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Are You a First-Time Wheelchair Van Buyer? Our Guide is For You!

Are You a First-Time Wheelchair Van Buyer? We are Here to Help!

Attention first-time wheelchair van buyers: avoid common pitfalls with our comprehensive guide! Finding the perfect mobility solution is essential; with our expert guidance, you can navigate the process confidently.

Our guide is a roadmap for first-time wheelchair van buyers. It is designed to help you understand the differences between conversion types. It will help you identify the important factors when choosing the right wheelchair-accessible conversion for your specific needs. Then, it will explore the significance of where you buy your mobility vehicle and how that decision can impact your buying experience, future service and support, and your overall owner experience.

What is a Wheelchair-Accessible Vehicle?

A wheelchair-accessible vehicle is a specially modified vehicle designed to accommodate wheelchair users. These vehicles are built with wheelchair ramps or lifts, allowing for easy entry and exit without transferring out of the wheelchair.

The interior space of the vehicle is typically reconfigured to provide ample space for the wheelchair user to navigate and to be securely positioned during transit using various types of restraints. 

Wheelchair-accessible vehicles come in various forms, including but not limited to vans, trucks & SUVs, each tailored to meet different needs. 

What Types of Wheelchair Conversions are Available?

Below are the three main types of wheelchair-accessible vehicle conversions. Each type is designed to address particular needs and levels of ability. Picking the correct conversion type for your specific needs is the most crucial part of the process.

Side-Entry Conversions

Side-entry accessible conversion is the most common conversion type for consumers. It is ideal for wheelchair users who are drivers and passengers alike who prefer to enter and exit the vehicle from the side or curb.

This conversion often includes a fold-out or in-floor wheelchair ramp with an 800 to 1000-pound capacity. Wheelchair users can ride as a passenger in the mid-row, drive, or ride as a passenger in the upfront position. 

There are generally two sizes available: standard size and extra tall. The sizing references how low the floor is made during the conversion process. For instance, the extra tall conversion accommodates taller seated wheelchair users. Picking the correct flooring depth is crucial to ensure a comfortable & safe line of sight.

As mentioned above, most side-entry conversions allow a wheelchair user to drive by either transferring or driving from their wheelchair. This is not possible with a rear-entry conversion.

Playlist

2 Videos
Rear-Entry Conversions

Rear-Entry Conversions are an excellent choice for wheelchair users traveling with a dedicated caregiver or companion. The rear-entry conversion is not designed to allow a wheelchair user to drive or ride in the front passenger position. The ramp deploys from the vehicle’s rear, allowing the wheelchair user to ride as a passenger only

Most of these conversions feature a manually operated fold-out ramp system with an 800 to 1000-pound capacity. These conversions are beneficial when parking in standard parking spaces since they eliminate the need for extra space on the side of the van to enter and exit. This also helps eliminate the possibility of other drivers blocking access to the wheelchair ramp and impeding access.

Rear-entry wheelchair van conversions are also less costly and require less maintenance since they are generally built without costly motors and electronics.

Full-Size Van Conversions

Full-Size Van Conversions: This type of conversion is designed for those requiring more space. Full-size conversions provide ample room for wheelchair users and additional passengers. Instead of ramps, these vehicles often come with lifts and can include various luxury and comfort features not found in other vehicle types. 

Full-size van conversions are a better fit for those with large wheelchairs. Generally, these types of vehicles allow users to ride as passengers only. However, there are conversion enhancements that can allow a wheelchair user to drive as well.

Each type of wheelchair-accessible vehicle conversion caters to different needs, ensuring there’s a solution for every first-time wheelchair van buyer. Understanding these options helps make an informed decision that aligns with personal mobility needs, lifestyle, and budget. When considering a mobility vehicle, consulting with a mobility consultant is your best option to ensure the best driving experience and support your independence.

Key Features You Must Look For When Shopping for a Wheelchair Van

  • Ramp Width – Every wheelchair-accessible vehicle conversion type has a different ramp width. The ramp width is dictated by the chassis & ramp type. The ramp width ensures enough room for safely navigating up and down the ramp.
  • Ramp Type – The two types of ramps found on a wheelchair-accessible vehicle are fold-out and in-floor. The fold-out ramp is the most common. It features 2-inch side rails, which help wheelchair users of various skills safely navigate the ramp. It is also easier to manually deploy during a power failure. The in-floor ramp has much smaller side rails and should only be a consideration for someone with good driving skills. The in-floor ramp also makes entry and exit easier for ambulatory passengers since it stows underneath the floor, leaving an unobstructed doorway when not in use.
  • Door Opening Height & Width – The door height is also a crucial aspect to consider and is vital for two reasons. One, it allows a wheelchair user safe entry and exit. A user should not have to duck while entering the vehicle. Second, the door width needs to be able to accommodate the overall width of the wheelchair, including armrests and any other added features. 
  • Interior Height & Line-of-Sight – The conversion and chassis type dictate the overall interior height of the vehicle. The interior height ensures the wheelchair user has an appropriate line-of-sight. A taller seated wheelchair user will need a lower floor than a much shorter one. Not all chassis & conversion types are available in both sizes. 
Where You Buy Does Make a Difference

We cannot stress enough the importance of doing homework before you purchase, especially if this is your first wheelchair-accessible vehicle.

