Travel & Holidays

Wheelchair accessible vehicles: all you need to know to buy the best

Wheelchair accessible vehicles, commonly referred to as WAVs, can make life so much easier if you use a wheelchair. But they’re not cheap – costing upwards of £16,000. So, to make sure you spend your money wisely and get the best model for you, we’ve asked WAV Compare to talk you through the different types, costs and the best ways to pay for them.

Converted with a ramp, lift or rotating seat, WAVs are fully wheelchair accessible, and there’s a dizzying array of makes and models available to choose from.

To help you narrow down what you need, we take a look at the types in detail, and what impacts the cost, to help you work out exactly what you do and don’t need.

Wheelchair accessible vehicles – conversions and adaptations

The main types of wheelchair accessible vehicle are:

  • Rear passenger – this is where you enter the vehicle from the rear and remain seated in your wheelchair at the back of the vehicle.
  • Rideup-front – entry is still usually from the rear but you would sit in the passenger position in the front. These are becoming more popular because of the nicer seating position, but you do lose a seat in the back as you need space for your chair to get in.
  • Drive from wheelchair – there are many different adaptations that can enable you to drive from your wheelchair. You may be surprised at what can be achieved – driving is possible even if you only have the use of one hand!
  • Transfer seat – this is where the ‘normal’ passenger or driver’s seat can swivel to the side, making it easier for you to transfer from your wheelchair.

Rear passenger, ride-up-front and drive from wheelchair WAVs are usually accessed via a ramp or a lift. But there are lots of different variations of each of these.


For ramps, there are three options:

  • a standard, manual ramp, where the ramp is hinged and folds out from the rear;
  • a ‘mid-folding’ ramp, where it folds in half when stored away so the back window is in clear view;
  • a hydraulic-assisted ramp, which makes this the easiest type to fold out.

The latter two are more advanced than a standard ramp, and therefore more expensive.


For lifts, although they alter slightly depending on the who converts it, the options generally are:

  • Rear platform, which is powered and a controlled using a remote control.
  • Side entry, a platform lift from the side of the WAV.

Brand new wheelchair accessible vehicles

WAVs are not manufactured with ramps or lifts, they are sourced as a standard vehicle and then ‘converted’ by a specialist conversion company to make them wheelchair accessible. As well as adding lifts and ramps, adaptions also often include lowering the floor, moving electrics and even the fuel tank.

As a result of the work involved, there is an added cost. The final price of a WAV will, therefore, be higher than the same vehicle with no conversion.

The exact ‘extra’ price varies depending on a number of factors. But, typically, the price of a WAV will be between £1,500 and £2,500 more than the same vehicle off the production line from the manufacturer.

Other factors that can affect the cost include:

  • Number of seats – four seats, plus a wheelchair, is often more sought after than three-seated vehicles. They’re also not as widely available, so more expensive.
  • Dealer specialist – if the dealer specialises in WAVs, then it will be more inclined to service and check the conversions thoroughly, and so only sell high-quality WAVs at a higher price.
  • Advanced adaptations – more advanced adaptions, such as an electric winch to help with getting the ramp up, will increase the price. Likewise, any additional adaptations, such as a swivel seat and hand controls, will make it pricier.

Used wheelchair accessible vehicles

You can cut the cost of a WAV by buying second-hand. But prices can very here too. As well as the factors mentioned above for buying new, the cost of a second-hand WAV can be affected by:

  1. Mileage – the number of miles a vehicle has done is a big factor in the price. A lot of WAVs have not done many miles, so a vehicle that is one or two years older may have done fewer miles and therefore be a similar price to a younger WAV.
  2. Private sale – vehicles for sale privately by individuals are often lower than a dealer.

Tip: When looking at the age of a vehicle, check the registration plate (you can use the website National Numbers) to determine the age – the numbers can make all the difference in how old a car actually is. For example, a 12 or 62 plate are both 2012, but one would have been registered in January whilst the other in September, so would be a whole six months older.

Paying for your WAV: Motability or private finance?

Using Motability to finance your car purchase can be a great scheme. But it’s not always the best option for everyone, so it is certainly worth considering all the options.

A basic WAV on Motability will cost just over £16,000, and you can only lease the car, rather than buy it. To qualify for Motability, you need to be in receipt of either higher-rate disability living allowance or higher-rate PIP. That’s around £57.45 per week, £248.95 per month or £2,987.40 per year.

There are two options with Motability:

  • Leasing a new car for five years. This means putting down an advanced payment and then your monthly allowance going directly to Motability. This will also include insurance, service and tyres.
  • A ‘nearly-new WAV’ scheme. With this, you’ll get a WAV that is three years old or newer, and the lease term will be three years. The nearly-new scheme includes insurance and tyres and still requires an advanced payment. There are also restrictions on the mileage that you do.

Advanced payments start from £1,195 for a basic Berlingo from a specialist WAV dealer, through to £32,000 for a ‘drive from wheelchair’ VW Caravelle – a very nice car.

With regards to the insurance, it’s worth noting that you have to be over 25 and you won’t build up a ‘no claims’ bonus. So if you had a Motability car for 10 years and you ‘came off’ the scheme, you wouldn’t have a no-claims bonus to take with you.

It’s also important to remember that a vehicle on Motability is a lease – you basically rent the WAV, but never own it. After your lease term, you have to give it back if you wish to opt for a new one. If you’re happy to keep that model, you can sometimes extend the lease term. But that’s not always possible and, if it is, payments don’t usually reduce.

The true cost of a basic WAV through Motability is £16,437, and can be broken down as follows:

Small WAV: Berlingo, Doblo or Partner
Advanced payment = £1,500.
260 payments of £57.45 for five years = £14,937
Total = £16,437 – and you do not own the WAV at the end.

If, however, you’re not keen on leasing a car and what to own one, there are other finance options. If you don’t mind a WAV that is two or three years old and you don’t do 1,000s of miles each year, the costs could be as follows:

Small WAV: Berlingo, Doblo or Partner.
Price: £12,000

Deposit = £1,100
60 months agreement (five years) of £232 = £15,081 (9.45% APR)
Insurance = £2,500 (£500 per year) – assuming you’re an experienced driver
Service and tyres = £1,000 (£200 per year)

Total = £18,500 – but at the end you own the WAV.

As an estimate, the WAV would be worth a third so the value at the end of this, so approx £4,000 if you wanted to sell it.

For finance plans like this, you would need to have a clean license and good credit rating. After the end of the five years, you would have the option to sell the WAV or, if it is in good condition with low mileage, keep it. As you would own the WAV, you would no longer have any monthly finance payments, and therefore be £230 better off each month.

The above is only a guide – the costs differ depending on a number of factors and should be explored in more detail to see whether they would work for you.

How do you value a wheelchair accessible vehicle that you want to sell?

If you already own a WAV and are looking to sell yours and upgrade, using traditional methods of valuing it won’t provide an accurate price. You’ll need to take into account all the different aspects of the WAV – from millage and age to adaptions and how advanced they are.

WAV Compare has more than 500 used WAVs available, allowing you to search and see what the current prices are, giving a good indication of value. We also have access to previously sold data, so it is worth contacting us directly if you need help.

By WAV Compare

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