Tag Archives: in-floor ramp

Accessible Vehicles And Adaptive Mobility Equipment Q&A

Rear entry vs. side entry. Buying online. Buying used. What do you need to know to get maximum benefit for minimum expense?

Good information is the key to saving money and getting the most value for the dollar when making a big-ticket purchase like a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.

With that in mind, Seek out and find experts who truly care for answers to some common questions about adaptive mobility equipment.

Q: Can I just go to a car dealer down the street or do I need a certified mobility dealer?

A: Certified mobility dealers help consumers buy the right vehicle and adaptive mobility equipment to meet their mobility needs now and in the future. Future planning is especially important for people with muscle diseases that get progressively worse over time.

“There are so many different products out there, and technology has improved so much. We just want to help people make the right decision,” says Jim Sanders, president of Automotive Innovations based in Bridgewater, MA for over 25 years.

“Many times, consumers will go to a car dealer and buy [a vehicle] that can’t be modified or one that doesn’t fit their needs. And once you buy a vehicle, normally it’s very difficult to return it.”

The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), a nonprofit organization that provides consumer guidance and ensures quality and professionalism in the manufacturing and installation of mobility equipment. Members include mobility equipment dealers, manufacturers, driver rehabilitation specialists and other professionals.

NMEDA member-dealers must follow the safety standards established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in addition to NMEDA’s own stringent guidelines.

Some dealers choose to enroll in NMEDA’s Quality Assurance Program (QAP), which requires them to adhere to national motor vehicle safety standards, and use proven quality control practices to yield the highest level of performance and safety. Automotive Innovations was the First Mobility Dealer in Massachusetts to enroll and exceed the safety standards.

“The QAP dealer is audited by an outside engineering firm to verify that technicians have been trained, make sure the dealer has insurance and make sure the facility is ADA-compliant,”

So it means the QAP dealer is going above and beyond.”

Other reasons to seek out a certified mobility equipment dealer include:

They provide a link to qualified service and repair, that it’s crucial to have done on a adapted vehicle serviced.

Some manufacturers of adapted vehicles sell directly to consumers, cutting costs by cutting out the middle man, says Jim Sanders, of VMi New England, based in Bridgewater, MA.

But expert assessment and “try before you buy” remain essentials for prospective buyers, with or without a dealer in the middle.

For example, We, a NMEDA QAP-certified member, send representatives to customers’ homes for assessment and test drives before they buy, and also offer unmatched service/maintenance to just about any modified vehicle including Rollx vans.

Q: Can I get a better price if I buy online rather than from a dealer?

A: As with any online shopping, the warning “buyer beware” rings true. Buying online without trying out different vehicles with different conversions can be a costly mistake. Furthermore there are many grey market converted vans being offered as quality conversions.

Online, clients are mostly shopping blind. Typically they have no idea how the vehicle they need will even work fro them, even if they have specific recommendations from a driver evaluator or occupational therapist.

“You definitely shouldn’t buy it online,” “There not trying to assess your needs by e-mail or over the phone. There just trying to sell you something.

Some online dealers even have a questionnaire on its Web site to try and give you the idea your getting what you need. But, it will never replace being able to go to a local mobility dealership and try the vans out first hand.

A mobility vehicle is probably the second-largest purchase after a house. You should see it, try it out, and make sure it’s something that will work for you. It’s horrible when people get something that they’re disappointed in.

Every vehicle is a little bit different — such as in the dimensions, electrical and fuel systems, or suspension modifications. “If you go online and buy [based] on price, you’re not really looking at the total package.”

While buying online maybe able to save money up front, it wont over the long term.

In addition to consumers missing out on the important local service contact that a mobility equipment dealer provides, these online deals or grey market vans are worth much less when it comes time to trade it in.