We know you have options for purchasing a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. However, making the wrong choice can be costly and even dangerous to you and your loved ones. (View this video by one of our customers who bought online, sight unseen, before coming to Superior.)

Buying a handicap-accessible vehicle from an ONLINE ONLY retailer, sight unseen, is something you should reconsider. Are you willing to take a chance if your purchased vehicle fits your needs? Are you willing to take the word from someone on a computer or phone hundreds of miles away? This person, whose primary focus is hitting their sales goal and their next commission check?

STOP! Take your time and do your research.

You are much better off buying your next wheelchair van from a reputable mobility dealer. A dealer with a showroom where you can touch, feel, and test drive vehicles before purchasing. A dealer where the sales team is not paid on commission. A dealer with a local service department and 24/7 emergency service in case of a breakdown.

What is Your Peace-of-Mind Worth?

If you are still considering an online-only retailer after reading above, be sure you compare apples to apples. We say this because not all handicap van conversion manufacturers use OEM-approved parts or build using the best & safest methods

The wheelchair van conversion industry is somewhat loosely regulated. Many handicap-accessible vehicle converters who only sell their products online do not even crash-test the products they build! But that’s not all. Many make their vehicles using substandard materials and compromise factory OEM components, like brake lines and wiring harnesses.

If you want to learn more about build quality and why it is essential, please review this video series from BraunAbility called “Straight Talk.” This video series does an outstanding job explaining and showing the different aspects of the conversion processes and the shortcuts many online-only wheelchair van converters make. 

One Last Tip and It's Important

When working with a mobility dealer, either an online-only retailer or one in your community like Superior Van & Mobility, be sure they are members of the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA). NMEDA is the organization to PROTECT YOU by regulating wheelchair-accessible vehicle manufacturers and the mobility dealer network. 

Mobility dealers members of NMEDA must adhere to strict guidelines in selling, servicing, reconditioning, and installing adaptive equipment into any vehicle. For manufacturers that are members, it is required that they MUST crash-test their vehicles, adhere to strict manufacturing guidelines, and routinely undergo compliance reviews. 

Buyer, beware: if you don’t see NMEDA certification associated with a dealer you are working with, you should look to do business elsewhere.  Use the dealer locator to see if the dealer you are working with is a member. 

Superior Van and Mobility is a National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) member and an accredited Quality Assurance Program (QAP) dealer. We also have one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings, if not the highest. Check out our Google, TrustPilot, FEEFO, and To Your Success listings.

Picture of Richard W. Maxwell, MBA

Richard W. Maxwell, MBA

Richard Maxwell, is a seasoned automotive marketing executive with over two decades of experience. Starting in 1999 with his advertising agency, Maxx Design & Marketing, he has consistently delivered innovative marketing solutions. After earning his MBA, Richard shifted focus to adaptive technology, serving as Marketing Manager for Superior Van & Mobility. Today, he leverages his expertise to promote and educate others about adaptive equipment in transportation and drive change in accessible mobility.

Finding Wheelchair Vans for Sale

Grandma in wheelchair with grandson. Grandpa looking through telescope with grandaughter outside house with wheelchair van in background

How to Find Wheelchair Vans for Sale: A Comprehensive Guide

Finding the right wheelchair van for sale is crucial for individuals with mobility challenges and their families. These specially modified vehicles provide the freedom and flexibility needed for daily activities, travel, and overall independence. Whether you’re looking for a new or used wheelchair van, there are several key factors to consider. Superior Van & Mobility, a leading provider in this field, offers an extensive inventory of wheelchair vans that cater to various needs and budgets. In this blog, we’ll explore how to find the perfect wheelchair van and highlight the resources available at Superior Van & Mobility.

Understanding Your Needs

Before starting your search for a wheelchair van, assessing your specific needs is essential. Consider the following questions:

  • Who will be using the van? Determine if the van will be for personal use or multiple users.
  • What type of wheelchair will be accommodated? Ensure the van has the appropriate space and features to fit the wheelchair.
  • What is your budget? Decide whether you’re looking for a new or used vehicle and the price range you’re comfortable with.
  • What additional features are required? Consider accessibility features like ramps, lifts, hand controls, and seating configurations.

New vs. Used Wheelchair Vans

Deciding between a new and a used wheelchair van is crucial in your search. Each option has its advantages:

New Wheelchair Vans:

  • Customization: New vans can be tailored to meet specific needs and preferences.
  • Latest Technology: Benefit from the latest safety features, technology, and warranty coverage.
  • Longevity: New vans typically offer a longer lifespan with fewer maintenance issues.

Used Wheelchair Vans:

  • Cost-Effective: Used vans are generally more affordable than new ones.
  • Immediate Availability: Used vans are often ready for immediate use without the wait time for customization.
  • Proven Reliability: Pre-owned vans have a track record that can be assessed through vehicle history reports and user reviews.

New vs. Used Wheelchair Vans

One of the most trusted sources for wheelchair vans is Superior Van & Mobility. They offer a wide range of both new and used wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Here are the steps to find the right van using their resources:

Visit the Superior Van & Mobility Website:

Navigate to www.superiorvan.com/inventory to explore their extensive inventory. The user-friendly website allows you to filter results based on your preferences.

