If you’re a person with a disability or you’re caring for one, you know how important equipment is for making you comfortable, safe, and allowing you to be as mobile as you can be. This is especially true when you plan to go on a long trip or just on a short vacation that requires you to use a car.
Knowing how to choose the best wheelchair carrier means knowing how you plan to use them and what your specific travel needs are. It’s also useful to know the type of carrier you need, and they are mostly differentiated by how much actual work it takes to operate them.
What is a wheelchair carrier?
A wheelchair carrier is a simple device but one that provides a lot of flexibility and comfort to a disabled person while traveling. It’s a ramp mounted on the hitch of the car and used to place and secure the wheelchair while traveling.
Within this, there’s a variety of functions that will allow you to easily lower and raise the wheelchair before taking it off the car and preparing it for the road. It gives you both the much-needed mobility and plenty of space in the car itself.
There are two main advantages of using a wheelchair carrier. The first comes from the mobility itself because it allows the person with a disability to use the car on their own as long as they can lift and raise the carrier on their own. It’s an especially liberating feeling since it makes the wheelchair user more self-reliable.
There’s also much less work involved in moving when you have a wheelchair career. It can be difficult to move and lift the wheelchair every time you plan to use the car and there’s no such labor involved here.
Types of wheelchair carriers
There’s a variety of types of carriers and choosing one should be done with care and consideration. They are mostly differentiated from based on how they fold and how they are lifted. All of these carriers have their advantages as well downsides and both should be considered before making a call which one to buy.
Automatic car-top carrier
This type of carrier is mounted on the top of the car. It uses an electric motor to pick up and lift the chair to the top of the car, with the platform in which it is placed, being folded in the process. The carrier is automatic and it’s controlled by a simple switch. This makes it easy for the disabled person to use the carrier on their own.
It’s a good option for those who want as much of their car space uninhibited and can’t lift the wheelchair on their own. It’s somewhat limited by the size of the motor meaning that it can’t lift all types of wheelchairs out there and it’s best used for manual ones.
Bumper mounted carrier
It’s another carrier that’s simple in its features and best used for manual wheelchairs. The main difference is that the wheelchair isn’t mounted on the roof, but on the bumper of the car. It may not be that simple to install this wheelchair carrier for the first time since it can’t be installed on a molded bumper.
If you have such a bumper, you’ll need to have a mechanic drill holes into it to mount this carrier. The holes could be plugged back in when you want to remove the carrier and sell the car. In some cases, this carrier will also make it less easy to access the trunk of the car.
This is one of the most popular carriers out there because it’s the most cost-effective. They can be mounted on any drawbar or ball mount that’s already on the back of your vehicle without having to amend the carrier or the hitch.
There’s also a variety in these carriers since some of them are manually operated and others are automatic and are activated by a switch. These should be chosen based on your budget and on your ability to lift the wheelchair on your own. A good thing about hitch mounted carriers is that they don’t obstruct the trunk of the car.
Pick-up truck carrier
This type of wheelchair carrier is used for pick-up trucks and they are the best way to make them more accessible to persons with disabilities. The wheelchair is being lifted to the bed of the pickup truck and this is done by an electric motor operated by a handheld device.
The main disadvantage of this type of wheelchair carrier comes from the fact that the wheelchair itself needs to be folded and placed on the carrier. This is done manually and therefore a disabled person may require assistance for doing so.
What to pay attention to?
Besides the type of wheelchair carrier, you should also pay attention to a few features of the carrier concerning your car and its size. It’s also useful to know how you plan to use the carrier and the wheelchair at least for a majority of the time. This will allow you to get the features that will suit you the best and ones that you’ll get the most mileage out of.
Weight capacity refers to the weight of the object that the carrier can lift and take. It’s a good idea to know how heavy the wheelchair you’re using and to choose the carrier based on that fact. However, it’s always a good idea to be cautious and to choose a carrier that has a bit more capacity than you need, just to be sure and to be able to bring a few items in the wheelchair themselves.
Type of vehicle
The wheelchair carrier should also be bought based on the type of vehicle that you have, since purchasing a carrier with all the features you need, won’t do you any good if it’s not suited to your vehicle in the first place.
The biggest consideration in this regard is the hitch type, but that’s not the only thing to worry about and you should consult with your mechanic before making a call.
Haul capacity refers to how much weight your car could move and for how long. For the most part, the car will be able to haul the wheelchair and the carrier regardless of their type and size, since most of them are big enough for it.
However, the prolonged use may cause damage to your car and that’s something to consider if it’s a vehicle with a small haul capacity and you have a lot of weight to carry around.
Automated controls are an essential part of the carrier since they are what allows you to use the carrier without assistance and provide you with the freedom and mobility. There are a few things to consider when choosing the controls.
You need to consider your range of motion and flexibility. It’s also important to consider your reaction time and coordination so that you know how quickly you could access the carrier and the wheelchair itself. It’s also imperative to be honest about your ability to drive and make decisions once you’re on your own.
Platform and arm lifts
There are two main types of carriers in terms of how they store the wheelchair. The first is the platform which is a simpler one and it’s the one where you rest the wheelchair on a platform and secure it to it. The arm is a more complicated mechanism that usually folds the wheelchair and picks it up to the side or the top of the car.
The arm option leaves you with more car space but they usually can’t be used for scooters but wheelchairs only.
Choosing the best wheelchair carrier can be of great importance for a person with a disability since that simple device allows them to easily transport their wheelchair or scooter and to be more mobile. At the same time, the carrier should be one that’s easy to mount and that you can embark on and from with ease.
Before making this purchase you should take into account the size of your wheelchair and your car as well as how you plan to use the device. It’s also important to know how to attach it safely and properly and to hire a professional to do so when needed.
When chosen and installed properly one device may be all you need for years, if not decades.