’t confess to knowing everything about WAVs; we learn something new about our customers, their experiences, their needs and the ever-developing WAV marketplace every day. We hope this will be a good read for those with extensive knowledge and experience of WAVs just as much as those with none.

We know that the ability to drive or be driven makes a huge difference to the lives of thousands of disabled people across the UK every day. Wheelchair-accessible vehicles can be driven by carers, friends or family members, and in many cases, disabled people are able to drive themselves. Every single one of our customers is different, even if they have the same diagnosis so we really know to take the time to listen to your needs and want to help you along your journey.

To help you, and others in a similar position, we have put together this handy wheelchair-accessible vehicle buyer’s guide. This blog is a work in progress, it will be updated and grow, and it will have links to relevant topics, expertise, documents, vlogs (video blogs) and other blogs that we will add over time that may be useful along the way for your WAV experience. This blog is being progressively designed to give you a multi-dimensional view of what we hope will be your ultimate guide to your first or next wheelchair-accessible vehicle. At the very least, we hope it will be a helpful starting point to begin your WAV search.

Southern Mobility Vehicles Ltd

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On Your Marks…Get Set…

Stop! Before you start viewing WAVs there are several factors to consider which will ensure you end up driving away with a vehicle that really suits your needs and there are no regrets later or worse still, the vehicle simply doesn’t work for you at all.

Searching adverts and dealers can become confusing as there are more factors with WAVs that cause the search path to very often zig-zag out of control and end in confusion and frustration. This is because you are not buying from one perspective but two and one or both of these perspectives have needs and wants that you may not have experienced before.

Most often the rear of the vehicle will become more important than the front of the vehicle because the priorities have had to change. It isn’t just a case of choosing your preferred vehicle and then looking for the conversion. It is definitely worthwhile making a list of what you’re looking for in your wheelchair-accessible vehicle, this is something you can do before or after you carry on reading.

It might help you to establish exactly where your own understanding is at. If you are ready, please read, what follows is designed to help you to be ready to move forward with confidence.

Wheelchair user dimensions – This is not always key, but you do not want to find out the hard way that it was. If you measure the wheelchair user from the floor to the top of their head in their normal posture this will help define what vehicles will automatically be excluded as the entry or internal height is simply not enough to accommodate them.

There is no need to allow anything over their actual height as this may exclude vehicles that they will be able to enter and, you probably don’t want to reduce your choices before you start. It is also worth knowing key measurements such as the wheelchair user’s height from the floor to the top of their head and also overall length and width as these will help build a picture too.

If you can make a note of the make and model of the wheelchair in use that always helps as we can look it up online and check other dimensions and ensure that it has been crash tested. You will find an orange kitemark that looks like a ship on the wheelchair if it has been crash tested and this should be confirmed by the manufacturer too. After all, we have a duty of care and completing our due diligence is peace of mind for us all. It is very important to remember two factors; firstly, just because a wheelchair user doesn’t fit in one specific vehicle model, it doesn’t mean they won’t fit in any of the same models.

Different converters do different work on the same model which will cause height and width variants that you may not be aware of. Secondly, seat number, style and width inside will have the same effect too so, don’t give up unless you are certain. Examples of low entry height WAVs are the Vauxhall Zafira and Skoda Roomster and at the other end of the scale, the Vauxhall Vivaro and the Mercedes Vaneo would be considered high entry height WAVs. Of course, these are just examples so please always check before you plan your journey to avoid disappointment.

Seat number – it might seem a little odd to make this a primary question, but it drives the size of vehicle you need and of course your absolute needs. Many people we speak to want to accommodate their children or grandchildren and that is perfectly understandable but sometimes practicality can rule ultimately what decision is made here.

When making a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, generally at least 3 seats usually need to be removed so, if you have a 7-seater car, 3 seats are removed for the wheelchair and you are left with four which may not be enough. Of course, there are exceptions, such as the Volkswagen Caravelle which will allow just one seat to be removed to accommodate a wheelchair user leaving 5 remaining.