Use the Search Filters:

Utilize the search filters to narrow down your options. You can filter by vehicle type, price range, year, make, model, and specific features like side-entry or rear-entry accessibility.

Review Vehicle Details:

Each listing provides detailed information about the vehicle, including photos, specifications, mileage, and accessibility features. This transparency helps you make an informed decision.

Compare Options:

List potential vehicles and compare their features, prices, and conditions. Pay attention to the vehicle’s age, mileage, and any available warranty or service packages.

Contact Superior Van & Mobility:

Once you’ve shortlisted a few options, contact Superior Van & Mobility for more information. Their knowledgeable staff can provide additional details, answer questions, and even arrange for test drives.

Consider Financing and Trade-In Options:

Superior Van & Mobility offers financing options to help make your purchase more affordable. They also accept trade-ins, which can further reduce the cost of your new wheelchair van.

Schedule a Visit:

If possible, visit one of Superior Van & Mobility’s locations to see the vehicles. This will allow you to assess the van’s condition and ensure it meets your needs.

Conclusion

Finding the right wheelchair van requires careful consideration and research. Superior Van & Mobility simplifies this process with their extensive inventory and dedicated customer service. By understanding your needs, comparing options, and leveraging the resources available at Superior Van & Mobility, you can find a wheelchair van that enhances mobility and independence. Whether you choose a new or used vehicle, the right wheelchair van can significantly improve your quality of life and open up new possibilities for travel and daily activities.

Picture of Richard W. Maxwell, MBA

Richard W. Maxwell, MBA

Richard Maxwell, is a seasoned automotive marketing executive with over two decades of experience. Starting in 1999 with his advertising agency, Maxx Design & Marketing, he has consistently delivered innovative marketing solutions. After earning his MBA, Richard shifted focus to adaptive technology, serving as Marketing Manager for Superior Van & Mobility. Today, he leverages his expertise to promote and educate others about adaptive equipment in transportation and drive change in accessible mobility.

Rear-Entry vs Side-Entry Wheelchair Van – Pros & Cons

Closeup image of a handicap parking spot with handicap symbol

Rear-Entry vs Side-Entry Wheelchair-Accessible Vans - Pros & Cons

INTRODUCTION

Accessible vehicles like wheelchair vans have revolutionized mobility for individuals with disabilities. By providing wheelchair users with more freedom and independence, these vehicles have become integral in their daily life. The most popular configurations are the side-entry and rear-entry vans. But which one is the right choice for you or your loved ones? To make an informed decision, let’s explore the pros and cons of each type.

Side-Entry Wheelchair Vans

PROS:

1. Driver Accessibility: A unique advantage of side-entry vans is the potential for wheelchair users to drive the vehicle themselves. The direct pathway from the side door to the driver’s seat fosters higher independence.

2. Seating Flexibility: Side-entry vans offer greater seating flexibility, with the wheelchair user being able to sit in the front, middle, or rear of the vehicle. This versatility is an advantage if the user wishes to occupy the front passenger seat or even the driver’s seat.

3. Independence: Side-entry wheelchair vans generally have power ramp systems. However, there are some models that are manually operated. In a power system, many wheelchair users can travel by themselves, without a companion or caregiver. The ramp is easily operated and users have the ability to either drive from their wheelchair or transfer from their wheelchair into the driver’s seat to drive.

CONS:

1. Narrow Interior: The positioning of wheel-wells in side-entry vans can make the interior narrower than in rear-entry models, restricting interior maneuverability, particularly for larger power wheelchairs or scooters.

2. Higher Cost: Side-entry wheelchair van conversions often come with a higher price tag than rear-entry conversions, which could be a consideration for those with budget constraints. The conversion process is much more involved.

3. Parking Challenges: Despite popular belief, side-entry vans can pose challenges in parking lots due to the extra space needed for the ramp to deploy on the side. Other drivers often park too close or on the parking buffer (stripes), blocking access to the ramp. For this reason, it may make it more difficult to park in common spaces without totally blocking off adjacent ones to ensure access.

Rear-Entry Wheelchair Vans

PROS:

1. Spacious Interior: Rear-entry vans generally offer a more spacious interior, affording more room. This is especially helpful for individuals who use larger power wheelchairs, multiple wheelchairs or travel with service animals.

2. Cost-Effective: The cost of rear-entry conversions is often lower than that of side-entry conversions, making them a more budget-friendly choice. Conversions are generally manually operated, keeping electronic components to a minimum.

3. Parking: Since a rear-entry wheelchair van’s ramp deploys from the rear, parking in a traditional parking space is easier. This eliminates the worry of another driver parking too close to either side of the vehicle and blocking access to the ramp.

CONS:

1. Limited Driver Access: Rear-entry wheelchair vans restrict the user to the middle or rear of the vehicle. It’s not common for users to be able to transfer into the driver’s seat, which limits their ability to drive the vehicle themselves.

2. Companion or Caregiver Required: For a wheelchair user to use a rear-entry wheelchair van, they must have a companion or caregiver present at all times. This is needed because the ramp is manually operated, and access to the front seating area is not accessible for independent driving. 

3. Limited Seating Options: Rear-entry vans may offer fewer seating options for wheelchair users. The front seating area is not accessible to the wheelchair user. They are restricted to the center & rear of the vehicle.

