Wheelchair Van Lift vs. Ramp: Which is Best for Full Size Vans?

Rear Lift or Rear Ramp? An unbiased evaluation of the two rear entry methods to help you decide what type of accessible van conversion suits your program or organization.

If your community or organization is replacing or adding wheelchair accessible vans, you might be wondering what type of wheelchair van conversion will work best for your program’s use case.

While it’s great to have multiple options for Ram Promaster and Ford Transit full size van conversions for rear entry wheelchair access (power lift or manual ramp), it can be difficult to evaluate their advantages and disadvantages.

Each community has different mobility transportation needs. Let’s review the options for rear entry wheelchair van access. When it comes to a rear lift or rear ramp in a full size wheelchair van, neither is more common than the other. They both have pros and cons but the extent of these will depend on how the van is used.

MoveMobility provides full size accessible vans with both the rear entry wheelchair lift and the manual ramp. This is an unbiased evaluation of the two rear entry methods to help you decide what will work for your program or organization.

In this article:

rear entry wheelchair lift vs ramp

Power Lift – Advantages and Disadvantages

A rear lift is a hydraulic platform lift controlled by an operator. The lift unfolds from the back of the van and lowers to the ground. After the wheelchair user boards the lift, the driver controls the lift as it raises up to be level with the van’s floor. The wheelchair user can then enter the van to be secured for travel.

wheelchair lift deployed in rear position of wheelchair van

Advantages of a Rear Access Lift

Ease of use

A handheld pendant control controls the power wheelchair lift. The operator does not need to lift or push any lift components to deploy and raise the lift.

Minimal physical effort required

When loading and unloading wheelchair passengers, the hydraulic lift requires minimal physical effort from operators. This helps to prevent physical strain or injury to operators.

Large, heavy-duty platform

The BraunAbility lift has a 1,000 lb weight rating. Its 34” wide by 54” long platform is designed for small and large mobility devices, including bariatric and power wheelchairs. You can transport almost any mobility device, including scooters, walkers, and wheelchairs.

Doesn’t impede interior space

The hydraulic lift in the rear position does not impede on passenger seating space.

Disadvantages of a Rear Access Lift

Requires maintenance

Like any electrical or hydraulic equipment, a rear access power wheelchair lift requires maintenance. Users should not expect a rear access lift to work at its best if maintenance is overlooked. A simple, frequent maintenance schedule helps keep the lift in good working order.

Electrical failure after long period of no use or extreme cold

If the hydraulic lift is unused or left outside in extreme cold for a long period of time, you may experience trouble using it again for the first time. It is recommended to raise and lower the lift every few days, even if the van is not being used for transportation. This keeps the lift functioning well.

Some passengers may fear riding a lift

Occasionally, elderly or differently abled passengers may fear the feeling of riding the lift. Patients with dementia may experience this feeling while the lift is in motion.

Higher initial cost

A power wheelchair lift typically costs more than a manual ramp. A hydraulic lift contains many moving and electrical parts. Although the cost of the lift is higher, many communities prefer this option because it is easy to use and doesn’t require drivers to physically load wheelchairs into the van.

Best applications for Full Size Vans with Rear Lift Conversions

You may be wondering what organizations and applications prefer a hydraulic lift instead of a manual ramp in a full size rear entry van. Based on client feedback:

  • Adult day programs where rear entry access is preferred or required (due to parking, access space, etc.)
  • Indigenous communities within driving distance of urban centres
  • Urban transit agencies where rear entry access is required

Manual Ramp – Advantages and Disadvantages

A manual bi-fold ramp offers a low-maintenance alternative to a power lift. Ramps are shock-assisted for easy raising and lowering.

ram promaster with rear ramp for wheelchair and stretcher access

Advantages of a Rear Access Ramp

Easy to use

As its name implies, a manual ramp operates without any electrical or hydraulic components. The manual bi-fold ramp is simply secured using a seat-buckle style latch. The ramp does not need hooks, pins, straps, or other complicated tools. You simply take hold of the handles and deploy the ramp to the ground.

Lightweight

The manual bi-fold ramp is lightweight to deploy and fold.

Quiet

When compared to hydraulic lifts, the manual ramps do not typically make noise when deploying or folding. There are less moving parts to rattle or squeak while driving.

Accommodates large mobility devices

Manual bi-fold ramp is 36″ wide and 112″ long, making it easy for large wheelchairs and even stretchers to access the van.

Fast to deploy

Caregivers or driver can unfold and fold the ramp quickly. This means mobility passengers can be loaded and unloaded in minimal time.

Reliable in any climate

Due to the absence of hydraulic and electrical components, a manual bifold rear entry ramp is reliable in the coldest of Canadian climates. Many northern communities rely on this van configuration because it eliminates concerns of a power lift breakdown during cold temperatures.

Suitable for stretchers

Manual ramps are available with swing-and-fold functions that allow the ramp to provide full stretcher access to the rear entrance of the Ram Promaster and Ford Transit. As a result, non-emergency patient transport organizations who need to transport wheelchairs and stretchers find this convenient.

Disadvantages of a Rear Access Ramp

Steep & long for heavy wheelchairs

Pushing large or heavy wheelchairs up a ramp may cause physical strain to the driver.

Maintenance required if used in snow/ice conditions

To prevent ice or snow buildup, the ramp may require sweeping or brushing when used in snow or ice conditions.

Potential to fall if safety precautions not taken

While manual ramps are fast and easy to deploy, care should be taken while loading wheelchair passengers to ensure that the wheelchair does not veer to the side of the ramp.

Best applications for Full Size Vans with Rear Manual Ramp Conversions

Based on what the points above and feedback from communities and businesses using rear entry full size vans with manual ramps, this van is most often found at:

  • Indigenous communities outside the range of service centres, requiring a manual, reliable wheelchair entry method
  • Non-emergency patient transport companies offering stretcher transport
  • Regional health authorities requiring wheelchair and stretcher capabilities

Which is right for your organization?

If you’ve narrowed down options for accessible vehicles for your organization and you require a rear entry full size van, you’ll need to decide between a rear lift and a rear manual ramp.

A deeper analysis of your use case will help the choice become clear. As with any capital purchase, it is recommended to discuss your needs with an expert who can recommend the best accessible van for your needs. That way, you’ll have the information you need to make the right decision for your community’s transportation program.

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