Wheelchair Accessible Vans

The Wheelchair Accessible Vans section spotlights wheelchair vans in the news. We’ll explain the handicap vehicle laws and regulations behind handicap parking placards, handicap parking spaces, handicap parking permits, and other topics pertaining to accessible vans and their users. Look for illumination on new wheelchair vans, used accessible vans and information about converting existing vans into handicap accessible vans.

How to Choose the Right Type of Accessible Van

How to Choose the Right Type of Accessible Van

A wheelchair-accessible van has modifications that enhance the mobility of people with disabilities. Such vehicles have general conversion steps that make them suitable for individuals in wheelchairs. However, different people have different requirements, and some are more specific than others. If you are a person who likes tailored options, then you need some criteria when choosing your next wheelchair-accessible van. Here is more insight into selecting the best accessible van that covers all your needs.

Type of Wheelchair Van

Manufacturers adjust the accessible van depending on whether the individual in a wheelchair is the passenger or the driver. If you intend to drive the wheelchair van, you should opt for one with a full floor side entry. You can easily modify a side-entry wheelchair van. It works well with parallel parking. Such a design enables you to access the driver seat quickly without needing extra help.

If you are sure about never having to drive, you can choose a rear-entry van. Rear-entry vans can only accommodate little modification. They are suitable for perpendicular parking.

Look at the Dimensions

Considering the fit of the wheelchair-accessible van is essential for providing the appropriate amount of space for any of its occupants. Keep in mind the measurement of your wheelchair when deciding on the width of the van. For instance, a wide wheelchair requires wider ramps than regular. When you pay attention to such measurements, you can avoid buying an extra-large vehicle that surpasses your budget or a narrow one that doesn’t give you enough room.

Budget

Exploring choices that are strictly within your budget is necessary for avoiding extra costs. Before making a purchase that strains your pocket, be sure to check out all the vehicles you can afford. You can request quotes from several sellers then analyze all of them. Ensure that the features are worth your money.

Which Brand Should You Choose?

There are different models of wheelchair-accessible vans in the market. Below you’ll find some high-quality options.

Dodge Grand Caravan

One of the earliest wheelchair-accessible vehicles is the Dodge Grand Caravan. It gives users more accessibility for different wheelchair positions. Also, the latest models have a power ramp system and a low-lying floor to ease entry into the van. Some Dodge Grand Conversions are the AMS Legend, AMS Edge, and AMS Edge II. Depending on the seller, prices range from $43,179 to around $55,000 for both rear-entry and side-entry models.

Chrysler Pacifica

This wheelchair-accessible van comes from one of the most trusted car manufacturers. Chrysler’s conversions use the most recent technology to offer luxury with their adequate interior space and high accessibility quality. The VMI Chrysler Pacifica provides 360 degrees of maneuverability, a stylish in-floor ramp, and interchangeable front seats. Models include the Touring Plus, Touring L, and Touring L Plus with prices starting from $50,480.

Toyota Sienna

The Toyota Sienna van is convenient for anyone who needs advanced mobility.  You can enjoy the removable seats, extra head space, and keyless remote control. If you decide to go with the Toyota Sienna, you can choose either a side-entry or rear-entry model to serve your desires. There are several conversions of Toyota Sienna wheelchair vans, including the Toyota Power In-floor, Toyota Power Foldout XT, and Toyota Rear-Entry Manual. The conversions have a price starting from $58,535.

Learn More About Wheelchair AccessibleVans

With the right wheelchair-accessible van, you can stay mobile and enjoy your wellbeing. Ensure that you test drive or practice how you can access the vehicle to determine if you are comfortable. The van you choose should have most, if not all, the features in your list. For top-notch consultation and advisory on how to choose the right type of accessible van, contact us, and we will be more than willing to assist.

Should I Get a Used or New Wheelchair Van?

Should I Get a Used or New Wheelchair Van?

Buying a wheelchair van is essential to getting around with mobility limitations. With the right van, any handicap parking area or open pavement is a place you can deploy from. For the adventurous and very busy, you may spend a great deal of time in your van traveling from mission to mission. Your van can become a home base, a road trip vessel, or your personal tour bus to enjoy the city depending on how you configure and use it.