There are also vehicles like the Vauxhall Vivaro and Renault Trafic which can accommodate up to seven people plus a wheelchair user and they aren’t huge either. The Peugeot Expert is probably the most versatile of the medium to large class and they usually have four seats plus a wheelchair user but can have as many as seven seats plus a wheelchair user.

The Expert is probably the smallest vehicle with proportionately the most seats that represent the best value in the marketplace in this respect but it’s important to remember that not all Experts are equal and we would be happy to explain why, just ask us. The size and shape of the vehicle come into play here but generally once you get to 5 seats as a requirement plus a wheelchair user the vehicles are starting to grow in size.

We always ask people how many seats are needed and sometimes the wants need to be reconsidered as the size of a vehicle begins to cause concerns. An important factor to note is seats are sometimes reduced in size and these are referred to as carer seats. This is done to enable the WAV to accommodate the wider wheelchairs and these tend to be in small to medium size WAVs.

It is important to make sure you test the rear seats in these vehicles to ensure they will be accommodating for anyone you take in the rear and that should include the wheelchair passenger too.

After all, you don’t want to find that the two rear seats with a wheelchair passenger in-between are uncomfortable for any of your passengers, especially on longer journeys.

Wheelchair position – where does the wheelchair passenger want or need to be in the vehicle? Will they be the driver, in the up-front passenger position, behind the first row of seats, or further back towards the rear?

This is a key question that will save you from looking at certain vehicles that can’t accommodate the wheelchair passenger in the position that works because the conversion wasn’t possible, it was too expensive to build, or it was felt it wouldn’t sell. This doesn’t need to be decided by you on day one unless you know, but it is a significant decision that will need to be made at some stage.

Much can also depend on the needs of the wheelchair user depending on the severity of their disability. It is sometimes a good thing to establish where the wheelchair user will reside in your WAV before you begin looking, although it isn’t crucial although it will narrow down your search which can only save you time.

Special adaptations – depending on the nature of the disability of the wheelchair user in your life your vehicle may require specific existing or, further adaptations. Adaptations are split into four broad main categories with an overlap which is inevitable.

Firstly, access – helping you enter and exit the vehicle. This is defined as how the wheelchair user enters the vehicle, moves around in it, settlement in it and leaves the vehicle too. There are many adaptations that have been done and many that can be added post the original conversion which will facilitate this aspect of the WAV and its users.

Secondly, the entry method, in other words how the WAV operates at a base level, does the process work effectively for the wheelchair user and other people that will be associated with the WAV whether they be carers, family or friends. Again, there are options which can make this easier but are generally bespoke and need to be discussed specifically on an individual basis.

Thirdly, driving – improving the driving experience for either the wheelchair user or another driver has many available options and these can become very complex indeed depending on the driver’s needs so always best to consult with an expert on the possibilities,

Finally, storage – how the wheelchair or mobility scooter is accommodated inside the vehicle may sound straightforward but again there are several different ways this can be achieved and the best way for the individuals involved will make a world of difference if investigated.

WAVs can come with ramps or lifts at the rear or the side. It’s important to know what the wheelchair passenger’s needs are although it doesn’t need to be a technical conversation.

Maybe just make a list of important factors, a good WAV dealer will be able to decipher your wants and needs and let you know the best vehicles that most precisely suit what works for you. We have a consultative approach which means we will offer you help, advice and guidance but we don’t expect you to buy from us.

Purchase methods – It is important to think about how far your budget can stretch so you know the maximum you are prepared to spend. Most WAV dealerships, like us, Southern Mobility Vehicles, can offer finance options. A dealership which offers specialist wheelchair accessible vehicle finance would be beneficial as the provider will better understand your needs and the unique nature of WAVs.

Our finance company Evolution Funding offers more than 30 lenders to consider your funding, so we can be certain almost every avenue worth exploring is covered. Of course, it is important to consider your bank as they may be able to help you too, best to consider all the options that are best for you. It is important to know what options are available to you. You can of course purchase with cash, finance, lease or via Motability subject to eligibility but the vehicle and your circumstances may well define your purchase method for you, but your personal choices will become clearer if you speak to the right people.

