So, you’re ready to invest in a wheelchair van for your organization. You’ve decided on what accessible vehicle you need and what your budget is.
You may be wondering if you should buy a converted van from a manufacturer as a complete package, or if you should buy a van from a dealership and get it modified to be wheelchair accessible somewhere else. But how do you know which is right for you?
What if you make the wrong decision, and blow way past your budget? What if you need your wheelchair van soon, but you shipped it away for conversion and now it’s sitting in a facility somewhere, unfinished?
In this article, you’ll learn the pros and cons of buying vs. converting a wheelchair van, who each option is right for, and your next steps to making the best decision for your organization.
At MoveMobility, we offer both options (buying a van with a conversion from us or sending a van to us for a conversion), so we have a deep understanding of the pros and cons of each option.
Buying a wheelchair van vs. converting a van to be wheelchair accessible: what’s the difference?
Buying a completely converted wheelchair van
When you buy a completely converted wheelchair van, you will typically be partnering with a manufacturer (like us at MoveMobility).
The manufacturer designs, builds, and distributes the wheelchair vans. They also offer service and repairs. Mobility vehicle companies specialize in vans and mobility modifications.
Sending a van away to be converted
When you send a van away for a conversion, you first need to buy a van that can be converted.
So, you’ll likely go to a dealership and buy a van that can be converted, and then you’ll send it to a manufacturer that will convert it to be wheelchair accessible. Traditional dealerships specialize in selling a wide range of vehicles like cars, SUVs, and trucks.
After buying a minivan or full size van from a dealership, you’ll then have to find a manufacturer that specializes in mobility modifications to convert your van.
Pros of buying a completely converted wheelchair van
The vehicle is already in stock
When you decide to buy a completely converted wheelchair van, the van is already in stock and ready to be built with the specific conversions you asked for. This can make the process both quick and simple.
A manufacturer understands accessibility needs
A manufacturer that specifically makes vans wheelchair accessible will have a deep understanding of your accessibility needs because it’s all they do. They’ll be able to help you when you’re deciding between a ramp vs. lift, a high floor van vs. a low floor van, etc.
A dealership likely won’t have this wealth of information on accessible vehicles.
A manufacturer allows you to customize your van design
Perhaps one of the most attractive benefits of working directly with an accessible van manufacturer is their ability to create custom solutions.
If your program’s mobility needs require a specific conversion design, a manufacturer can customize your design.
At MoveMobility, an example of this is the P Flex accessible van, which was created as a result of a specific client’s requirements. It has since become a popular accessible van option for organizations needing easy ambulatory access with a rear wheelchair entry.
A manufacturer has industry knowledge and safety regulations
There are many regulations, standards, and qualifications required to become a trusted wheelchair van provider. When you work with an industry-leading wheelchair van manufacturer, you are guaranteed a knowledgeable, experienced mobility expert who can guide you through the process.
Transporting persons with disabilities requires an understanding of what modifications can and can’t be done to a van. If this is overlooked, legal liabilities can be serious. Your wheelchair van supplier must understand the CMVSS (Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standard) code, which is the regulation that governs the transportation sector in Canada.
With a manufacturer, it’s an all-in-one package
At MoveMobility, we are often asked, “do we have to buy a van and bring it to you for the conversion?”.
Thankfully, the answer is no.
Accessible van manufacturers keep a stock of vans ready for conversion. This eliminates the need for you to:
1. Negotiate with a dealer to buy a van, running the risk of buying a van that isn’t compatible with accessible conversions
2. Find a conversion company to convert the van, hoping you get what you need
3. Arrange transportation to the conversion manufacturer’s facility, often costly
Overall, there are many risks involved in buying a non-accessible van with the intention of somehow “making it accessible”. That’s why accessible van manufacturers exist – to eliminate the headaches listed above.
A manufacturer will deliver the van to you if you live in a remote location
If you live in a remote community, once the manufacturer is done building your van with the specific conversions you asked for, they will deliver the van to your remote location. See how we would deliver a van to your remote location by checking out this article.
A manufacturer doesn’t have extra/hidden fees that you typically pay with a dealership
While we can’t speak for other wheelchair van manufacturers, all documents relating to the sale of our accessible vans are clear and transparent. This includes quotes and sales agreements, which outline the agreement between you, the buyer, and us, the supplier.
Dealers may add extra fees to increase a sale value. If you appreciate transparency when working with large capital purchases, make sure your chosen van supplier provides line-by-line pricing.
Cons of buying a completely converted wheelchair van
Can have longer lead times
The biggest con of buying a completely converted wheelchair van is that the lead times–the amount of time it can take to convert your van and send it back to you–can vary.
Sometimes, lead times are 2 months. Other times, they can take up to 8 months. It all depends on the manufacturer you choose, the time of the year, and the conversions you asked for. Learn more about lead times with MoveMobility by checking out this article.
Not supporting local dealerships
#Shoplocal is a big movement, and your organization may feel the pull to buy a wheelchair van locally if you have the option.
But when you decide to buy a fully-converted wheelchair van from a manufacturer, you may not be supporting local. So, you’ll ultimately have to decide what’s best for your organization.
Now that we’ve looked at the pros and cons of buying a fully converted accessible vehicle, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of buying a van and sending it way for conversion.
Pros of sending a van away for conversion
Supporting local dealerships
When you decide to buy a van from a dealership and then ship it away for conversion, you may get to support local which, for some organizations, is very important.
Especially if you’re a local business, you might want to support local in return.
As I said before, for some organizations, supporting local is very important. Again–it all depends on your organization.
Cons of sending a van away for conversion
There are fewer “model” options when partnering with a dealership
When you partner with a dealership, you will likely have fewer options when it comes to vans that are able to be made wheelchair accessible.
And when you have fewer options, you may not be able to find the best wheelchair van for your organization’s needs.
Dealerships may not understand accessibility needs
Because a dealership sells all kinds of vehicles, they won’t have as deep an understanding of accessible vehicles as a manufacturer.
This means they won’t know what model of van you’ll need to get the conversions you want. They also won’t understand your riders’ mobility needs, or what type of wheelchair van conversions are available.
And, as a result, you could end up with a van that isn’t right for you.
You have to figure out how you will get it to the manufacturer
After purchasing a van from a dealership, you’ll then have to figure out how you will ship the van to the manufacturer of your choice. A dealership may offer to ship the van away for you, which means more transportation costs for your van.
This can be a difficult task and involves lots of time and logistical needs.
Buying a converted wheelchair van: who is it right for?
Generally, organizations typically go with a mobility van manufacturer, because the company has a full understanding of their needs.
Buying a van and sending it away for conversion: who is it right for?
Organizations that are required to support local are more likely to buy a van from a local dealership and send it away for a conversion.
Your next steps for choosing between buying vs. converting a wheelchair van
You came to this article in a bit of a quandary–should you buy a wheelchair accessible van or send a van away to be converted?
Now, you know the pros and cons of buying vs. converting and who each option is right for.
At MoveMobility, we offer both options: you can either purchase a fully-converted van from us or send us a van to convert. To learn more about buying vs. converting a wheelchair van, talk to a MoveMobility expert today.
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