Moving into a vehicle with a wheelchair would be difficult if it is not wheelchair accessible. If your disability affects all your limbs (quadriplegia), it would be tough for you to use the controls of the vehicle or drive the vehicle.
This is one of the reasons why handicap vehicles have become the best choice for people with disabilities especially for those in wheelchairs.
There is a lot to know when it comes to handicap vehicles, including the types of modification that could provide the best experience when you are in a vehicle whether or not you are driving.
In this article, we are going to look at handicap vehicles, the top brands, dealers and the modifications to look out for when picking a vehicle.
What is a Handicap Vehicle?
A handicap accessible vehicle or a wheelchair-accessible vehicle is a vehicle that has been modified to allow for the entry of a wheelchair. This entry would be feasible through the aid of a wheelchair ramp or powered lift.
Wheelchair-accessible vehicles are made by manufacturers of wheelchair car conversions. These manufacturers are not actual car manufacturers as they make use of the already produced cars from top brands and then modify it to suit wheelchair entry.
VMI is one of such manufacturers and they are notably the first to perfectly modify a minivan to allow for wheelchair entry. Its wheelchair-accessible Chrysler minivan was officially introduced in 1987 and it gave rise to a new kind of manufacturers who focus on modifying vehicles for individuals with disabilities.
Are Handicap Vehicles Expensive?
The process of modifying a car to suit the needs of a wheelchair user is complex and this is one of the reasons why handicap vehicles are quite expensive. Before buying a handicap vehicle, it is important that you confirm its ability to suit your needs.
You need to check the modifications, the size of the interior, the type of entry and the type of access the vehicle has. We have provided a comprehensive guide that will help you pick out the best handicap vehicle from the best brands.
Things To Consider Before Buying Handicap Vehicles
Wheelchair-accessible vehicles usually come with a lot of modifications. The number of modifications you will find depends on what the manufacturer of the vehicle considers to be the best for a wheelchair user.
However, there are several modifications that most manufacturers make that you should look out for in the vehicle you are going for.
There are also some modifications that you should take seriously for safety issues. For example, gas tanks and fuel lines are usually modified during the process and if not done appropriately it would lead to damage to the vehicle or cause harm to individuals that use the vehicle.
During modification, the floor will be replaced, the suspensions modified, seating adjusted and a means of external access added to allow for entry of the wheelchair.
The ramp width, doorway height, and interior headroom are also important modifications to check out. Some manufacturers make things easier by making the door and ramp of the vehicle operable through the touch of a button.
The quality of these modifications will depend on the kind of vehicle and manufacturer you are going for.
Side entry modifications allow access from the side of the vehicle. If you would like to drive the vehicle then you should go for side entry modifications, however, they tend to cost more than rear entry modifications.
Side-entry wheelchair-accessible vehicles are the popular choice among wheelchair users.
Rear entry modifications allow access from the back (rear) of the vehicle. This option is best for those who wouldn’t want to drive the vehicle.
Rear-entry modifications are best for parallel parking and allow for access through the side passengers doors which are usually blocked with side-entry modifications. Rear-entry modifications also provide room for leg rests and it’s the best option for those who use long wheelchairs.
Unfortunately, you will have to deal with less storage space and the inability to have the wheelchair in the front passenger position.
Handicap vehicles are very expensive and the price keeps rising as the cost of modifying the vehicles climbs higher. Wheelchair-accessible vehicle conversion manufacturers like BraunAbility charge as much as $51,340 (estimated price) for a 2019 Chrysler Pacifica PCTouring with Rear-Entry Manual Ramp.
You can opt for older models which are less expensive or you can go for used wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
Types of Access
Access modifications include either a ramp or a powered lift. Ramps are a popular option for minivans. You can also opt for a portable ramp as they are a more economical option.
Portable ramps are easier to use and have various applications as they can be used anywhere apart from the vehicle since they are not attached to the vehicle. Powered lifts are common with full-size vans – the lift features a platform that can be raised and lowered from the vehicle to the ground outside.
There are other types of access for wheelchair-accessible vehicles like crane type lifts, however, powered lifts and ramps are the most popular.
