Wheelchair ramp vs Wheelchair lift, what is best for you?

The text "Wheelchair ramp vs. Wheelchair lift" superimposed over the photo of a vehicle with a wheelchair ramp on the left and a wheelchair lift to 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. 

If you want to get inside a vehicle while staying seated in your wheelchair, you have two options, a ramp or a wheelchair lift. Both options are well proven and popular for different reasons.

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

A close-up image of a wheelchair entering a ramp that is folded out in the grass

Wheelchair Ramp 

The ramp is the simplest solution and the most economical solution. In this comparison, we look at fixed ramps i.e. tailboard ramps. Portable ramps are more suited to load an unoccupied wheelchair.

A ramp creates a slope enabling you to roll from the ground into the vehicle. The height of the floor and the length of the ramp determines the steepness or grade of the ramp. In other words, the longer the ramp, the gentler the slope.

The limiter becomes getting the ramp inside the vehicle. The ramp cannot be longer than the height of the vehicle's roof. Folding the ramp into parts of two or three can overcome this issue while close to doubling the length of the ramp compared to its stowed height. 

Can a ramp be too long? Yes, of course, you need to be able to board your vehicle without having the ramp protruding too far. What is most practical to you depends on where you park. 

Manual or powered  

Manual ramps made from lightweight materials such as aluminium are suitable for most vehicles. The one downside to a manual ramp is that it's not very easy to deploy the ramp when seated in a wheelchair. Stowing the ramp is even more difficult. Therefore, manual ramps are generally more suited for carers than independent wheelchair users. 

Powered ramps deploy via the press of a button. Contrary to the manual ramp, they are perfect for an independent driver. Powered ramps are typically shorter than their manual counterparts and best suited in lowered floor vehicles. 

Feeling safe

Something to take into consideration when looking at ramps is how comfortable you are with rolling up or down a ramp that has no handlebars. Although wheelchair ramps for vehicles typically have side edges that prevent you from rolling overboard, having nothing to hold onto can cause discomfort.  


  • +  Economical compared to a wheelchair lift. 
  • +  Lightweight compared to a wheelchair lift.
  • +  Manual ramps are not reliant on a power source. 


  •  Not suitable for vehicles with a high floor.
  • -  Manual ramps are difficult to use for a wheelchair user.
  • -  Powered ramps require a power source. 

A van parked in a residential area with a wheelchair lift folded out from the back

Wheelchair Lift 

A wheelchair platform lift will also get you into your vehicle while letting you remain seated in your wheelchair. Roll onto the platform on the ground, push a button, and the lift will bring you to the same level as the vehicle floor. Using a wheelchair lift is super easy. Some manufacturers even have smartphone apps that act as remote controls.

Feeling safe 

To make you feel more comfortable while in the air, wheelchair lifts have a few comfort and safety features. For example, the roll-stop, this barrier prevents you from accidentally rolling over the edge of the platform. 

Most lifts also have handles, which gives you something stable to hold onto and reduce the feeling of vulnerability. 

Finally, we have the lift's overall rigidness. If the lift design isn't rigid enough, it will sway more when lifting and cause severe discomfort for those on the platform. For the best rigidness, look to high-quality lifts. 

Platform types 

Different needs require wheelchair lifts have various platform types. 

Solid - The most basic platform type. It does not have many features except that the design makes it the most rigid. 

Folding - The folding platform stows by folding in half. One benefit is getting the stowed platform below the window for an unobstructed view. The other is to maximise platform length. For example, if needed for a long mobility device, such as a mobility scooter. 

Split - The split platform stows with one half on each side, making the door opening unobstructed and free to use. For example, to load cargo.


  • +  Better for higher built vehicles.
  • +  Virtually effortless to use.


  • -  Larger than ramps.
    -  Heavy compared to a ramp.
  • -  More costly than a ramp.
  • -  All lifts require a power source. 


For the independent wheelchair user, a powered ramp is the best choice in a lowered floor vehicle. In a standard floor height vehicle, the wheelchair lift is the better choice of the two.

For a carer with a wheelchair user, the manual ramp can provide a somewhat financial benefit over a lift but keep in mind the effort required to get the wheelchair user safely in and out of the vehicle.