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Is a WAV right for me?

If you are a wheelchair user or you care for somebody who is, you might have come across the term “WAV” before. WAV is short for Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle. These vehicles have wheelchair access to assist the boarding and unloading of wheelchair users.

Buying a new WAV means investing in a vehicle that will accommodate wheelchairs, to improve quality of life and make life easier. Regular vehicles usually have a floor that’s too high to accommodate wheelchair users, and their doors also lack the aperture or opening to accommodate a wheelchair. WAVs are specially adapted for this.

If you are considering a WAV, here’s some more information about them to help you figure out whether an investment of this type is right for you:

How do they work?

WAVs have a ramp or a lift that lowers down onto the ground to assist loading and unloading. Ramps are lowered according to the rule that there should be 1" of rising to every 12" of length. This creates a fine angle, or slope, for access. Lifts are a more complex technology, and because of their size, they are unique to vans and MPVs. The lift acts as a hoist for the wheelchair for safe loading and unloading.

Vehicles with a ramp can be operated manually or hydraulically. Systems with hydraulics are more expensive and will require maintenance.

Types of WAV

Most vehicles, including small cars, can be modified to accommodate wheelchairs. However, WAVs are defined by their ability to load wheelchair users safely and without the need for the wheelchair user to leave their wheelchair. For this reason, WAVs are almost always based on vans and MPVs. The large size of these vehicles makes them the perfect platform for creating a wheelchair-friendly space.

Special features

All WAVs are adapted to accommodate wheelchairs. But, it is the features of a WAV that determine how accommodating it really is.

Lowered floor

Many WAVs have a lowered floor to give more headroom inside the cab. This is necessary because wheelchair users sit higher than normal. The lowered floor also makes pushing the wheelchair into the vehicle easier.

Air suspension

All WAVs have anchorage points so that a wheelchair can be safely secured to the vehicle. However, this does not automatically mean that the vehicle will be comfortable for wheelchair use. The level of comfort a WAV offers is determined by its suspension. Excellent comfort is offered by WAVs with an air suspension. Air suspension can be found on high-end WAVs such as the Mercedes-Benz Viano.

Passenger seating

All WAVs offer accommodation for a minimum of three passengers, including the wheelchair user. This is usually set up at a 2+1+1 layout. Bigger MPVs can accommodate up to five passengers. Again, the Mercedes-Benz Viano is a good example.

Automated access

The best WAVs offer some form of the automated access system. For example, a WAV might have an automated tailgate and ramp. These systems are push-button, offering convenience for everyday journeys. Manual systems are also available with lightweight ramps, however, depending on your circumstances, these might not be suitable.

So, is a WAV right for me?

If you are a wheelchair user or you care for somebody who is, a WAV will make transport much easier. Regular MPVs and van-based people-carriers cannot accommodate wheelchairs, making transport difficult. WAVs are also suitable for mobility scooters, so if you operate one of these, a WAV will help you get around more.

Choosing the right WAV - Our top tips


Always set yourself a healthy budget. You should budget circa £15,000 for a WAV with an automated ramp and tailgate. Also bear in mind that you pay extra for luxury. Fiat WAVs are less money than Mercedes-Benz WAVs, for instance. We do offer assistance if you need help financing your Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle.


Try and get as spacious a WAV as you can. This will give you room to grow with the vehicle and adapt to any future needs. For instance, the wheelchair user might require a bulkier electric wheelchair in the future. Will the mid-size WAV you are interested in accommodating this? Take measurements if you are unsure.

Running costs

It’s also important to factor in running costs. Diesel WAVs are better on fuel than petrol WAVs and many models also have cruise control for motorway journeys. Diesel WAVs return low 30s on the motorway. Petrol models are suited to low mileage drivers because they warm up quicker and offer good performance in the city.

Need help choosing? Call us

If you are looking for a wheelchair accessible vehicle, we can help. We specialise in WAVs and offer a wide range of high quality used vehicles from popular brands such as Citroen, Renault and Kia. Free nationwide delivery is available on all our vehicles and we have excellent knowledge of the vehicles we sell. Call us on 0116 230 4141 to speak to one of our experts or email sales@paddockautomotive.co.uk.

Paddock Automotive

Paddock Automotive, The Old Fire Station, 1370 Melton Road, Syston, Leicester, Leicestershire, LE7 2EQ

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All prices quoted assume VAT exemption as all vehicles are converted for personal wheelchair use. Paddock Automotive are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles at Paddock Automotive

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