Purchasing a wheelchair accessible van is a long-term decision, so it is essential to consider the future as you determine your decision. Advanced planning and assessing the buying process one step at a time is beneficial, so we have put together our list of the top 4 things to consider when getting started.
Functionality is a good starting point as you begin your research process. You will want to make a few key choices to help narrow down options. It is important to not only think about your current needs, but also consider any possible needs in the future. Ask yourself the following questions:
Once you have established your list of needs, you can get started on building a list of wheelchair accessible vehicles that fit your standards. The best way to approach that is by exploring the vehicles that have each of the features you need. Researching the different conversion type options and lift options are where you will want to start. When comparing your options, thoroughly examine each key feature and prioritize them. This can help you narrow down your options early on. For example, when exploring the different wheelchair conversion types, there are wheelchair lifts and fold-out ramps available. Based on whether the primary driver will be the person with disabilities, or that person’s caregiver, an in-floor ramp might be the highest priority. This will enable you to limit your choices of vehicles.
To ensure that your wheelchair van will be a valued and indispensable asset that will get you down the road for years to come, it is essential to find a dealer that can is known for providing expertise in the mobility industry, safety and reliability. The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), is a national organization that is dedicated to advocating for reliable and safe modifications in the accessible vehicle industry. Dealers who belong to NMEDA are committed to the quality and safety of their products and services.
An additional certification program that is offered by NMEDA is the Quality Assurance Program (QAP). This is the only nationally recognized accreditation program for the adaptive mobility industry when it comes to service and installation of mobility products. Prior to getting your wheelchair van, lift or driving aid installed or serviced, be sure to choose a dealer that is part of this program. Accredited QAP dealers have met the strict qualities and standards of the organization and also provide the benefits associated with QAP, which include 24/7 emergency service and service by QAP trained technicians.
Before you ever visit a dealership, there is one last step to take - assess price ranges of the vehicle options you plan to look at. It is a good idea to explore nearby dealerships and check out their vehicle inventory before making the trip. Looking at available inventory will help you decide between manufacturing years, even if you have decided on the make and model of the vehicle. You may decide to opt for a pre-owned van. Many trusted authorized dealers offer gently used wheelchair-accessible minivans or SUVs. Just like any other vehicle, the cost of a wheelchair van doesn’t end with the sticker price at the dealership. The Kelley Blue Book Calculator offers a great tool for giving you a good idea on the cost of ownership over a 5 year period. You will also want to figure the items below in your overall budget of your handicap vehicle.
If you are not thrilled with the idea of taking out a loan, then consider some additional disability-friendly finance options in the form of grants, rebates or funding.
If you’re a Veteran, the Federal and State Government are your ideal starting places. That said, a lot of mobility dealerships offer expertise in this area, so inquiring about their relationships with your local VA should be an important factor. Depending on your VA Disability Rating, you may be eligible to have a significant portion of your wheelchair van paid for.
Non-veterans should consider applying for Federal and State Disability Programs. Often times, one or the other can offer assistance.
Veterans and non-veterans can both be eligible for a rebate from manufacturers, depending on the make of the wheelchair van purchased. Several manufacturers offer mobility rebate programs that offer as much as $1,000 back when you buy a conversion van or modify one of their vehicles for mobility purposes.
There are non-profit organizations out there that support people with disabilities. Sometimes they offer financial assistance to people who have specific ailment or condition. Some individuals have found success in fundraising in their local area, or through online channels like GoFundMe.
Purchasing a wheelchair accessible van can be an exciting journey that opens up a whole new world of independence and mobility. Utilize these tips to make the product as efficient and enjoyable as possible.