As you search for a wheelchair accessible vehicle, one major choice you’ll have to make is whether a side-entry or rear-entry wheelchair van works best for you. We break down the differences between the two types of vehicles — along with some questions to ask along the way — to help find the perfect vehicle for you.
A Side-Entry Wheelchair Ramp Is Right For You If:
- You plan to drive the van: Side-entry vans offer the broadest range of seating options. This feature makes them a must-have for any wheelchair user who will be operating their vehicle — as they are the only vans that allow wheelchair access to the driver’s seat.
- You’re looking for trunk space: Since side-entry wheelchair ramps are located on the side of the vehicle, you are not sacrificing any valuable trunk space. This is a popular choice for people seeking a wheelchair van because they can enable a wheelchair user, without compromising second- and third-row seating.
- You want to transport multiple passengers: Side-entry wheelchair ramps are often ideal for parents who have multiple children or anyone looking to transport large groups of people. Additionally, most vans can also accommodate two wheelchair passengers comfortably in the mid-cabin.
- You’re looking for easier loading/unloading: Side-entry wheelchair vans offer more room to maneuver the wheelchair around inside the vehicle. They use a vehicle’s natural entrance and exit points, which can make getting in and out of your car simple and easy.
- You’re open to extensive vehicle modifications: Side-entry wheelchair ramps often require more extensive vehicle modifications. The floor is lowered across the entire vehicle, and adjustments are typically made to both sliding doors and front seats. Typically this costs more than a rear-entry conversion but is arguably more functional.
- Your typical destinations have accessible parking spots: Side-entry wheelchair ramps require additional space beside the vehicle. While nearly every business provides accessible parking with side-entry exit room, if you are in the unique scenario where that is not the case, you may consider an alternate conversion.
A Rear-Entry Wheelchair Vans Is Right For You If:
- You have a larger wheelchair: Rear-entry wheelchair vans feature a foldout ramp that allows for bigger wheelchairs to fit on the ramp.
- You want minimal vehicle modifications: Rear-entry wheelchair vans typically require fewer changes to the van itself. The ramp is welded to the frame of the rear-entry wheelchair van so that it maintains the same integrity and character it was originally designed with.
- You do not wish to drive the van: Rear-entry wheelchair vans do not allow wheelchair users to access the driver’s seat or front passenger seat. For some users this is not an issue, but if you do wish to sit in the front row, you may consider a side-entry conversion.
- You are shopping on a budget: As rear-entry wheelchair vans require less overall modifications, this also means that they are the more cost-effective solution between the two conversion types.
- You’re looking for ample seating options: Rear-entry wheelchair vans provide multiple seating and position options for wheelchair users. You have the option of stationary bucket seats, flip and fold seats, as well as wheelchair positions in the middle and back of the van. Additionally, a third row, flip and fold seat is also available to increase the seating capacity in the rear-entry wheelchair van.
- You don’t have access to accessible parking options: One of the main benefits of rear-entry wheelchair vans is that the ramp doesn’t interfere with entering and exiting the side of the vehicle — this means drivers are not limited to accessible parking spots and have more room to maneuver.
Can My Current Vehicle Be Converted?
If you’re currently driving an unmodified vehicle, chances are that it could be converted into wheelchair-accessible transportation. Factors that determine your van’s conversion eligibility include the make and model, the manufacture year, and the total mileage of the vehicle. Reach out to an Ability Center Mobility Specialist to determine if your van is eligible for a conversion.
Browsing the Ability Center inventory is often the first step to finding the side-entry or rear-entry wheelchair van that works best for you. You may find the perfect vehicle ready to bring home without having to wait weeks to have it converted. Popular models featuring side-entry wheelchair ramps include the BraunAbility Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Pacifica, and Toyota Sienna.
Can I Test Drive Before I Buy?
Your local Ability Center dealer has side-entry and rear-entry wheelchair vans for rent. If you are looking to try before you buy, we have a wide variety of options for you to choose from. Our fleet of side-entry and rear-entry wheelchair vans are available for short-term or long-term rent, allowing you to experience the vehicle first-hand.
If you need help browsing our available options, reach out to your local Ability Center dealer! Our team of Mobility Specialists is available in all 16 of our locations across the country, ready to ensure you find your mobility independence.