Buy or Modify? Wheelchair Minvan Conversions

There are many decisions to be made when determining accessible transportation.  We’ve discussed side entry vs. rear entry as well as adaptive seating.

Van conversions, as the name implies, means taking a van like you’d find in a car dealer’s showroom and either modifying the vehicle with add-on equipment or re-manufacturing it all together. BraunAbility has put together a great video on how a minivan is converted for wheelchair accessibility.

An important question, therefore, becomes:

Should I buy a vehicle that is factory converted or can I modify my existing vehicle?

Your unique needs (short-term and long-term), budget, and the make, model and year of your present vehicle are all factors which influence this decision.

Can I modify my minivan?

The manufacturer, year, model, trim package, and VIN number of your minivan dictate whether your vehicle can be sent to the factory and converted into a fully automatic wheelchair accessible van. Most 2015 minivans with under 50,000 miles can be converted, with the exceptions of KIA and Nissan vans. But this is on a case-by-case basis and must be confirmed by a qualified mobility equipment dealer. Second, a minivan older than 2015, can often be up fitted with a power wheelchair lift, adaptive seat, and hand controls. However, this, too, needs confirmation.

Kansas Truck Mobility has both the knowledge and the access to multiple manufacturers to recommend what equipment is compatible with your minivan. Before you purchase a minivan for conversion or up fitting, check with a reputable mobility equipment dealer.

How do conversions affect the warranty of an existing vehicle?

The chassis manufacturer’s warranty will remain in tack, and the conversion manufacturer will also provide a warranty on the conversion. Generally, the conversion warranty covers three years/36,000 miles.

What funding options are available?

Most chassis manufacturers offer a $1000 mobility rebate toward adaptive equipment with the purchase of a new vehicle. So, for example, if you purchased a new minivan and had Kansas Truck Mobility install hand controls, you could apply for a $1000 rebate toward the cost of the hand controls. There are some grants available, generally awarded on a financial needs basis, which Kansas Truck Mobility can direct you to, or you can research on the internet.

What is my reassurance that the modifications are done properly?

A QAP-certified dealer recognized by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), such as Kansas Truck Mobility, is one way to distinguish a reputable mobility equipment dealer. This means that they have been reviewed by a third-party team of experts who has examined their installation procedures, technician training, record-keeping, and product quality, and the high standards for membership in NMEDA have been met.