Great question! Besides the obvious difference between rear entry and side entry wheelchair vans, a couple of other notable distinctions set apart the two conversion styles and may have influence, one way or the other, in your final choice.
It's wise to work with a mobility consultant, easily contacted at a dealership that has wheelchair vans for sale and manufactures the conversions. They'll help you be absolutely sure the conversion style you choose will work best for your disability and lifestyle.
Choosing your entry and exit point is a critical decision that affects price, passenger space, and your maneuverability inside the cabin. We'll look first at how a rear entry conversion affects the price.
You can save money if the rear entry conversion adequately accommodates your requirements. Thanks to a less-complex manufacturing process, rear entry modification simply costs less. There's more space at the rear for installation of the lowered floor pan, so this easier modification for wheelchair vans is completed in less time than the side entry style.
And this accessibility conversion requires fewer changes to the body of the vehicle, again not only saving time and money, but allowing your vehicle to look more like an unmodified minivan (until, of course, the ramp is deployed). With that said, your personal requirements should govern your decision. It's unwise to save money at the expense of your comfort and convenience.
Especially if you have a larger-than-average power chair or mobility scooter. The rear entry modification features a wider opening, which allows for a wider, longer ramp, safer entry as you navigate the ramp, and an easier climb.
Parking is also less of a challenge, because--unlike a side entry--you won't require vehicle side clearance to extend the ramp. When you pull into a parking lot and all the handicap-designated spaces are occupied, you can use a standard, marked parking space and deploy the ramp with no problem.
Size comes into play again with standard and long-channel options for rear entry conversion. The standard rear entry handicap van transports one passenger in a wheelchair, while the long channel rear entry minivan conversion with strategically placed docking systems is capable of transporting two passengers in wheelchairs. Long channel, rear entry vans are ideal for an accessible taxi company or a non-emergency medical transport business.
With a side-entry conversion, vehicle ground clearance is three to four inches. A rear-entry modification, however, allows seven to eight inches of clearance, even better for avoiding scrapes and scratches to the undercarriage on uneven terrain, and helping preserve the clean look and integrity of the vehicle.
It's now time to compare the pros and cons of the rear entry and side entry conversion, while also applying your specific needs in the process. So, speak with a mobility consultant at a conversion company to help you decide on the perfect ride!