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Trying to figure out the next car, needs to carry a wheelchair

I am beginning to think of getting a new car, but can’t figure out which would be the one to focus on. I want good fuel economy, and I want it to be able to carry my manual wheelchair without having to take it apart and put it in 3 different parts of the car—thus requiring the putting together afterwards! It gets old very quickly. I don’t need a van, but I know I want a hatchback or station wagon. The big question is where to even begin looking and how to compare! I have browsed Honda Fits, but don’t know what other options there are! It also has to keep up with adaptive skiing, and Minnesota winters. I am a charter school special ed teacher so the bucks aren’t rolling in allowing me an exotic vacation every three months! Any ideas are great! Thanks!

Kia Soul and Scion xB come to mind

You can start here:

Search by class for hatchbacks and station wagons. You will get a list sorted by combined fuel mileage, highest to lowest. Some of the smallest hatchbacks will likely fall off the list immediately.

Does your chair fold? If so, get whatever car you want, and stick a Braun Chair Topper on the roof.

I know when I needed one for my wife last year, it would not fit in the trunk of our Acura TL or G6 without taking the foot rests off every time which becomes a pain. It would fit in the trunk of our Aurora but just barely.

I have a relative in a wheelchair who I sometimes help with transportation. Their wheelchair, classified as lightweight, is an Invacare 9000 XT. The chair folds flat with the cushion removed, the footrests fold up and the footrest support arms have locking levers that permit them to swing 180 degrees around to fold against the sides of the folded chair which is about 8 or so inches thick. It fits easily in our car trunk or hatchback rear storage area. We have a compact car, a small hatchback car and a midsize car. It sounds like your footrest brackets may not fold similarly.

PS, the chair that I mentioned easily fits in the back or trunk of any of our cars. It might be better to get a chair that fits any car rather than buy a car that fits your chair. That makes things easier if you need to ride in a borrowed, rented or shared car.

You can put a receiver hitch on almost any car and then a platform carrier to carry the chair. You just have to get out of the car in order to access the chair.

In addition to the xB and the Soul mentioned above, there is the Nissan Juke, it is even uglier that the other two.

Shadow, they all fold. And I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a wheelchair-bound person that can put a folded chair up onto a roof rack.

The adaptive skiing equipment need would, I suspect, require something different than most of us would be fanmiliar with. Perhaps your local ADA office would have references to a local adaptive equipment shop.

I’m inclined to suggest simply getting a New Car preview from the local bookstore and seeing what looks like it’ll work.

No they don’t. Rigid ultralight manual wheelchairs (which are very popular because they’re easier to roll in) and sport chairs, just to name 2 categories, do not fold. And as the video shows, the topper lowers a winch that latches onto the chair, folds it, and lifts it into the topper. All the driver does is hit a button and put the clip on the seat.

take your special circumstances with you when you car shop.
double bass violin, six dogs, guitar amps and drums, kayak, lack of mobility needs, seat hight, loss of peripheral vision …anything , take it along or make it an issue and insist anything less is an absolute deal breaker.

Any sales person who won’t invest their time if fitting you to a T, is also an instant deal braker, walk, or roll, away from the whole dealership as soon as they say "oh, well …umm, gee ".

I’m unable to find one that doesn;t fold (excepting competition chairs). Including the lightweight alumnum wheelchair in my garage…

I looked at the video and I liked the Topper system. But it does fold the chair, as you suggested in your post.

UPDATE: I did just find a link to nonfolding noncompetative rigid wheelchairs.

My chair is a rigid frame (Quickie GT), so the only thing that folds is the seat back which folds forward. I can take off the wheels, armrests etc, but the body of the chair I can just barely maneuver into the back of my Ion! I am not even sure what to ask, I had the car before I needed a chair–also, my car is modified, so how would test driving work?

I’d seek out a shop that specializes in adapting vehicles for the disabled. Your ADA office may have a list. These shops that do this work are familiar with all the products and technologies on the market designed for adapting stock vehicles for the disabled.

Whatever you decide, I wish you the sincere best.

Can you put a receiver hitch on the Ion? I see a lot of cars using this in teh wheel chair parking spaces.

@anhic, it looks like you have some mobility. How much? A minivan with fold flat seating and power sliding doors might be just right for you if you can do without the chair for a minute or two. You can open either rear door with the key fob and put your chair in the spot above the folded-flat seat. Then slide into the front seat of your choice. If someone needs to sit where you normally stow your wheelchair, they will put it in the rear cargo area and retrieve it when you arrive. I also like the Chair Topper that Shadowfax showed us. If you decide to get a folding chair, that’s one great place to stow it. I know that you don’t want a van, but the convenience of power doors and fold flat seating might outweigh the size. Take one for a test drive and see how you like it.

I do have some mobility, a van seems very large! I am hoping to find a car where I can fold seats flat and have the ability to put it in that way. I use a forearm crutch to get around when I am not in my chair, but trying to maneuver it up into things is hard. Escpecially when it is icy or snowy, that is why I want something easy to load!

Let’s talk about your disability for a second. Is it “once and done,” - i.e. you had an accident of some sort and are now as disabled as you will ever be, or is it progressive, which will get worse over time?

If it’s progressive, and the timeline for that progression is relatively rapid (i.e. you can expect to be in a power wheelchair some time in the next 5-6 years) then you should really consider a converted van with a slide-out ramp and a floor drop, because that can be set up so that you can drive it from your wheelchair if you should get to the point where transferring is problematic.

Otherwise, I’d still consider a minivan - they’re relatively fuel efficient while having a good internal volume which can fit your chair plus passengers and whatever you carry for the adaptive skiing.

I have something similar to MS, but it is not clear what or how far the progression will be. Are there particular minivans that are as small as possible but could still potentially modified if needed?

Mazda 5 comes to mind

The Ford Transit Connect looks like a good candidate for that. Its a small commercial van, plenty of headroom, 4 cyl engine for good gas mileage. The interior was designed to be customizable for commercial cargo so I would think that it could also be modified for disabilities. It probably would be best to have the wheel chair entry through the rear instead of the side.