Wheelchair/Scooter Lift Fact Sheet
Generally speaking, there are two categories of scooter lifts and both of them apply to vehicles. Most scooter lifts operate off the car's battery and lift the fully assembled scooter into the trunk of a car or into a van. These lifts were originally called trunk lifts but as cars got smaller and scooters got bigger the name wasn't properly descriptive any longer. Transporting scooter has always been an issue for users despite the fact they will usually disassemble for transporting. Disassembling a scooter usually requires a fairly able bodied person to do it and that can restrict the freedom of the user.
Interior Scooter Lift
The first is what I'm going to call an interior scooter lift. The interior scooter lift is mounted inside the vehicle and lifts the scooter into the scooter for transporting. This style of lift consists of an arm which swings out of the rear of the vehicle, a strap which lowers to the scooter on the ground and a motor which lifts the scooter up by retracting the strap. Once the scooter is in the air, the arm is swung into the back of the vehicle with the scooter attached. The scooter is then lowered to the floor of the vehicle and you're ready to go. The big advantage of this type of scooter lift is the scooter and lift are stowed inside the vehicle which is a definite bonus if you live in areas prone to nasty weather.
As you can imagine it's vitally important than the vehicle transporting the scooter is large enough to contain both the scooter and the lift. Today these types of lifts are usually used in vans and mini vans although even these vehicles can be a problem. Vans which have seats that fold into the floor can sometimes be a significant challenge to doing an installation of these lifts. In mini vans, the rearmost seats must usually be removed.
It important when buying interior scooter lift that the dealer or manufacturer is aware of the make, year and model of your van and scooter bin order to purchase a lift that will work for you. There are different weight capacities from manufacturer to manufacturer and different installation methods so having the proper advice from the dealer you're purchasing from is critical to a successful transaction.
A few of the heavier duty models of interior scooter lifts are capable of lifting power wheelchairs and although they may need an adapter of some sort, some users find this option useful. Some manufacturers have added a second motor to these lifts for people who may have balance issues or some problem actually pushing the equipment into the van. The interior scooter lifts which power into and out of the vehicle as well as power up and down are particularly helpful for large scooters and power wheelchair lifting.
Exterior Scooter Lift
The second category of scooter lift I'll call the exterior scooter lift. This is the option most often chosen these days because of the small size of many vehicles and the large size of many scooters. Basically, this lift might be more acurately described as a transport platform for scooters as some of the models don't actually lift the scooter. While many of these lifts, lift the scooter when driven onto the platform, many models simply tilt down and the scooter is driven up onto the platfrom and then are tilted back to the horizontal position.
The installation of these units is a little easier than the interior scooter lifts in that this model usually just slides into a trailer hitch receiver. The models that use a motor to raise the scooter platform require wiring run from the fusebox or battery of the vehicle which adds a little cost to the installation but the tilt down models don't require wiring are fairly easy and inexpensive.
The big advantages of this style of lift are, any scooter can be carried on it, any wheelchair can be carried on it or anything else that you might want to move can be carried on it.
The disadvantages are, everything carried must be tied down properly, everything carried is exposed to the weather (although a scooter cover or a tarp will help), unless a swingaway device of some kind is available the lift will always block access to the trunk or rear doors of the van and finally, if you don't have a trailer hitch receiver on your vehicle, you'll need to buy one and have it installed.