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Buyers Guide

Wheelchair Accessible Vans: Buyer’s Guide

This Buyer’s Guide was designed as a comprehensive resource for people looking to buy a wheelchair accessible van – 60% of those whom are doing it so for the very first time. We know that the process can be an intimidating experience for many families. However, if you are one of those individuals, DON’T WORRY! Even experienced wheelchair van users can find themselves struggling to understand the vast array of new products available since their last purchase.

Since specifications on the conversions of wheelchair vans can change from model year to model year, we have updated specification data by conversion manufacturer (where applicable) within the Buyer’s Guide. Please note that as even more exciting changes are being planned by the major manufacturers, we may need to update these specifications again later in the year. In the interim, please always feel comfortable contacting one of our experienced Professional Mobility Sales Consultants for the most up-to-date information.

Our hope is that this guide will help focus your attention on the most important buying considerations, present you with all of your available options, and help you make the best decision. Wheelchair van users have many options to choose from! The wheelchair van industry has greatly evolved over the years and now produces more products and styles than ever before. The quality of wheelchair vans has also improved significantly. In fact, handicap conversions now look more like original factory equipment than aftermarket modifications.We have assembled critical information that you can use to help make your wheelchair van buying decision. We’ve worked to efficiently organize the models, the manufacturers, and the major decision points so you can spend more time contemplating the information and testing the products – and less time doing basic research.

CONTENTS

  • 1. Where to start: First steps in buying a wheelchair van
  • 2. What to consider: Wheelchair van conversion styles
  •      a. Side-entry vs. rear-entry wheelchair vans
  •      b. In-floor vs. fold-up wheelchair ramps
  •      c. Power wheelchair ramps and doors
  •      d. Automatic wheelchair docking systems
  • 3. What’s available: Wheelchair van overview
  •      a. Buying used wheelchair vans
  • 4. Where you can find it: Your handicap accessible wheelchair van dealer
  • 5. Where to be careful: Be cautious of direct wheelchair van Internet sellers
  • 6. Final thoughts

 

1.    Where to start: First steps in buying a wheelchair van

The first step in buying a handicap accessible wheelchair van is understanding what you need, what will work for you, and what won’t.

For example:

  • Will the wheelchair user be the driver?
  • What are the dimensions of the wheelchair?
  • Who needs to be transported in the vehicle and where will it be garaged?

The form below will help you narrow your options and let you focus on the right products. Make a copy of this page and fill in the answers, then bring it with you when you visit us so we can help advise you about the best possible van.

  • A.    Will the wheelchair user be the driver?

Although all wheelchair minivans are designed to handle a passenger or “transport” situation, they do not all work when an adaptive driver (someone in a wheelchair) is driving. Adaptive driving adds a level of complexity to choosing the right wheelchair accessible minivan, so adaptive drivers should start by working with a Professional Driver Rehabilitation Specialist who can advise them.

 

 YES         NO

  • B.   What are the wheelchair user’s dimensions?

The size and shape of the wheelchair user, wheelchair, and any other mobility equipment will determine the ability to enter, exit, and maneuver within various wheelchair vans. Dimensions will also determine what seating positions are available to the wheelchair user. In general, average to small people will have more options than those who are particularly tall or large. However, newer models have been developed that provide more options for larger people.

We’ve listed the key measurements below that you should fill in before you start looking at wheelchair vans.

 

  • Height as measured from the floor to the top of the person’s head while seated in the wheelchair: __________

  • Width of the wheelchair at its widest point: __________

  • Width of the wheels on the wheelchair: __________
  •  
  • Length of the passenger while seated in the wheelchair—including leg extension and/or any equipment mounted on the back of the chair: __________
  •  
  • Combined weight of the passenger and the wheelchair __________

 

  • C.   Who needs to be transported in the van and where will it be garaged?

