For wheelchair users, transportation can be a challenge, but the right equipment opens doors to new travel possibilities.

Fortunately, innovative mobility technology is improving accessibility, specifically wheelchair lifts for cars.

Buying a wheelchair lift for your vehicle takes careful research to ensure you choose one that makes your life easier and lasts for years. In this guide, we tell you everything you need to know!

What to Consider When Choosing a Wheelchair Lift for Car

You might be rearing at the bit to get your shiny new wheelchair vehicle lift installed. But good things take time, and that’s exactly what you need to do before making a decision.

A manual wheelchair on a lift at the back of a pickup truck

There are numerous models on the market with the capability to customize features. It all depends on your physical capabilities, lifestyle, and the type of vehicle you own.

That’s why the first information you’ll want to get down is your vehicle make and model, which helps determine the size and design of the lift that can fit inside or outside of your car.

Also, take heed of your wheelchair’s weight. This is important to determine whether you should go for a single/sliding arm lift or a dual lift.

  • Single/Sliding Arm Lift: This lift has a weight capacity of 600 lbs. The design features one stationary arm or a stationary arm that can also slide.
  • Dual Arm Lift: This lift design features two arms capable of holding heavier loads up to 800 lbs. 
Medline lightweight manual wheelchair with front casters and rear wheels

Finally, consider the big picture. Do you travel in your car often? Are you the driver, or does a caretaker handle the driving? Is your vehicle adapted to carry a wheelchair, such as a mobility van?

Asking yourself these questions plays a crucial role in determining how complex of a lift system you need. It also impacts the overall cost.

All of these considerations lead you to two categories of wheelchair lifts: outdoor and indoor. We’ll discuss this next!

Types of Wheelchair Vehicle Lifts for Indoors and Outdoors

There is no shortage of impressive manual and power wheelchair lifts for vehicles. The tricky part is wading through the nuts and bolts to find the one that sings to your rolling soul. 

There are two types of hydraulic wheelchair lifts for cars. One type lifts the user and the wheelchair into the vehicle, while the other type lifts the mobility device and stores it securely. It can either be installed outside of the car or within the interior.

Outside Lift / Hitch-Mount

A wheelchair lift platform, straps with hook, and a handle with screws

An outside lift allows you to save space inside your car by holding the wheelchair in place on the vehicle’s exterior.

The lift platform attaches to a trailer hitch located on the backside of the car. Generally, these lifts are universal and attach to most sized vehicles. 

The wheelchair user simply has to lower the lift and roll onto the platform with the help of a companion. 

Once the user is situated inside the car, the lift is raised. It’s durable and secure, holding the wheelchair in place while the car is in motion. This makes it an ideal setup for a smaller vehicle with limited space. 

However, there is one drawback. The wheelchair is exposed to the outside elements, which can be damaging. In that case, you can invest in a weatherproof wheelchair cover for added protection.

Inside Lifts

As you can probably gather, this type of lift operates inside of the vehicle. It’s meant for SUVs and vans, where cargo space is not an issue. 

The lift is mounted inside and utilizes a hoisting arm that swings outwards and lowers to the ground. The wheelchair can then be pushed right up onto the platform and raised into the vehicle.

While this is a convenient do-it-all system that also protects the wheelchair from outside elements, it is a complex setup that requires a lot of cargo space to operate.

It also requires quite a bit of physical exertion, meaning a caretaker or companion must be present to oversee the controls.

Hybrid Auto Lift

Another option is a hybrid lift, which mounts inside the vehicle’s cargo area. Like a conventional inside lift, it swings outwards and lowers to the ground. 

However, this type of lift can accommodate both the wheelchair and the passenger, making it easy to load on and off for faster transfers.

This is also a great option if you live in a region that receives frequent rainfall, as the wheelchair stays protected inside the vehicle.

Different Wheelchair Carriers for Your Vehicle

For a simplified way to transport your wheelchair with a car, there are several types of portable wheelchair lifts that are user-friendly and highly durable. This is also an excellent electric wheelchair carrier lift.

Wheelchair lift at the back of a car

A carrier consists of a ramp that mounts on a vehicle hitch. The wheelchair is secured to the ramp for travel, saving space within the car.

The type of carrier you want depends on the best location to mount your wheelchair. We list the different models below.

Automatic Car-Top Carrier

A roof rack wheelchair lift with cover

This is a roof rack wheelchair lift for cars. An electric hoist mechanism lifts the wheelchair and automatically folds it as it’s placed on the roof. 

While this type of carrier requires little effort and saves space inside the vehicle, it is meant for manual wheelchairs, as it can’t lift heavy loads.


This is an affordable wheelchair lift for cars that fit on the back of a vehicle. It’s popular with many wheelchair users. The carrier attaches to the back hitch, and the wheelchair is secured to the platform. 

Wheelchair hitch-mount platform for cars

The design is simple, easy to use, and doesn’t come with a bunch of fancy controls to learn. A bonus is that the platform can hinge up when it’s not being used to save space.

Bumper-Mounted Carrier

This is another simple design for manual wheelchairs, as the chair needs to be folded to fit into the carrier.

Wheelchair Aluminum hitch-mount for cars

While it’s a compact space-saver, some light installation may be required. If your car has a molded bumper, a professional may drill holes into the bumper to install the carrier.

Another drawback is that this type of mount sometimes makes trunk access difficult.

Pick-Up Truck Carrier

Yes, there’s even a wheelchair carrier for trucks! This model utilizes an electric motor to lift the wheelchair into the bed of the truck.

Wheelchair hitch-mount for trucks

The wheelchair must be folded, which may require assistance from a caregiver. 

Additional Lift Features That Enhance Safety & Efficiency

Safety is paramount when using a wheelchair-to-car transfer lift, which is why it’s worth looking into certain safety features that can help prevent accidents. We’ve listed them below.

  • Safety straps
  • A backup battery 
  • Obstacle detection senses if there is an object in the way of the lift that human eyes might miss.
  • Weatherproof controls that include an emergency stop button and pressure buttons that don’t allow the platform to move on its own

Purchasing Wheelchair Lifts for Vehicles

It’s not possible to pinpoint an exact range for wheelchair car lift prices since there are so many different types of models. 

The price also varies depending on whether your vehicle needs to be modified for the installation, which leads to soaring costs.

Wheelchair folding hitch-mount for vehicles

Car lifts can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $8,000, whereas a major conversion to an SUV or van can cost as much as $30,000, depending on the added features. Less complex carriers cost anywhere between $500 to $3,000.

The best route of action would be to talk with your insurance provider to see if your policy covers a wheelchair lift for cars. 

Unfortunately, most do not – including Medicare. It still doesn’t hurt to try since insurance policies are constantly changing. Another option is to look into grants for mobility modifications. 

Final Thoughts on Wheelchair Lifts for Cars

The challenge of how to lift a wheelchair into a car is getting easier every day. Wheelchair lifts for cars are highly efficient technological devices, and there are numerous options to choose from. 

It can feel overwhelming, but by recognizing the features that complement your lifestyle and car, then you’re off to a good start for making a sound decision.

Don’t forget that you can also talk to your supplier for advice. They can give expert insight on the best lifts for your needs and help you navigate the different materials, features, and prices so you can feel confident.

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