For those who require them, not much on the market can beat the safety and comfort of wheelchair-accessible vans. However, because a wheelchair van is specifically designed with unique features, choosing the right one takes some careful consideration. Whether you are looking for a van for yourself or need one that can accommodate a family member or individual you care for, it’s important to ensure the one you choose will be a great fit for your unique needs and budget. Before you begin the process of browsing available wheelchair-accessible vehicles, you will need to start with understanding how to choose the right wheelchair van that will fit your needs now and in the future.
Start Your Buying Process with Questions
Before visiting a dealership or browsing online, take a moment to sit down and ask yourself a few questions.
- What are your mobility needs and what level is the severity? This will help determine the kinds of features and conveniences that you will definitely want in your wheelchair van, and which you could do without.
- How important are convenience and practicality? Depending on what you choose, some wheelchair vans may offer the capability to hoist the wheelchair user into the vehicle. They’ll also offer the ability to secure a wheelchair into the driver or passenger position, so you’ll need to have an understanding of who will be driving the van.
- Does the van fit your current needs, or will it continue to meet your needs in the future? Investing in a wheelchair van is not one to take lightly. Ideally, you’d want to have a vehicle that can grow with you, whether it be for family needs or specific features and capabilities for future mobility needs. Wheelchair vans are typically a great choice for accessibility because they offer so many options that can grow and change with your needs.
- Will you be working with a knowledgeable dealer? Just because a dealership has an accessible vehicle on its lot does not mean they have the information you need to know. Be sure you are working with a dealership that is mobility certified that can accurately answer any and all questions you may have about the wheelchair van you’re interested in.
Van Features and Capabilities for Accessibility
As technology advances and vehicle manufacturers gain a better understanding of what individuals with disabilities require, new wheelchair van features and capabilities emerge, providing a variety of accessibility options. While several may help to make your life easier, some may be unnecessary luxuries that will only add to your price rather than usability for you. Below are some common features and capabilities available as well as items to consider before determining which wheelchair van is the best for transporting wheelchair users.
Side Entry vs. Rear Entry
Wheelchair vans are available with two different types of entry: side entry and rear entry. Side entry is the more common choice of the two as it allows for the most versatility in seating arrangements. The interior is typically lower, and front seats are removable, meaning the wheelchair user can sit as a front passenger or as the driver.
Rear entry is best for those who require more room for larger wheelchairs. Because it is just the center area that is lowered there is more interior room for equipment and passengers. However, the seats are not removable, so the wheelchair user would not be able to sit up front or drive the vehicle. Of the two choices, though, rear entry is usually a cheaper conversion option.
Manufacturer Conversion Capabilities
Standard minivans offer great features for wheelchair users even without any conversions, but if you’ve found a model you particularly like, you’ll want to determine if the manufacturer offers any conversion capabilities so it could be tailored to completely fit your needs. Some available manufacturer add-ons include foldout ramps and automatic lifts. Some manufacturers may also offer different levels of conversions so you could choose a particular package depending on how much accommodation you need. Keep in mind that the more features and options you add on, the more expensive your wheelchair van will become.
Included Safety Features
New vans will usually come standard with excellent safety features, but which ones you’ll get exactly may depend on the trim level you choose. These are some of the safety features to consider ensuring are included with your wheelchair van to make driving safe and comfortable.
- Back-up cameras. This feature is becoming a standard on many new minivan models and they make reversing much easier and safer. It is particularly helpful for those who may have spinal issues and are unable to make the large rotation needed to look out the rear window. If you’re looking at a larger type of van or one that is not a standard model, ensure you can have a camera installed if not already included.
- Blind spot warning. Blind spot warnings may be a simple light indicator on the side mirror to notify the driver that a vehicle is within the blind spot or, on some vehicles, a ding or beep will occur if you turn on your blinker and a vehicle is located within the blind spot area. These warnings may provide extra assistance in the way that back-up cameras can, particularly with individuals who may have limited spinal mobility. Helping to ease the need to rotate the body can be helpful.
- Excellent crash test ratings. As with any vehicle, it’s important to ensure the wheelchair-accessible vehicle you choose offers excellent crash and safety ratings. We never want to think about getting into a terrible accident, but in the event it does occur, you’ll want to ensure you and your passengers are safe.
What is the Price Range for Wheelchair Accessible Vans?
This question is one that many buyers come in with for obvious reasons – you need to ensure a new wheelchair van fits within your budget. The average cost of a wheelchair van truly depends on a wide variety of factors, including the make and model, as well as included conversion features. This cost range could run anywhere from $20,000 to upwards of $100,000. If you are unable to find a wheelchair-accessible van that is ready to go within your budget, you do have the option to either convert a standard minivan model with available manufacturer features, or you could potentially convert the standard model you already have. These options would need to be discussed with your dealership.
Need an Accessible Van for a Short Time? Save Money and Rent One
Sometimes, the situation may arise that you need a wheelchair-accessible vehicle for only a short time, whether you’re transporting a friend or family member temporarily or you have someone that requires one during a recovery period. Rather than make a large investment purchase, you can make accessibility easy with wheelchair vehicle rental.
Explore Your Wheelchair Accessible Van Options with an Experienced Dealership
When it’s time to purchase a wheelchair-accessible van, you want to ensure the one you choose is comfortable and accessible in a way that fits your unique mobility needs. Exploring all of the available features and conversions can quickly become overwhelming, which is why working with a mobility-certified dealership is so important. Before you make a purchase, contact a wheelchair vehicle provider at Southern Bus and Mobility today. We’ll help you find the right wheelchair-accessible van that fits your budget.
As an NMEDA QAP Certified dealer, we are here to help make your buying process easy to understand and ensure the wheelchair-accessible van you purchase is high-quality.