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5 Wheelchair Van Shopping Tips for Caregivers
By Susan Hawkins

If you’re the caregiver for an individual who uses a wheelchair, owning a wheelchair accessible van is helpful and can be more affordable with these tips.

Family Caregiver
As the caregiver for a family member, you can choose a wheelchair van based on the needs of the person in your care. Wheelchair vans come with rear entry access or side entry access, and one can sometimes work better than the other in certain situations.

The family caregiver, as the driver of the van, can consider both styles. Side entry access means the van’s ramp deploys from one of the side-door openings. The wheelchair user can sit in the middle of the cabin just behind the front seats or in the front-passenger position when the adapted minivan has a removable front seat. The removable seat lets you to carry up to two wheelchair users at the same time. Jump seats can be added for extra seating for non-wheelchair users.

If the person uses an extra-large or extra-tall power chair, rear entry access may be the best choice. The rear door-opening width and height are larger, and the ramp is wider, too. The rear entry conversion usually features a manually operated ramp, but a power ramp can be added for an extra charge.

Professional Caregiver
Having a wheelchair van is a unique selling point for many self-employed caregivers and caregiving companies. Whether it’s taking a patient to a doctor’s appointment or providing the patient with a change of scenery, a wheelchair accessible vehicle can make a big difference.

Your patients will have different mobility devices, including power chairs and mobility scooters, so your best choice is a minivan adapted for rear entry access.
A rear entry van also has seating if a patient’s family member or two comes along.

A long-channel rear entry conversion can handle up to two passengers in wheelchairs at the same time. If you’re a self-employed caregiver or caregiving company, you’ll have a well-equipped vehicle that can be a rolling advertisement for your business.

General Shopping Tips

Tip #1: Shop around.
Check out wheelchair van dealerships online and nearby to see what they have in your price range. There are also mobility classifieds online, where individuals list only wheelchair-accessible vehicles for sale.

Tip #2: Determine your budget.
Budget is almost always a top concern for family and professional caregivers.
Today’s handicap accessible van market has three clear price levels that represent the three base van/conversion possibilities.

  • A New Van with a Brand-New Conversion. Shoppers usually pay the highest prices for a brand-new minivan equipped with a brand-new conversion.
  • A Used Van with a Brand-New Conversion. Some conversion companies buy used minivans with newer model years and low mileage, which they convert for wheelchair use. That means you can save money when you buy a used van with a brand-new conversion. You’ll find high-quality conversions in a wide range of prices.
  • A Used Van with a Used Conversion. Last, and almost always least—though only in cost—are used minivans with used accessible conversions. Online and local dealerships usually have a number of used/used accessible vehicles on hand, because their owners trade them in or sell them to upgrade to a newer model van. You can find some great deals when you buy used/used.

If you’re on a budget, look for certified-used wheelchair vans with reasonable prices, and don’t forget to negotiate.

Tip #3: Understand kneeling systems.
Many vans with wheelchair accessibility have a kneeling system. The vehicle “kneels” closer to the ground to lessen the incline. That makes entry and exit easier for the independent, manual wheelchair user. These systems can be pricey, unreliable, and unnecessary for caregivers.

Tip #4: Be Prepared with Questions for the Mobility Consultant.
Mobility consultants, online or local, should give you this information, but if not, you should be aware of the following information before you buy:

  • What warranties do you offer? Warranties vary based on the base vehicle and conversion manufacturer. Brand-new minivans are always equipped with brand-new conversions, and you should have warranties on both. Used wheelchair vans for sale may have either a new or used conversion. A new conversion should come with a satisfactory warranty, and, if there’s time remaining on the base vehicle’s original warranty, you’ll have that, too.
  • Do you deliver? If you buy from a local dealer, pick-up may be your only choice. For caregivers who buy a handicap accessible van online, delivery options are a must. Ask about the company’s different delivery choices and charges.
  • What services do you provide after the sale? Every customer should receive a detailed demonstration of the adapted van and all its features at delivery or pick-up. Nationwide conversion service is important, because you might be in a remote location when service is needed. Ask about a toll-free, 24-hour Conversion Emergency Help Line, so you’re protected nationwide. Some dealers have a Buy Back Program, which is a stress-free way to sell your wheelchair van.

Tip #5: Read Company Reviews and Testimonials Before You Buy.
The most reliable online and local wheelchair van dealerships appear on review sites like Yelp and Google Local. Company web sites should feature customer testimonials.

When you shop for a wheelchair van, keep these tips in mind to make sure you get the best van for your needs at the best possible price.

Susan Hawkins is a writer for AMS Vans, Inc.—America’s Mobility Superstore—a leading online and local wheelchair van dealership that sells some of the market’s most affordable, new and used wheelchair vans and other accessible transportation, with nationwide and worldwide delivery. Email

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