At Ability Center, we specialize in helping our valued customers find the right accessible van for their needs, budget and lifestyle.  Many times families are curious as to what type of wheelchair van is best; a side-entry handicap van or a van with a ramp that comes out the rear of the vehicle.

When thinking of these two options, we have four things we will discuss to help you make the best decision; Parking, Position of the wheelchair, Passengers and Price(4 P’s).

Parking
One consideration when thinking about what type of wheelchair accessible van to purchase is parking.  Rear entry vehicles have an easier time in crowded parking spots because the entry and exit of the wheelchair passenger can take place in any parking spot; it doesn’t necessarily have to be a large handicap parking spot.  However, keep in mind that you will be loading and unloading the wheelchair passenger into the flow of traffic.  In areas of the country where much of the parking is done curbside/parallel, a rear entry van may not be the best option because you’ll need significant room behind the vehicle to load the wheelchair.   Side entry vans have the opposite benefits; it’s easier for parallel parking because the ramp can be deployed on curbs.  However, parking lot parking can be difficult at times with so many limited large handicap parking spaces that allow 8′ for the ramp to deploy.  

Position of the wheelchair
Ask yourself this question, where would I like the wheelchair to be positioned and where is the person using the wheelchair going to sit.  Some people with disabilities have the ability to transfer out of their wheelchair onto the front driver or passenger position.  If this is the case, a side-entry van is best suited for you since the whole floor of the vehicle is cut out making for an easy transfer.  Some people like to remain in their wheelchair and sit in their chairs in the front driver or passenger position after removing the front seat of the van.  If this is the case, a side-entry is best suited for you as the seats are on bases that are removable.  Rear entry vans have a portion of their floor lowered which makes for a nearly impossible option for the wheelchair passenger to sit in the front two seats.  If the person in the wheelchair has a caregiver and will not drive or sit in the front passenger position, a rear entry van is a great option.  Some rear entry vans have jump seats so the person in the wheelchair can be positioned in the middle of the van with brothers, sisters, grandchildren, etc. sitting next to them.

Passengers
The third thing to consider is how many passengers will be transported with the wheelchair van?   Rear entry vans can accommodate more people because many have fold down seat options in the middle.  However, there are some side-entry vans that have jump seats in the middle as well.  This question goes hand in hand with the position of the wheelchair; look at the family as a whole and how you will be using your van.

Price
Lastly let’s talk money.  In many cases rear entry vans are less expensive because they are geared towards caregivers so many of the conversion features are manual.  However, in the last couple of years there have been some reasonably priced side entry manual wheelchair conversions that are a great option as well.

One more thing to think about is to try before you buy.  At Ability Center, we offer wheelchair vans for rent. Try a side-entry one weekend and a rear-entry the next weekend.  Many times, we will put the cost of the rental towards the van you purchase from us.  Our goal is to make sure you have the right van for your family.

Call us at 866-405-6806 or email info@abilitycenter.com.