4. Parking Considerations: Rear-entry vans require adequate space behind the vehicle for the ramp to extend fully. This could pose a challenge in parking situations where space behind the vehicle is limited, such as in tightly-packed parking lots or street parking.

How Side-Entry & Rear-Entry Wheelchair Conversions Work

CONCLUSION

When choosing between a side-entry and a rear-entry wheelchair van, the key is to consider the specific needs and preferences of the wheelchair user. Both configurations offer valuable features, and potential challenges should be considered. The user’s physical capabilities, seating preferences, desire to drive, parking availability, and budget should all factor into the decision-making process. Always consult with mobility specialists or conversion companies to ensure that your final choice fits your lifestyle and mobility requirements.

Picture of Richard W. Maxwell, MBA

Richard W. Maxwell, MBA

Richard Maxwell, is a seasoned automotive marketing executive with over two decades of experience. Starting in 1999 with his advertising agency, Maxx Design & Marketing, he has consistently delivered innovative marketing solutions. After earning his MBA, Richard shifted focus to adaptive technology, serving as Marketing Manager for Superior Van & Mobility. Today, he leverages his expertise to promote and educate others about adaptive equipment in transportation and drive change in accessible mobility.

BraunAbility 1 Millionth Van Delivery

An Unforgettable Delivery: Vietnam Marine Veteran Receives One of BraunAbility's Millionth Wheelchair Vans

In a world of constant movement and exploration, mobility is a priceless gift. As we celebrate National Mobility Awareness Month in May, we are reminded of mobility’s significant role in our lives, especially for individuals with disabilities.

However, this year’s celebration is even more remarkable as we approach an extraordinary event. On May 17, 2023, Vietnam Veteran Larry Reimer was presented with one of BraunAbility’s millionth vehicles—a 2023 Chrysler Pacifica wheelchair-accessible van—marking a significant milestone in the history of BraunAbility, the world’s leading manufacturer of mobility transportation solutions.

Larry’s surprise celebration will occur at Superior Van & Mobility in Louisville, Kentucky. Alex Cook, the General Manager of Superior Van & Mobility, will host this event, which coincidentally falls within National Mobility Awareness Month and in anticipation of Memorial Day, adding extra layers of significance to the celebration.

BraunAbility, a company born from the vision of Ralph Braun, an entrepreneur who spent most of his life in a wheelchair, has grown into the most trusted name in the mobility industry over the past 50 years. By providing wheelchair-accessible vehicles, wheelchair lifts, seating, storage, and securement products, BraunAbility has brought independence to millions of individuals worldwide.

Superior Van & Mobility shares this vision as they strive to provide the best mobility solutions to their clients, including new and used wheelchair-accessible vehicles, mobility seating options, hand controls, scooter and wheelchair lifts, and other driving aids. They proudly support local community groups, promoting disability awareness and advocacy.

Larry Reimer, a proud veteran of the Vietnam War, is a testament to resilience and strength. His service to our country is nothing short of heroic. This vehicle gives Larry the freedom and independence associated with enhanced mobility and represents a ‘thank you’ for his invaluable service.

As we approach Memorial Day, we honor those who have served and sacrificed for our nation. Larry’s story reminds us of their bravery, resilience, and the spirit of independence that defines our country.

This milestone event is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of both BraunAbility and Superior Van & Mobility. It exemplifies their commitment to enhancing the lives of individuals with disabilities and their dedication to providing the highest quality mobility solutions.

As we celebrate National Mobility Awareness Month, let’s be inspired by Larry’s story and the work of organizations like BraunAbility and Superior Van & Mobility. Let’s advocate for greater mobility and accessibility for all and continue to push the boundaries of what is possible.

As the founder of BraunAbility, Ralph Braun, once said, “The impossible only takes a little longer to accomplish.” Let’s keep accomplishing the impossible, one step—or one roll—at a time.

Picture of Richard W. Maxwell, MBA

Richard W. Maxwell, MBA

Richard Maxwell, is a seasoned automotive marketing executive with over two decades of experience. Starting in 1999 with his advertising agency, Maxx Design & Marketing, he has consistently delivered innovative marketing solutions. After earning his MBA, Richard shifted focus to adaptive technology, serving as Marketing Manager for Superior Van & Mobility. Today, he leverages his expertise to promote and educate others about adaptive equipment in transportation and drive change in accessible mobility.

Top 10 Most Important Factors When Buying a Wheelchair Van

Top Ten Most Important Things to Consider When Buying a Wheelchair-Accessible Vehicle

INTRODUCTION

Purchasing a wheelchair-accessible vehicle is a significant decision that can significantly impact mobility and independence. Therefore, to ensure the vehicle you purchase is the best choice, it’s essential to be well-informed and consider several key factors. This article will cover the top 10 most important things to consider when buying a wheelchair-accessible van or SUV.

Image of VMI Toyota Sienna, BraunAbility Chevy Traverse & BraunAbility Chrysler Pacifica wheelchair-accessible vans.

1. ACCESSIBILITY

The primary purpose of a wheelchair-accessible vehicle is to provide independence for wheelchair users. Therefore, it’s important to consider the vehicle’s ramp or lift system type and size, and weight capacity. Also equally important is the size of the ramp and door opening. You must ensure the entry and exit points are wide enough for your wheelchair. You can view various wheelchair van & SUV conversion specifications here.