Where do you want to sit? If you plan to drive from your wheelchair, then a side-entry conversion is what you’ll need, unless you can transfer to the driver’s seat (rear entry). With a rear-entry conversion, the wheelchair user typically is positioned in the back or between two mid-row captain’s seats, while a side entry offers a wheelchair user multiple seating options in the driver, front passenger and middle sections.

Q: What are some common mistakes people make when buying a modified vehicle?

A: Manufacturers and mobility dealers agree that one of the most common — and costly — mistakes is buying the vehicle first and then shopping for the conversion or adaptive mobility equipment. Not all vehicles can be converted.

For example, If you purchase a minivan from a traditional car dealership you can hit a roadblock if it doesn’t meet specific requirements to have the floor lowered for a rear- or side-entry conversion.

Q: What are some good questions to ask a dealer or manufacturer?

A: Although buying a modified vehicle can be “a daunting experience,” says VMI’s Monique McGivney, it also can be “exciting and fun when you walk in armed with good questions and information.”

Prior to getting an assessment from a mobility dealer, evaluate your needs and try answering the following questions:

  • What vehicle will fit in my garage?
  • What kind of parking issues will I encounter where I live?
  • What is the size and weight of my wheelchair?
  • What is my seated height in the wheelchair?
  • How many people will ride in the vehicle?
  • In what part of the vehicle do I want to sit?
  • Will I be able to drive with hand controls?
  • Do I want a full-size van, minivan or alternative vehicle?
  • Do I want manual or power equipment?
  • Will an in-floor ramp or fold-out ramp meet my needs?
  • What is my budget, and do I have access to supplemental funding?

The first question mobility dealers usually ask a client is: “What is your seated height in the wheelchair?” From there, the dealer can advise whether a full-size or minivan is appropriate, and what kind of conversion is needed.

Be sure to ask the dealer about the warranty and how the vehicle can be serviced.

Q: Which is better: rear entry or side entry?

A: The most important difference between a rear- and side-entry conversion is that with a rear entry, wheelchair users can’t drive from their wheelchairs nor can they ride in the front passenger seat. From there, the choice comes down to personal preference and budget.

In recent years, because of quality, convenience and cost, there’s been a shift toward side entry vehicles. Rear entry is more of a frugal modification, involves a less of conversion process and is typically a little less expensive than a side-entry conversion.

Many people prefer side entry with a in-floor conversion for many safety reasons additionally because they can park almost anywhere and not worry deploying the ramp out into traffic. Also, side entry allows the consumer to ride in the passengers front position along with maintain the rear seats in a minivan because the conversion doesn’t affect that area.

Rear entry is harder to get out of compared to a side-entry.

Anyway you look at it side-entry vehicles are more versatile. For example, side entry allows someone with a progressively worsening condition to use the vehicle for a longer period of time. A wheelchair user can start out driving from his or her chair, and then move to several other positions in the vehicle when no longer able to drive.

Side-entry conversions typically are a little more expensive than rear-entry because they’re more intrusive and labor intensive. For example, with a minivan, the entire floor and frame must be removed and replaced with a lowered floor and new frame.

Q: What’s the difference between a fold-out ramp and in-floor ramp?

A: This decision comes down to safety, aesthetics, convenience and cost.

A fold-out ramp folds up into the vehicle, takes up valuable space in the passengers front area and must be deployed whenever the door is opened.

The in-floor ramp slides under the floor, so it safer for anyone seated in the passengers front position, mid-ship position, there’s no obstruction to the door, and other passengers can enter and exit without deploying the ramp. In-floor ramps only are currently only available for side-entry minivan conversions, and there is even a manual (unpowered) option.

In-floor ramps in addition to being safer will generally provide more room in the vehicle because there’s nothing blocking the doorway. The ramp is “out of sight, out of mind and may last longer because it doesn’t have to be deployed each time the side passenger door opens.

Fold-out ramps generally cost a little less than in-floor, and consumers can select from manual and power versions; a power fold-out ramp still costs less than an in-floor ramp.

If an in-floor ramp system breaks down or the vehicle loses power, VMI’s in-floor ramp systems have a backup system (sure-deploy) that bypasses the vehicle’s battery.

A lot of people just feel more secure knowing there isn’t a fold-out ramp next to them in the event of a accident.

Q: I use a wheelchair, but a van or minivan just isn’t “me.” Are they my only options?

A: You have some choices.

Lowered-floor conversions with fold-out ramps can be done on the Honda Element, Chrysler PT Cruiser and Toyota Scion. The conversions are small and don’t fit as many people.

Due to them being built on a much smaller scale, the ones we have seen have not been built with the same level of quality of mini van conversion. Parts availability and repairs have been a problem, some of the companies that converted them are out of business and or have no support for “something they used to build”

For those who prefer to keep their standard car rather than purchasing a modified vehicle — and who can make the transfer from a wheelchair to a car seat — the answer may be as simple as a set of hand controls or a left foot gas pedal

Turning seats can be used in a wide range of vehicles, from sedans to SUVs and pickup trucks. A way to transport the wheelchair (like a rear lift) also is needed.

The rate at which your disease symptoms are worsening is one thing to consider when looking at turning seats — is it likely you’ll be able to transfer and ride in a car seat for many more years? Also, be sure to check with a mobility dealer to determine if your vehicle can accommodate a turning seat and a wheelchair lift.

Q: Why are modified vehicles so darned expensive?

A: A vehicle conversion can cost consumers upwards of $27,000 — and that’s just the cost for the conversion, not the vehicle. The total package can run between $45,000 and $80,000 — or more.

Besides the cost of the components, the reason it’s so pricey is that basically there is a lot of work involved to build a quality vehicle.

Modified vehicles from certified manufacturers and dealers must meet NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). That means all modified vehicles must be properly crash tested. (To learn more, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.)

It’s quite a labor-intensive process because of the customization. When you make structural modifications to a vehicle, you have to go through all of the crash testing, and you have to show that the vehicle is compliant again, and those tests are very expensive.

Most of the time lowering the floor in a minivan requires replacing or moving the fuel tank. Once the conversion is finished, the vehicle still has to meet the original requirements for evaporative emissions, in addition to NHTSA requirements.

Q: How can I pay less?

A: Consumers have some options.

Many consumers cut costs by purchasing pre-owned vehicles with new conversions, typically saving around $10,000 to $12,000.

The previous van owner already has absorbed the depreciation hit on a new van, which essentially occurs right after you’ve driven off the dealer’s lot.

Buying used can be beneficial for first-time buyers who want to try out a vehicle for a few years before buying new.

But if you plan to buy used, do some research and make sure the vehicle is structurally sound including the conversion. Ask for a vehicle history (CARFAX) report, and get the vehicle inspected by a mobility dealer to ensure it’s in good shape and was well taken care of.

Q: How do people manage to pay for it?

A: Many consumers used home equity loans to purchase a vehicle and adaptive equipment. But with home values decreasing.

Many dealers and manufacturers work with lending institutions that offer extended-term financing, including 10-year loans, allowing consumers to make lower, more affordable monthly payments. The downside is that consumers are locked into the vehicle for 10 years, and end up paying more in interest.

If you finance for 10 years, and you’re not going to keep the vehicle for that amount of time, you’re going to lose money when you try to sell or trade it because you haven’t paid off much of the balance.

When you buy a new vehicle, many car manufacturers offer mobility reimbursement programs (up to $1,000) to help offset the cost for the purchase and installation of adaptive equipment.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles: Q&A

Wheelchair
Accessible Vans

Rear entry Vs. Side entry
Buying New Vs. Buying Used
Manual Ramp Vs. Powered Ramp
Honda Vs. Dodge/Chrysler Vs. Toyota Vs. Ford
Certified Mobility Dealer Vs. Car Dealer Vs. Buying online
What do you need to know to get maximum benefit for minimum expense?

Good information is the key to saving money and getting the most value for the dollar when making a big-ticket purchase like a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.

With that in mind, Seek out and find experts who truly care. Here are some answers to common questions about adaptive mobility equipment.

Can I just go to a car dealer down the street or do I need a certified mobility dealer?

Certified mobility dealers will help you buy the right vehicle and adaptive mobility equipment to meet your needs now and in the future. Future planning is especially important for people with muscle diseases that get progressively worse over time.

“Technology has improved tremendously over the years so there are numerous products available. Our goal is to help people find the right equipment that best fits their needs,” says Jim Sanders, president of Automotive Innovations based in Bridgewater, MA for over 25 years.

“Many times, consumers will go to a car dealer and buy a vehicle that can’t be modified or one that doesn’t fit their needs. And once you buy a vehicle, normally it’s very difficult to return.”

The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), a nonprofit organization that provides consumer guidance and ensures quality and professionalism in the manufacturing and installation of mobility equipment. Members include mobility equipment dealers, manufacturers, driver rehabilitation specialists and other professionals.

NMEDA member-dealers must follow the safety standards established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in addition to NMEDA’s own stringent guidelines.

Some dealers choose to enroll in NMEDA’s Quality Assurance Program (QAP), which requires them to adhere to national motor vehicle safety standards, and use proven quality control practices to yield the highest level of performance and safety. Automotive Innovations was the First Mobility Dealer in Massachusetts to enroll and exceed the safety standards.

“The QAP dealer is audited by an outside engineering firm to verify that technicians have been trained and that the dealer has insurance and make sure the facility is ADA-compliant,” which means the QAP dealer is going above and beyond.

 

Can I get a better price if I buy online rather than from a dealer?

As with any online shopping, the warning “buyer beware” rings true. Buying online without trying out different vehicles with different conversions can be a costly mistake. Furthermore there are many grey market converted vans being offered as quality conversions.

Online, you are mostly shopping blind. Typically you will have no idea how the vehicle you need will work for you, even with specific recommendations from a driver evaluator or occupational therapist.

“You definitely shouldn’t buy a wheelchair accessible vehicle online, most online sellers are not qualified Mobility Dealers attempting to assess your needs, they’re just car dealers trying to sell you something.”

Some online dealers even have questionnaires on their websites to try and give you the idea your getting what you need. But, it will never replace being able to go to a local mobility dealership and try the vans out first hand.

A mobility vehicle is probably the second-largest purchase after a house. You should see it, try it out, and make sure it’s something that will work for you and your family. It’s horrible when people spend so much an a vehicle that will never work for them.

Every vehicle is a little bit different — such as in the dimensions, electrical and fuel systems, or suspension modifications. “If you go online and buy a wheelchair accessible vehicle based on the price, you’re not really looking at the total package.”

While buying online may be able to save you some money up front, it won’t over the long term.

In addition to you missing out on the important local service contact that a mobility equipment dealer provides, these online deals or grey market vans are worth much less when it comes time to trade it in.

 

What are some common mistakes people make when buying a modified vehicle?

Manufacturers and mobility dealers agree that one of the most common — and costly — mistakes is buying the vehicle first and then shopping for the conversion or adaptive mobility equipment. Not all vehicles can be converted.

For example, If you purchase a minivan from a traditional car dealership you can hit a roadblock if it doesn’t meet specific requirements to have the floor lowered for a rear- or side-entry conversion.

 

What are some good questions to ask a dealer or manufacturer?

Although buying a modified vehicle can be “a daunting experience,” says VMI’s Monique McGivney, it also can be “exciting and fun when you walk in armed with good questions and information.”

Prior to getting an assessment from a mobility dealer, evaluate your needs and try answering the following questions:

  • What vehicle will fit in my garage?
  • What kind of parking issues will I encounter where I live?
  • What is the size and weight of my wheelchair?
  • What is my seated height in the wheelchair?
  • How many people will ride in the vehicle?
  • In what part of the vehicle do I want to sit?
  • Will I be able to drive with hand controls?
  • Do I want a full-size van, minivan or alternative vehicle?
  • Do I want manual or power equipment?
  • Will an in-floor ramp or fold-out ramp meet my needs?
  • What is my budget, and do I have access to supplemental funding?

