Automatic versus Manual Wheelchair Ramp: Which is Better for You?

Automatic versus Manual Wheelchair Ramp: Which is Better for You?

Grey Wheelchair Accessible Chevrolet Traverse Outside

All rear-entry ramp conversions from Freedom Motors USA come available in two options, manual or automatic. Both have their own advantages, so how do you know which choice is right for you?

All of our ramps are made of corrosion resistant, high-strength structural grade aluminum and powder coated, which allows for easy cleanup and maintenance in any weather conditions. Freedom Motors uses a bi-fold design that folds in the middle for all of our rear and side-entry ramps, except for handicap vehicles for sale that use a single-piece design like the Kia Soul, Honda HR-V (update February 2022: The HR-V is no longer available), and 30″ and 34″ wide ramps on the Toyota Sienna (2020 model years and earlier). Our manual ramps are deployed by hand, while automatic ramps can be operated with just the touch of a button.

To help you decide which option is best for you, let’s take a look at both options and break them down in detail.

Automatic Wheelchair Ramps

At Freedom Motors, we offer automatic ramps on almost all of our rear and side-entry models including automatic ramp conversions for the Toyota Sienna Hybrid Wheelchair Van.

Our automatic ramps use a hydraulic system to raise and lower, which means you can open the back hatch and operate the ramp using only buttons on your key fob. This allows wheelchair users a great deal of independence, allowing them to enter and exit the vehicle without assistance. On vehicles that allow wheelchair users to drive, it could allow those in a wheelchair to go anywhere they need to without the help of a caregiver.

Automatic ramps offer several unique benefits, but they’re not always the best choice for every situation. The automatic ramp assembly is more complex than a manual ramp, meaning there are more moving and mechanical parts that need to be maintained and could require upkeep in some environments. This added complexity also adds to the price of the conversion, making it a more expensive option than a manual ramp.

An animated GIF of the hydraulic assisted system on a rear-entry automatic ramp

Automatic Wheelchair Ramp Pros

  • A wheelchair user can enter and exit the vehicle completely independently.
  • On vehicle models that allow wheelchair users to drive, the independence afforded by having an automatic ramp means they can transport themselves whenever they need without the assistance of a caregiver. Hand controls can help facilitate this further.
  • Automatic ramps provide ease of use for caregivers or wheelchair users that find operating a manual ramp can be difficult.

Automatic Wheelchair Ramp Cons

  • The hydraulic system on the ramp might need maintenance depending on use, which will need to be performed by a Freedom Motors authorized technician.
  • Automatic ramps are more expensive than manual ramps and will add extra cost to your vehicle’s conversion.

Manual Wheelchair Ramps

Manual ramps are available on all sizes of ramp and models of Freedom Motors’ converted vehicles. The ramps are deployed and retracted by hand, which our spring-assisted system makes easy to do. Operating the ramp takes about the same strength required to lift a gallon of milk, meaning it’s easy to do with even one hand.

All of our manual ramps utilize a two-piece bifold design, except for the Kia Soul and Honda HR-V (update February 2022: The HR-V is no longer available) which use a shorter single-piece ramp. This design ensures the ramp stays out of the way when driving and is easy to manage when deploying it.

Manual ramp conversions tend to be less expensive than automatic conversions, which can help if you’re looking for the most affordable option. Their simplistic design and operation also ensures that maintenance is easy and repairs are rarely, if ever, needed.

Of course, manual ramps can’t provide one of the best benefits of automatic ramps: complete access of the vehicle for wheelchair users without assistance from a caregiver.

An animated GIF of the spring assisted system on a manual wheelchair ramp

Manual Wheelchair Ramp Pros

  • Our spring assisted system makes manual ramps easy to operate, making it possible to do even with one hand.
  • Because of the ramp’s simplistic design and less moving parts, they are easier to maintain than an automatic ramp.
  • Manual ramps are more cost effective, making them a great choice for those with a budget.

Manual Wheelchair Ramp Cons

  • Wheelchair users will require a caregiver to operate the ramp for them to enter and exit the vehicle.

When are Automatic Ramps Best?

Automatic ramps are a great option for those who use a wheelchair and are seeking a little more independence; or for caregivers looking to reduce efforts. They are a great option for vehicles that have power transfer seats like the Kia SoulChevrolet TraverseChrysler Pacifica or Voyager;  or for vehicles that let you drive from a wheelchair like the Toyota Sienna. These configurations could allow someone in a wheelchair to drive without any assistance from a caregiver.

When are Manual Ramps Best?

Manual ramps may not offer the added convenience that an automatic ramp does, but they are still a great option for anyone looking for a wheelchair accessible SUV or van. Their simple design makes them durable and easy to maintain, and their lower cost can be helpful to those who are looking to purchase an affordable vehicle.

A photo of a manual 2021 Kia Sorento wheelchair ramp in operation

Contact a Mobility Specialist from Freedom Motors Today

Our Mobility Specialists are equipped with the knowledge to help you find the right vehicle to fit your lifestyle and budget. Contact us today to find out more about which vehicle will best suit your needs.

About Freedom Motors USA Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles

Why buy your wheelchair accessible vehicle from Freedom Motors USA? It’s simple. Freedom Motors is family-owned and has been creating accessible vehicle conversions since 1987, making us one of the first companies in the industry. We have experience getting our customers what they need.

  • Don’t know where to start? Our team of Mobility Specialists will work with you to help find the vehicle that best suits your needs.
  • Shop from Home – Freedom Motors will come to you anywhere in the country to provide a demonstration of any of our wheelchair conversions.
  • Exclusive Stock – Shop our expansive list of exclusive Wheelchair Accessible SUVs that you won’t find anywhere else in the mobility industry, including the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, Kia Sorento, Kia Soul, Kia Telluride and Honda HR-V (update February 2022: The HR-V is no longer available) .
  • Premium Features – Freedom Motors conversions offer features you won’t find anywhere else, like the exclusive automatic rear-entry ramp or our full and half-cut options that allow for more passenger seating options.
  • Superwide Ramps – Freedom Motors offers some of the widest ramps in the industry that you won’t find anywhere else, including the Superwide 40” Dodge Grand Caravan and the Superwide 48” Toyota Sienna.
  • Dedicated to Keeping You Moving – Contact us today and we’ll work with you to find the right vehicle for you. 


Freedom Motors USA | Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles