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How to Make a Van Wheelchair Accessible

Having the right vehicle makes all the difference, especially when considering accessibility needs. Whether you require a vehicle to fit your needs, those of a loved one, or to transport an individual you care for, you have a few approaches to take. You can purchase from a selection of new or used, already converted wheelchair-accessible vehicles, or choose a van to convert yourself. Before making this decision, there are quite a few considerations to take into account to ensure you choose what works best for you.

Considerations for Completing a Wheelchair-Accessible Conversion

Converting a standard van into a handicap-accessible vehicle is not a small project. There are several things to consider and steps to take from the very beginning in order to get just what you want. Many vehicle manufacturers offer a variety of options for wheelchair travel vehicles as well as available wheelchair-accessible van designs, but it’s not as simple as choosing a package from a catalog and placing your order.

Choose the Right Van

First and foremost, before you can even think about performing a van conversion, you need to make sure the van you purchase offers the possibility of conversion. Not every type of vehicle or van offers this capability, so talking with an experienced dealership can help verify this if you find one you’re interested in. The conversion process itself can be quite involved as it requires removing some interior components to create more space, including lowering the floor or raising the roof before installing a ramp or lift.

Some popular manufacturers and models that offer available van conversions include Toyota Sienna, Chrysler Pacifica, Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, and more. Plus, as long as the conversion is performed through a conversion manufacturer, your vehicle’s manufacturer warranty will remain valid.

Be Aware of the Turnaround

Because of all of the work needed, converting your own wheelchair van is often fairly time-consuming. Depending on the van model and the features you are adding, the conversion process can take up to five weeks. If you need a wheelchair-accessible vehicle right away, it may be better to choose a van that has already been converted.

Prepare for Costs

Converting an existing vehicle to be wheelchair-accessible can be quite costly. In addition to the van purchase price, you will need to spend an additional $10,000 to $20,000 for a basic conversion. If you require specialized equipment, your additional cost could be upwards of $60,000 to $100,000.

Because of this added cost, a van that was previously affordable can quickly become out of budget. Working with a dealership experienced in mobility vehicles will ensure you don’t overspend on unnecessary features and help you determine which capabilities are a good fit for your mobility needs and budget.

Who Will Perform the Conversion?

Standard dealerships have the ability to offer wheelchair conversions, but they may not be as knowledgeable about the capabilities. Even knowing what you need mobility-wise, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed when trying to determine what features and capabilities you need to be installed. These dealerships may be able to answer some questions based on information available in manufacturers’ guides, but won’t be able to get too in-depth.

Shopping with a dealership that has the right knowledge and training about mobility needs, like what you’ll find at Southern Bus, will help you make a more informed decision about the best conversion features for you.

Ensuring ADA Compliance

Wheelchair-accessible vehicles that are used to transport those with disabilities need to be ADA-compliant. Based on the Americans with Disabilities Act from 1990, these laws for wheelchair travel vehicles are put in place to provide necessary protections and safe accommodations. Some of the wheelchair-accessible requirements include:

  • Ensuring the vehicle offers more space
  • Converted for ramp access, either via side or rear-entry
  • Gear shift locks so it prevents the vehicle from being easily shifted into gear by mistake

Converting vs. Purchasing an Accessible Van

When you are searching for a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, the question becomes: should you convert your own van or purchase one that has already been converted? There are definite perks to converting your own van, such as ultimate customization options. However, browsing through available new or used accessible vehicles can end up saving you time and money. There’s no need to wait for the conversion to be completed and usually the most vital features, such as wheelchair-accessible van ramps, are already installed and ready to use.

Take a Longer Test Drive: Rent a Wheelchair-Accessible Vehicle

If you’ve never had experience driving or riding in a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, you may want to get a bit more than a short test drive in. You may also only require a wheelchair van temporarily, so making a large investment in an accessible vehicle won’t make a lot of sense. At Southern Bus, we offer wheelchair vehicle rental to help out, whether it’s getting a feel for the different features to see how they’ll work for you, or providing easy transportation due to an injury or for a disabled visitor.

For Conversions and Purchases, Visit a Dealership with Experience

We understand that when you need an accessible van, you need one that is comfortable and meets your mobility needs. Whether you wish to convert a van yourself or purchase one that already has the features you want installed, contact a knowledgeable wheelchair vehicle provider like the team at Southern Bus. As an NMEDA QAP Certified dealer, we’ll help you find just what you’re looking for at a price you can afford.

We offer multiple locations to serve our customers, as well as resources to keep you informed. Browse our available inventory online, and stop in today.