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Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles: Which WAV?

If you’re looking to buy your first WAV vehicle, or want to research WAV layouts to see if a different type of wheelchair accessible car will better suit your needs, our in-depth guide will help make the process a simple one. Choosing the perfect wheelchair vehicle isn’t just for mobility scheme members, as we have a selection of used WAV vehicles to suit your specific requirements. This is our comprehensive guide to wheelchair adapted vehicles – welcome to the wonderful world of WAV’s.  

Renault Kangoo Volkswagen Caddy Peugeot Partner Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle with access ramp

Three different wheelchair accessible vehicles, all with rear access ramps


What is a WAV, or Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle?

A wheelchair accessible vehicle, or WAV, is a car or van that has been adapted to carry a wheelchair user. The wheelchair may be manual or powered, both of which can be carried by a WAV, although dimensions should be checked beforehand. Converting a vehicle requires significant work, such as:

  • Lowering the floor or raising the roof to provide access while loading as well as sufficient headroom when seated
  • Fitting an access ramp to the rear or the side of the vehicle
  • Fitting restraints that hold the wheelchair securely in place
  • Fitting seatbelts for the wheelchair user
  • Altering the internal layout of the car or van to provide space for a wheelchair
  • Re-routing of the car or van’s component parts to allow a lowered floor and ramp to be fitted

With approximately 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UK, vehicles that provide greater mobility are an essential part of daily living for many people—whether meeting friends for family members for lunch, visiting an attraction or beauty spot, or keeping an appointment, finding the right vehicle can open up a world of opportunities.  

Ford Transit Custom Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle WAV with rear access ramp

Ford Transit Custom Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle, or WAV, with rear access ramp


Which type of wheelchair accessible vehicle, or WAV, do I need?

Wheelchair accessible vehicle types are determined by wheelchair placement and the subsequent layout that suits your individual needs. Generally, there are four types of WAV:

  • Wheelchair user to the front of the vehicle next to the driver
  • Wheelchair user next to the rear passengers
  • Wheelchair user behind the rear passengers
  • Wheelchair user driving the adapted WAV

Wheelchair user to the front of the vehicle next to the driver This layout is becoming increasingly popular as it allows the driver and passenger to engage naturally in conversation, without the disconnected feeling of talking to someone who’s sat in front of you. This layout may reduce seating capacity for additional passengers.  

Wheelchair user next to the rear passengers A popular layout with families, this type of WAV allows the wheelchair to be secured alongside rear passengers. This is generally a roomy option for the wheelchair user and makes it easy to join conversations. The wheelchair may be to one side of the passenger seat(s) or in the middle.  

Wheelchair user behind the rear passengers If wheelchairs are carried infrequently, a popular layout as a large portion of the car or van’s interior remains unchanged. Popular with wheelchair users who like to be transferred to a car seat before travelling. A layout to consider if you’d like to carry a mobility scooter.  

Wheelchair user driving the car or van Some WAV conversions allow the wheelchair user to drive the vehicle, either from the wheelchair or by transferring to the driver’s seat. Controls, such as steering wheel, brake, accelerator, indicators, etc., can also be adapted to suit individual needs.  

WAV vehicle wheelchair between rear seats

WAV vehicle with space for the wheelchair between the rear seats



Important WAV measurements

Finding a vehicle to suit your needs is essential, ensuring both wheelchair and wheelchair user fit a particular vehicle. Wheelchair and WAV measurements may include:

  • The weight of the wheelchair and user
  • Length, height and width of the wheelchair
  • The height of the wheelchair user when seated
  • Does the vehicle offer sufficient headroom when the wheelchair user is seated?
  • Does the wheelchair user have adequate visibility when seated?

Nothing beats trying a vehicle in person, and this is something we’d be happy to help with.  

Volkswagen Caddy WAV with wheelchair next to driver

In this VW Caddy, the wheelchair user sits up front next to the driver


Car or WAV?

A standard car can have limitations for wheelchair users. These may include:

  • Transferring from a wheelchair to a car seat can be uncomfortable, and should the wheelchair user require assistance, back strain can be a common complaint for family members or carers.
  • Using a wheelchair accessible vehicle saves time due to bespoke securing devices and ramp. Time is a valuable asset when it’s raining.
  • A WAV designed to be driven by the wheelchair user grants freedom to travel without having to rely on another person


powered wheelchair WAV

A powered wheelchair driving into a wheelchair accessible vehicle

Are wheelchair accessible vehicles, or WAVS, built to a certain standard?

The wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Converter’s Association, or WAVCA for short, was formed in the 1960s to promote the interests of the WAV industry in the UK and abroad. WAVCA works closely with the Department for Transport and other agencies, such as the DfT, VCA, DVSA, SMMT, BHTA, the leading motor manufacturers, wheelchair manufacturers, key user groups and Motability.  

mobilty scooter in WAV ve

Some WAV’s can accommodate a mobility scooter

Want to see more?

We’d be happy to bring a WAV vehicle to you for a home demonstration, or we can send a bespoke video tour of any vehicle we have in stock. Feel free to get in touch by phone, email, or via our Facebook page and we’ll do our best to help.  

wheelchair restraints in WAV vehicle

Wheelchair restraints ensure a safe & relaxed journey


‘The Old Wagonworks’
Nr. Shaftesbury


01747 829549


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