The Real Cost of a Wheelchair Ramp

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When the City of San Francisco discovered that it needed a wheelchair ramp to cover a ten-foot span of City Hall, no one expected the final price tag to reach a whopping $100,000 per foot!  That’s right, one concrete ramp, no bigger than what you’d find in front of many homes and workplaces, set the city back a cool million!

Fortunately, guaranteeing accessibility doesn’t really need to cost that much.   Wheelchair ramps aren’t always cheap, but options do exist at a wide variety of price points well below the bloated San Francisco City Hall project’s price tag.

There are many different kinds of disability ramps.  As such, it isn’t sensible to address them all with general statements.  Instead, we’ll examine the real cost of ramps by looking at portable and permanent options separately.

Portable Wheelchair Ramps

 

Portable wheelchair ramps, not surprisingly, are relatively inexpensive.  These lightweight mobility aids start for under $50 for some simple threshold models to approximately $1,000 for longer telescoping or collapsing aluminum offerings.

Most people can expect to spend in the neighborhood of $200 to $500 for a high-quality, reasonably sized portable unit if they buy “off the rack” from a major retail supplier.

It is possible to cut those costs, though.  Smart shoppers will look for wholesale vendors willing to sell to the public or may examine the secondary market for gently used portable ramps.  Websites like eBay or Craigslist can often yield tremendous values in portable ramps.  It is, of course, essential to expect these ramps carefully to insure that they are sturdy and capable of providing necessary longevity.

The price you pay for a portable ramp generally represents its actual cost.  There is little maintenance involved with these relatively simple mobility aids and if they should “break down”, most people replace them rather than attempting to repair them.  In some cases, there may be minor repairs that a “do it yourselfer” can handle and the price associated with these fixes (bolt replacement, for instance) are nominal.

Permanent and Semi-Permanent Wheelchair Ramps

 

Cost is a much more significant issue when one is purchasing a permanent or semi-permanent ramp.  Whether you’re investing in a permanent concrete, wooden or metal structure, you can expect to pay in excess of $1,500.

Wooden ramps are the least expensive option in terms of initial construction and installation.  You can have a quality ramp built by a professional for approximately $1,500 in many areas.  This low-end price tag would apply for a relatively straight build with “no frills” styling.  Obviously, you’ll pay more for more aesthetically pleasing and/or complicated models.  Those choices will be dictated by your personal tastes and the nature of the property.

While wood is an attractive option due to low initial costs, it is important to understand that these wheelchair ramps have ongoing maintenance and repair costs.  They range from regularly treating and weatherproofing the ramp to replacing damaged portions and/or conducting other repairs.  It’s impossible to offer a specific figure for those additional costs, but there’s no doubt that they can add up over time.  If you plan to use a ramp for a long period, the actual cost of wood may very well exceed the real costs of more durable options.

Aluminum and other metal ramps have a start price in the neighborhood of $2,000 to $2,500 in most areas.  Again, the exact price will vary based on a number of variables including unit quality and the needs presented by the structure itself.  It’s not at all uncommon to spend as much as $10,000 for a more complicated and involved installation.

The maintenance costs associated with these options are lower than those associated with wood, but they’re still worth realizing.  One must maintain and repair metal modular units.  Replacement parts and service add to the final cost of these ramps.

Concrete ramps are the most expensive permanent solution.  Not surprisingly, San Francisco’s one million dollar “ten footer” was a concrete build!  You won’t spend that much at your residence or place of business, but you can expect to crest five figures in most cases.  You’re dealing with greater levels of planning, more expensive materials and professional contractors and experts with very specific skills.

Cutting costs on larger-scale ramps can be challenging.  Medicare Part B will cover the price of mobility devices but won’t provide any assistance with respect to ramp construction and most (but not all) individual insurance policies offer little, if any assistance in defraying ramp costs.

The best strategy is to aggressively comparison shop in search of a bargain, always remaining mindful that the long-term costs associated with a low-quality option may trump buying a better ramp from the beginning.