Things to know about vehicle conversions, and common questions
If you use a wheelchair, getting out and about can be a challenge. Having a wheelchair accessible vehicle gives you great freedom as a passenger or even a driver. Silver Cross has a pre-qualified network of dealers to serve you locally, and we also offer some information and tips here in order to choose the best vehicle for you.
Adding lifts and modifications to existing vehicles
You may be able to add a hydraulic lift to your existing vehicle if it is a full-sized van or minivan. Companies such as Bruno and Harmar sell lifts to carry scooters and wheelchairs into the vehicle.
Custom modifications can be made to many different types of vehicles such as pickup trucks and cars, depending on the specific needs of the client. Specialty dealers can add hand or foot controls and special transfer seats in order to allow those with physical disabilities to drive a vehicle.
A vehicle conversion modifies the original vehicle to accommodate a wheelchair or mobility device. The most popular conversions are done on minivans because they are the most spacious and affordable passenger vehicles. There are now some conversions done on sport utility vehicles.
To accommodate the height needed for a passenger in a wheelchair, the vehicle is modified with a lowered floor. The lowered floor may be throughout the vehicle in order to allow access to the front row seating, or the lowered floor may be only in part of the vehicle if access to the front row is not required. A ramp is included to allow easy access to the vehicle either through the side or rear of the vehicle.
The most common wheelchair vehicle conversions are available for:
- Dodge Caravan (and Chrysler Town & Country)
- Toyota Sienna minivan
- Honda Odyssey minivan
Safety and testing
Top manufacturers such as BraunAbility, Vantage Mobility and Savaria crash test their conversion designs to meet the highest safety standards including Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and CMVSS in Canada. Always check with the manufacturer or local dealer about the safety standards for the vehicle you may be interested in purchasing.
Frequently Asked Questions about Wheelchair Vans
How much does a new wheelchair van cost?
A new wheelchair van conversion starts with the van (chassis), and that is roughly the same as if you were to purchase a minivan from a car dealership. Add to this the conversion price, which will run at at a minimum of about $12,000 and can go to $30,000+ depending upon type of conversion, options and additional adaptation.
Should I buy a used wheelchair van?
It’s about the same decision as buying a used car. You will want to see the vehicle in person, try it out, go for a test drive and do your research on the model and the base van. A gently used wheelchair van can be a great investment, though, and some dealers buy and sell used van conversions and even include a warranty with the used van.
I don’t really know where to start, what should I do?
An occupational therapist, healthcare professional or specialized driving rehab specialist can all be great resources to assess your specific situation to help you make the best choice.
Who are the major manufacturers of wheelchair accessible vans in North America?
- Braun Ability
- Vantage Mobility
- Auto Ability
- Savaria (Freedom Motors, Viewpoint Mobility, Van Action, Liberty Motors)
- ElDorado National
(these manufacturers are all part of industry association NMEDA)