Here at Southern Mobility Vehicles we always offer help, guidance and support in this complicated area so why not be certain you are buying your WAV in the most efficient way for you. In the future there will be a separate blog, buying my WAV, which will cover all the different purchase methods.

For now, if you would like to know more, please ring us and we will talk through the possibilities with you. Please also click on the following link to take look at Our Community page and search for Evolution Funding for WAVs, you can find out more if you click on their icon which will take you through to their website and their specialist WAV finance section.

Usage – consider how you are most likely to use your wheelchair accessible vehicle. Will you be driving, or a family member, a carer or will there be multiple drivers using the vehicle? If this is the case, you may want to take them along with you to view vehicles. After all, if you aren’t driving you need to be sure your driver feels confident in the vehicle otherwise you or your wheelchair passenger may not be confident in the vehicle.

Fuel type is another consideration, many WAVs don’t do a great deal of mileage which means that petrol or diesel will work well enough as the cost difference between the two may be negligible and even if it isn’t most often it is the vehicle that feels right that really should be considered not the miles per gallon or the colour.

This may sound harsh but in real terms, if the deciding factors increase the feeling of safety for a wheelchair passenger then it is likely that the driver will feel the same, if not keep on looking. It is important for a WAV buyer to think about the usage of the vehicle on other terms too. Are you planning longer journeys, going abroad or making lots of short journeys or maybe just popping out once a week to the shops?

It is true to say that some WAVs only venture out a mile or so twice a week for a hospital visit, it doesn’t mean that any vehicle will do but it might help to consider the needs based on the expected possible usage as well. Similarly, some vehicles may spend much time abroad and do higher mileage, so these are all things to consider when looking for the right wheelchair-accessible vehicle.

It might help to think in these terms; how many journeys, what sort of distances will I cover and how long will some of your journeys be. Of course, this is not necessarily down to distance either, especially these days with the traffic levels being so high it can take much longer to travel just a few miles.

Where do I start – WAVs are available to buy in many places such as online auction websites like eBay. Then there is Preloved, Gumtree, Freeads, the local paper and even Facebook Marketplace. Many people even ask, why do I need a WAV.

There are also a few dealers around the country which of course we are one. It is important to exercise caution because the phrase “Buyer beware” definitely applies with WAVs and our advice is to get informed and only buy from someone you feel comfortable with as it is likely they will have the relevant expertise and knowledge about wheelchair-accessible vehicles and if you feel like you are learning and the options are getting clearer then you are talking to the right people.

Here at Southern Mobility Vehicles, we want our customers to understand more before they go out to seek a vehicle, so we arm you with as much as we can to help you in the first place.

We give you in writing on a single page how we operate, how we treat all our customers and what you should expect from us as well as what we do for all our WAVs before, during and after they leave us, so you can be certain you will get treated well.

You can download that to read for yourself and we also hand it to all our customers when they arrive at our yard. Click here to read Our Proposition.

Pre-takeoff checks – If you are feeling like you are ready, the following link will give you a handy sheet you can print off to start defining your needs, wants, priorities and preferences so don’t forget to download the handy form we mentioned earlier, click on Find a WAV below. Of course, if you would like to read on please feel free to do so.

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What to Look For in a WAV

From converters to different WAV vehicle makes and models, there is so much to be aware of when shopping for a wheelchair access vehicle. It is important to remember that only vehicles that will allow adaptation will be converted so it may well be you are entering a whole new world of vehicles you had never considered buying. Headroom is the most important issue for a converter to consider and if the floor can be lowered.

Of course, the bigger picture is can a wheelchair and its passenger can be accommodated after the conversion is completed. This can only be decided once a full investigation of the underside of the vehicle has been made. Often wiring looms, exhaust systems and fuel tanks must be moved or modified, and this is not always possible on many vehicles hence the wheelchair accessible vehicle marketplace is quite different to the unconverted or standard vehicles market.

We will be discussing the different options, sizes and advantages of wheelchair accessible vehicles so all will be revealed below.

Which Converter?

All WAV 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. Firstly, the conversion itself and, the adaptations that were carried out make the vehicle suitable for a wheelchair user. Secondly, there is the vehicle make, model and specification to consider; which will need to suit the driver, if, of course, the wheelchair user is not the driver. Put simply, we often say when you are buying a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, you are buying two cars and both ends have to fit together and work for the sake of the two parties.

