Shopping for your first wheelchair van can be a slightly intimidating experience – with so many options, how can you be sure you’re investing in the one that will fit your needs and keep you safe in the long-term?

We’re here to help you find the perfect van that’ll fit your needs, lifestyle and budget. Here are our top tips to keep in mind before you shop:

Know your budget before you shop
As with any major purchase, it’s important to have a solid budget established before you even start looking. Keep in mind that Medicare doesn’t cover wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

One way of getting a ballpark of what handicap vans cost is to go to our vehicle inventory and sort by price; typically they range from used vans at $18,000 to new fully loaded accessible vehicles at $75,000.

Find the right buying option
You may be able to find a brand-new van that has already been converted with the equipment you need. Depending on your specific needs, you may need additional adaptations – luckily, you have many options for buying a van that you can easily convert to fit your requirements.

If you are shopping for a van for an independent driver, you may need to leave room in your budget for a few more conversions that will make the driving experience more accessible (e.g. hand controls, seat adjustments, etc). If a caregiver or family member will be the primary driver, you probably won’t need many additional modifications.

The first (and most expensive) option is buying a brand new van and paying to convert it. A more affordable option is finding a used minivan with low mileage and new accessibility features. You may also choose to look for a pre-owned van that’s already been equipped with accessibility features.

Understand your needs
Wheelchair vans come in many different forms. One of the most distinguishing features is the placement of the entry door.

Side-entry doors can accommodate up to two wheelchair users in addition to other passengers. This will most likely be your best choice if your wheelchair is extra wide or tall.

Rear-entry ramps can also hold two passengers (depending on the size of the wheelchairs). These ramps are preferable if a caregiver will be the primary driver and if the wheelchair users will comfortably fit in the back row of the van (versus sitting in the front passenger position). Note that most rear-entry ramps are operated by hand, and you’ll need to pay extra for an automated ramp.

You’ll also need to decide whether or not you’d like a kneeling system. This will make it much easier for you to enter and exit your van.

Know which warranty option works for you
Many companies that sell new accessible vehicles will match the original warranty given on the vehicle. If you decide on a pre-owned vehicle, some warranties may still be in effect.

The most important thing to do when shopping for your first wheelchair van is take your time. You may need to try out a lot of models and ask a lot of questions before you find the right fit; ask about our Try Before You Buy program.

When you shop at Ability Center, you’ll find the answers and guidance you need every step of the way.

Buying a wheelchair van for the first time? We’re here to walk you through the process. Visit Ability Center locations or call 866-405-6806 to learn more about your financing options and start the search for the equipment or van you need.