Top 3 Mistakes When Buying a Conversion Van

For over thirty years, VCI Mobility has been helping people with disabilities make the best decisions possible about wheelchair vans, full-size vans with lifts and other handicap-accessible vehicles.

Now more than ever, there are a multitude of products available from a variety of sources. Often times though, mistakes are made which result in frustration, increased costs and more time without a good mobility solution.

Mistake 1: Buying a vehicle that you intend to equip with mobility products without consulting a mobility specialist first

Wheelchair van manufacturers and manufacturers of mobility solutions design their products in ways that require or exclude certain features from the vehicle manufacturer. If you buy a vehicle that either does not have features critical for a wheelchair van conversion, or that will prevent a wheelchair conversion you will have a problem.

At best, you will have to spend additional money to add features and make it work. Adding features after the fact are always more expensive than when the vehicle is originally built. In the end, your overall cost will be significantly higher than planned.

Worse though, is when you just cannot add the necessary features in order to make the vehicle that you bought work. At that point, you then you have to try to sell the vehicle and buy another one.

Once you have purchased a vehicle, it is nearly impossible to sell or trade at the price you originally paid for it.

At VCI, our mobility consultants know which vehicles will work and which will not. In addition, our conversion manufacturers are always available to assist us when we have questions. It is fine if you want to find a vehicle on your own, just make sure that we give you the information you need to find the right one the first time.

VCI Mobility customer, Joe Driver, required an accessible minivan for his wife who had Multiple Sclerosis (MS).Her condition had advanced to the point that she really needed to have a minivan fitted with a ramp and a transfer seat so that she could enter and exit the vehicle while seated in her wheelchair. Through some research, Joe learned that wheelchair van conversions are available for the Toyota Sienna, and found a used one at a great price. The van was equipped with all wheel drive and the 3rd row power folding seat; two features that Joe really liked.

Joe brought the van to VCI Mobility a week or so later to have the van equipped for his wife. However, when the mobility consultant went to assess the viability of converting Joe’s van into a wheelchair van, he noticed the letters “AWD” on the side insignia. Unfortunately, Toyota Siennas with All Wheel Drive can NOT be converted into wheelchair minivans.

Mistake 2: Buying a wheelchair van on the Internet sight-unseen

The internet makes buying and selling just about anything easier. At VCI Mobility, we use our Web site to find customers, educate them and show them our inventory. However, when it comes to making the right choice for accessible transportation, there is no substitute for putting your eyes and hands on the EXACT wheelchair van you are going to buy.

There are many similarities among wheelchair vans from all manufacturers and wheelchair van modifiers. However, when you are accommodating disabilities and the related personal mobility equipment, very subtle or minute variances can be the difference between being comfortable or uncomfortable, or even from being able to use the wheelchair van or not.

The interior dimensions, the angle and/or steepness of the wheelchair ramp, ground clearance/exterior heights etc. all differ because of the different designs and manufacturing techniques of each manufacturer. For people with disabilities and those that transport them, these differences can render their wheelchair van unusable.

In other cases, the wheelchair van’s features may work, however

  • The quality of the conversion and fit and finish is poor
  • The seller’s service and warranty arrangements turn out to be less than desirable
  • The vehicle has problems or damage that was not represented or visible

Many individuals/companies selling over the internet want to convince you that their product is the same as what you’d get from a certified mobility dealership when it is not.

Mistake 3: Penny-wise, pound-foolish. A consumer doesn’t buy the best product(s) for their needs in an attempt to save money

Saving money is critical for our customers because of all the added expenses that living with a disability brings. Unfortunately, in some cases, when the customer just can’t afford to spend a penny more, they end up sacrificing critical features for a lower price.

Too often we see customers make trade-offs that cost them in time, energy and frustration down the road.

The trade-offs we see most often are:

  • Using manual tie downs instead of an automatic locking device
  • Buying a low-end or sub-standard conversion
  • Buying manual when power makes the most sense
  • Attempting to use a portable manual ramp in a non-lowered floor minivan
  • Using an exterior scooter lift in northern climates

In order to avoid these types of mistakes, start and finish your buying process with a VCI Mobility Consultant.

Our consultants are experienced experts in the mobility industry and will work with you to get the very best for your investment.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Comment by Arlene McCloskey on March 17, 2010 at 8:54 am

Our family will be looking into purchasing, within the next year, a full size van for our family with wheelchair lift for our daughter. We have 5 children, we would like to get a van that comfortably seats 7 and one wheelchair. Our options are probably limited. Kindly contact me with further information so we can move forward with planning. Thank you!

Comment by Arlene McCloskey on March 17, 2010 at 8:54 am


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