Wheelchair Ramps vs Wheelchair Lifts – The Ultimate Review

As a wheelchair user, you need a ramp or a platform lift if you want to enter a building with stairs. Both wheelchair lifts and ramps have their strengths and weaknesses, but both of them are better than using the stairs, right?

A wheelchair lift is an excellent choice if there isn’t room to install a ramp with the recommended slope for wheelchair use. If you live in a big house, you can install a lift that can make it easier for you to move around the house.

Ramps are perfect for general use. People on wheelchairs, mobility scooters, strollers, bicycles, or with a shopping cart can use a wheelchair ramp.

Both lifts and ramps are perfect for getting on higher grounds if you are wheelchair-bound. Wheelchair lifts are easy to use, safer, and more convenient than most conventional ramps. While ramps are easier to install and cheaper to maintain.

So how do you know which one is perfect for you?

Choosing the right mobility aid for a wheelchair user can be a tough decision, but small things like these matter a lot.

Wheelchair ramps and lifts were created to enhance mobility, but which one is best for a wheelchair user?

Last week, we decided to compare these gadgets to find out which one is best for wheelchair users.

We got a hold of some of the best ramps and lifts for cripples and compared them side by side to know which of these two gadgets is better for the average person in a wheelchair.

What is better: Wheelchair lifts or Wheelchair Ramps? Getting the best equipment to foster mobility as a wheelchair user is important if you want to move around and enjoy life in a wheelchair.

This article will give you an in-depth guide on everything to consider before you decide whether a wheelchair ramp or wheelchair lift is the best equipment for you.

Before we give you our verdict on which tool is best for wheelchair users, we’d like to give you a small guide on these tools before we reveal what we know.

What Are Wheelchair Ramps?

Wheelchair Ramps vs Wheelchair Lifts – The Ultimate Review

Wheelchair ramps are self-explanatory. Do I need to tell you what it is?

A wheelchair ramp is an inclined surface installed for wheelchair users to foster mobility in areas where there are staircases.

Yea, I know it’s not a great definition but you get the point right?

A ramp can be portable, permanent, or semi-permanent depending on the structure and production material. Aluminum ramps are lightweight and very portable, while concrete ramps are permanent and immovable.

Ramps are great options for people because they are inexpensive and easy to install.

Ramps are also super common and install almost everywhere. It’s not unusual to see a ramp in public buildings, homes, churches, schools, and even restaurants.

Most of these ramps were not installed to decorate buildings; they enhance effortless movement for people with mobility issues.

Unlike lifts, ramps are easy to use and install. The maximum slope for a hand-propelled wheelchair is a 1:12 slope ratio.

That is 1″ rise for every 12″ of length (4.8° angle) or one foot for every inch rise. Ramps that have a slope greater than 1:12 (5% slopes) usually have handrails.

What are Wheelchair lifts?

Wheelchair Ramps vs Wheelchair Lifts – The Ultimate Review

In plain words, what we know as wheelchair lifts are mini elevators that can be installed on stoops, decks, porches, and even indoors.

Vertical platform lifts (VPLs), wheelchair lifts, or porch lifts are compact vertical platforms that are used to that raises and lowers the wheelchair user to certain levels of the building.

Just like elevators, these gadgets allow wheelchair users to enter and exit the building vertically, unlike ramps that use horizontal movements.

These mobility aids are sometimes installed in the front porch or the back porch of a house that is why it was nicknamed porch lifts. It’s quite similar to a platform lift.

Platform lifts are not just popular in big houses and urban cities, you can also find them in churches, banks, and restaurants.

Some wheelchair lifts are installed on a concrete pad and are strong enough to lift the user to the second floor of the building. Wheelchair lifts are usually about 36” x 45” area.

Because of their compact size, wheelchair lifts are rapidly becoming a top choice for most wheelchair users, especially in urban cities and enormous homes with lots of stairs.

Installing a ramp in big houses or urban cities can be ineffective, so it’s better to install a lift or residential elevator that can lift the user between different floors at the push of a button.

Wheelchair Ramp vs Wheelchair Lift Compared

Now that we’ve seen the difference between a wheelchair ramp and a wheelchair lift, it’s time to look at some qualities that make one better than the other.

In this section of our article, we will compare some important features of these mobility aids. This way, it is easier for you to make an unwavering decision on with one is better for you.

1. Safety

Safety first is the compass of every article on this website. We will start by looking at some safety features installed in most conventional ramps and lifts.

Wheelchair ramps may look safer on glace but that is just the opposite. Some ramps are too steep and susceptible to being slippery, making it a problem if you are going up or coming down. The only safety feature in most traditional ramps is the handrails.

Wheelchair lifts come with a long list of safety features. These platforms are slip-resistant and can take the user to any height at the push of a button.

The doors of the platform lift are shut tight to ensure that the user stays in the machine during use. There are also auto-lock gears both at the top and bottom of the machine.

Best For Safety – Wheelchair Lift

2. Accessibility & Convenience

Ramps are generally more accessible than platform lifts, but lifts are more convenient than most wheelchair ramps.

Ramps require more space, so it is easy to see them from afar but platform lifts are small and easy to miss especially if there’s no sign indicating that there’s one nearby.

Platform lifts can easily give you access to any decks, floors, or sections of the building without any stress. Almost everyone feels comfortable using a platform lift, whether they rely on wheelchairs or scooters for mobility.