2. INTERIOR SPACE

Make sure there’s ample room inside the vehicle for the wheelchair user, as well as any additional passengers and cargo. Consider the height of the vehicle’s ceiling, the amount of legroom, and the space available for maneuvering a wheelchair. You can find specific vehicle specifications here.

3. SEATING CONFIGURATION

You may require flexible seating options to accommodate various passengers, depending on your needs. Look for vehicles with removable or foldable seats and the possibility of installing a wheelchair lock-down system.

4. VEHICLE SIZE

Consider the vehicle’s overall size and how it will fit in your garage, parking space, or driveway. Bigger vehicles may offer more room and better accessibility, but they can also be more challenging to park and maneuver. 

5. SAFETY FEATURES

Your wheelchair-accessible vehicle should have essential safety features like airbags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control. Additionally, consider any specific safety equipment for wheelchair users, such as secure tie-down systems and restraint belts.

6. KNOW YOUR MOBILITY DEALER

The wheelchair van conversion industry is somewhat loosely regulated, and it’s important when buying a wheelchair van to look for a dealer and manufacturer who is a member of NMEDA (National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association) and their QAP (Quality Assurance Program). An NMEDA dealer & manufacturer is regulated to ensure that any vehicle sold complies with set manufacturing and safety standards. This is not always true when buying a wheelchair van from a non-NMEDA dealer or manufacturer. Many non-members sell vehicles that haven’t been crash-tested and built using substandard materials or methods that compromise factory OEM components. Bottom line, ask questions and get to know your dealer!

7. MAINTENANCE & RELIABILITY

Research the vehicle’s maintenance requirements and overall reliability. Some wheelchair vans may require more frequent maintenance or have a higher likelihood of needing repairs. Look for reviews and ratings from reputable sources to make an informed decision. One of our mobility consultants can help provide you this information.

8. WARRANTY & SUPPORT

A comprehensive warranty can provide peace of mind and protect your investment. Look for vehicles that offer extended warranties, and understand the terms and conditions. Additionally, consider the manufacturer’s reputation for customer service and support—even the dealership’s reputation matters. Be sure you purchase from a highly-rated mobility dealer, like Superior Van & Mobility, and that they are a member of NMEDA (National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association).

9. RESALE VALUE

While it may not be the first thing on your mind, it’s essential to consider your wheelchair-accessible vehicle’s potential resale value. Certain makes and models may hold their value better than others, which can be beneficial when upgrading or selling.

10. BUDGET

Finally, consider your budget and the overall cost of ownership in addition to the purchase price. Account for expenses like insurance, maintenance, and fuel. Explore financing options and look for any available discounts or incentives to help you secure the best deal.

CONCLUSION

Buying a wheelchair-accessible van or SUV is a significant decision that requires careful consideration. By taking the time to research and understand your specific needs, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed choice. Keep these top 10 factors in mind as you shop, and you’ll be well on your way to finding the perfect accessible vehicle. 

To learn more or start looking for that perfect vehicle, please contact one of our certified mobility consultants. They will be happy to assist you in locating the right vehicle for your needs and budget.

Expanded view inside a wheelchair van with a family inside showing seating arrangements
Picture of Richard W. Maxwell, MBA

Richard W. Maxwell, MBA

Richard Maxwell, is a seasoned automotive marketing executive with over two decades of experience. Starting in 1999 with his advertising agency, Maxx Design & Marketing, he has consistently delivered innovative marketing solutions. After earning his MBA, Richard shifted focus to adaptive technology, serving as Marketing Manager for Superior Van & Mobility. Today, he leverages his expertise to promote and educate others about adaptive equipment in transportation and drive change in accessible mobility.

Wheelchair Van or Wheelchair-Accessible SUV?

Wheelchair Van or Wheelchair-Accessible SUV, What’s Right For You?

Image of VMI Toyota Sienna, BraunAbility Chevy Traverse & BraunAbility Chrysler Pacifica wheelchair-accessible vans.

When it comes to finding a vehicle suitable for individuals who use wheelchairs, a few options are available, such as wheelchair vans and handicap SUVs. Both vehicles have been designed to accommodate individuals with disabilities and provide them with the freedom and independence to travel. However, each vehicle has unique features and advantages that appeal to different users. In this blog, we will compare wheelchair vans and handicap SUVs to help you decide which is best for your needs.

Older man in power wheelchair entering BraunAbility Toyota Sienna wheelchair van

Wheelchair Vans

A wheelchair van is a specially modified one designed to provide wheelchair accessibility. These vehicles come in various sizes, from minivans to full-size vans, and can accommodate multiple wheelchair sizes. One of the most significant advantages of wheelchair vans is that they come with various options for entry and exit. There are rear-entry and side-entry options, and depending on the user’s needs, one may be more suitable than the other.

For individuals with a larger wheelchair and who travel with a caregiver, a rear-entry vehicle may be more suitable as it allows for a larger, longer ramp to be installed. This makes it easier to accommodate more types & sizes of wheelchairs. On the other hand, a side-entry vehicle may be more suitable for those who drive or desire to ride up-front alongside the driver.

Wheelchair vans have various customized features, including ramp types, power options, wheelchair tie-downs, and seating arrangements. These various features allow users more control over their mobility while ensuring safe and comfortable travel.