So why is the converter element of a WAV so important? Take the Renault Kangoo for example. You can buy what seems to be a great value Kangoo for £7,000 with 30,000 miles on the odometer or, you can pay £10,000 plus for a Kangoo which seems pretty much the same and they may even have similar mileages too.

It isn’t just the vehicles you are comparing here, it is the converter too plus what other adaptations have been added. For example; a blue Renault Kangoo Authentique 1.6 petrol automatic with 30,000 miles, converted by XYZ Converters Ltd costing £6,000 is not the same as a blue Renault Kangoo Expression 1.6 petrol automatic with 30,000 miles, converted by ABC Converters Ltd costing £9000.

It is critical to pay close attention to the two side by side, don’t let a nice colour fool you into thinking you are saving £3,000 on two cars that are the same. If this vehicle has been converted by Brotherwood, the likelihood is it will be more expensive than one from another converter. Has it got a winch, a remote entry ramp, a docking station and so on? These are all things which may be present that affect the cost and may or may not be needed.

We here at Southern Mobility Vehicles can tell you we don’t stock the ones that weren’t well converted, we hand pick our stock and we know exactly what to avoid so you can be confident our vehicles have the best pedigree in all respects. Of course, the budget may be the primary concern and if it is then it is important to make sure that the less costly version does what you need it to do. Adding a winch, a docking station or an electric ramp will be a very costly exercise post-purchase so do make sure you get good advice.

There are several vehicles such as the Renault Kangoo, VW Caddy Maxi and Kia Sedona that had many different companies convert them and you need to be in an informed position to know which ones are good and those that are not so good.

There are some not-so-good conversions out there and some excellent ones and everything in between. Some were brilliantly converted but haven’t been well looked after despite having a full-service history and it is helpful to be able to identify the best ones you probably won’t find out what the vehicle is truly like until you have bought it and then it is too late.

Some converters do one vehicle brilliantly and sometimes a different model they have converted simply needs to be avoided at all costs.

Our experience is the reason why you simply won’t see anything you wouldn’t be happy with because after all, we’d rather not hear from you after you have bought from us unless it is people you are recommending that come to see us!

There is nothing more to say on this area really, but we promise you that we here at Southern Mobility Vehicles simply won’t stock anything we wouldn’t own ourselves.

Interested in a New WAV?

Feel free to see what new wheelchair accessible vehicles we have to offer.

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Why is this?

It comes down to a number of factors such as service history and how well the vehicle has been looked after but often it is down to the quality of the conversion. When one conversion cost £2,000 and the other £8,000 it quickly becomes apparent which is the better investment. In the cheaper conversion, you’re likely to see issues such as premature rust, failing parts, and creaks and clatters which will quickly become a nuisance when travelling.

These may sound like small things, but they are often very expensive to put right. It might involve you needing to travel quite far to get the repairs done and go without your vehicle for several days, so it is often worth paying a little more to end up with good value.

There are of course many vehicle conversion companies that do excellent work, some produce large numbers of converted vehicles and others much smaller numbers. It is true to say that most converters produce maybe one or more very good conversions but not all of them produce all vehicles very well, in our opinion.

We only stock the best converters’ vehicles based on many years of experience because we don’t want you to buy a vehicle that you won’t be completely happy with. Here at Southern Mobility Vehicles we are always on hand to help and advise should you need it to ensure that never happens.

Would you like to sell your existing WAV?

We are always looking for clean low mileage WAVs. See how much you can get for your wheelchair accessible vehicle today.

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What size do WAVs come in?

Wheelchair-accessible vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, designed to suit a huge range of needs. To help you understand what these are and what you might want to look for in your search for the perfect WAV we have offered some examples below.

Small WAV

A small WAV can be a popular choice and is generally a specially converted vehicle such as the Peugeot Bipper or Fiat Qubo.

These vehicles can normally fit two or occasionally three people, as well as the wheelchair user, and often have a lowered floor to give more headroom, as well as making access that bit easier.

