If you find it difficult to get into and out of a car, this guide is for you. It gives advice on techniques you may find useful, and covers aids for those who need more help. It also gives advice for wheelchair users about getting from a wheelchair into a car.
Many people who are older or who have a disability find it difficult to get into and out of a car. For some, it may be just a matter of choosing a car of a shape and size that is easier to access. If you are changing your car, look for high and wide door openings and convenient hand holds. You can compare the measurements of hundreds of cars with our Car search, to help you find a car that has the dimensions you need. Also see our guide to Choosing a car for more information.
For other people, another solution may be needed. For instance, many people don't get into and out of a car in the easiest way. So if you are having difficulty, the first step is to try changing your technique. You may be able to combine this with simple accessories for an inexpensive solution.
If this is not enough, you need to think about getting some more-specialised equipment to help. Think carefully about what you might need now and in the future. Can you cope with any ducking and bending? Will you have someone strong enough to help you always at hand, or do you aim for complete independence? Try out anything you are considering before you buy.
Specialised equipment for transferring to a car
The following are the main options for equipment that can help - particularly if you use a wheelchair.
Swivel seats will help if you have difficulty getting into or out of a car seat. Types that move up and down, and in and out, are particularly helpful. If you use a wheelchair and can transfer, swivel seats are fairly easy to fit and cheaper (swivel seats cost £1,250 - £6,000) than wheelchair systems.
You will need to be able to stow your wheelchair securely once you are in, or have someone to help stow it. Check that the swivel seat does not get in the way if you intend to pull the chair in after you. (Also see our guide Getting a wheelchair into a car).
A hoist can be used to lift you from a wheelchair into a car. When we tested them in the past, nearly everyone was able to use them (with help), but they found them undignified and awkward. They cost £1,350 - £2,445.
Wheelchair systems replace the original car seat. You stay on the seat and transfer from the car to a wheelchair base, which must be stowed separately while driving. A wheelchair system may not be suitable if you need specialist support seating.
When we tested them, our testers preferred wheelchair systems to hoists, mainly because they found them more dignified. They cost £3,000 – £3,800.
Wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs)
A more expensive option is a vehicle that you can get into while sitting in an ordinary wheelchair. Passenger WAVs cost from about £12,000 to over £40,000. WAVs that you can drive from your wheelchair cost from about £25,000. For further information, see our complete guide: Wheelchair accessible vehicles.
Last updated: November 2013
Introduction | Next: Techniques | See also: Wheelchair accessible vehicles usability research report