Ramp or Vertical Platform Lift: Which is Right for You?

If you have limited mobility and require the use of a mobility aid such as a wheelchair, scooter, or walker, you’d likely benefit from having a ramp or vertical platform lift (VPL) installed in your home.

Most people are familiar with residential ramps, but while you may have seen VPLs in public spaces such as restaurants and churches, a VPL in a home setting is less common.

A VPL attached to a back porch
A VPL attached to a back porch

A VPL is basically a 5’ by 5’ platform, with 2 sidewalls and a gate at the top that can lift to 14 feet. They are sometimes referred to as porch lifts since they are often found connected to a porch, stoop, or deck.

Starting price for a VPL is typically about $10,000 depending on the amount of prep work (concrete pads, deck renovation, etc.) and the lift make and model. While ramps are sometimes the more cost-effective solution (a 10-foot aluminum modular ramp with handrails starts at $2,000), there are situations where they simply won’t work.

A VPL installed in a garage
A VPL installed in a garage

A ramp should have a 1:12 slope ratio or one foot of length for every inch of rise. If you have limited space, which is the case with many urban homes, you may not have enough room to construct a ramp that is code-compliant. For example, a ramp built to accommodate a rise of four feet would need to be 48 feet long. This is a situation where a VPL would be the right solution.

VPLs can handle harsh outdoor climates, but many people will have them installed in their garage. This keeps the individual and their caregiver out of the elements and takes up less space than a ramp, allowing for more storage in the garage

The compact size of a VPL makes them ideal for people that have limited space. However, even if you have the space required for a compliant wheelchair ramp, a VPL may be the better choice for your lifestyle.

VPLs are safe and easy to use and can be more aesthetically pleasing than a large ramp system. Larger ramps will also have a price tag that is more comparable to a VPL. If the rise to step is 32” or higher, it may actually be more cost-effective to install a VPL.

While ramps will always be functional solution for many people with limited mobility, the advantages of a vertical platform lift are making them a popular choice in homes across America.