Shopping for an accessible vehicle may seem daunting, but it can be fun and rewarding. We have unfortunately heard so many stories from customers who bought the wrong van (either online, private party, from another dealer, etc.). Our number one goal is to get you into the right van for you – one that you love! Here are some tips we want to share when shopping for a wheelchair van.
Ask Yourself A Few Important Questions:
1. Will the vehicle be used for an independent driver or a caregiver who will be transporting someone in their mobility device (scooter or wheelchair)?
This is important for many reasons but most importantly, not all accessible vans fit these two categories.
Independent Drivers will need side-entry wheelchair vehicles with powered ramp and removeable driver’s seat (if they will be driving from their wheelchair). Manual conversions on side-entry accessible vans are not an option, as is rear-entry conversions. Rear entry vans do not allow the wheelchair user to ride or driver in the front two positions.
Caregivers can use many conversions and don’t need many features that the independent driver needs (like power doors, powered ramp, removeable front seats). This category has the most flexibility of wheelchair van conversions as there will always be someone with the wheelchair user to open vehicle doors, deploy ramps, etc.
2. Where do I want the wheelchair user to be positioned in the vehicle?
This sounds like a simple question but making an assumption that the wheelchair user can be in different places can lead to a disappointing outcome.
If the wheelchair user wants to sit in the front passenger position, a side-entry wheelchair van is the best option as most (ensure you ask) conversions come with a removeable front passenger seat so the wheelchair user can ride right into that position and be secured. A rear-entry wheelchair van is not an option for someone who wants to be positioned in the front passenger position because of the way the floor is cut and the channel for the wheelchair is built.
If the wheelchair user is to be positioned behind the front driver and passenger seats, pretty much any conversion will work; both side-entry and rear-entry.
3. Will the wheelchair user become a driver in 5+ years?
This question is for caregivers who are transporting a child / teenager and is significant because what may be a great solution today, may become obsolete in a couple of years. If your child is a candidate to be a driver, we would recommend getting a wheelchair van that can accommodate that modification, like a side-entry with a power ramp.
4. Will the wheelchair user’s mobility device be changing anytime soon?
Another key item to keep in mind when shopping for an accessible vehicle because what may fit you today, may not with your new wheelchair. Some diseases or disabilities unfortunately are prone to regression. Today someone is in a mobility scooter but may transition into a power wheelchair in a couple of years. We want to ensure we are looking forward and thinking about all scenarios to make the best recommendation and ensure you are getting a wheelchair van that will suit your needs today and in the future.
5. Think about your budget
What is your optimal monthly payment? How much can you put down? Will you be trading in a vehicle? These questions will help determine what type of wheelchair van you should be looking at. Typically anything less than $40,000 would be a used accessible vehicle. It’s always a good thing to set expectations so you are not looking at vehicles that may be out of reach financially.
6. Try before you buy!
There are so many options of accessible vans and remember they are not a “one size fits all”. Each wheelchair van has different dimensions; headroom in the van, door opening height to get into the van, door width to accommodate your wheelchair, ramp angle to ensure you can get up and down the ramp safely, etc. If you only do one of these 6 steps…make sure you do this one.
7. Is the Mobility Dealer you are using NMEDA certified?
NMEDA stands for the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association which holds mobility dealers, like Ability Center, to certain safety standards. As advocates and leaders in the mobility industry, NMEDA member dealers strive to provide persons with disabilities with a one-stop shop for quality wheelchair adapted vehicles. Thinking about purchasing your own mobility vehicle? The following are the top five reasons to purchase from a NMEDA dealer:
– Individual, In-person equipment evaluations
– Brand name and quality products
– On site local support for sales and service
– Quality Assurance Program (QAP) accreditation
– 24-hour local emergency service
There are lots of options of wheelchair vans. Our ultimate goal at Ability Center is to ensure you are (1) safe and (2) using a van that is best suited for you. Call us anytime at 866-405-6806 or email firstname.lastname@example.org