WAVs in this class are usually always fitted with a ramp at the rear for wheelchair access and are very unlikely to have a lift. Small WAVs are great vehicles for general use, such as short-distance commuting and small-scale shopping, but with limited passengers; some might consider them too small.

Many people, after testing one out find the dynamics cause them to feel claustrophobic as the presence of a wheelchair can change how a vehicle feels. Most often it is the wheelchair user that feels this way once in the vehicle and it’s something to be aware of when you go to view one.

Medium WAV

Medium WAVs are normally cars and vans which have been converted, such as the Renault Kangoo, Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Partner and the Volkswagen Caddy. These size vehicles will usually seat up to four people, but often only have three seats plus a wheelchair passenger.

This is because of the restrictive nature of the width between the two rear seats which would mean the wheelchair user could be behind the two seats if they had a wider wheelchair, but it depends on the make and model.

Brotherwood makes the best of this by designing the seats very thoughtfully to ensure the maximum width is gained between the two rear seats. We would generally agree that three seats plus the wheelchair user would be the optimum in vehicles of this size with the exception of the Volkswagen Caddy Life (the Maxi is the longer wheelbase version of the Caddy) which will usually fit four passenger seats plus a wheelchair user reasonably comfortably.

They’re great for small family outings, short breaks or hobbies requiring a little more space and would usually always have a rear entry wheelchair ramp.

Medium-large WAV

Medium-large WAVs are of course larger still and although it is difficult to categorise what is large and what isn’t we generally try and find a balance between a number of seats plus a wheelchair user and the physical size of the vehicle as our guidelines.

Here we are considering vehicles such as the Kia Sedona, Renault Espace, Ford Connect Tourneo, Volkswagen Sharan and Volkswagen Caddy Maxi which can have multiple interior options and often have some flexibility inside too.

These vehicles would usually have up to five passenger seats plus a wheelchair user and a lowered floor with a ramp. Most often the ramps would be at the rear as the ability to accommodate a wheelchair passenger is achieved by lowering the floor and removing seats from the rear of the vehicle.

Generally, you would expect these vehicles to have ramps rather than lifts, most of these would be at the rear but one or two models in this class do come with side entry ramps, and both have their advantages and disadvantages.

One factor which often rules some of these vehicles out is the seating arrangement because two front seats, then three in the rear often means the wheelchair passenger is behind all the other passengers which some do not find ideal.

Large WAV

It is subjective to class a vehicle as a large WAV as all too often a “small” WAV to many isn’t particularly small so we exercise caution when categorising vehicles. The large class would usually accommodate vehicles like the Volkswagen Transporter and Caravelle, Vauxhall Vivaro, and Peugeot Expert, the Expert being the “smallest” we put in this class.

The Expert does offer a great deal of flexibility due to the possibility of having three seats in the front although they also come with two front seats. The beauty of having three in the front does substantially increase the flexibility for the rear and due to its width, it does mean a further four seats plus a wheelchair user are possible in the back.

It isn’t always the case that these vehicles would take seven or more passengers so here we are generally talking about increased luggage space, more internal space and flexibility to change the internal specifications which wouldn’t be possible in a smaller vehicle. Some large WAVs come with a minimum number of seats, maybe just the necessary number so that specialist equipment space is available for the wheelchair user or maybe for extensive travel to accommodate camping equipment.

Other vehicles come with seven or even more seats, it just depends on what the initial owner’s requirements were.

Here at Southern Mobility Vehicles, we have specialists who can advise on bespoke vehicles and the larger ones to offer the most flexibility to add and remove adaptations.

Extra-large WAV

These are vehicles which fall into the largest category and would generally be vehicles such as the Peugeot Boxer, Renault Master, Ford Transit and Fiat Ducato. These vehicles are basically the same floor plan with variations externally, they also often use the same engine too. These size vehicles can also come in four lengths as well; standard, medium, long and extra-long wheelbase for maximum flexibility.

Roof height too is a variable here with standard, medium and high roof options so if you need to be able to walk around freely the medium or high roof options both work well. These may be for specialist use, day vans, camper van conversions or care home use. They offer the most flexibility to carry multiple wheelchair users but for maximum flexibility, the vehicle floor needs to be fully tracked.

