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There's no question that vehicle lifts for mobility products - powered platforms that mount on a trailer hitch or within the rear of a vehicle to transport scooters and powerchairs - continue gaining popularity in the consumer mobility market.  After all, vehicle lifts are inexpensive, and require little, if no, modifications to one's vehicle.  However, some consumers with rehab powerchairs - full-size powerchairs with advanced seating - wonder if a vehicle lift can serve their needs, as well, avoiding having to buy a full van conversion?

The answer is most often, no, where rehab powerchairs prove incompatible with vehicle lifts based on intended uses, lift capacities, and conflicting powerchair and vehicle dimensions - a combination of which often rules out using a vehicle lift to transport a rehab powerchair.

Beginning with the most basic use, vehicle lifts are designed as unoccupied lifts, so the user must transfer out of the powerchair during transit.  For a vast majority of rehab powerchair users, transfering out of their powerchairs during transport is not an option, due to profound disability, so the fact that vehicle lifts are unoccupied devices rules them out for most rehab users.

For consumers who can transfer, the weight of a rehab powerchair is often a negating factor of using a vehicle lift, where the weight of a full-size powerchair with advanced power seating can equal 350lbs. or more, exceeding the weight capacities of many lifts.  Additionally, such tremendous weight on the rear of an unfitting vehicle can dramatically affect handling and safety.

Dimensionally, rehab powerchairs, in combination with vehicle hatch openings, likewise prove a difficult match with vehicle lifts, where rehab powerchairs often won't fit within a vehicle's opening using an interior-stowing lift.   Minivan and SUV hatch opening average between 33" to 37" in height, with most rehab powerchairs measuring 40" to 46" in height to the top of the backrest.  Further, most hatch openings aren't square, but slope at the sides, tapering as much as 2" from the highest point at center, to the lowest point of the opening at the sides, where clearance is even more hampered.  When you add to these conflicting dimensions to the fact that interior platform lifts require 3" or more of height for the platform in-between the powerchair and the vehicle's floor, you find such situations as trying to fit a 49" tall powerchair and lift assembly through a 37" opening - which simply doesn't work.

Now, if you can transfer out of your powerchair, into a vehicle, own a rehab powerchair that's lighter than most, with an overall height around 30", surely a vehicle lift may meet your needs.  However, in the vast majority of applications, rehab powerchair users can't transfer to transport their powerchairs; they have powerchairs with weights upwards of 350lbs., with heights above 40"; and, vehicle openings that average below 37" height - all of which proves prohibitive in using high-end rehab powerchairs with platform vehicle lifts.

Surely, vehicle lifts for mobility products are revolutionizing transportation for an entire generation of scooter and powerchair users.  However, rehab products require especial caveats and considerations when it comes to vehicle lifts, where the seemingly least-costly alternative of a vehicle lift doesn't prove practical, and full conversions are usually the necessary alternatives.

Published 3/07, Copyright 2007,