Red Chevy Traverse wheelchair SUV from BraunAbility at park with ramp out and guy in wheelchair with basketball

Handicap SUVs

A handicap SUV is also designed to provide accessible travel for individuals with physical limitations. These vehicles are typically larger and higher off the ground than vans, making them more attractive for individuals who require more ground clearance and towing capacity. Handicap SUVs are designed to provide additional versatility and functionality.

One of the most appealing features of handicap SUVs is that they allow travel off-road. This mainly benefits individuals who enjoy outdoor activities or live in rural areas.

Conclusion

Both wheelchair vans and handicap SUVs give the user the freedom and independence to travel. Each vehicle has unique features and advantages that appeal to different users. Wheelchair vans are ideal for individuals who may only require a ramp for easy entry and exit, while handicap SUVs are better suited for off-road adventure types.

Ultimately, choosing between a wheelchair van and handicap SUV will depend on the individual’s specific needs and preferences. It is important to consider factors such as interior space, available options, type of use, and cost before deciding. By taking the time to research and compare these vehicles further, and talking with a certified mobility consultant, you can make an informed decision that will provide you with the mobility and freedom you desire.

Picture of Richard W. Maxwell, MBA

Richard W. Maxwell, MBA

Richard Maxwell, is a seasoned automotive marketing executive with over two decades of experience. Starting in 1999 with his advertising agency, Maxx Design & Marketing, he has consistently delivered innovative marketing solutions. After earning his MBA, Richard shifted focus to adaptive technology, serving as Marketing Manager for Superior Van & Mobility. Today, he leverages his expertise to promote and educate others about adaptive equipment in transportation and drive change in accessible mobility.

What is a Wheelchair Van?

Silver rear-entry wheelchair van and a blue side-entry wheelchair van and a red handicap SUV sitting side by side on a gray background

What's a Wheelchair Van?

Wheelchair vans are vehicles that have been converted to make them safely accessible and operational for users in wheelchairs. To make a minivan wheelchair accessible, it takes three main components. First, the floor must be lowered by 10 to 14 inches to adjust for a wheelchair user’s seated height. Second, the mid-row seating must be removed to allow room for wheelchair securement and maneuverability. Third, a wheelchair ramp or lift must be installed to allow wheelchair access. 

Are all Wheelchair Vans the Same?

Many manufacturers convert vehicles for wheelchair accessibility, each using their methods and choice of materials. However, as with any product manufacturing, you have some that are built safer, use higher-grade materials, and provide additional benefits & options to the user. For this reason, it is essential to do your research. 

To begin, get to know the different wheelchair conversion types and options. Understand the differences in materials and methods particular manufacturers use. This is particularly important, as some manufacturers use substandard materials, take shortcuts with techniques, and do not even crash-test their vehicle designs.

It’s a good rule of thumb to ensure the manufacturer of the wheelchair van you want to purchase is a National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) member. NMEDA regulates production methods and ensures vehicles sold by their members are crash-tested for safety. Dealers, too, can be members of NMEDA, so it’s also important to ensure the mobility dealer you are working with is also a member.

Superior Van & Mobility and the wheelchair vans we sell and rent are all NMEDA-certified and manufactured by the largest conversion companies in the world.

How a Wheelchair Van is Made

Playlist

3 Videos

For more about wheelchair vans, the types of conversions available, and our current inventory, or if you have questions, reach out to one of our mobility consultants. They will be more than happy to assist you and provide you with information and guidance. 

Picture of Richard W. Maxwell, MBA

Richard W. Maxwell, MBA

Richard Maxwell, is a seasoned automotive marketing executive with over two decades of experience. Starting in 1999 with his advertising agency, Maxx Design & Marketing, he has consistently delivered innovative marketing solutions. After earning his MBA, Richard shifted focus to adaptive technology, serving as Marketing Manager for Superior Van & Mobility. Today, he leverages his expertise to promote and educate others about adaptive equipment in transportation and drive change in accessible mobility.

New BraunAbility Chevrolet Traverse Wheelchair Accessible SUV

BraunAbility Chevrolet Traverse Wheelchair Accessible SUV

BraunAbility brought to market the world’s first handicap SUV, the Ford Explorer MXV. While this vehicle had a special place throughout the wheelchair-accessible market, it proved to have its limitations for many.

The ramp and available interior space were much less than any minivan on the market, making it hard for many users of power chairs to fit comfortably.
Despite having its place for many users, the vehicle didn’t appeal to the larger masses. In 2019 BraunAbility decided to discontinue production of the Ford MXV.

Knowing its customers were still in search of a minivan alternative, BraunAbility knew they needed a replacement, one that would take the place of the Ford MXV and open an opportunity for those individuals who never had a chance to own one because of the size of their wheelchair.

Fast forward to the present and say hello to the world’s first, Chevrolet Traverse wheelchair-accessible SUV from BraunAbility.

Man in power wheelchair sitting in drivers position of chevy traverse wheelchair accessible SUV
Closeup of red Chevrolet Traverse wheelchair SUV from BraunAbility with a man in a power wheelchair going up ramp

The new Chevy Handicap SUV is taking the industry by storm! It is providing a need that had been often overlooked, a minivan alternative. 

The new Traverse mobility vehicle has nearly as much interior space as the Toyota Sienna, but it has a much larger ground clearance and sporty styling that many have yearned. At the time of this article, it was only available from BraunAbility in two trim levels, the 2LT RS package and the 3LT.

