High vs. Low Floor for Full Size Wheelchair Vans (Pros & Cons) 

In this article, you'll learn the differences between a high floor and a low floor wheelchair van, the pros and cons of each, and who each option is right for.

When you invest in a wheelchair van for your organization, you expect your van to have the highest level of accessibility. You also expect the van you paid a lot of money for to last a long time. 

So when your van forces walker-users to step up onto a higher level inside the van–potentially creating more barriers for your passengers–and it breaks down quicker than you were promised, this can add stress and resentment to your organization’s everyday life. 

And that’s why, in this article, you’re going to learn the differences between high floor and low floor wheelchair vans, their pros and cons, and who each option is right for. 

At MoveMobility, we exclusively carry high floor options in our full-size line because they last longer, can have a ramp or a lift, and have a flat floor inside the van. 

Although we do have low floor options in our minivans, we have found through many years of experience that high floor vans are the best because they are more accessible. 

Differences in high floor and low floor wheelchair vans

There are two major differences between a high floor and a low floor wheelchair van: floor height and accessibility level, and the ability to have a ramp or a lift. 

1. Floor height and accessibility

Obviously, the main difference between a high floor and a low floor wheelchair van is the floor height itself. 

In a high floor van, nothing is done to change the height of the floor. This means we do not convert the van to have a high floor–no alterations are made in terms of floor height, and the floor is completely flat with no steps. 

But, with a low floor van, the manufacturer “cuts” the van’s floor and lowers the floor to decrease the ramp angle for wheelchair users getting into the van. For walk-on riders using the regular seats, they have to have enough mobility to climb up the step and then get into the seat.

2. Ramp or lift

The other major difference between a high floor van and a low floor van is whether or not it can have a ramp or a lift. 

In a high floor van, a ramp will be steeper. We compensate for this by making the ramp longer, flattening the angle. 

In a low floor van, it’s more difficult to install a lift–and sometimes, it’s just not possible. Most low floor vans have a ramp. 

Pros of high floor wheelchair vans

There are many pros to having a high floor wheelchair van. 

The flat floor

Having a high floor wheelchair van means you get a flat floor. This makes the van more accessible because wheelchair users and walker users can both move functionally around the van with ease. 

Ability to choose a ramp or a lift

With a high floor van, you get to choose a ramp or a lift. 

Ramps are typically better for walker-users with a higher level of mobility and average-sized wheelchairs. 

Lifts are typically better for heavy, ambulatory wheelchairs. 

If you’re interested in learning about the pros and cons of ramps vs. lifts, check out this article

Cons of high floor wheelchair vans

The only major con of a high floor wheelchair van is, for some organizations, the ramp. 

A steep or long manual ramp

A manual ramp on a high floor van is steeper and longer than the manual ramps you would see with a low floor wheelchair van, but that’s not to say it is too steep or too long. At MoveMobility, we have an option for you to lower the suspension, which reduces the ramp incline. 

An important thing to remember is if you want a manual ramp for your high floor wheelchair van, your workers will have to push the wheelchairs up the ramp manually. 

So, if your organization has a need for efficiency and ease of use, a low floor van with a shorter ramp may be a better option–but don’t forget about the availability of lifts for high floor models. 

A powered ramp stays the same no matter what floor height your van has. 

Talk to a MoveMobility expert now to learn which is best for your organization. 

Pros of low floor wheelchair vans

There’s one major pro to having a low floor wheelchair van: the ramp, and by extension, the ramp’s accessibility. 

A flat and short ramp

Having a low floor wheelchair van means the ramp is flatter and shorter, making it easier for wheelchairs to be pushed up the ramp and walker users to walk up the ramp. 

Cons of low floor wheelchair vans

There are two major cons to having a low floor wheelchair van: having to step up a platform inside the van, and the impact lowering the floor has on your vehicle. 

The second platform inside the van

Low floor full size wheelchair van with manual ramp. Credit: Creative Carriage

Because the van floor is lowered by a manufacturer, there is a second platform inside the vehicle. This can be difficult to use for walker users (and really, anyone with mobility issues) because they have to step up to the second platform to access seating. 

Adding “stress” to the vehicle

When a manufacturer lowers the floor of a van, it causes a lot of “stress” on the vehicle. The more modifications made to a van decrease how long the van will run for.

This can cost your organization more money in repairs to maintain the vehicle. 

Low visibility for riders

In a low floor van, wheelchair users are seated low down in the vehicle, in the lowered channel of the van. This means they can’t see out the windows. 

Less comfortable because riders are so close to the ground

Due to the low floor, riders are quite low to the ground. This means they will feel every jostle, bump, and turn much more than they would in a high floor van

This, combined with the louder noises, can create an uncomfortable passenger experience for your clients. 

No flexibility for passenger seating

Lowering the van eliminates any flexibility for rearranging passenger seats and wheelchair positions. Wheelchairs can only be secured within the channel of the low floor, and seats are only available on the raised lip around the channel. 

Who are high floor wheelchair vans right for?

Organizations that transport a variety of wheelchair users, walker users, and ambulatory clients

A high floor wheelchair van is typically better for organizations that transport walker users or people with limited mobility because it doesn’t have that extra step up to access the seats. 

At MoveMobility, our wheelchair vans have an AutoFloor. This means you get to customize your floorplan–changing around the seats and securing the wheelchairs where you need. 

With flexibility, you can cater to a wide range of mobility needs.

Who are low floor wheelchair vans right for?

Organizations that want a ramp with a low incline

A low floor wheelchair van may be the right option for your organization if a low incline is very important to you. 

Your next steps for choosing between high vs. low floor wheelchair vans

You came to this article to find out if a high floor or low floor van is right for your organization. 

Now, you know the differences between a low floor and a high floor van, their pros and cons, and who each option is right for. 

Like I said previously, we only sell high floor full size vans at MoveMobility. For more information on high vs low floor wheelchair vans, talk to a MoveMobility expert now

Or, learn more about wheelchair vans by checking out these related articles: 

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