3 Tips To Choose The Right Wheelchair Accessible Bus

wheelchair accessible bus

Simplify Buying A Wheelchair Accessible Bus With These 3 Tips

Going out and buying a wheelchair bus in Winnipeg is no simple task. It’s not like running down to your local dealership, picking the vehicle you want off the lot and either that day or a few days later driving away with a brand new or pre-owned wheelchair accessible vehicle. It’s a lot more complicated than that.

There are many factors that need to be considered when purchasing a wheelchair accessible bus. For example some of the questions to answer are how often are we going to be using this vehicle, who will be driving the vehicle, what is it going to cost to run, when do we need to have it by, how many people do we need to transport, what are the road conditions we will be driving it on and so on. There’s a lot to think about with this type of purchase. Most organizations we work with are keeping these units for five or more years so it’s important you are happy with what you bought and know you are going to use it. We have clients who bought something in the past thinking it was the right option for them but in the end, it turned out to be too much vehicle, costs too much to operate, or doesn’t meet their client’s needs.

The 3 tips I’m about to share with you on how to simplify your wheelchair accessible bus buying experience will help you immensely.


Wheelchair Accessible Bus Tip #1 – Know Who You Are Planning On Transporting

This is the very first thing to know when buying a bus. Without knowing who you are taking, it becomes nearly impossible to decide on the right size of wheelchair accessible vehicle and the right type of floor plan. When it comes to wheelchair accessible buses, there are two popular options. The first is the traditional wheelchair accessible bus where wheelchairs are loaded in from the side, have traditional fixed seating and the buses are built on a Ford or Chevy/GM chassis. These types of buses typically are designed to transport a larger number of individuals around and are available in a variety of floor plans. However, with these floor plans, once they are designed and put into the bus, the option to change them around becomes limited.

The second option is a smaller full-size commercial van which has been modified to accommodate wheelchairs. Traditionally, the type of van modified was the Ford Econoline. These vehicles offered limited capacity and were side loading for the wheelchair. These vehicles would require modification to the roof to allow for more headroom and just like the buses above, the floor plan and seating is fixed.


wheelchair accessible bus
Ram Promaster Full-Size Mobility Van

A new trend has recently emerged in the full-size van market with converting the Ram Promaster into a wheelchair accessible bus. This type of conversion has been well received. MoveMobility, for example, offers this type of conversion. No modifications are made to the chassis and the Auto-Floor flooring system used is completely customizable to the number of passengers and wheelchairs needing to be transported. Other versions of this vehicle exist from other manufacturers but they do not offer the same versatility.

The take away here is to know how many people will be riding in the bus at one time and how many wheelchairs. Once you know this information, it becomes a lot easier to figure out what type of vehicle and floor plan is needed to accommodate the needs of your organization.


Wheelchair Accessible Bus Tip #2 – Know Your Budget For The Purchase & Maintenance


Wheelchair accessible bus prices are not created equal and depend heavily on the number of people and wheelchairs you are transporting. This will determine if a modified traditional wheelchair accessible bus is the way to go or the full-size wheelchair van route. Each option sells at a different price point as well as has different running costs. Typically speaking, a traditional bus will cost $15,000-$20,000 more than a full-size van conversion. This isn’t a bad thing but it all depends on how many people are being transported. For example, a Ram Promaster wheelchair accessible bus can hold up to 15 passengers or 4 wheelchairs or combination of passengers and wheelchairs. In a lot of situations, we find this works well for our clients.

The second part of your budget to know are the running costs needed for each year you will be using the wheelchair bus. This includes things like fuel, maintenance, insurance and so on. Just like running your own vehicle, these things need to be calculated into any type of funding budget used to run the vehicle.

Generally speaking when it comes to vehicles, the bigger the vehicle, the more it’s going to cost to run. In one field test we ran, we found the traditional wheelchair accessible bus used 40% more fuel than the Ram Promaster. For most organizations, this is important because there is only so much funding available each year.


Wheelchair Accessible Bus Tip #3 – Timing is Everything


All of these wheelchair accessible vehicles are built custom order. It doesn’t matter if it is the traditional wheelchair accessible bus or the Ram Promaster. Each vehicle comes with its own floor plan and needs to be manufactured to meet your needs. Depending on the type of bus, it can take around three months for a traditional wheelchair accessible bus to be made. If it has a specific chassis, it can take even longer, sometimes as much as six months.

The Ram Promaster has a much quicker turn around time. They are modifications are done in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and can typically be completed and the wheelchair accessible vehicle delivered in three weeks. The process is much simpler since there are no modifications being made to the chassis itself.

One other very important thing to consider in the timing is if 3rd party funding is needed to fund the purchase. Often this is something which is forgotten about when the process of looking for a wheelchair accessible bus begins. Depending on the type of organization and the time of the year, funding approval can take as much as six months to happen.



It’s never fun being in a situation of desperation for a vehicle and buying the wrong one. By applying these three tips, you will find the process of buying a wheelchair accessible bus a lot easier and should keep you out of hot water. It’s important to know who will be riding in the vehicle, what your budget is to purchase and maintain your vehicle. Lastly, it’s important to know when you need the vehicle. The next step is to work the timeline backward to make sure everything aligns nicely with your funding. Reach out today to speak to our team about purchasing a wheelchair bus in Winnipeg.


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