Published 2009-02-09 (Rev. 2010-11-25) -- Types of wheelchair carriers designed for vans and cars including rooftop and bumper mounted carriers.
Author: James Young
Choosing a wheelchair carrier for your car can be an easy decision, once you know what you need, and you have determined the style and model that will be most beneficial to you.
There are many styles and models available that offer different levels of lifting and weight capacity. Knowing what specifications you require before you purchase a carrier will help you with the overall decision, and ensure that you have chosen the exact carrier that you need.
Gone are the days of finding large vans to carry and store your wheelchair while traveling. With the many lifts and carriers for wheelchairs that are readily available today, it is much easier to travel and enjoy traveling from a wheelchair user's point of view. By determining whether you need a power driven or manually driven lift and carrier, you can save yourself loads of time when making your purchase decision. You should also bear in mind the specifics of your vehicle, so that you choose a carrier that will work with the vehicle that you are planning to use. For instance, if you have a small vehicle, then some carriers may not work.
An automatic car top wheelchair carrier has an electronic motor driven lift that will pick your wheelchair up and lower it for you for easier access. When you are traveling, the automatic car top carrier will keep your wheelchair safely in a storage compartment atop your vehicle, and features automatic locking mechanisms to ensure that it stays in place.
Some manual wheelchair auto carriers are car-top carriers. Car-top carriers are electrically powered and store your manual wheelchair on top of the car while traveling. They have a mechanism controlled by switches installed in the driver's seat that lift, fold and lock away your manual wheelchair. The wheelchair is enclosed and protected from weather and road dirt. If electrical power fails for some reason, the wheelchair can be manually unloaded. Manual wheelchair auto carriers can be transferred to a new vehicle. When choosing a car-top carrier, make sure that the roof of your car is large enough to accommodate the carrier. You should also check to see if your car has enough power to handle the extra weight.
Car-top carriers are fine for manual wheelchairs, but power wheelchairs and scooters are much heavier and will require a different type of carrier. Some wheelchair carriers for autos are bumper-mounted. However, even these are probably not suitable for anything much heavier than a manual wheelchair. It's also difficult to find cars today that don't have molded bumpers, which can make installation of a bumper-mounted carrier complicated.
A bumper mounted wheelchair carrier simply mounts your wheelchair to the bumper, sort of like the bicycle carriers that you have surely seen. They are easily mounted and removed to allow you easy access to the trunk area if needed.
A pick-up wheelchair carrier is designed specifically for pick-up trucks. If your vehicle is a truck, then this is the best carrier. They normally feature an electronic lift that picks the chair up and places it securely in the truck's bed for storage while traveling, at the simple touch of a button.
A hitch mounted carrier is very popular and features a release bar that tilts the carrier's rack to the ground. This makes it much easier to raise the wheelchair into the storage position. The hitch mounted carriers are normally manually operated, so if you want the ease of a power driven lift and carrier, then this one may not be your best option, however, they are normally less expensive, because of the lack of electric components. Decide beforehand how much you are able to spend.
You should keep in mind the model and size of your vehicle when choosing the wheelchair carrier that you want. Many carriers will work with all styles of vehicle, although there may be some larger models that are specifically designed for use with larger vehicles such as vans or minivans.
Regardless of the wheelchair carrier solution you choose, make sure that the carrier's design and construction (1) is capable of handling the weight of your wheelchair and scooter, (2) is appropriate for your vehicle, and (3) is compatible with your lifestyle.