One of the most important choices whether to by a new or used wheelchair van. This choice will guide your further selections. In fact, there are five aspects to this choice. We’ll explore the pros and cons of each one.

New Wheelchair Van

  • The latest guaranteed, warranted, off-the-line van.
  • A new van on a lot manufactured some time in the last three year

Used Wheelchair Van

  • Certified pre-owned, like-new van
  • Pre-modified wheelchair van, used with perks
  • A used van that can be modified

Brand New Van

If budget is no object, you can order the latest model of your favorite type of wheelchair van. You can order it with your favorite trim and features or pick a nice standard model and finish the modifications yourself.

A brand new wheelchair van comes with a lot of pros. The quality and performance is guaranteed, and it likely comes with a very nice warranted for the first few years. The downside is also clear. A brand new wheelchair van will be your most expensive option and has the second-most requirement for personalization to make it right for your lifestyle.

New Wheelchair Van Off the Lot

Your next option is to pick an available wheelchair van off a new vehicle lot. These new vans will have been manufactured sometime in the last 3 years, including the most common models and colors. Off-the-lot vehicles, especially from previous years, are more likely to come at a lower price and cycle through available discounts. If you have your eye on a specific model or color, look around at dealerships in your surrounding area and let them know of your interest. Dealerships eager to sell can sometimes source you what you’re looking for.

New vans off the lot are usually high-quality, guaranteed performance, and come with fair to exceptional warrantees. But they can have small defects (and discounts) due to lot events like bad weather or a year in the sun. These vans are the most likely to need modification (no special trim) but are more reasonably priced than the latest models.

Certified Preowned Wheelchair Van

If you’re buying a used wheelchair van, the best place to start is with certified pre-owned vehicles. These have been checked out by certified mechanics, often repaired and touched-up before they are sold to a new driver. Certified pre-owns tend to have lower mileage than other used vehicles and are guaranteed not to be lemons.

A certified pre-owned van will be like-new with maybe a few fades, scuffs, or missing floormats. The benefit is that the price will be significantly lower, by a few thousand at least, and the quality will be just as good. Most dealerships that sell certified pre-owned also offer good warrantees for the first few years of ownership.

Used & Pre-Modified Wheelchair Van

An interesting and affordable alternative is to buy a used wheelchair van from someone who has already modified it for their optimal use. If your driving or riding styles are similar, you could reap the benefits of a pre-modified wheelchair van. These vans tend to have more miles on them, but they can also be more comfortable, easier to use, and include personal innovations that no new van would have.

There are many used wheelchair vans on the market because needs and lifestyles change and there’s always someone looking to buy. Both the discount and the modifications can be beneficial, but it’s also a personal choice whether you’d rather a new unmodified van instead.

Used Van to Modify

The final option is a used van that might not be ideal, but can be modified. Whether you’re on a shoestring budget or can’t find the right wheelchair van, remember that you don’t have to start with the perfect design. It’s okay to think outside the box when it comes to used wheelchair vans. In fact, if you have a unique idea for your wheelchair van, it’s sometimes easier to start with a cleaner slate, like an empty cargo van with the right kind of doors. If this is your goal, you can save a bundle by broadening your used van search criteria for the best body at the lowest cost.

Learn More About a Used vs New Wheelchair Van

Should you buy a new or used wheelchair van? The answer will come down to your budget, your plans, and the vans available in your area. New and certified preowned vans come with guaranteed performance and warranties. At the same time, used wheelchair vans are easily modifiable and in a more comfortable price range. The choice is yours.

woman in a wheelchair being pushed in an airport

Tips for Airline Travel With a Wheelchair This Holiday Season

The holiday season is almost upon us – and for many, that means some holiday travel. If you or a loved one uses a wheelchair and plan on airline travel, it’s helpful to know what to expect. To make your experience easier and more enjoyable, keep these tips in mind.

