5 Tips for Buying a Used Wheelchair Van

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Thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to modify a vehicle with adaptive equipment. But, the cost to customize a new vehicle can range anywhere from $20,000 to $80,000. That price range makes buying a used wheelchair van an appealing option for many drivers. Whether you buy a new or used van, it pays to research your options first.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all vehicle because every disability presents itself slightly differently, every home has different design constraints, and every family has a budget. Every person’s needs are different. A certified mobility consultant or dealer can help you determine the best vehicle for you.

Buying a wheelchair accessible van is a big decision. Use the 5 tips below to guide your research. 

1. Set Your Budget 

The first step is to decide on an amount to spend on a new vehicle that you are comfortable with. Talk to your healthcare provider to see you qualify for vehicle coverage. Medicare doesn't cover wheelchair-accessible vehicles. You can choose a private provider plan that may help with transportation expenses.

Converting a van into a wheelchair-accessible vehicle can involve many alterations. It depends on the entry (side or rear) and the type of ramp or lift. The biggest modification is lowering the floor to create enough clearance for a wheelchair while someone is seated in it.

Let's look at three ways to buy:

Buy a New Van and Pay to Convert It

Adding a new accessible modification to a new vehicle is the most expensive option. You pay for a brand new vehicle and a brand new conversion. The price varies based on the type of van and the technology you install.

Buy a Used Van and Add New Modifications

Find a used minivan with low mileage or buy one from a dealer, and add accessibility features. You save money on the vehicle, but pay full-price for new accessibility modifications.

This option may work if you own an unconverted van. Consult a mobility expert to learn if modification is possible.

Buy a Pre-owned Van Equipped with Accessibility Features 

Many owners sell or trade-in adapted vehicles. Consider buying a used wheelchair van to lower the price. 

If you want a certified pre-owned wheelchair van, contact a mobility specialist.

2. Understand Wheelchair Van Basics

There are many types of wheelchair accessible vehicles available.  Minivans converted for wheelchair access offer side- or rear-entry.

Side access vans have a powered ramp that unfolds from the side door opening. It puts the wheelchair in the front passenger position or mid-cabin. A wheelchair user can also transfer to the driver’s seat.

  • A side-entry accommodates up to two wheelchair users plus passengers. Install double or single jump seats if you need more passenger seating.
  • Rear doors on a minivan have higher, wider openings than a side door. Choose a rear-entry if the wheelchair is extra wide or tall.
  • Most rear entry ramps operate by hand. An automated power ramp costs extra.
  • Some wheelchair vans have kneeling systems. A kneeling system lowers the van’s suspension to reduce the incline on a ramp or put it even with the curb.
  • Kneeling systems make it easier for wheelchair drivers to enter and exit the van. If a caregiver drives, you don’t need an expensive system.

3. Buy From an Accredited Dealer

Consult an expert before you buy any vehicle. The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) can help.

The association focuses on safe and reliable modifications in vehicles. NMEDA dealers must meet quality, safety, and compliance benchmarks on products and services. NMEDA offers certification and accreditation that ensures the dealer meets stringent guidelines.

You can find vehicles modified by companies that aren’t certified or accredited. Be wary of companies that sell online without the support of a nationwide dealer network. It’s risky to buy a vehicle online. You won’t know until after delivery if the van is right for you. Many online dealers don’t offer service or support.

If you buy online, make sure you have the right to refuse delivery. Make sure you can get a full refund if the van doesn’t meet your expectations.

4. Inspect the Van Before You Buy

Reputable dealers perform extensive inspections before selling a vehicle. If you buy from an individual, you must make sure the van is satisfactory. Remember, online ads aren’t always accurate.

You can verify certain conditions without a mechanic. Perform the following checks upon your initial examination.

  • Is the title to the vehicle clear? Is the seller also the owner?
  • Look for extensive wear and mileage. Was the van a commercial vehicle?
  • Run a vehicle history report on the vehicle number. The report can help you find major repairs and service records.
  • Examine all the tires. Unusual and excessive wear patterns can mean suspension problems.
  • Check fluid levels. Verify that the oil, power steering, and cooling system fluids are good. If levels are low, check for leaks.

If the van passes your exam, have it inspected by an independent certified mechanic. Insist on being present for the inspection. The mechanic should test the engine, braking system, suspension, mechanical and computer systems. Check for manufacturer recalls. Find out if the vehicle’s computer records show repeated problems.

Don’t forget to measure the entry openings. Make sure the driver or passenger wheelchair fits.

5. Pay Attention to Details

After you find the right vehicle, consider these final details before you buy it.

  • Find out if any warranties remain in effect for the vehicle or the assistive devices. Are lifts, ramps, remote controls, and switches eligible for a replacement if needed? Ask a mobility consultant for alternatives if you need extra coverage.
  • Ask about warranties on the base vehicle, too. New vans and new conversions sell with multi-year warranties. Used vans with new conversions may have time left on the conversion warranty.
  • Where will you go for service on your mobility equipment? A reputable dealership provides a detailed description of aftercare. Expect repair and service help nationwide, as well as a 24/7 emergency helpline.
  • Ask about delivery options. If you buy local, pick-up may be the only option. When you buy online from a nationwide dealership, choices vary. Ask about delivery options and fees.

If you haven’t researched customer testimonials, do so before you sign the contract. Review customer reviews on the dealership. Check Yelp, Angie’s List, and the Better Business Bureau for red flags.

Ready to Buy a Used Wheelchair Van?

Use these tips to find a used wheelchair van at the best price. The right van can change everything for you, your friends, relatives, and caregivers. BraunAbility has an extensive lineup of touring, limited edition and sports model vans. Plus, BraunAbility is the only mobility manufacturer with a dedicated financing service.

Contact us today to find the best wheelchair van near you.

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