Wheelchair Vans - Opinions on Features

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Active member
Dec 12, 2006
October 2006
I did a casual search of the forums and I was unable to find a thread on wheelchair vans. I have seen some discussion of side versus rear entry and other features of the vans but nothing specific.

I would like to collect in a single thread comments and advice about:
- Features they consider essential - "I like ... because... "
- Features to avoid - "My van has ... but it makes ... difficult."
- Comparisons between types like Side/rear entry or Full/mini size.

An example opinions could be:
- "I find rear entry vans more convenient to park and exit the vehicle."

westjlittle, scroll down on this page and you'll see a list of "related forum threads"...

All of those threads have information related to your topic.
Well, David, I guess I don't understand your comment. If I asked you how to spell a word, would you hand me a dictionary and say find it?

I already said that I looked through the other threads and I didn't find specific enough advice.

As a newly diagnoised ALS patient, I would like to learn what the issues are with wheelchair vans.

What are the collective lessons learned from the members of this forum?

Finding the right van was a real challenge for us, and we actually bought one that we realized did not work, before we found the right one. We preferred mini van to full size, because of the gas issue and because they are easier to handle over all. My husband did not want rear-entry, so we got a side door, and we like that. We also like the fact that the mini vans have ramps rather than lifts. The lifts are impossible to operate if they break, but the ramps can be manually operated. Also, vans that don't have drop floors, but only have a raised roof, are impossible to see out of. Another thing we learned, was that the 10 inch drop floor was best if you have any height at all, because as the ALS progresses, it's hard to bend over to get in, so you need to make sure you have plenty of clearance. Hope you find what you are looking for!
Sounds like a good thread I'll need to know soon. We were diagnosed yesterday. I have 15 pass full size van 7' 1" height we bought for my work 6 months ago but all looking at the height of the parking decks at the clinic that are 6' 8" and I have never driven it [he didn't trust my backing] and if we need to pick up something big he would have to do it anyway I wonder if we need to trade for a different one. My work will have to be limited to what the customer can bring me [I upholster] and get one that is more wheellchair friendly that I can drive.

So the why you like It are good questions!
We like our Rollx van...they are made from Dodge minivans by a MN company. It is side entry and then a ramp folds out ( by using a remote) and then my hubby wheels in and turns into the passenger area where the seat has been removed...he has an automatic tie-down so he just drives over the clamp and it grabs his wheelchair and holds it so I dont have to tie it down manually. The floors inthese vans are lowered 10 inches so the person inthe chair can see out windshield nicely and not sitting up too high. I like all the remote opening features so he and I can do it all oursleves without an attendent.
i think they are kind of expensive but they do sell used ones there....
We never used any other vans so I dont really know to compare, but we have beenhappy with ours.

We had a big trip to Mexico with it and had a ball---worked great and can use with or without curbs, as it actually 'kneels' down if you need it to
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This doesn't seem to have a lot of response. So what are most of you using? I have seen some portable lifts that fold up to transfer to cars are they good?

Hi Georgia,

I was going to leave this thread alone because I only have such limited experience. We had a mini-van very short term(two days the motor went bad). It had side entry. This van was easy with the ramp. The negative to me was there was really not enough room for anyone else and all the stuff you might need to carry with you. We ended up with a full size, high top van with a side lift. LB loves it. Lots of room for him. Lots of room for stuff and others. The down side to me is it is sooooo big. If the only handicap parking spot you can find has a curb close by it can be difficuilt having room to get the chair off the lift with that curb in the way. Wal-mart is famous for having those curbs by their HP. Also, if you park off road you have to be careful to park where the lift hits smooth on the ground. I guess that would be the same for a side ramp also, though. I think, for me, as a caregiver and the driver, I would choose a rear entry remote ramp van. I have never had any experience with one but I sure would like to! It would be fast and you wouldn't have to park in the handicap spots. Just my thoughts.
Mornin’ folks!

Good thread topic! Here’s my $.02 worth;

I’ve owned both minivans and full size vans.

MINIVAN(’95 dodge) WITH SIDE ENTRY LIFT(vantage):
We bought this van already decked out with conversions. Lowered floor and side ramp access.
1- Ease of driving for my wife. It’s not a huge vehicle;
2- Parking was not a problem. You can use parkades and not worry about taking the roof off;
3- Fuel efficient. Pretty good mileage on a 6 cylinder engine.