Preparation and Packing Tips

Managing Luggage

While it’s important to be prepared, the least amount of luggage you’re able to travel with, the easier things will be – especially if you’re traveling independently. Suitcases with wheels can be pushed by a wheelchair user (similar to a shopping cart) or “towed” behind the chair with some sort of strap or bungee cord. A duffle bag can also be a good option when carried in the lap or secured to the front of the legs with a strap.

Pro Tip: You can bring all the medical supplies you need on your trip, which, unfortunately, can increase the amount of luggage you’ll need to bring along. If you’re forced to check a bag or bring an additional suitcase for medical supplies, be sure to let the agent know when you’re checking your bag. Some airlines will wave the bag fee!!

Come Prepared

Plan to bring a carry-on, such as a backpack, with essential items. Pack your carry-on with anything you may need for the flight, including snacks and drinks (which must be purchased in the airport, after going through security), medication, and entertainment. If you get cold easily, bringing a small blanket or wrap along can come in handy, as it can sometimes get chilly on the plane. Remember that you’ll be first to board and last to disembark, so books and phone games can help pass the time while you wait.

It’s easy to get dehydrated in flight, so be sure to hydrate in the days leading up to the trip. Also, keep in mind that using the restroom on the plane can be pretty challenging, so try to use the restroom before boarding.

mom in wheelchair and daughter with a suitcase inside van

Arrival and Boarding Tips

Arrive Early

Using a wheelchair can make your airport experience take a little longer than usual, so it’s best to plan ahead and arrive at least 1.5 to 2 hours early. This gives you time to find wheelchair accessible parking (which can be extremely limited), get through security, use the restroom, manage logistics, and arrive at your gate in time for early boarding. If you’re not familiar with the airport you’re flying out of, even more extra time is recommended.

The TSA gives some information about disability and security screening procedures here: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures 

Request an Aisle Chair if Needed

It’s pretty rare for even a small wheelchair to fit down the aisles of the airplane, so if you aren’t able to walk on to the airplane, you’ll need to request a “transport chair” or an “aisle chair.” You’ll transfer to a narrow chair and airport agents will assist you on to the plane and into your seat. One of these is stored on the plane, too, in case the restroom is needed in flight.

Be sure to ask for the aisle chair when you check-in and get your tickets. Then, ask again at the gate if the chair is ready because sometimes the request can be overlooked. If the aisle chair and agents aren’t on hand to assist when preboarding starts, you’ll have to wait until last to board, which can be awkward with a plane full of passengers.

Prepare Your Chair

When you trasnfer to the aisle chair to board the plane, your personal wheelchair will be stowed under the plane with the luggage. Don’t forget to grab your seat cushion, armrests, bags, and any fragile or removable accessories so they aren’t broken or lost on the trip. Also, consider taking a photo of your wheelchair before they take it away to use as a reference in case there is damage done during the flight.

airplane being loaded with luggage

Throughout the Trip Tips

Communicate Your Needs

Every step of the way, be prepared to be vocal about your needs and comfort level. If at any time you aren’t able to do what an agent asks, you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, just say so in a clear and respectful manner. When going through security, for example, passengers that aren’t able to walk through the metal detector will have to have a physical pat-down by a TSA agent. They should offer you a private screening as well as avoid any sensitive areas on your body during the inspection, however, if they don’t offer those things, it’s perfectly within your rights to ask.

Have Your Airline’s Disability Number On-Hand

Just in case the airline staff aren’t prepared or don’t know how to help, call up the airline. Most airlines have a number dedicated to travelers with disabilities, so having this number on hand is very useful. Often the wait times for this number are much, much less than the general phone number. Also, if you have a bad experience with your airline, be sure to reach out to them after the trip to report the incident. Some airlines will compensate travelers with points or vouchers to keep their business.

Airline travel in a wheelchair may not always be easy, but it can be done. If you are prepared and know what to expect, the experience can be far more like an adventure then a hassle! Whether you’re traveling to the next state or across an ocean, your holiday airline travel can be made much smoother by keeping these tips in mind. Don’t miss out on all the awesome things this world has in store to see and do!

view from a person's seat on an airplane of passengers and flight attendant

Renting a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle for Your Holiday

Don’t forget about accessible ground transportation when you arrive at your destination! If you’re traveling by airplane, that means you left your wheelchair accessible vehicle at home. At AMS Vans, we offer short- and long-term wheelchair accessible vehicle rentals. Plus, if you happen to be in the market for a mobility vehicle, spending some time in a specific model can help you determine if it’s a good fit!

