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Deciding which type of accessible vehicle to drive or use for transportation is difficult. Almost any type of vehicle can be modified to accommodate accessible transportation, but one stands out as the best wheelchair vehicle for families, businesses, or public transportation.
WHEELCHAIR MINIVANS Wheelchair minivans come out on top as the best wheelchair vehicle all around. They offer affordable pricing, lots of interior space, great gas mileage, quick access, and top safety ratings. Buyers can choose from side and rear entry wheelchair vans with a power or manual ramp for easy access in and out of the vehicle. Minivans have a low center of gravity and drive like a car making them very gas efficient and easy to drive. Some minivans such as the wheelchair vans offered by AMS Vans also negate the need for an expensive kneeling system by extending the ramp 4 inches. This saves the customer thousands of dollars versus other national brands.
FULL SIZED VANS Most full size conversion vans use a lift rather than a ramp. Lift systems are significantly more expensive than ramps in addition to the vehicle itself being more expensive than a minivan. Full size vans are built on a truck chassis making driving and maneuverability extremely challenging. Full size vans have either captain’s chair seating or bench seating that forces the buyer to choose less passenger seating or benches that a caregiver would have to crawl over to get to a passenger. Full size vans have very low gas mileage and a high center of gravity making it less stable than a minivan. Most full size vans carry the additional expense of needing the back doors widened to accommodate a lift or ramp and possibly the roof raised. Using a ramp is possible with full sized vans, however a kneeling system is required adding thousands to your accessible conversion.
SUVS SUVs are stylish, popular, and often coming standard with four wheel drive for off road driving. While this feature is nice in the occasional snow storm, the low gas mileage, expensive maintenance, higher insurance rates, and unstable high center of gravity doesn’t really make it worth the trade. Making an SUV accessible is extremely costly by adding transfer seats, kneeling systems and expensive unreliable hitch mounted lifts. While SUVs are as big or bigger than a minivan, most of the cargo space is taken up by bench seating for passengers. Once you transfer a user out of the chair and onto the seat and store the wheelchair in the relatively small space in the back for cargo, your storage space is cut in half.
CARS While cars are typically good on gas, easy to drive, and stylish, using one as accessible transportation can be difficult. Since they are so low to the ground, transferring out of the wheelchair and into the car can put not only the wheelchair user at risk, but the person assisting at risk for injury. Using a car requires the use of a foldable wheelchair, a portable wheelchair that does not necessarily offer the same customized comfort amenities as the user’s wheelchair he/she uses all the time. Once a portable wheelchair is placed in the trunk, it becomes basically useless with all the space taken up from the chair.
MOTORCYCLES Motorcycles are fun, environmentally friendly vehicles that can be customized to a wheelchair user. Wheelchair users can purchase add on packages to either drive from their chair, slide from their chair onto a common motorcycle seat that is stored inside a lift attached to the back of the bike, or ride in their chair shotgun via a side car. While an exhilarating hobby, most area climates are not conducive to year round motorcycle use since you and your chair are exposed to the elements. Motorcycle accidents are among the most horrific on the road since they are not surrounded by a metal frame, and they are less visible to other drivers. Using a motorcycle for your primary accessible transportation only allows the wheelchair user and possibly one other rider to use it at the same time so the versatility of the vehicle is rather limited.
PICK UP TRUCKS Pick up trucks have the same unstable high center of gravity and low gas mileage as SUVs. An expensive transfer chair or robotic system is required to transfer in and out of the cab of the truck. Even with the purchase of high dollar king or extended cab trucks, the wheelchair has to be transported in the bed of the truck which is exposed to the elements critically reducing the life of your chair.
Finding the best wheelchair vehicle for yourself, your family, or your business can be a daunting task, but you are on the right path towards making the right decision and enjoying the mobility freedom you deserve.