A number of important factors should be considered when determining the accessible minivan options that will work for you, including the number of people who’ll be transported in the van. Also, if and where you garage your van is important. For example, if you have a narrow garage, you won’t be able to deploy a side-entry ramp in it.Be sure to share this information with your Mobility Consultant so that you can understand how the different features and specifications of the available wheelchair van offerings might impact your decision.

 

  • • Number of people: __________
  •  
  • • Where van will be garaged or parked: __________

 

 

2.    What to consider: Different conversion styles

There are several wheelchair van conversion styles you’ll want to consider when choosing the right mobility solution for you. This section provides important information and considerations for each:

 

  • Side-Entry vs. Rear-Entry Wheelchair Vans
  • In-Floor vs. Fold-Up Wheelchair Ramps
  • Power Wheelchair Ramps and Doors
  • Automatic Wheelchair Docking Systems

 

  • A.    Side-entry vs. rear-entry wheelchair vans

One of the most important choices you’ll make in selecting a handicap accessible wheelchair van is side entry versus rear entry. Your choice will impact such things as the wheelchair seating positions, your ability to accommodate other passengers, and parking options. Side-entry wheelchair vans represent the majority of the market—over 75% for most personal use vehicles. However, rear-entry wheelchair vans are also gaining in popularity as more products become available. Take a look at some key points you’ll want to be aware of.

 

Side-entry wheelchair minivans

Advantages

  • Enter and exit safely onto curbside away from traffic
  • Drive from a wheelchair or sit in the front passenger position in a wheelchair
  • More choices available
  • More storage space

 

Important Options

  • • Power ramp and doors
  • • Power kneeling system
  • • In-floor or fold-up ramp
  • • Manual conversion available
  • • Driver swivel seats available

 

Rear-entry wheelchair minivans

Advantages

  • Park in any parking space—no extra room required for ramp (exc. parallel parking)
  • Side passenger doors aren’t blocked by a ramp
  • Mid-passenger seats can be mounted next to the wheelchair position
  • Great for long wheelchairs/leg rests
  • Less expensive conversion
  • More ground clearance

 

Important Options

  • • Power ramp and doors
  • • Power kneeling system
  • • Manual conversion available
  • • Driver swivel seats available

 

  • B.    In-floor vs. fold-up wheelchair ramps

Another important consideration to make is whether you’d prefer a fold-up or an in-floor wheelchair ramp in your handicap van. As their name implies, fold-up ramps fold in half and stow upright, next to the side passenger door. On the other hand, in-floor ramps slide into a pocket underneath the vehicle’s floor. People who opt for in-floor ramps prefer the ramp out of the way of the passenger entrance. Typically, fold-up ramps tend to be less expensive and easier to maintain, and they present a lower ramp angle. In-floor and fold-up wheelchair ramps are available in a wide range of handicap minivan conversions.

 

  • C.    Power wheelchair ramps and doors

Handicap van conversions with power wheelchair ramps and doors are the most popular because of their ease and convenience. However, manual conversions are also popular because they cost less both to purchase and to maintain. Power conversions also typically have a kneeling feature that reduces the angle or steepness of the wheelchair ramp. By compressing the suspension, the floor of the van lowers on the ramp side. We find that for most wheelchair users—especially those in manual wheelchairs—this angle reduction is very helpful, if not critical

 

  • D.    Automatic wheelchair docking systems

The easier it is to secure a wheelchair for transport, the more you’ll look forward to using your wheelchair van. Automatic systems are more expensive and might require buying an additional bracket when you change wheelchairs. However, customers who chose them often say that they’d never go back to any kind of manual wheelchair tie-down system.

3.    What’s available: Wheelchair van overview

Consumers have strong brand preferences for cars, and the same is true for wheelchair vans. Your choice of minivan will have a big impact on your overall satisfaction with your handicap van. In addition, because of the differing dimensions of the various minivans, wheelchair conversions differ in height, width, and other specifications and features. Fortunately, there are wheelchair accessible minivan conversions available on all of the most popular minivan chassis on the market today.

