Travelling with a wheelchair has many challenges and one of those can be hiring a car. Car hire companies offer options of car types but when a traveller books, say a Kia Carnival, the booking confirmation will say Kia Carnival “or similar.” As an ex travel consultant I understand the logistics of the car hire game but as a customer with specific needs the “or similar” clause always worries me.
For our weekend on the Gold Coast we had the opportunity of trying a Wheelies Van Rental car. I had seen their flyer at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance so I was aware of their service but after a chat with Dave from Wheelies at the disability expo, it was top of mind.
BJ doesn’t stay in his wheelchair in a car so we had never considered a converted vehicle a necessity. Hubby has a bad back so there was definitely some appeal in having a vehicle which the wheelchair didn’t need to be lifted into at each stop.
Wheelies provided a personal approach to the booking and delivery process. We particularly appreciated the clear communication throughout. I received email confirmation of an exact vehicle type, a VW Caddy. The day before our departure I had a confirmation call from Peter, the Wheelies representative, with instructions to meet him at the luggage carousel at our destination. I had Peter’s mobile phone number in case I needed to contact him in the event of delays or unforeseen circumstances.
On arrival at Coolangatta Airport we collected our luggage and turned around to see Peter waiting to greet us, even with a luggage trolley at the ready. He escorted us to the car and then gave Hubby a rundown of the ramp, tie-downs and general car information. Hubby said later, “That was the most thorough hand-over.”
The kids always love a different car and try out all the features. Each hire car also gets christened with a name. The VW Caddy was named “Goldie” for the period we had it. Not exactly original but a bit of fun.
Fitting all our luggage into a car is often a problem for us. This trip we had two large suitcases, two backpacks and some other hand luggage. Everything fitted easily into the Caddy which was great.
The surprise feature in the car we hired was a turning seat for BJ. This seat turned and made it easier for BJ getting out of the car. We found it a bit high to be helpful with getting him into the car but as he can step in that didn’t bother us.
The car was clean and even came with a disabled parking permit.
When we filled the car up with diesel before dropping it back to the airport it only cost $20.90. We had driven around from Friday morning to Monday afternoon and that is all it took to refill. The cheapest we have ever had for a car we have hired.
On our return Peter was waiting for us in the car hire area with a luggage trolley and a big smile. When I commented on what good service he offered he said, “This isn’t anything special just for you, we always try to offer this service.” I appreciated the service and the fact we were getting a regular experience. That summed up the down-to-earth attitude and great feeling we got from Peter and our dealings with Dave from Wheelies.
I am so thrilled that a service like this exists to assist people using a wheelchair to continue to travel by having a car which suits their needs.
If you would like more information on the vehicles and locations available, head to the Wheelies Van Rental website.
We would like to thank Dave and Peter from Wheelies for your assistance and for offering us a complimentary car rental so we could share our experience. As always, the opinion I have expressed is based on our experience and the excellent service offered.
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