Buying new, second-hand, or hiring a WAV?
- Think carefully about what you need from your wheelchair accessible vehicle - see Choosing a WAV
- Do your research to find out what's available
- The right vehicle can help you be more independent, but the wrong WAV could be worse than useless
Once you know what type of WAV you require, the next step is to look at how to buy or hire a suitable vehicle.
You can buy a new WAV directly from a WAV converter, who will adapt a vehicle with the assistive technology you require.
- The process can take time - involving demonstrations, an assessment, the conversion itself and the fitting of adaptations
- The converter will be able to tell you what features are available in its product range
- Speak to more than one converter and ask them to show you suitable vehicles
Some converters and some other suppliers sell second-hand WAVs which means:
- they're cheaper, usually;
- you won't have to wait for the vehicle to be converted, and
- you may have to search for while to find one that meets your needs.
There are also companies that offer a WAV rental service:
- You can get a WAV on a short- or a long-term rental agreement
- This may suit you if you're only going to be using a wheelchair temporarily, or you need a replacement vehicle while another WAV is being serviced
- If you have very specialised needs, it's unlikely that you'll be able to hire a suitable vehicle
It's essential that you try out any WAV that you're thinking about buying. It's also a good idea to try more than one, ideally from more than one converter. Converters expect this, and they'll be happy to bring a vehicle to your home for a demonstration. You are under no obligation to buy.
- It will take some time for you to test a vehicle.
- Try out everything that you'll need to be able to do yourself, and also get anyone who'll regularly use the vehicle to do the same.
- Take your time to go over it properly and make sure you'll be comfortable.
- Think of places to which you often travel and drive to some of them.
The converter's sales staff will let you try out anything you need, and provide you with any additional information as required. Some demonstrators can be too helpful, and like to do things for you, but it's important that you understand how everything works and know you can do it yourself. Insist that they let you operate the ramp, tie-downs and restraints on your own.
If you need a heavily adapted or specially customised vehicle, it may not be possible to try some features. However, ask to try and view a similar vehicle to test the off-the-peg equipment and assess it for comfort.
Choosing your supplier
Almost all suppliers offer simple passenger WAVs, where the passenger travels in the back. Fewer suppliers offer other types of WAVs, such as up-front WAVs, drive-from-wheelchair WAVs or internal-transfer systems.
Similarly, only a few converters offer complex adaptations such as hand controls. Some companies specialising in adapted controls buy converted vehicles from other suppliers and will adapt them for you.
Things to think about
Different suppliers offer different levels of service. All of them should:
- bring a WAV to you so you can have a demonstration, without putting you under any obligation to buy
- deliver the vehicle to you if necessary and make sure you can use all the equipment
- extend to you all the usual (and statutory) consumer rights
However, they may not all provide other services to the same extent. Ask whether they can carry out a full assessment and what guarantees or maintenance plans they offer. Members of the Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Converters' Association (WAVCA) commit to a customer service code.
It's the supplier's responsibility to provide you with a safe and legal vehicle, but you need to make sure they're taking active steps to meet this responsibility. Ask them for an assessment of your needs and that they can provide all the documentation you'll need. (For further information, see Regulations and standards.)
Different suppliers have different quality standards. We can't advise which suppliers produce the highest-quality vehicles. Use your demonstration as an opportunity to judge the vehicle. Are the components robust, firmly attached and nicely finished? Is the equipment easy to operate? Are there squeaks, rattles or road noise when driving along?
If you need specialist equipment, such as hand controls, choose a supplier that is able to fit these as well. Often this will be a specialist adaptation company, rather than a WAV converter.
Buying a new WAV
For full details of WAV converters and the vehicles and services they provide, see our Useful contacts.
You can buy adapted vehicles and equipment second-hand from some converters, as well as from the sources listed below. If you have specialist needs, you may not be able to find a suitable second-hand vehicle.
Anything you buy second-hand may be affected by safety and reliability issues. The seller may have had an inspection carried out and/or offer a warranty. If not, you may want to think about carrying out your own inspection.
The following companies sell second-hand WAVs. Please note that Rica has not evaluated them for reliability or service.
The companies listed here provide WAVs on short- or long-term rental, although some only serve certain regions. Please note that we have not evaluated them for reliability or service. You can also hire WAVs from many of the converters listed in our Useful contacts.
The Barbara Bus Fund
A charity which owns vehicles in four locations - Gwynedd, Pinderfields, Stanmore and Stoke Mandeville.
Hertfordshire Action on Disability (HAD)
The Welwyn Garden City Mobility Centre - service available nationwide.
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Last updated: February 2017
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