Checklist for Purchasing a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

Posted On: 05/07/2019

Checklist for Purchasing a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

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.

1. Defining Your Mobility Vehicle Needs

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:

  • Will the primary driver be the caregiver or the wheelchair user?
  • How many people will routinely travel in your vehicle?
  • Do you need extra room for height, weight or a large power wheelchair?
  • Do you have a preference between a rear-entry vehicle or a side-entry vehicle?
  • Do you prefer a fold-out ramp or a slide-out ramp?

2. Research the Features That Are Most Important to You

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.

3. Select an Accredited Dealer

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.

4. Evaluate Your Budget

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. 

  • Insurance - insurance costs can be complicated to predict. Rates depend on the kind of driver you are and your individual state’s rules and requirements. The best way to eliminate the guessing game with the insurance rates is to call your current insurance company to discuss the wheelchair van you are considering.
  • Interest and Finance Charges - if you are purchasing your wheelchair van with financial help, you’ll need to factor in finance and interest charges. Fees and rates will depend on your personal credit and finance history, along with what type of financial help you take (secured loan, unsecured loan, credit line). Seek out lenders who specifically accommodate people with disabilities. They generally offer more flexible and longer-term loans than more traditional lending companies.
  • License, Registration and Taxes - License, registration and taxes are affected by the vehicle sales price, as well as state and local tax rates.
  • Maintenance and Repairs - a well maintained vehicle will decrease your chances for unexpected and costly repairs, resulting in less out-of-pocket expenses. Routine oil changes, tire rotations and proper fluid levels can help prevent emergencies and expensive repairs.
  • Fuel - a wheelchair van averages 26 mpg. Factoring in average fuel costs and forecasting your mileage will help keep your budget healthy.

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.

Author Information

Katie Cummings
Mobility Blogger

My professional background stems from non-profit marketing and fundraising for a large children’s cancer hospital. Every day I was able to make connections and relationships for kids and their families going through devastating times. From securing small donations to large corporate support, it was all about providing hope that one day doctors and researchers would find a cure. It was truly an honor to be a part of something so important.

Just this past year, I came to work alongside my family for, a website dedicated to offering the latest information and resources for people needing mobility products. This was a dream come true for me as I have always wanted to combine more time with my family while still helping others. Our family has been in the mobility industry for over 35 years with the goal of enhancing the quality of life for people with mobility issues. This is the spirit behind BLVD and what I am most excited about sharing in my blog.

I love meeting new people and have found that volunteering is the best way to learn more about others and myself. Coffee keeps me going as do walks my pup "Kirby" and most of all being with family and friends. I invite you to check out my blog to learn more about how "together we can move through life better!"

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