Tracking is the universal fixing Meccano style runners in the floor of a vehicle that allows stretchers, seats, restraints and wheelchair user seatbelts to be completely flexible. To be able to move seating and wheelchair users to different positions in a vehicle means multiple wheelchair users can be accommodated.

It is important to remember that a vehicle’s laden weight and the number of seats present can affect who can drive some of these vehicles. Often the long-wheelbase versions have more seats present than can be driven without an additional class being added to a driving licence. Always refer to the DVLA for clarification before you commit to a WAV of this sort.

At Southern Mobility Vehicles, we work closely with a converter who tracks our floors for us and we do this on a rolling basis to always ensure we have the flexibility you need before you come and view our larger vehicles but do please check our stock before you come along and see us.

Please remember that the definition of the small, medium and large WAVs is subjective and we all see things differently so what might seem like a huge vehicle to one could be considered by another to be a medium size vehicle.

It is very hard to gain perspective without seeing the vehicles in the flesh, so we do encourage people to come and view them to get a better understanding. We encourage people to test the vehicles out, front and back and to come and go as they please.

After all, you probably have enough on your plate if you are seeking a wheelchair-accessible vehicle without any added pressure to buy from a dealer.

What type of WAV do I need?

When we talk about WAV types, we mean where the wheelchair will be positioned in the vehicle. There’s a range of options out there for you to choose from, whether you want to be the driver of your WAV, or whether you plan to have someone else driving for you. To help you understand and decide which type of WAV is best for your needs we have explained the different seating positions below.

There are five options for wheelchair position:

  • Drive from
  • Transfer
  • Upfront
  • Mid
  • Rear

Drive From WAVs

These are perfect if you want to drive the vehicle whilst remaining in your wheelchair. Besides the benefit of independence, you should be able to get in and out of the vehicle without any help. Using automatic doors and ramps or lifts you will be able to enter and exit the vehicle with ease.

Your wheelchair will be securely locked into place using a docking station and pedals can be turned into hand controls to ensure you can safely and comfortably drive. There are many different adaptations that can be used for disabled drivers so it’s important to speak to someone who understands and can bespoke the right vehicle for you.

Here at Southern Mobility Vehicles, we have many years of expertise available to help you make sure you get exactly what you need. These are examples of ‘drive from wheelchair access vehicles that are available in the second-hand WAV marketplace:

  • Volkswagen Caddy
  • Volkswagen Caravelle
  • Ford Tourneo Connect
  • Renault Kangoo
  • Mercedes Sprinter
  • Chrysler Grand Voyager

Transfer WAVs

These vehicles allow wheelchair users to transfer from their wheelchair to the driver’s seat using a Ricon 6 Way seat base which is fitted under the vehicle driving seat. It can also be used under other seats but mainly for the driver or the front passenger or both.

Instead of staying in your wheelchair for the journey, you will enter the vehicle in your wheelchair before transferring to the driver’s seat and it may be you could have the choice depending on the vehicle design. In a Transfer WAV, the driver’s seat will be able to move backwards and forwards and turn to allow an easier transfer from your wheelchair to the standard seat.

Before transferring to the driver’s seat your wheelchair will need to be secured in place, allowing for a safe transfer and also ensuring your wheelchair stays safely in place whilst you’re driving.

Sometimes the wheelchair passenger’s upfront position next to the driver’s seat will make for another way to transfer to the driver’s seat as long as a front passenger seat isn’t required. Other driving aids can be added such as a variety of driver hand controls and many other features if necessary. It might be worth looking at Our Community page for Chapman Car Care for what is currently available to aid disabled drivers.

There are several makes of vehicles that can have transfer seats added to aid driver transfer, a few are listed below but this is not an exhaustive list.

  • Volkswagen Caravelle
  • Kia Sedona
  • Renault Master
  • Mercedes Sprinter

Passenger Upfront WAVs

These are perfect for wheelchair users who do not want to drive but want to be seated at the front of the vehicle next to the driver. As a passenger upfront WAV, you will sit next to the driver, with your wheelchair securely fastened in a place where the passenger seat would have been.

