The 5 Best Wheelchair Lifts of 2020

Find the right product to help with your mobility

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Changes in mobility can happen gradually through age, as the result of a worsening chronic condition, or from a severe accident. In each case, potentially limited access to your home can leave you with some difficult choices to make.

Institutional options like assisted living facilities and long-term care can be expensive, and many people don’t want to leave their homes. They love where they live and their independence, and they want to stay where they are to maintain their social network.

Home modification may be the answer. Products like ramps and home elevators can help, but these can be pricey and are not practical in some homes. This is where a wheelchair lift can help. Often more affordable than a home elevator, wheelchair lifts can be a great option. Here are our top picks.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Bruno’s Enclosure Vertical Platform Model

Bruno

 Bruno

If you are looking for a wheelchair lift that meets all the commercial-grade, code compliance standards either for your home or perhaps for your church, company, or store, you’ll want to know about Bruno.

Bruno makes commercial vertical platform lifts in accordance with ASME A18.1, Section 2, and can be used in some applications for ANSI A117.1 National Accessibility Guidelines. They also meet Canadian guidelines CSA B355.

Bruno’s Enclosure Vertical Platform Model is self-contained and requires no hoistway or shaftway. The Enclosure has a full-sized door and window panel inserts for protection, safety, and visibility.

This lift gives you access to 14 feet of vertical rise and has a 750-pound capacity. The Enclosure lift runs on an ACME screw-driven, DC motor with a continuously charging battery. Its weather-protected controls and powder-coated paint even allow you to install it for outdoor access.

The platform controls have an emergency stop switch and an audio/visual alarm, plus a key to activate the lift for additional safety.

Full-enclosure vertical platform wheelchair lifts like Bruno’s cost about $10,000 before installation labor is added.

Best Porch Lift for the Home: The Outdoor Elevator by Precision Lift Industries

Precision Lift Industries

Precision Lift Industries

You may have some steps that lead up to your front or back porch, or from your patio to your porch, causing you to wonder if a ramp will work.

It might, but you’ll need one foot of ramp for every inch of ramp incline, so that you have the muscle power to wheel your chair up the ramp. If your stairs rise 24 inches, then you’ll need a 24-foot ramp. And, if your property doesn’t have that much runway space, a porch lift for your wheelchair may be a better option. 

The Outdoor Elevator by Precision Lift Industries is engineered and built to withstand winds of up to 160 miles per hour. The secret behind its extreme weather resistance is the Outdoor Elevator’s welded aluminum design. If you live in a coastal area with high winds or in a state prone to hurricanes, this unit may be your best chance to endure those conditions.

The standard model’s weight-lift capacity is 500 pounds, and it runs on standard 110VAC power. Despite its highly engineered design, simple Plug N’ Play wiring still enables quick installation. The Outdoor Elevator can travel up to three landings, and it's faster than most at 24 feet per minute. Most other lifts average less than 20 feet per minute.

Pricing will be quoted with the product, installation, and service costs from a local dealer. The labor will vary widely based on the region, but plan on the Outdoor Elevator starting at roughly $5,000 plus labor depending on options and site conditions.

Best Value: Affordable Wheelchair Lifts

Affordable Wheelchair Lifts

Affordable Wheelchair Lifts

Affordable Wheelchair Lifts is a standout for best value as a smaller, younger, American-made brand that is gaining more notoriety. The company is on a mission to create more budget-friendly options so that more Americans can afford them.

Their vertical platform lift works in your garage, inside your home, or completely outdoors for porch and patio access. Starting at around $2,295 plus shipping, the product can be installed by the average handyman, which is a major perk because most other manufacturers recommend a factory-trained installer to install their more complicated units.

Affordable Wheelchair Lifts has an option to ship the unit pre-assembled. This makes the freight cost a little more, but could save you hours of frustration when putting it together and setting it up in your home.

One of the ways Affordable keeps its costs lower is by getting the basic standard model out to you without a lot of optional features embedded in that base price. For an additional upcharge, you can get a battery backup and call buttons.

Affordable’s unit reaches 18 feet and lifts up to 500 pounds of capacity—and even more with some customization. It’s powered with standard household electrical power and ships with a three-prong electrical plug.

One feature you cannot get is an auto-stop. This means when you reach the bottom you need to stop pressing the down button. It will not stop automatically for you. There’s also no weight sensor that will disable the motor if there is too much weight on the platform. You just need to be sure you are not exceeding the weight limit.

Best Heavy-Duty Wheelchair Lift: Precision Lift Industries’ Aspire Vertical Platform Lift

Precision Lift Industries

Precision Lift Industries

With a standard weight capacity of 750 pounds and the option to customize up to 1,000 pounds of lifting power, Aspire leads the way if you need a unit strong enough for a bariatric user and/or multiple people at once.

But Aspire wins best heavy-duty not just because it is strong, but also for its array of features in such a powerful lift. It comes with a weather-resistant, epoxy-coated floor, so it’s durable for outdoor and garage use where snow and rain can be a factor.