Brands of Handicap Vehicles
There are many car manufacturers like Hyundai, Nissan, and Kia whose vehicles can be modified to suit the needs of a wheelchair user, however, only a few models from select car manufacturers are considered.
These vehicles are considered to be the best when it comes to making modifications and most dealers only deal on wheelchair-accessible vehicles from these brands.
The brands and their models usually modified for wheelchair users include
- Dodge Grand Caravan SXT
- Dodge Grand Caravan SE
- Dodge Grand Caravan Mainstreet
- Chrysler Town and Country Touring
- Chrysler Pacifica Touring L
- Honda Odyssey EX-L
- Toyota Sienna L
- Toyota Sienna LE
- Ford Transit Passenger 350 XLT 15
- Ford Transit Passenger 350 XLT-HD 15
The models listed above are all minivans, however, some of them like the Chrysler Town & Country models have been discontinued so it is unlikely that you would find latest versions of the model.
Top Wheelchair Vehicle Conversion Manufacturers
There are several wheelchair vehicle conversion manufacturers in the US, however only a few make the best wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Brands like VMI, BraunAbility, and AMS Vans are among the largest manufactures in the US, and you can easily find their products in the inventory of most dealers.
Vantage Mobility International (VMI) is considered a pioneer in the mobility vehicle industry and the first manufacturer to successfully modify a car to suit the needs of wheelchair users. VMI officially released its wheelchair-accessible minivan – the Chrysler minivan in 1987 and has ever since maintained a standard that is second to none in the mobility vehicle industry.
However, VMI’s handicap vehicles are quite expensive with prices as high as $50,000 for some of the latest models of their products.
VMI offers financing and funding to make it easier for people to purchase their vans. When applying for the loan, you can choose a repayment period between 36-84 months which gives you a lot of time for you to repay the loan.
VMI remains one of the best wheelchair vehicle conversion manufacturers in the US with a lot of dealers and loyal customers.
BraunAbility is one of the most reputable wheelchair vehicle conversion manufacturers in the US and the world. They have a presence in many countries all over the world including the UK and Brazil where they offer their high-quality products.
With over 50 years of experience, the company takes vehicle mobility to another level. To most dealers in the US, BraunAbility is one of the best choices to consider due to the high performance and reliability of its wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
BraunAbiliity offers commercial services for transit buses, school buses, paratransit vans, and motor coaches.
The problem you could face with purchasing a vehicle from this company is its high price tags especially if you are going for the latest models of their products. Just like VMI, BraunAbility offers a financing option with APRs as low as 7.49%.
Revability is a VMI company that deals on high-quality wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Revability offers many options to its customers with its wide range of products that feature the most common wheelchair-accessible vehicle modifications.
From side entry to rear entry vehicles, you can basically get any vehicle of your choice including powerful ramps that can carry more than 1,000 lbs. Just like other top manufacturers, Revability’s vehicles are quite expensive but you should be able to get a financing option from any of its dealers in the country.
To find a dealer, you can log onto the website and use their dealer locator to find a dealer close to you. Make a thorough check of the vehicle, including the quality of the modifications, its build, and condition before going ahead to finalize the purchase.
Fortunately, Revability offers high-quality wheelchair-accessible vehicle options so you should expect to get the best from them.
AMS Vans is a wheelchair-accessible vehicle manufacturer with over 20 years of experience in the industry. The company focuses on the top brands like Ford, Toyota, Chrysler and Honda which are the best brands when it comes to vehicle modifications. However, it deals on some brands like Mercedes-Benz which are rarely used.
AMS Vans offers one of the most affordable handicap vehicles with prices as lower than $50,000 for the latest models of its products. To save on cost, you can purchase used handicap vehicles from the company or any of its dealers.
Just like other manufacturers, AMS Vans offers financing options with payment periods of up to 60 months. There are several restrictions on the kind of vehicle that could qualify for leasing so you should completely go through the financing terms before completing the deal.
AMS Vans also offers commercial loans and assistance to veterans who wish to use their products. You can also opt for an extended warranty on their vehicles and sell a vehicle on their website (the vehicle must be an AMS Vans product).
