Converting a new van or mini-van to a mobility vehicle capable of accommodating and loading wheelchairs is an expensive undertaking. On average, conversion of a full size van is estimated at $16,000 with conversion of a mini-van being slightly less costly at approximately $15,000. This is of course in addition to the purchase cost of the vehicle itself. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, puts the cost of purchasing a new adapted vehicle at between $20,000 and $80,000.
Consequently, the market for used mobility vehicles is gaining strength, which in turn, provides consumers with more choices and opportunities. Used mini-vans adapted for wheelchair use that are three-years old and newer currently offer pricing in the $25,000 to $40,000 range.
Many dealers of wheelchair accessible vans have both their new and used inventory posted on their company website. This is helpful as it gives consumers an idea of what is available and what to expect to pay. Whether using the internet to purchase a vehicle or visiting a dealership, ask for a detailed listing of the adaptive equipment currently in the vehicle. Any warranties or certifications for the vehicle and the equipment should also be provided along with information regarding where repairs can be made. If possible, choose a certified vehicle, which are covered under an extended warranty after undergoing a rigorous inspection.
Whether purchasing over the internet or in person, it is important that the dealership you buy from is a member of the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) and its Quality Assurance Program. Locations and contact information for NMEDA dealerships throughout the U.S. and Canada are listed on the association’s website. These dealers typically offer both new and used mobility vans and will usually take trade-ins. Several dealerships will deliver the vehicle, new or used, nationwide.
Experts estimate that a mobility van (full-size or mini) will last about 10 years. The adaptive equipment, however, may not last that long. When choosing a used wheelchair van, look for a low-mileage vehicle that is three-years old or newer. Mini-vans are converted more often than full-sized vans and there are more choices of adaptive equipment available for installation in mini-vans.
Typical equipment and adaptations available in used mini-vans include lowered floors, power ramps, lifts, removable passenger seats, and wheelchair tie-downs. Remote start and remote control ramp activation are accessories that are becoming more popular.
Mobility adaptations are reliant upon the needs of the individual driver. Options such as hand controls for brakes and gas, left foot accelerators, right-hand turn signal levers, steering modifications, and other specialized devices are also available for installation.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends consulting a driver rehabilitation specialist before purchasing a modified vehicle. These specialists are trained to evaluate individual disabled drivers, determine what adaptive equipment is needed, and train the drivers on how to use and maintain the equipment. They are also a resource for learning about possible funding opportunities to help with the cost of the mobility equipment. The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) has a list of evaluators on its website.