1- ‘Bottoming out’ from the lowered floor was common. We would tense up when we had to go over speed bumps;
2- Smallish for a big guy. I’m 6’4” when standing, so fairly tall in my wheelchair. I would bounce my head off the roof of the van more times than I care to remember and had to duck down to enter;
3- Not much room for family AND luggage for road trips. By the time the van is loaded, you couldn’t see out the rear window.

FULL SIZE VAN(’01 GM Savana) WITH SIDE ENTRY(Bruno draw bridge style):
We bought the van first and then had it converted. The Savana had not been tested for the lowered floor so we bought a raised roof style. This saved a ton of money on the conversion. We had to get the van ready to be fitted for a ramp which required some servicing to the side doors and raised roof to accommodate the lift. The medical supply place (that we bought the ramp at) took care of all of that.
1- Tons of room! I can fit my whole family, luggage and then some and still have lots of room left over;
2- No more headaches! With the raised roof I can sit up straight and don’t bounce my head off the roof;
3- No more bottoming out. With no lowered floor, the worry of bottoming out is gone.

1- Fuel efficiency has gone down with a V-8 engine, though not as much as I thought;
2- Bigger tank means more bucks to fill. It has a 100 litre tank so it costs more for a fillup;
3- Can’t see out the windows! Without the lowered floor, I have to hunch over to see where we’re going. That’s a bit of a pain;
4- It’s a biiig drive! It’s kinda funny to watch my wife (she’s pretty tiny) drive that van, it’s like watching someone pilot the space shuttle. She’s nicknamed it “the tank”. She’s a good driver though, never had a problem. Parking is also restricted with the raised roof.

I like the side entry lifts as I like being up by my wife. Also there is the issue of storage. With side entry you have the whole back end for groceries or what have you. Although a pain for parking, we’ve adapted. If we can’t find a spot wide enough, my wife will drop me at the door (of wherever we’re going) and go and park.

I would advise to do some research. I looked into the vans first to find a quality one. Then explore the different lifts. I’ve had no problem with the Bruno setup. The Vantage I wasn’t so crazy about, but I think I bought a crappy setup.

If you buy a van already decked out, take it to a good medical supply company and have them check it over. I didn’t do that for my Dodge and I got stuck with a real lemon! (I’d still like to get my hands on the guy that sold it to me…:mad:)

Don’t forget that buying medical equipment (new) is tax deductible as a medical expense with a doctor’s note. I believe buying used is not, someone will correct me if I’m wrong. So, if you buy a van already fitted with a ramp (used) it will be cheaper than installing one in a plain van, but you can’t claim it. I guess you’ll have to decide which way to go.

I hope this helped some!

Wow, that was some good information Mike

Having said that,
what would be your ideal Van be for next time?
How tall are you in your wheelchair? And what kind of wheelchair as it?
We are currently shopping for a wheelchair and a wheelchair accessible vehicle, there are a lot of them out there. Does anybody out there have the new Dodge Sprinter Van? If so how do you like it? Michael
Hi Michael,

For me, I really like the full size van with a side entry lift. It is nice and roomy with space for the family for road trips.

My height in my chair, just guessing, would be just under 5'. I have a Jazzy 1170 which is one of the bigger chairs. I like the mid-wheel drive chairs (as opposed to the rear wheel drive) as they turn on a dime. this makes getting yourself adjusted in the van pretty simple.
also make sure your chair has tie-down brackets installed. It makes securing your chair to the tie-downs alot easier. If you don't know, the brackets are circular pieces that are bolted to the wheelchair. The tie-downs just hook into them and you're good to go! (with a seatbelt, of course!)
It's a bit off topic but...
Michael, get a wheelchair with a good recline feature. You won't regret it!

in the garage

Thanks for the input. We will look a little more closely at the full-size vans, particularly the Ford F250 with a lowered floor, it seems to be very popular. not to mention that it has a very durable powertrain. I wonder how much ground clearance and suspension travel will be lost as a result of the lowered floor? as you stated it's a problem on the minivans, but what about the full-size vans... something to check into...

we haven't decided on a wheelchair as of yet, after the insurance companies figure out who's going to pay for it, that may limit our choices. right now I am leaning towards the quantum 6000. We just want to make sure that it will grow with the diseases progression.
Whoa! That's a good chair! I've been looking at that unit as well. My guy at the medical supply place said that this was one of the best.

Maybe in a year or 3...
I'm getting an Invacare TDX 5 next week so I'll let you know how it is. AL.
Al , that sure looks like a good one .I would get it with the ventilator option , and if you're don't need to vent , you can put an ice chest there :) Michael
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