Deciding which type of accessible vehicle to drive or use for transportation is difficult. You can modify almost any type of vehicle to accommodate accessible transportation. Read more to learn the best wheelchair vehicle for families, businesses, or public transportation.
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.
Wheelchairs in Full Size 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. This forces the buyer to choose less passenger seating or benches that a caregiver would have to crawl over to get to a passenger. Also, full size vans have very low gas mileage and a high center of gravity. This makes them 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 size vans. However, this requires a kneeling system, which adds thousands to your accessible conversion.
SUVs are stylish, popular, and often coming standard with four wheel drive for off road driving. The low gas mileage, higher insurance rates, and unstable high center of gravity doesn’t make it worth the trade. Making an SUV accessible is extremely costly by adding transfer seats, kneeling systems and expensive unreliable hitch mounted lifts. SUVs are as big or bigger than a minivan. However, 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.
While cars are typically good on gas, easy to drive, and stylish, using one as accessible transportation can be difficult. Since they're low to the ground, transferring out of the wheelchair and into the car can put the wheelchair user at risk. The person assisting at risk for injury as well. 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 goes in the trunk, it's useless with all the space the chair takes up.
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. This is because you and your chair are exposed to the elements. Motorcycle accidents are among the most horrific on the road. Motorcycles are not surrounded by a metal frame, and they are less visible to other drivers. Using a motorcycle for your accessible transportation allows the wheelchair user and possibly one other rider to use it simultaneously. This makes the versatility of the vehicle rather limited.
Pick Up Trucks
Pick up trucks have the same unstable high center of gravity and low gas mileage as SUVs. To transfer in and out of the cab of the truck requires an expensive transfer chair or robotic system. Even with the purchase of high dollar king or extended cab trucks, someone has to transport the wheelchair in the bed of the truck. This exposes the wheelchair to the elements, critically reducing the chair's life. 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.