Aspire is battery-powered and has an automatic, self-lowering folding ramp, so power outages won’t be a worry. Additional safety features include obstruction detection under the platform, an emergency stop switch, and an emergency alarm.

Options abound. There are over 150 color choices. You can customize the floor dimensions up to 42 by 66 inches. Choose polycarbonate/glass walls instead of solid if you prefer. You can specify the enclosure with a roof. An automatic gate operator, an additional grab rail, or lighting in the cab are other available features.

The Aspire Vertical Platform Lift starts at about $5,000 before installation, and depending on which features you add, it could climb to more than $10,000.

Best Incline Wheelchair Lift: Titan Residential Incline Platform Lift

AmeriGlide

AmeriGlide 

An incline wheelchair lift works similarly to a stairlift.

Instead of a chair mounted to a rail that moves the seated user over a staircase, a platform big enough to hold the user in their own wheelchair may be a better choice for some. For example, getting in and out of a chair can be very difficult. The benefit of a platform lift is that the user doesn’t have to get in and out of a chair.

The Titan Residential Incline Platform lift by AmeriGlide mounts on a rail and to the stairs, which means less time and money spent on installation. When you don’t have to attach to the wall, the renovation is less expensive and less invasive in your home.

The unit is about $11,495 plus shipping, and that price includes basic installation from AmeriGlide. It has a 500-pound capacity and is battery-powered to avoid electrical outage risks.

The basic model has enough rail to cover 16 feet of stairs, but for an upcharge, you can extend the range to 40 feet. For safety, the unit is powered with constant pressure control, which means the power button must be continuously pressed for the platform to move. There is a wireless control switch that can be used either by the rider or by someone assisting the rider.

The smallest wheelchair platform requires at least a 35-inch wide staircase, but when the platform is parked and folded, it only extends 13 inches from the wall.

How We Chose the Best Wheelchair Lifts

We reviewed technical specifications using wheelchair lift comparison charts from wheelchairlift.com and cross-verified them with manufacturers.

We also consulted Master Distributors for the United States and Canada, such as Silver Cross. Master Distributors are an insightful resource because they sell many brands of wheelchair lifts and therefore have collected customer, staff, dealer, and installer feedback on all of the manufacturers whose products they carry. Their opinion is somewhat objective because they are aligned with several manufacturers and therefore can tell you which lifts they prefer to sell and why.

For a budget-friendly option, we chose Affordable Wheelchair Lifts, which can be installed by the average handyman to cut the cost down. Other products like Precision Lift Industries’ Aspire Vertical Platform Lift offer customizable features at higher prices.

What Are Wheelchair Lifts?

Wheelchair lifts are motorized platforms that move a person while they're sedentary going up or down staircases or from one level to another like an elevator. They are used inside the home and outside. An outdoor wheelchair lift is often used when a ramp would be too steep or otherwise difficult for a person in a wheelchair to navigate.

Is a Wheelchair Lift Right for Me?

If you need to be in your wheelchair most of the day to get around your home, and you’re finding some of the areas of your house are becoming harder to get to, you may be thinking about getting some help. Moving from your home to an assisted living facility may be one option, but if you’d rather stay in your home for comfort, emotional, family, or financial reasons, a lift is a far less expensive alternative.

How Do Wheelchair Lifts Work?

On a staircase, a wheelchair lift platform attaches to a rail. The user rolls their wheelchair onto the platform, and while sitting in the wheelchair, presses a button so that the motorized platform moves along the inclined rail. The platform ascends or descends to the desired landing where the wheelchair user rolls off the platform and goes on their way.

A vertical wheelchair lift looks like an elevator, but it is usually not fully enclosed. You operate them the same way. Once you roll their wheelchair onto the platform and close the safety gate, you ascend or descend vertically at the push of a button. Once at the desired floor, you open the gate and roll off the platform.

What Do Wheelchair Lifts Cost?

Wheelchair lifts that run on an incline over stairs begin at roughly $10,000 depending on the brand, weight capacity, and optional features. A curved staircase wheelchair lift will be a bit more expensive due to the customizations involved. A base model vertical wheelchair lift also starts at around $5,000. For installation, plan on approximately $1,000 to $4,000 for a professional job.

Are Wheelchair Lifts Covered By Insurance?

Wheelchair lifts are not covered by Medicare and most insurance plans. However, we’ve found a few programs where you can get some financial assistance. What you are looking for is financial assistance for a medically necessary “home modification.” Many states have their own programs where they will cover a portion of the cost to modify your home to install a wheelchair lift. You can find a list of organizations offering waivers and financial assistance by state at Paying for Senior Care.

If you’re a veteran of the U.S. Armed Services, you may qualify for home modification assistance through the Veteran Directed Care Program (VDCP). The VDCP helps veterans who risk needing to move into a long-term care institution because they can't afford the home modifications that will let them age at home.

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