Seat lift vs Transfer board, what is best for you?

The text "Seat lift vs. Transfer board " superimposed over the photo of a car seat swiveled out of the door opening on the left and a man sitting in the driver's seat holding on to a transfer board that is folded out next to him on the right

When it comes to accessibility for vehicles, there are a lot of different products. Some of these products have a different approach to the same issue. In some cases, your abilities dictate why you choose one solution over another, but it's not always that easy. 

Transferring from a wheelchair into a car seat isn't as straightforward as transferring from a wheelchair to a chair. Getting the body over the sill and into the seat requires far more upper body strength and stability. Both the Seat lift and the Transfer board are designed to assist by keeping the transfer short and simple.

These solutions are not just for wheelchair users. Anyone who finds it difficult to get seated from a standing position can benefit from a Seat lift or a Transfer board.

Continue reading to find out which one suits your needs best. 

A man sitting in the driver's seat with a transfer board folded out next to him

Transfer Board 

A small protruding board on the side of the car seat, that's all it is. However, as little as it sounds, the Transfer board can be a great help.

First of all, you get a stable point to hold onto while transferring. More importantly, it enables you to do the transfer outside the car. By doing the transfer on the outside, you remove the most cumbersome part, getting over the sill, while staying below the door frame.

Once you are sitting in position on the Transfer board, simply slide over to the seat. Now, fold away the board or lift it out of its holder and close the door.  

In this comparison, we look at fixed installation transfer boards. There are also portable transfer boards, but these do not provide the same stability and act more as a bridge between the wheelchair and the car seat. 

A transfer to and from the car is much easier if the move is relatively horizontal. In other words, not too much up or down. This makes the Transfer board best suited for low built cars such as sedans and hatchbacks.

 

Pros 

  • +  Economical compared to a seat lift or swivel seat.
  • +  Fully manual, not reliant on a power source. 
  • +  Does not prevent anyone else from using your car.
  • +  Installation is many times completely reversible.
    +  Can be used with the existing car seat. 


Cons

  • -  Requires greater muscular strength and core stability than a Seat lift/Swivel seat.
    Not suitable for high built cars.

A parked car with the car seat swiveled out on the passenger side.

Seat lift/Swivel seat

This device rotates the seat and brings it either fully or partially outside the vehicle. For the actual transfer, the benefits are very similar to those of the Transfer board. You have a stable point to hold onto during the transfer, and you do it outside the car. But it's from here on that both the Seat Lift and the Swivel seat have more to offer.

 

Swivel seat = Rotation

The standard Swivel seat rotates the seat, bringing its front over the sill, effectively shortening the gap you need to traverse. After a short transfer over to the front edge of the car seat, scooch back and rotate into the car. 

Since you transfer directly to the seat, you get a larger area to land on. And since you're already in the seat, you can use the backrest for stability and support.

Some Swivel seats extend the car seat further out, making the transfer even shorter and giving you a larger area to sit down on.

As with the Transfer board, the aim is to keep the transfer as horizontal as possible. Because of this, Swivel seats are primarily used for low built cars such as sedans and hatchbacks.

Swivel seats come as both fully hand-operated as well as in powered versions. A Swivel seat is sometimes referred to as a Swivel base.

Seat lift = Rotation + Lift

For high built cars such as SUVs, Vans and 4x4s, a Seat lift is a better choice. Here, the entire seat is brought out of the car and down to your level. You get all the benefits of the Transfer board and Swivel seat but at the perfect height for you. Transfer over to the car seat, lean back and let it lift you into the vehicle.

Seat lifts are usually fully powered, although some have manual seat rotation.

 

Pros 

  • +  A Seat lift is the only choice for a high built car.
  • +  Requires less muscular strength and core stability than a Transfer board.
  • +  Available with both powered and manual operation. 
  • +  Does not prevent anyone else from using your car. 
    +  Installation is many times completely reversible. 

Cons

  • For safety reasons, a Seat lift/Swivel seat need a specific seat. 
  • -  More expensive than a transfer board.

Conclusion

For vehicles where the seat height makes the transfer impossible, a Seat lift is the only viable solution.

In sedans and other low built vehicles, both a Swivel seat and a Transfer board are viable options. The difference between the two is much smaller. In the end, it comes down to your abilities, strength and core stability in combination with the size of your car.

The Swivel seat is the better option for carers that assist in transfers. Not only because the car seat is larger than the Transfer board, but because you can support your user until their back is up against the backrest. It's extra peace of mind for both parties.

To find out what works best for you, visit a vehicle adaptation specialist, and make sure you get to try both solutions before you decide.