The 2LT RS package is the sportier model of the two. In fact, the 20” blacked-out wheels and trim are what set this vehicle apart.

The 3LT model has a more classic look with 20” machine-faced aluminum wheels, dual skyscape sunroof, and rear pedestrian alert. Both models are loaded with nearly every option and advanced safety features, and they are available in seven different colors.

When these vehicles first hit the market, BraunAbility was not accepting customer chassis for conversion, an option for some who already had a Chevy Traverse sitting in their driveway. However, in 2022 BraunAbility announced they would take customer chassis’ for conversion as long as they were the exact 2LT RS or 3LT they sold new.

Standard Features Include:

  • Power, lighted in-floor wheelchair ramp system
  • Larger cabin space and maneuverability
  • Sliding gear shifter for additional space adjustments
  • 3rd-row seating with footrest
  • Driver side fuel door
  • Sliding side-door operation
  • Removable front seating with removable cup holders
  • 3.6L V-6 engine
  • Factory integrated towing receiver
  • 360-degree backup camera
  • Chevy Safety Assist
  • Much more

How Much Does a Handicap SUV Cost?

If you are interested in purchasing one of the NEW Chevrolet Traverse handicap SUVs, expect to pay $80,000 to $85,000. These vehicles run higher than most new accessible minivans because the chassis is higher. However, the good news is that unlike financing a traditional vehicle, where the term usually caps at seven years, mobility vehicles can be financed for up to ten years.

If the price of a new unit is not within your budget, you should start seeing more of these becoming available in the USED market. Expect to pay between $50,000 to $72,000 for a used model. However, that figure can easily be on either side, depending on the year, mileage and condition.

BraunAbility Chevrolet Traverse image with dimensions listed
Door opening usable widthA30.5” 
Door opening usable height (at the middle of door)B54.5″ 
Interior height at the center of the vehicleC58.5″ 
Interior height at driver and passenger positionD58″ 
Ramp lengthE52″ 
Ramp width (usable clear opening)30.25″ 
Ramp angle (with vehicle kneeled)2G8.5° 
Interior floor-length (behind front seat strikers)H57″ 
Overall interior floor-length (flat area)I89″ 
Interior width at passenger doors (doors closed)J64.75″ 
Interior width at B-pillarsK57″ 
Ramp capacity 1,000 lbs. 

(2) Ramp angle is subject to a 1.5-degree variance based on chassis trim level selected and other environmental factors. All measurements were taken with a 250 lbs. approximated wheelchair passenger load at the center of the ramp.

Are you Interested in purchasing a new or used BraunAbility, Chevrolet Traverse Handicap SUV?
Click the button below to shop our current inventory.

Picture of Richard W. Maxwell, MBA

Richard W. Maxwell, MBA

Richard Maxwell, is a seasoned automotive marketing executive with over two decades of experience. Starting in 1999 with his advertising agency, Maxx Design & Marketing, he has consistently delivered innovative marketing solutions. After earning his MBA, Richard shifted focus to adaptive technology, serving as Marketing Manager for Superior Van & Mobility. Today, he leverages his expertise to promote and educate others about adaptive equipment in transportation and drive change in accessible mobility.

Finding a Wheelchair Accessible Van for Sale

Finding a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle For Sale

Finding a wheelchair-accessible vehicle for sale can be daunting if you are unsure where to start looking or know what to ask. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be as tricky as it seems. We’ve compiled some information and tips below that will help make the process much easier.

What is a Wheelchair-Accessible Vehicle?

They go by many names, wheelchair van, handicap van, mobility van, adaptive van, handicap SUV, etcetera. However, for general identification purposes, an accessible vehicle is specifically designed to safely accommodate one or more individuals in a wheelchair for transportation.

To achieve this, a manufacturer utilizes a traditional vehicle chassis and generally removes the flooring from just behind the firewall to the rear seat. Most of the time, a minivan or SUV chassis is used. These vehicle types provide the best conversion result and the largest interior space.

After removing the floor, the manufacturer will replace the removed section of the vehicle with a new engineered flooring system, 10 to 14-inches lower. The lower floor is necessary to adjust for a wheelchair user’s seated height. The lowering provides a more natural line of sight for the user.

In addition to lowering the floor height, another significant component is the integrated wheelchair ramp system. The ramp system is either manually or power-operated and deploys either in a fold-out or in-floor (underfloor) design. Wheelchair-accessible vehicles are available in either a rear or side-entry configuration. Specific needs dictate which configuration is ideal for a particular user.

How Much Does a Handicap Van Cost?

Handicap-accessible vehicles are available in many types and configurations. Plus, just like a traditional vehicle, they are available as both new and used. For general purposes, a new wheelchair van will cost between $52,000 to $82,000. That includes both the cost of the chassis and the conversion process. A used wheelchair van can cost $13,000 to $65,000 based on its year, condition, conversion type, and mileage. The factors that dictate price are numerous.

Where to Buy a Wheelchair Van or Handicap SUV?

Your best opportunity to find a new or used wheelchair-accessible van or SUV is your local mobility dealer. In your search, you will want to make sure that your local mobility dealer is a member of NMEDA (National Mobility Dealers Association). They are held to strict guidelines in selling and servicing mobility vehicles by being a member. Your local car dealer is not a member or a good source. If you are unaware of your local mobility dealer, you can visit NMEDA’s website to use their dealer locator.