Harmar is not necessarily a handicap vehicle manufacturer or dealer rather it focuses on making quality wheelchair, scooter and power chair lifts. Harmar provides lift for companies that manufacture handicap vehicles, however, they still sell to individuals.
Their lifts can be used at home or on a vehicle, and is a great option to go for if you wish to save cost on vehicle modifications.
The portable lift will be more useful compared to lifts offer by other handicap vehicle manufacturers as you don’t need to attach them permanently to the vehicle before you can operate them.
Harmar has been in the mobility industry since 1998 and is presently considered as one of the largest manufacturers of lifts for people with disabilities.
Before purchasing a lift from Harmar, you can use its vehicle compatibility calculator to find out which Harmar lift could be most suitable for your vehicle.
If you wish to use a lift on your vehicle, you can apply for mobility programs that provide cash reimbursements to ease the cost of installing the lift. Brands like Acura, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Jaguar, Lexus, Toyota, Volvo, and Volkswagen are among the many car brands that offer such mobility programs.
Bruno is another mobility company that manufactures lifts for use in homes and vehicles. It is one of the market leaders and best option for individuals with disabilities who purchase lifts. The company has a global presence in more than 20 countries with a lot of customers patronizing its products.
Bruno’s products include stair lifts (for indoors and outdoors uses), vertical platform lifts (for residential and commercial uses), and scooter & powerchair lifts (for minivans/vans, pickup trucks, sedans, and SUV/crossover).
Its lifts come with a 5-year warranty and options for modifications which is just what a wheelchair user would want.
Bruno has received several awards for its high-quality products including the Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year Award. It is also affiliated with several important associations which further boost its credibility.
Unfortunately, Bruno doesn’t offer financing options on its lifts, however, its lifts are quite affordable. A 400 lb capacity indoor lift with a 5-year warranty could cost you anything between $9,000 and $10,000. The price tag includes the cost of installing of the lift in your home.
Freedom Motors USA makes use of kneelvan technology to makes it top quality handicap vehicles. The company was initially an importer of wheelchair-accessible vans but shifted its focus and began production of its own handicap vehicles. It rolled off its assembly line which consists of the first kneelvan accessible vans in 1987.
The company is considered as a high-quality manufacturer of wheelchair accessible vehicles in the USA. Although its head office is located at 740 Watkins Road in Battle Creek, Michigan, the company delivers to other states and cities in America regardless of the distance.
If you wish to customize your own vehicle instead of purchasing one, you can contact the company as it offers such services. However, the models and makes are restricted to Chrysler Pacifica, Dodge Grand Caravan, Fiat 500L, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sorento, Kia Soul, and Toyota Sienna.
If you wish to get financing to ease the purchase process, you can contact the company and get its online application for credit. If you are eligible, you can choose a loan term that suits your financial capacity, however, do not opt for long loan repayment periods as it is you can easily default in payment with such loans.
Rollx Vans considers itself as the nation’s largest direct manufacturer of wheelchair-accessible vans for personal use. Its vehicles are well modified not only to allow for easy entry but with enough storage, leg room and comfort needed by a wheelchair user.
With over 45 years of experience in the mobility industry, it tops many other manufacturers in quality, reliability, safety, and convenience.
Rollx Vans offer discounts and financing options on its minivans and full-size vans. To reduce the cost of purchase and delivery, Rollx Vans offer free home delivery and installation on every purchase.
Its financing options offer loans to eligible individuals for up to 84 months with a convenient repayment plan. Due to its financing services that reduce the overall cost of purchasing its vehicles, the company ranks as one of the best handicap vehicle manufacturers in the US.
You can also sell or trade your vehicle to them and save on taxable amounts. There are only select models and makes that are accepted with the best options being the latest models of top brands like Toyota, Chrysler, Honda, and Ford.
That wraps up this piece on handicap vehicles. You can check out the manufacturers listed above and compare their prices until you are able to get one that suits your budget and needs. Although we have listed several brands, we place VMI and BraunAbility really high due to their reliability.
Which do you think is the most reliable and cost-effective brand on our list?