If you or someone you know uses a wheelchair, there are plenty of suitable vehicles that look great, are comfortable, and provide the needed technology to navigate roadways safely. Wheelchair use doesn’t relegate the buyer to a minivan. Crossovers, trucks, and even sports cars can be considered wheelchair-friendly vehicles depending on the type and severity of the physical challenge.
How to Select a Wheelchair-Friendly Vehicle
There are associations and dealerships dedicated to helping you find the ideal car. Before you go to a dealer, though, a significant first step is to review some points that help narrow down the vehicle selection process. Consider the following three points:
What Is The Mobility Challenge?
Consider important factors, like whether the main driver will be a caregiver or the one with the disability, or if a fold-out ramp or a slide-out ramp will work better. Also, think about future needs. Vehicles can be expensive, and you want to ensure you can use yours for as long as you need.
Think About Parking
I live in Austin, Texas. When I arrived driving my late husband’s Ford F-150, I quickly realized I’d have hours of misery searching for a parking spot, even a few miles from the city. What many people don’t realize is that Austin’s commitment to green extends to smaller-than-usual spots in grocery store parking lots, shopping plazas, and even many residential garages. I promptly traded the F-150 in.
Consider your daily driving routine and the infrastructure and layout in your hometown. If you live in a place like I do, a truck may not be the best choice.
How’s The Weather?
Yes, you want to make sure the vehicle has the power and traction to perform in rain, snow, mud, or whatever elements you experience. That versatility does you no good, though, if you can’t get in the car. When I lived in upstate New York, it might take me up to 30 minutes to clear snow and ice from my car.
In Austin, the hail and relentless sun damages paint and dashboards – plus – the heat inside the cabin soars. Consider what type of shelter and technology you – and your new car – may need to make it easy to access and drive.
Top 5 Wheelchair-Friendly Vehicles for 2021
After you consider these questions, you’ll want to shop for a vehicle that has a roomy interior, a reliable track record, and adaptable options. While everyone has their favorites, here are five choices you might not realize are adaptable and a bit about what you can expect from the automaker.
The hyperlinks under each vehicle will provide you with more information. We also included links that show dealer inventory in your area for each vehicle, and which dealers are giving you the best price.
#1: Chevrolet Silverado 1500
If you have a physical challenge, you might be wary of driving a pickup. For one thing, the high cab can be difficult for anyone who wants to climb in or out. And there is the issue of parking that we mentioned above. However, if you want the peace of mind a truck can provide, like 4×4 capability in the winter, the 2021 Silverado is at the top of the list for wheelchair-friendly vehicles.
You can have the Silverado modified with plenty of extras, including a wheelchair or scooter lift, transfer platform, swivel seats, and hand controls. You can find a complete PDF list here. Plus, General Motors offers up to $1,000 in reimbursement for modifications.
2021 Chevy Silverado
Starting MSRP: $30,595
Pros: Multiple engine options, lots of capability.
Cons: Hard to park in a busy city, will spend more on fuel.
Availability: The Silverado is one of the most popular vehicles on the market today, so finding one in your area* that is competitively priced should be easy.
Ford makes it easy to drive its 2021 Mustang sports car whether you want the more economical (but still quick) EcoBoost, or the much-loved Mustang GT. You can have each model fitted with just about any equipment you need for a safe, comfortable drive. Choices include hoist lifts, hand controls, and power assist brakes.
For a complete list of available adaptive equipment, check here. Ford offers up to $1,000 in reimbursement on adaptive equipment.
2021 Ford Mustang
Starting MSRP: $27,155
Pros: Stylish and fun to drive.
Cons: Insurance will likely be higher.
Availability: Try shopping during the colder months* when rear-drive sports cars like the Mustang are in lower demand. You might be able to save more versus buying over the summer.
If you need more passenger room and cargo space than the two-door Mustang, the Ford Explorer is also one of the most wheelchair-friendly vehicles.
#3: Jeep Grand Cherokee
The fifth-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee is packed with new safety equipment, including a surround-view camera, parallel and perpendicular park assist, active lane management, and blind-spot monitoring. It’s also one of the top wheelchair-friendly vehicles. You can have it fitted with tie-downs, lifts, running boards, and other adaptive equipment. Find a complete list here.
Jeep offers up to a $1,000 reimbursement for adaptive equipment.
Availability: This free search tool* will help you get the best price on a Grand Cherokee in your area.
#4: Kia Soul
No one said an adaptive car has to be large or clunky. Kia’s sporty, funky Soul has a roomy interior thanks to its tall profile. And the low floors and oversized doors mean you don’t struggle to enter or exit. If you want something a little more stylish, opt for the GT-Line which includes sporty exterior accents, a sunroof, wireless charging pad, and heated seats.
Although Kia doesn’t offer adaptive equipment reimbursements, third-party companies can install adaptive equipment for the Soul, including rear ramps and hand controls. Although the automaker introduced a KiaMobility program, it is not yet available in the United States.
2021 Kia Soul
Starting MSRP: $17,490
Pros: Affordable and easy to park.
Cons: No all-wheel drive option.
Availability: This free search tool* will help you get the best price on a Kia Soul in your area.
#5: Subaru Forester
Subaru’s name is synonymous with safety, so perhaps it’s no surprise that every Subaru can be modified – at the factory – with accessible features including hand controls, steering devices, lifts, and ramps. That includes its popular Forester (read our review here). We like it for several reasons, including the Subaru EyeSight technology that includes pre-collision throttle management, pre-collision braking, lane departure alert, and sway warning.
Subaru also offers up to $1,000 in reimbursement for adaptive equipment.
2021 Subaru Forester
Starting MSRP: $24,795
Pros: Factory-installed adaptive equipment, standard all-wheel drive.
Cons: Bland and generic styling.
Availability: This free search tool* will help you get the best price on a Forester in your area.
The videos below highlight three vehicles on our list, the Silverado, Soul, and Forester. They show how each can be converted and modified to accommodate a wheelchair.
Nancy Dunham is a life-long journalist whose work appears in many national automotive and general interest magazines and accompanying websites. Her dad was an executive with Western Auto Supply Co. (sold to Sears), so the smell of tires still brings back a flood of childhood memories. She lives in Austin, Texas with her cat Prudence.
Wheelchair-Friendly Vehicles: Helpful Videos
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