Your local mobility dealer is also your best option for used wheelchair-accessible vehicles. A mobility dealer knows the differences in the types of conversions. They will be your best resource to which conversion type and configuration will work best for your needs, and which manufacturers have the most reliable products. They also know what to look for when reconditioning an accessible vehicle for sale. You will have the best chance of locating a more reliable, well-maintained wheelchair van or SUV from your local dealer. Plus, they will be here for you if you need repair or service. Check our current list of available new and used wheelchair-accessible vehicles for sale.

However, in addition to your local mobility dealer, you may find several other resources. Most of these can be found by searching for a wheelchair van for sale, handicap van for sale, handicap SUV for sale, etcetera in your web browser. Searching by those industry phrases will return a list of resources and vehicles for sale. Some may be for sale by the owner but beware of what you are buying and how it will work for your specific needs. We have often heard that customers who have purchased a vehicle from an individual have had significant issues or find the vehicle does not precisely address their needs.

Can I Finance a Wheelchair Van or Handicap SUV?

Yes, you can finance a wheelchair van or SUV. There are numerous options available if you know where to find them. Your local bank generally will have a hard time if they are not familiar with the vehicle type. However, most mobility dealers have financing available, most only one or two sources. At Superior Van & Mobility, we have six wheelchair van financing sources to provide our customers access to competitive rates.

Financing term options are generally available on wheelchair vans and handicap SUVs from 1 to 10-years. These longer terms allow buyers to spread the chassis cost and additional conversion cost across a more extended period. Rates are competitive to traditional lending sources.

Is There Help Available Paying for a Wheelchair-Accessible Vehicle?

If you need assistance in purchasing an accessible vehicle, contact one of our certified mobility consultants today or visit our links & resource page on our website. We have compiled a list of helpful links and resources, many of which provide grants and payment assistance for those unable to afford a handicap vehicle. You will find an extensive list of national and local organizations with programs available.

If you would like to receive a FREE consultation with one of our mobility consultants, please give us a call 1-877-545-1888, send us a chat below, or send us your question using the button above. 

Picture of Richard W. Maxwell, MBA

Richard W. Maxwell, MBA

Richard Maxwell, is a seasoned automotive marketing executive with over two decades of experience. Starting in 1999 with his advertising agency, Maxx Design & Marketing, he has consistently delivered innovative marketing solutions. After earning his MBA, Richard shifted focus to adaptive technology, serving as Marketing Manager for Superior Van & Mobility. Today, he leverages his expertise to promote and educate others about adaptive equipment in transportation and drive change in accessible mobility.

Industry’s First Toyota Sienna Hybrid

Meet the Industry’s First

Toyota Sienna Hybrid Wheelchair Accessible Van
Available in All-Wheel Drive!

2021 brought about a lot of change in the mobility industry. Not only was the iconic Dodge Grand Caravan retired, but we were introduced to two firsts in our industry. 

One, the all-new Toyota Sienna Hybrid wheelchair-accessible van, was developed by BraunAbility, and VMI.

Second, VMI took it a step further and introduced the first-ever all-wheel-drive wheelchair van, an available option on the Toyota Sienna Hybrid.

These milestones are a significant addition to the mobility industry, especially for those environmentally conscious or those living in our northern states where an AWD drivetrain is most important.

In addition to being the first hybrid and AWD vehicle in the mobility industry, the Toyota Sienna hybrid has many other impressive improvements and firsts. Below are a few worth mentioning.

  • Up to 36 MPG on FWD models & up to 35 MPG on AWD models
  • Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 – Includes many advanced safety features
  • Front & rear parking assist with automatic braking.
  • Road sign assist.
  • Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection.
  • Dynamic radar cruise.
  • Lane departure alert with steering assist, and much more.
  • Available factory towing package
  • Amazon Alexa, Apple CarPlay & Android audio compatibility
  • Four-zone climate control
  • Seven USB ports
  • Driver Easy-Speak – Enhances communication with rear passengers
  • 1500-watt power outlet

As we move further into the near future and more manufacturers introduce hybrids and fully electric vehicles to their portfolios, we fully expect more industry firsts heading our way. This landmark introduction by Toyota is only the beginning!

What do you think will be next? A fully electric SUV? How about a plugin, a fully electric Chrysler Pacifica? We will have to wait and see, but one thing is for sure, what we’ve grown to know as the norm is no longer valid. Times are changing rapidly, and new products will continue to be developed as long as we have industry partners like BraunAbility and VMI.

Click here if you would like to learn more about the BraunAbility or VMI Toyota Sienna Hybrid wheelchair van or check available vehicles currently for sale.

Picture of Richard W. Maxwell, MBA

Richard W. Maxwell, MBA

Richard Maxwell, is a seasoned automotive marketing executive with over two decades of experience. Starting in 1999 with his advertising agency, Maxx Design & Marketing, he has consistently delivered innovative marketing solutions. After earning his MBA, Richard shifted focus to adaptive technology, serving as Marketing Manager for Superior Van & Mobility. Today, he leverages his expertise to promote and educate others about adaptive equipment in transportation and drive change in accessible mobility.