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Wheelchair Ramps Vs. Lifts: Know The Difference

Kevin Cleary

The concept of modifying your home for accessibility with a wheelchair can seem like a daunting project. Most homes have stairs or steps that are impractical or even traversable by a wheelchair. However, the installation of either wheelchair ramps or a wheelchair lift does come with a unique set of issues for both and understanding your needs and property/home can help you decide which alternative is suitable for you.  

Differences Between Wheelchair Ramps and Portable Lifts  

Wheelchair ramps and wheelchair lifts (sometimes known as vertical platform lifts or VPL) are very different, but each has unique pros and cons. For example, a wheelchair ramp requires 12 inches of horizontal run for every 1 inch of rise, so you can imagine that it will potentially require a large amount of space. In contrast, a vertical platform lift has a significantly smaller footprint, approximately 5' x 5'.  

Wheelchair ramps also require footings to be dug according to your local building codes, and a portable lift requires a concrete platform for proper installation. While a ramp needs to be longer if the rise is higher, a vertical platform lift can be custom designed for your need since they are mechanical. More than likely, the town or city you live in will require a permit for the installation of either a wheelchair ramp or VPL.  

Check with your local building inspector or zoning department for local specifications. As someone who uses a wheelchair, I have ramps and vertical platform lifts in my home and property. I am fortunate to have a large enough property to incorporate my home's everyday entrance/exit and the potential emergency egress at any given moment.  

Pros and Cons of Ramps and Lifts  

Before deciding whether to install a wheelchair ramp or a wheelchair lift, you should have a home visit by a physical therapist to evaluate your home and property. While a wheelchair ramp is a straightforward design, wheelchair lifts come in a multitude of designs that are specifically tailor-made to overcome specific rises and even steps/stairs.  

One difference between a wheelchair ramp and a vertical platform lift is that a ramp can be a do-it-yourself project, whereas a wheelchair lift or VPL should be professionally installed. This is particularly true since the need for electrical work (done legally and adequately) should be done by a licensed electrician.  

When adding a wheelchair ramp or lift to your home and property, you should always consider that when you resell your home, any potential buyer may see a permanently installed ramp as a negative. You could always disassemble your vertical platform lift and take it with you or sell it privately. 

Another thing to consider is that wheelchair lifts require commercial power (some do have battery backup), so consideration needs to be given about what to do during power outages. On the other hand, a wheelchair ramp requires no power, so it can be used during a blackout.  

Types of Wheelchair Lifts 

Some varieties of wheelchair lifts include:  

  • Uncovered or exposed platform lifts: As the name suggests, these are uncovered and exposed to the elements.  
  • Covered or enclosed platform lifts: This style of a wheelchair lift or VPL has an enclosure built around it to shelter the unit and user from inclement weather. These can be significantly more money to install and may require a permit from your town or city.  
  • Stair lift: Instead of traveling in an up-and-down or vertical method, these lifts may traverse outdoor stairs or steps. They travel horizontally and vertically to traverse stairs or steps around the yard or even in the house.  

Best Ramps & Lifts At HPFY 

1. Safepath EZ Edge Transition Rubber Threshold Ramp 

Made In USA

This threshold ramp is designed to remove the threshold barrier and allow the wheelchair or any other mobile device to roll over easily and reduce the risk of falling. In addition, it offers an easy transition from one height to another without difficulty. It is used in both residential and commercial places. EZ Edge Ramp is easy to install and requires no maintenance. 

Benefits of Safepath EZEdge Threshold Ramp 

  • Easily cut to fit inside door jambs, molding, etc. 
  • An easy solution to solve threshold barriers 
  • Ensured instant accessibility 
Safepath EZ Edge Transition Rubber Threshold Ramp



2. Harmar AL055 Economy Inside Lift 

Made In USA

Harmar AL055 Economy Inside Lift is designed as a convenient trunk lift for micro/travel power chairs and scooters. The simple design and remote hand control make this lift a hit because of its ease of use. With lightweight components, disassembly for transport is quick and easy. The AL055 operates with a power lift and manual rotation for use inside a van, SUV, or in the trunk of a car. 

Harmar Economy Inside Lift Features 

  • Lightweight and compact 
  • The heaviest component is just 23 lbs 
  • Small enough to mount in the trunk or cargo area 
  • Easy to disassemble for storage 
  • Powerlifting with manual rotation 
  • No scooter or power chair modifications required 
Harmar AL055 Economy Inside Lift



Where can I buy wheelchairs ramps and portable lifts? 

The best way to determine what accessibility equipment is right for you and your home is to listen to a qualified physical therapist. Not only are they familiar with the types of wheelchair ramps or wheelchair lifts available, but they will also understand your limitations and recommend the safest option for you. 


Disclaimer: All content found on our website, including images, videos, infographics, and text were created solely for informational purposes. Our reviewed content should never be used for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Content shared on our websites is not meant to be used as a substitute for advice from a certified medical professional. Reliance on the information provided on our website as a basis for patient treatment is solely at your own risk. We urge all our customers to always consult a physician or a certified medical professional before trying or using a new medical product.

HPFY Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary has been a Health Products For You contributor for many years and has a degree in marketing. His health and wellness journey has a very personal meaning and has guided him in his content writing for HPFY.

In 2006, ...

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