Best For accessibility & convenience – Both mobility aids are accessible and convenient.

3. Easy to install

Another thing to consider when choosing between a wheelchair ramp and lifts is the installation process.

I’ll keep this short, ramps are easier to make and install. Most wheelchair users can build and install their ramps. You’ll need a handyman or technician to help you install a pouch lift and a lot of testing before you can use it.

Best for easy and fast installation – Wheelchair ramp

4. Easy to use

Which of these mobility aids is easier to use? Ramps require no extra effort for someone in a wheelchair except in certain cases where the conditions prevent the person from using his hands.

Ramps are perfect for people that use power chairs and scooters, but for people that use manual wheelchairs, crouches, walkers, or rollators, using a ramp may be harder than it seems since using a ramp requires more effort

Wheelchair lifts are not just limited to wheelchair users, other people with illnesses like arthritis, HBP, cancer, or respiratory illness can also use a platform lift. This equipment allows them to move freely without taking a toll on their body.

Since we’re focusing on the best mobility aid for wheelchair users, you should know that lifts are easy for anyone to use. The paddle-switch controls in the platform are easy to operate.

Best for ease of use – Wheelchair lifts

5. Durability

Just to be clear, the longevity of your wheelchair lift or ramp is up to you. Both pieces of equipment are great for long-term and consistent use.

How long does a wheelchair ramp last? That’s an excellent question. The longevity of your ramp depends on the materials used to make it.

A metal ramp can serve you for up to 30 years; an aluminum ramp can serve you for up to 15 years, while concrete ramps are permanent structures and can be used for a lifetime.

On average, the life expectancy of a wheelchair lift is 6 years. Platform lifts typically last anywhere from 4 to 15 years.

Aside from longevity, one advantage of using a porch lift is it is moveable. If you plan to move to another city, you can easily disassemble the platform and reinstalling it when you’ve settled down.

Most wheelchair ramps are usually garbage when you don’t need them anymore. You may even end up spending more disassembling and reinstalling them when moving than getting a new one.

If you know that your apartment is rented or you don’t plan on staying there for long, get a Modular aluminum wheelchair ramp. These types of ramps are reliable, portable, and ideal for short-term rentals.

This doesn’t mean that platform lifts are perfect; you also have to spend thousands of dollars every year on maintenance if you want to ensure longevity.

But ramps are perfect if the property is yours, and you don’t plan to move soon. Once your ramp is installed, you won’t be required to spend a lot of money on maintenance.

Best For Longevity – Wheelchair ramps

6. Confined Area

By confined area, I mean which of these two pieces of equipment is smaller or requires small spaces. I’ll keep this short, platform lifts are smaller than ramps and can even be disguised to look like a part of your home.

Don’t believe me?

Every ramp requires a 1″ rise for every 12″ of length; a three-step staircase would require a 12-foot ramp. That’s huge, right?

But there most porch lifts are 36” wide x 45” long [measurement varies between models and manufacturers] but capable of taking you to the third floor of the building with no stress.

Best Compact Mobility Aid – Platform Lifts

7. Cost

Most people would immediately assume that platform lifts are more expensive than wheelchair ramps. Well, the truth is installing both gadgets requires a lot of money depending on the height and layout of your choice.

A 10 ft long wheelchair ramp with a handrail will cost you about $1,400. This ramp can only take you to no more than two staircases. You’ll need about four ramps to climb 10 staircases [10 feet].

You can get a porch lift that can take you 6 ft high for just $6,000 with the installation.

Most Affordable – Platform Lift

8. Climate

Porch lifts withstood the harshest weather condition and even operate in hot summer afternoons and blistering frosty nights. Some of these platforms even offer protection from rain and snow.

Wooden ramps can also withstand to withstand sun, rain, and snow, but ramps will defiantly be slippery under rain or cold. Since ramps are open platforms, you must clean the ice, moist, tree branches, and other debris from the ramp before you can use it.

Best With Climate Protection – Platform lift

Which is Better – Wheelchair Ramp or Wheelchair Lift?

If you ask me, I think wheelchair lifts are better are more convenient than most conventional ramps. But overall, Ramps are better for children and growing adults while lifts are more ideal for adults and old people.

If the person on the chair is below the age of 15, I’d advise that you get him/her a ramp. Using a ramp would teach people in this age grade to be completely independent and move around in places that have slopes or poorly installed ramps the right way.

Once the child can move around his surroundings, he can begin using lifts to move around more easily.

Since older people are more skilled with the wheelchair, they need a lift to move around the home or office easier and faster. Wheelchair lifts are the best mobility aid for people that work from home.

This way they can move around the house easier and quicker without using all their energy or brainpower to move the chair around the house. Lifts are also perfect for old people, even though they are using an electric wheelchair or any specialized power chair.

As you can see, both wheelchair ramps and lifts are fantastic tools that can help you move around the house in your wheelchair or scooter. But choosing one of these mobility equipment is totally up to you.

Now, which mobility tool do you this is perfect for you? A wheelchair lift or a wheelchair ramp.

About the author

Hi! I'm Jeffery Conner. I'm an architect, engineer, and wheelchair review blogger that enjoys sharing hacks and guides that would help people find the perfect wheelchair. I’ve been providing accessibility solutions and mobility aids to wheelchair users since 2012. In this blog, I’m going to share everything I know.

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