Choosing a Handicap Van
Choose a model
Toyota, Volkswagen, Honda, Dodge, and Chrysler all make wheelchair accessible van chassis. Making this type of vehicle takes sophisticated engineering. Take a look at the reviews on Consumer Reports, Edmunds, or Carfax.
Try before you buy
Not sure what you'll like best? Try renting first. Your dealer will reimburse rental fees if you end up purchasing the vehicle.
Decide where to buy
Decide whether you'll buy directly from the dealer and get it converted at your local licensed adaptive equipment dealer, or buy a van from a mobility manufacturer, secondary modifier, a factory direct seller, or online. What's the difference?
Dealer direct + conversion: Not all vans chassis can be converted, or converted safely, so ask dealer before you buy your vehicle direct.
Dealer direct + "chop shop" conversion: You may save money with a fabricator, but you won't be sure that all the products work smoothly together or live up to vehicle safety standards. Not recommended.
Online: You can shop online, but before you buy, be sure to try them out: all people and wheelchairs have different needs and requirements. Also make sure you have a local service arrangement for your van.
Factory direct seller: They convert the vehicle after purchasing it, so it does not have the same testing or quality controls. Not recommended.
Feel good about your dealer
Whichever dealer you choose, be sure you feel good about your relationship. You'll need to return many times over the life of the van for preventative maintenance, repairs, and upgrades.
Make sure your dealer:
is an authorized dealer who is licensed and bonded to sell handicap vehicles,
has a used car dealer's license and/or a broker's license. The used car dealer's license is restricted and any complaints can be filed with the DMV,
has factory-trained and certified technicians,
is recommended by friends, family, online reviews, or people at the doctor's office,
has been recognized for excellence in customer service by regional institutions and has good standing with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the national Mobility Equipment Dealers Association,
has arrangement with dealerships or a clear plan for service and repair, so you're not stuck between your mobility company and the dealership when you need help.
Choosing a Wheelchair
Be sure you're properly seated
If your wheelchair doesn't fit you, you may develop back pains or sores. Dealers RESNA certified seating specialist should been trained and certified in how to properly seat a person. Ask about back height, seating angle, weight, and cushion brand.
Borrow a chair for a few days
Not sure which wheelchair is right for you? Ask for a demo wheelchair or a loaner.
Remember you'll need service and repair
Make sure your mobility center offers service by technicians who are trained and certified in the wheelchair brand you prefer. Also ask that they have parts on hand, so you don't have to wait long for repairs.
Be sure the wheelchair you choose has not been discontinued by the manufacturer. Wheelchair manufacturers include Invacare, Colours, Permobil, Pride, and others.