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Choosing A Wheelchair Lift

Oct 28, 2007
So, you have your new mobility scooter or power wheelchair and you are ready to hit the road and see the sites, right? Well, unless you have also purchased the proper wheelchair or scooter lift for your vehicle, then it is likely going to be a short trip. Many forget that a crucial part of maintaining mobility includes not only the mobility device itself but also the carrier or lift that enables transportation of the device.

These days, there are many options when choosing a wheelchair or scooter lift. A durable, quality lift can be purchased for less than a thousand dollars or as much as two or three thousand, depending on the features that you require. Basic, manually operated lifts are the least expensive, while motor driven internally mounted lifts cost more and may require professional installation.

Vehicle wheelchair lifts are categorized into two major groups: external and internal lifts. External lifts, or hitch mounted lifts, allow your scooter or wheelchair to be securely mounted to the outside of the vehicle using a trailer hitch. This is often preferable if there is not enough room for the wheelchair or scooter inside of the vehicle. Typically, external lifts are manually operated and do not require any hard wiring to the vehicle battery. External wheelchair lifts are more economical than internal since there is no motor required to lift the mobility device.

Internal or inside vehicle wheelchair lifts are designed for larger vehicles such as vans or SUV's and allow the wheelchair or scooter to be lifted and placed inside of the vehicle. If you plan on doing a lot of traveling with your mobility scooter or power chair, then you may consider using an internal lift over an external one. Internal wheelchair lifts provide protection from the weather and added security. Most all internal vehicle wheelchair lifts are mounted inside the vehicle, although some are available that mount to a trailer hitch similar to an external lift. If you or the person loading and unloading the mobility device from the carrier have upper mobility issues, then an internal lift or a powered external lift will be necessary. Most external lifts require several pounds of mechanical pressure in order to lift the device to the travel position.

When shopping for a wheelchair lift, there are a few things that you will need to know on order to find the right one for your needs. First, know the model and brand of scooter or wheelchair that you will be lifting. Some mobility devices may require a special docking device in order to be lifted into your vehicle. Also be sure you know the exact make, model, and year of your vehicle. This is especially important when purchasing an internal wheelchair lift. For external lifts and carriers, be aware that you will need a Class II or III trailer hitch installed on your vehicle. The class of hitch depends on the weight capacity that you will need. Class II hitches typically have 350 lb capacity while class III are rated for 500 lbs. Allow a comfortable margin when selecting the appropriate hitch. Be sure to factor in the weight of the scooter or wheelchair plus the weight of the carrier or lift. The total weight should be at least 10% below the recommended capacity of the hitch.

Now that you know the basics, you are ready to start comparison shopping. In the last five years, 90% of all wheelchair lifts have been purchased online. This is due to the amount of customization involved in fitting lifts to specific models of vehicles. Even if you can find a brick and mortar store that sells vehicle lifts, chances are you will still have to order a lift for your specific vehicle. Most consumers elect to skip the middle man and order from an online distributor that specializes in mobility products. Wherever you choose to purchase your lift, make sure you know the terms of the warranty and that the warranty is covered by the manufacturer rather than the dealer.
About the Author
Jill Stark is a free lance writer and reviewer of mobility products. You can read more about choosing a wheelchair lift at http://www.usmedicalsupplies.com.
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