Learn more here or call 800-775-8267 to reserve. 

road through fall leaves

Maintenance Tips to Keep Your Accessible Vehicle Cruising into Fall 

Fall has arrived and that means cooler temperatures are on the way. Due to the changing weather, it’s a good time to do some maintenance on your wheelchair accessible vehicle. Below we look at a regular maintenance schedule that will keep your wheelchair accessible vehicle running smoothly providing you with dependable, accessible transportation.

Tires close up of car tire

When it comes to safety, tires are one of the most important components of the vehicle to maintain. Motorized wheelchairs can add as much as 300 pounds (136.08 kg) of weight to your vehicle, increasing the weight on your tires causing them to wear out faster. Schedule a regular rotation schedule, for example, every time you change your oil.  Be sure to have the tire pressure and tread checked regularly and replace the tires as needed.

Battery

When seasons change, it’s a great reminder to have your vehicle’s battery checked. Make sure terminals and cables are snug and clean. If your battery has removable caps, you’ll also want to check the water level periodically, and refill with distilled water as needed.

Windshield Wipers

Whether you get rain or snow where you live, chances are, you’ll see some wet weather over the winter. That’s why it’s a good idea this time of year to check your wiper blades to make sure they’re ready when you need them. As a general rule of thumb for a vehicle that is used daily is that wipers should be changes once or twice a year. Don’t forget to check your wiper fluid, too!

Heating and Cooling

With unpredictable weather ahead, you’ll also want to check your HVAC system to make sure it’s functioning properly. It’s not only important for interior comfort and safety when you need heat, but defrosting, too.

Headlights

Days will keep getting shorter and shorter as we approach winter, so good headlights are really important. Bulbs tend to last a couple years, and when one goes out, you can be sure the other is not far behind. That’s why it’s best to replace them in pairs to avoid losing a headlight at night. Also, as a vehicle ages, headlight covers can become cloudy, which significantly reduces visibility. There are some cleaning solutions that can remove a lot of the film or you can look for some covers in better condition at a wrecking yard.

Brakes

Another component of the vehicle that needs to be maintained to keep you safe are your brakes. Be sure to have brake pads inspected and replaced as needed so you’re able to stop effectively, especially in inclement weather.

mechanice tuning brakes

Ramps & Adaptive Equipment

Just like any other part of your vehicle, the ramp mechanism, hand controls and other adaptive driving equipment needs to be maintained to get the best performance and lifespan. Be sure to perform regular inspections and cleaning of the ramp or lift, door tracks, as well as tie down tracks.

NMEDA‘s recommended schedule for an accessible vehicle maintenance service call is twice a year. During this service call, the tech inspects all the electrical components, ramp motors, kneeling mechanism and other adaptive equipment. They will also lubricate and clean all the cables, door tracks, and support wheels. .

When Getting Service, Find Someone You Trust

fall leaves with blurry vehicle in backgroundBeing treated with respect and dignity, receiving excellent service, and having all your questions addressed is important. Finding and working with the right people who will give you the time and attention you deserve is just as important as service itself. At AMS Vans, we understand the importance of good customer service and we really care.

Buying a new or used wheelchair van conversion from AMS Vans isn’t the end of a process — but rather, the beginning of a meaningful relationship. And when it comes to servicing your vehicle, we give you options to fit your lifestyle. For our local customers situated near Atlanta, Houston or Phoenix, we offer a team of experienced, certified mechanics operating in our high-tech service facilities performing every conceivable adjustment — from system repairs to installations and more.

Did you know? AMS Vans customers also have exclusive access to VMI Assurance, which includes At-Home Service™ provided by Wrench, Inc. Through this program, Wrench, Inc. mobile mechanics will provide the convenience of certified automotive technicians dispatched to the customer’s home, office or other location to complete the maintenance or repairs and get their vehicle back on the road again.