  • A.    Buying used wheelchair vans

Many customers buy used wheelchair vans and mobility products because their budgets don’t allow for the purchase of brand new vehicles. Other people are anticipating either a low-use or shorter term need, which lets them be more accepting of a vehicle that has some age and/or miles on it. The range of used accessible vans is broad. At the bottom of the scale are vehicles with heavy mileage and therefore lower prices. At the top of the scale are vehicles with extremely low miles and minimal use/wear. We even have a category of wheelchair accessible minivans that we refer to as “new-used.” The term “new-used” refers to a new conversion that has been added to a slightly used wheelchair minivan.

When you’re buying a used wheelchair van, the more flexible you are, the more likely we’ll be able to find a wheelchair van for you. If you’re open-minded about mileage, color, and seating arrangements, we’re more likely to find a used handicap van to fit your specific needs and price range. Also, being ready to move quickly when the right van comes along, having your financing lined up, and being prepared to buy when the moment is right are all attributes that will work in your favor. Be sure to do your homework.  Run a Carfax report (or ask us for one free of charge) to be sure that there are no hidden surprises.

For many vehicles, aftermarket service contracts are available that can help you manage your repair costs and give you additional peace of mind with your used wheelchair van purchase.

4.    Where you can find it: Your handicap accessible wheelchair van dealer

When you’re in the market for a handicap accessible wheelchair van, who will help you make the right choices? And how will they support you after the sale? Remember, you’ll depend on your wheelchair van to provide years of dependable service. All vehicles require service, and there will be times when you need a repair. When this happens, you’ll want to be sure that your mobility dealer is there for you and can provide the necessary maintenance and support to keep you going. After all, most people have only one handicap van, and if it’s not operating correctly, it’s a major inconvenience!

We have all of these attributes and will be able to help you make the right decision and provide you with the best possible support after the sale. Contact us with your questions and give us the opportunity to serve you, or take a look at our inventory

 

5.    Where to be careful: Be cautious of direct wheelchair van Internet sellers!

The Internet can provide a wealth of information useful in researching the mobility options/dealers available to you. However, be careful of companies looking to sell you an accessible vehicle—sight unseen—over the Internet. Although you might feel as if you’re saving a few dollars now, your decision may end up costing you more in the long run.

In addition, note that the resale value on vehicles purchased from the Internet can be thousands of dollars less for multiple reasons. For example, the manufacturers of wheelchair vans who sell directly to end users via the Internet don’t have the same level of brand recognition and quality perception that Braun, VMI, and Eldorado have. They tend to build conversions that lack some key features and don’t have the same level of fit and finish that the premier converters have. In addition, without a dealer network to support the product, people who buy these handicap vans turn for repairs to local garages, where the staff may not be nearly as responsive to the needs of people with disabilities as we are—not to mention that the mechanic may be seeing a wheelchair minivan for the first time! Buying products from a trusted and accredited dealer with wheelchair vans that are manufactured by Dodge/Chrysler, Honda, Toyota, or Volkswagen means clearly defined warranties as well as our support if you have any problems. You can be sure of the quality of the product you buy—which translates into more dollars when it comes to resale.

 

  • 1. Face-to-face client counseling with a certified, factory-trained Mobility Consultants
  • 2. Professional fittings done to put you in the right equipment the first time
  • 3. Highest-quality conversions
  • 4. Service “after the sale” from certified and factory-trained technicians
  • 5. Knowledge of local funding resources
  • 6. Extended internal warranty program
  • 7. Access to an extensive dealer network for out-of-area service
  • 8. Higher resale value

 

6.    Final thoughts

You have a lot of factors to consider when making the decision to invest in a handicap accessible wheelchair van—and there are a lot of options available to you. You’ll make the best decision by analyzing your needs, investigating the options available to meet them, trying out the products available, and developing a strong working relationship with a Professional Mobility Consultant, who’s ready, willing, and able to help you.

We hope that the information we’ve provided in the Buyer's Guide: was helpful. We encourage you to contact us for more information and to set up an appointment with one of our highly skilled Sales Consultants. Call, email, or stop in to see us soon!


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