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Your first Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle
Ivor Jones is an expert in wheelchair accessible vehicles. When his brother became a wheelchair user, Ivor endeavoured to find a vehicle suitable for his brother's ongoing needs. Horrified by the abundance of high-pressure selling, and a total lack of understanding and empathy for the customer's situation, Ivor went on to help set up WavsGB.com - and with the support of the Roberts Group is transforming the WAV market.
Buying your first wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) can be a daunting experience. When I first started looking at vehicles with my brother, I was unprepared for how quickly the sales people railroaded us into buying a specific vehicle. We were emotional and vulnerable... my head was spinning, but they just wanted to talk money... It was too much. The whole experience made me think about how I could do it better in the future.
Now, I meet customers every day and while they are nice people, it’s clear to me, that like I was, they are sometimes struggling to cope with this change in their lives, they can be angry, confused and emotional - and yet here they are having to make some big decisions that can affect the quality of their life, not to mention their bank balance for years to come.
I’m going to share a few things to bear in mind when and if you ever need a WAV.
Don’t feel rushed.
It’s tempting to jump right in and buy the very first thing you see - don’t! Wheelchair accessible vehicles are a costly commitment. If you need to get around immediately - then hire a WAV. Hiring will give you a feel for loading the wheelchair, driving and parking, after a few days you’ll have a clearer idea of the features and size best for you.
Once things have calmed down and you’re thinking clearly, then you can look at getting your own WAV.
Know what you want
Don’t visit a dealer without a rough budget, some questions and features that you think you’ll need.
If you’re the driver do you need a manual or automatic transmission? Should the wheelchair load at the side or rear? Is there a chance you may use a powered wheelchair or scooter in the future? Will it fit?
Is there a dealer near you?
There aren’t as many WAV dealers around as you think. I recommend dedicated dealers rather than standard car dealers that just happen to have some WAVs in stock.
If there isn’t a dealer near you, and travelling is challenging - contact a dealer and ask if they offer home demonstrations. Usually free of charge, they let you select a vehicle from their website and then bring it to you, so you can try it for yourself.
Don’t assume you have to buy
Depending on the nature of the illness or injury, buying isn’t always the best idea.
Perhaps you only need the WAV for a short period while an injury heals, or sadly the illness may not have a good prognosis. Buying means that at some point you must sell it, depending on your circumstances this again can be a very traumatic time.
Hire a WAV instead - when it’s no longer required - simply hand it back and walk away. No finance agreement to settle, no haggling with potential buyers, no lengthy sales to deal with. Hiring gives you a fixed monthly budget, with no commitment.
Make sure there is a warranty
For complete peace of mind make sure that any vehicle you choose comes with a warranty. Look for 12-month ones and find dealers that also offer breakdown cover (we are out there!) and drive around worry-free.
You’re not the only one
I’ve met many wheelchair users over the years, some have been in a wheelchair since birth for others it has been a sudden life-changing experience. So please, ask questions - chances are I’ve been it asked before.
I’ve been helping people choose the right wheelchair vehicle for years now, I’ve met many wonderful people some of whom I am still in touch with. So while it’s important to recognise this can be a stressful time, it’s also vital to remember that a wheelchair accessible vehicle is giving some freedom and independence back to those that need it.