You have made the decision you need to purchase a wheelchair van but you find yourself debating which type of van is right for you. It might be a full size van or a rear entry minivan. Both vans look appealing but there are definitely questions running through your mind. Either one seems like a good option but you are unsure about what would really work best for your situation.
The good news is you can apply these 5 tips below to help you decide which option is best for you and your situation.
Tip #1 – Decide how many ambulatory people need to sit in the wheelchair van
The first thing to know is how many people will need to sit in the wheelchair accessible van. This is a big factor in deciding if a full size passenger van or rear entry minivan is the right way to go. One thing is this need to be balanced against is the number of wheelchairs you are needing to transport in the van. If for a moment, we decide it is only one wheelchair, there are several seating options available in a rear entry minivan. A little while ago, I wrote a blog post on called “6 Seating Configurations for the Rear Entry Dodge Grand Caravan“. In the post, I review all the different seating configurations available for a rear entry minivan. If you are only needing to transport up to 5 ambulatory people plus one wheelchair, a rear entry minivan would most likely work in your situation.
However, if you find you are transporting more than five ambulatory people at any given time, a full size wheelchair van would most likely be the better option. One option to then consider would be the Ram Promaster wheelchair van. This type of option can carry up to 15 passengers depending on the wheelbase of the vehicle and the number of wheelchairs being transported.
Tip #2 – Know how many wheelchairs need to fit in the van
Similar to the tip #1, decide how many wheelchairs need to fit in the van ahead of time. In our experience over the years, it seems usually having space for one or two wheelchairs is all that is needed. The rear entry minivan for example can hold up to two wheelchairs. With two wheelchairs, you can still transport three ambulatory people, driver and two wheelchairs. How this works is the first wheelchair is positioned between the two mid row seats and the second wheelchair is positioned in behind. In the picture below, you can see the two Q’Straint wheelchair restraint pucks in the floor which easily secure to the wheelchairs. In a lot of applications, especially in the private family use, a rear entry minivan works really well.
Just like tip #1, if there are more than two wheelchairs needing to be transported at any given time or with more than three ambulatory people, a full size wheelchair van like the Ram Promaster would work. The most common configuration we set the Promaster up with is eight ambulatory seats and two wheelchair positions. This wheelchair accessible van is different than all other models on the market as the floor system in the van is completely flexible. This means, you can add and take away ambulatory seats and add and take away wheelchair positions. The biggest advantage to this flooring system is the seats and wheelchair positions can be changed around in only minutes.
Tip #3 – Know the size of wheelchair
Wheelchairs come in all shapes and sizes. It is important to know the size of the wheelchairs you are transporting in the van for a variety of reasons. The first is the width of the chair. The width of the chair will determine where the chair would be positioned in a rear entry minivan. If the chair is 23″ or less in width, it can fit between the two mid-row seats. However, if the chair is wider than 23″, the chair would most likely need to be positioned in the second wheelchair position in the rear entry minivan. In the back of the van, there is additional width to work with and the person in the wheelchair doesn’t have to worry about rubbing shoulders with the people they are sitting beside. The second key measurement to look at is the height of the chair. A rear entry minivan conversion we do offers 56″ of height clearance at the rear tailgate which works for most.
If both chairs are larger, it may be a good idea to look at the full size wheelchair van or to entertain the idea of side entry minivan. You can check out the post “Rear Entry Vans vs Side Entry Vans” Pro’s & Con’s of Each Conversion.” Both can accommodate a larger wheelchair easily.
Tip #4 – Know your budget ahead of time
Buying a wheelchair van is no small purchase. It doesn’t matter if you are a government funded organization or a private individual looking to buy a wheelchair accessible van for your family. Buying a vehicle is a major expense and for most people can take up a serious portion of their personal or business budget.
There are a lot of different options available for both private families and organizations to choose from. For example, if you are a private family, a very popular option to consider for some additional funding is President’s Choice Children’s Charity. A lot of families have benefited from their services. In 2014, they granted $15,000,000 in funding for families who needed it. You can apply for funding by filling in their form.
For non-profit organizations or government operated services, typically there are grants available. For example in Ontario, depending on the type of organization you are, you can apply for funds through the Trillium Fund. Fund programs like these can help offset the cost of a rear entry minivan or full size wheelchair van or completely cover the cost of the vehicle. It all depends on the organization and their need.
Lastly, another option to consider when planning out your budget is to look at financing or lease options. At MoveMobility, we offer this to our clients. Families and organizations alike take advantage of these programs as it can cover the difference of the cost of a mobility vehicle. Just like any loan or lease, everything is subject to credit approval and the loan or lease is directly with the leasing or finance company.
Tip #5 – Know who will be a part of making the decision
This might seem like a bit of a funny tip to include but it is very important to know who will be involved in the conversation about the wheelchair accsesible vehicle. When it comes to purchases (especially larger ones), we tend to consult people around us to help make a good decision. When it comes to buying a rear entry minivan or full size wheelchair van, it is no different. There may be spouses, children, parents, board members, directors, drivers and so on who all want to be a part of the decision. They will most likely have something worthwhile to say about the decision so it is a good idea to listen to them.
Choosing between a full size wheelchair van or a rear entry minivan can be a challenge. Utilizing these tips will make the decision process a lot easier and you will find yourself driving the right wheelchair van.
Ready to find the perfect wheelchair van in Winnipeg? Contact our team and we will be happy to help.