This is not something a great deal of people think about, but the day might come when you, or someone you know, will need to look into wheelchair vans.
The process of buying wheelchair vans is very different from purchasing a standard car, because there are so many factors to consider.
The Primary Driver
Some vans are designed simply as transport vehicles. They have lifts or ramps that allow easy access for the person in the wheelchair, but the driver’s seat and control panel is designed for someone who is not in a wheelchair.
These vehicles are idea for parents who need to drive their kids around, or carpool with other parents of children in wheelchairs.
Caretakers for adults in wheelchairs would also benefit from these types of vehicles.
If the primary driver is in a wheelchair, you might need a van with special modifications. These modifications could include a driver’s compartment designed to accommodate a wheelchair, and hand accelerator and brakes, and special mirrors to help with visibility.
If you only need space for one person and her wheelchair, you could get by with a mini-van, or even a small wagon. But the more people you need to accommodate, the more space you need for the passengers, and their wheelchairs. If you regularly drive more than four people in wheelchairs, consider a full-sized van, or even a bus-style van.
Some vans have side entry, and others have rear entry. The style you use depends on what is available, but also what the passenger prefers, and which method works best.
Some people prefer entering from the rear and traveling down the aisle, while others find it easier to enter from the side. If you are replacing an existing wheelchair van, consider purchasing one with the same style of entry.
Lift or Ramp
The advantage to a lift is that it is automatic. You don’t have to worry about the passenger having to wheel himself up a ramp, or the driver having to push them up. But because they are automatic, there is a chance that it could stop working. Not only could a broken lift be a costly repair, a lift also adds to the initial cost of the vehicle.
New or Used
Used vans are more budget friendly, but there is also the risk of more complications, especially if the van was not well-maintained by the previous owner. At the same time, if you buy a van from a reputable vendor, they should check the van thoroughly, and make sure everything is working properly before they offer it for sale. New vans offer the latest in accessibility features, and you can get more life out of them.
At the same time, a new van could exceed your budget or saddle you with expensive features that you don’t need. Whether buying used or new, make sure the vehicle comes with a warranty. If you are buying used, also ask to see the vehicle maintenance history. Always test drive any vehicle you intend to buy. If you are purchasing the vehicle for someone else, bring them with you to get his feedback.
After all, there are things that he could notice, as a passenger, that you might not ever think of. The most important thing to remember is to take your time when making your decision. Wheelchair vans are a big investment and they require a lot of consideration.