Sometimes these vehicles come with the original seat which can be fitted back should the wheelchair user not need to access the vehicle in the upfront position. This style is often most favoured by customers as it means you can easily talk to whoever is driving and spend quality time with a loved one or friend by sitting right next to them.

Entry to an upfront vehicle is most often through the rear of the vehicle although some vehicles such as the Kia Sedona and Volkswagen Caravelle can have side ramps or lifts, it does depend on whether the vehicle can be adapted in this way. Below is a list of second-hand WAVs that can be found which accommodate a passenger up front.

  • Volkswagen Caddy
  • Volkswagen Caravelle
  • Volkswagen Transporter
  • Chrysler Grand Voyager
  • Citroen Berlingo
  • Peugeot Expert
  • Kia Sedona
  • Fiat Doblo
  • Fiat Qubo

Mid Passenger WAVs

Mid-passenger WAVs are probably the most common of all WAVs and this means the wheelchair user will be behind the front driver and passenger and have the possibility of the company with them. Depending on the size of the vehicle there could be no seats present in the rear or up to two.

This is driven by the space available for the wheelchair, if two seats are present in the rear, it may be possible that many wheelchairs simply won’t fit so one or even two need to be removed.

Of course, increasing the vehicle size would resolve this issue but that is not always popular. Here at Southern Mobility Vehicles does not usually stock two-seat vehicles because they are not so popular amongst buyers.

That having been said it is not uncommon for customers to tell us they don’t need any seats in the back and our view is a third seat can do little harm and can always be removed, sometimes very quickly as many have quick-release catches fitted when they were modified.

Take a look at the pictures below, they might help us see what we are describing in this section.

Rear Passenger WAVs

This style of seating is either loved or hated as it means the wheelchair passenger is behind the second row of seats.

The obvious benefits are a greater number of seats plus a wheelchair user in a vehicle that isn’t enormous, the Volkswagen Caddy Maxi (pictured below) is an excellent example of this layout. Of course, it doesn’t always mean isolation for the wheelchair passenger as the Volkswagen Caravelle’s rear wheelchair position would mean there would be a seat next to them at the rear, so it isn’t always something to dismiss without consideration.

Rear passenger WAVs are popular with teenagers (their own “room”) and of course, wheelchair users that simply don’t mind as they may be only travelling short distances.

In some cases, the nature of a disability might mean it is a necessary step to ensure the safety of the wheelchair passenger.

Although the rear seating WAV does have its advantages, for many it is a non-starter due to the wheelchair user possibly feeling isolated in the rear, it just doesn’t suit everyone, but it does work and many taxi companies use them as they are very practical so weighing up the decision using heart and head usually has the best outcome here.

Would you like to sell your existing WAV?

We are always looking for clean low mileage WAVs. See how much you can get for your wheelchair accessible vehicle today.

Sell my WAV

Accessing Your WAV

You will find that the majority of wheelchair-accessible vehicles have a lowered floor in order to easily fit a wheelchair and wheelchair user into the vehicle comfortably. However, you will need to consider what is the best way for you to access and exit the vehicle.

When it comes to WAVs there are a few options on the market which we have explained in more detail below. Wheelchair accessible vehicles have either a ramp or a lift and these are either at the rear of the vehicle or on the side through a door.

Much will depend on the existing accessibility, the height of the entrance and of course the width. It is very important to consider which is easier for you and to think through your various and usual parking locations as one or the other may present problems you hadn’t considered.


Ramps for wheelchair access vehicles come in different forms – automatic remote entry, manual open ramps, and one or, two-piece ramps, all vary in ease of use so it’s important to test a few out, we have most at our yard available for you to try.

Automatic ramps cost more but are useful if you are likely to be getting in and out of the vehicle unaided, or if your carer may struggle with the physical actions of unfolding a manual ramp.

Manual ramps that need to be physically unfolded are perfect if you’re always going to be travelling with an able carer although many are lightweight and easy to open and close.

Converters who build WAVs do work very hard to make the vehicles as accessible as possible, but one will suit one person but not another.

When you come to view a WAV it’s a good idea to bring your carer or carers with you to ensure they can unfold and close the ramp without any issue as well as see how the WAV fully operates. Here are a few to look at but nothing beats hands-on experience.


An electric winch is an excellent addition to a WAV with a rear ramp if your carer might struggle to push a wheelchair up a ramp. This is not the only reason a winch is a good addition to a WAV, using one smooths the ride into the vehicle for a wheelchair passenger by taking the strain over any joins and bumps on the way in and out of the vehicle so keeping any pain to a minimum.

A motorised cable within the vehicle attaches to your wheelchair, pulling it up the ramp and into the vehicle which often reduces the worry of safely getting a wheelchair user into the transport.

Not all ramp access WAVs come with a winch, so it is worth checking this information with the dealer before you commit to travelling for a viewing.

Here at Southern Mobility Vehicles, we can add winches if you need one so don’t forget to ask us.


Buying a WAV with a lift is a good idea if you’re travelling solo, or if your carer struggles to push you and your wheelchair up a ramp. A lift is usually operated using a remote control which has four steps through its cycle to ensure a safe wheelchair user experience entering and leaving the vehicle.

Many vehicles fitted with rear lifts do not have a lowered floor unless they fall into the extra-large category (or it is fitted at the side of the vehicle) as they will often have higher internal space which is maximised by lowering the floor. Of course, underfloor lifts, also known as cassette lifts, are also added to WAVs on the side of the vehicle usually under the sliding door of WAVs.

They are most commonly found on Volkswagen Caravelles on the nearside or, passenger side so they operate onto the pavement for safety. Vehicles that are commonly fitted with lifts are Volkswagen Transporters, Caravelles, Peugeot Boxers, Fiat Ducato and Renault Masters amongst others.

Petrol versus Diesel?

A very important question to consider when WAV shopping. The type of fuel is somewhat limited by the market as petrol WAVs tend to be rarer than diesel WAVs.

This is because the majority of the market is heavily driven by the Motability scheme and with second-hand WAVs coming out of the Motability Scheme diesel will be in greater numbers as they were built at a time when diesel was in much greater demand. We are seeing balance return in the marketplace but do remember there are many advantages of the diesel engine.

However not all vehicles converted ended up on the Motability Scheme and we always have both diesel and petrol WAVs available. Diesel-powered cars tend to be more fuel efficient than petrol cars, but that efficiency will cost you more at the pumps – with diesel tending to cost more per litre than petrol.

Petrol cars are generally better for the environment too, with petrol cars emitting fewer noxious gases and CO2 per litre than diesel fuel. If you would like to learn more about petrol versus diesel and other fuel types take a look at what we wrote here.

Who To Take To A WAV Viewing

All of our wheelchair-accessible vehicles on our website have a “walk around” video and plenty of pictures so you can see exactly how each vehicle is laid out before you make the journey to us and we hope you will find the virtual visit helpful, you can take a look at all the vehicles we have in stock here at the Southern Mobility Vehicles Showroom.

From experience with our customers we know that shopping for a WAV can be an overwhelming experience, it’s not like buying a standard car as there are lots of complications to consider.

We always recommend our customers bring along a family member, a carer or a friend or two, the more the merrier as far as we are concerned. Often the people that will be with you when you travel, whether they are a driver or a passenger will have helpful input and we find this really helps the decision-making process.

This will ensure that you have the whole team on hand to help, offer their thoughts and test drive the vehicles you’d like to consider.

Here at Southern Mobility Vehicles, we encourage you to bring anyone you want, we only serve good quality tea and coffee because we wouldn’t drink the cheap and nasty ourselves; the kettle is always on here!

We’d love to hear from you so please feel free to email us from our Contact Us page or you can ring and talk to any one of us if you have any questions.

Have we missed something, or have you found a mistake or some incorrect information? Please let us know, the better the quality of the information we give you, our potential customer, the more we help ourselves to become the best we can possibly be.

Thank you very much for reading our blog and please feel free to write a comment below about your WAV or your experiences with a WAV, where did you go and what amazing places did you discover in your WAV?

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