The first question most mobility dealers will ask you is: “What is your seated height in the wheelchair?” From there, the dealer can advise whether a full-size or minivan is appropriate, and what kind of conversion is needed.

Be sure to ask the dealer about the warranty and how the vehicle can be serviced.

Which Make and Model is the best for a handicapped accessible vehicle?

It honestly depends on what you fit into best and what options you prefer.

No two wheelchair accessible vehicles are the same. They vary in size, shape, color, features and design depending on the vehicle’s make and model. The only way to guarantee which is the best vehicle for you is if you come in and try them all out.

For example: The Honda has a little bit more room inside to maneuver a wheelchair than a Dodge, just as a Toyota has a bit more space than a Honda. A Ford offers more headroom than all of the above. But that all depends on the conversion and manufacturer.

Although color and features matter least to us, some find them just as important as fitting into the vehicle. Each Manufacturer offers their own color schemes, which you can look up on their websites. You can also search for what features you would prefer to have.

When you come into our Mobility Center we will help you find the vehicle that best fits you and your family’s needs. If you love the vehicle but not the color or features we can custom order a vehicle for you. That way we know you are buying a vehicle that best fits you and one that you are 100% happy with.

Which is better: rear entry or side entry?

The most important difference between a rear entry and side-entry conversion is that with a rear entry, wheelchair users can’t drive from their wheelchairs nor can they ride in the front passenger seat. From there, the choice comes down to personal preference and budget.

In recent years, because of quality, convenience and cost, there’s been a shift toward side entry vehicles. Rear entry is more of a frugal modification, involves a less of conversion process and is typically a little less expensive than a side-entry conversion.

Many people prefer side entry with an in-floor conversion for many safety reasons additionally  because they can park almost anywhere and not worry deploying the ramp out into traffic. Also, side entry allows the consumer to ride in the passengers front position along with maintain the rear seats in a minivan because the conversion doesn’t affect that area.

Rear entry is harder to get out of compared to a side-entry.

Anyway you look at it side-entry vehicles are more versatile. For example, side entry allows someone with a progressively worsening condition to use the vehicle for a longer period of time. A wheelchair user can start out driving from his or her chair, and then move to several other positions in the vehicle when no longer able to drive.

Side-entry conversions typically are a little more expensive than rear-entry because they’re more intrusive and labor intensive. For example, with a minivan, the entire floor and frame must be removed and replaced with a lowered floor and new frame.


What’s the difference between a fold-out ramp and in-floor ramp?

This decision comes down to safety, aesthetics, convenience and cost.

A fold-out ramp folds up into the vehicle, takes up valuable space in the passengers front area and must be deployed whenever the door is opened.

The in-floor ramp slides under the floor which makes riding in the vehicle safer for anyone seated in the passengers front position or the mid-ship position. There is no obstruction to the doorway so other passengers can enter and exit without deploying the ramp. In-floor ramps are currently only available as a side-entry minivan conversion, but they offer a manual (un-powered) option as well.

In-floor ramps in addition to being safer will generally provide more room in the vehicle because there’s nothing blocking the doorway. The ramp is “out of sight, out of mind” and may last longer because it doesn’t have to be deployed each time the side passenger door opens.

Fold-out ramps generally cost a little less than an in-floor ramp and consumers can select from manual and power versions; a power fold-out ramp still costs less than an in-floor ramp.

If an in-floor ramp system breaks down or the vehicle loses power, VMI’s in-floor ramp systems have a backup system (sure-deploy) that bypasses the vehicle’s battery.

A lot of people just feel more secure knowing there isn’t a fold-out ramp next to them in the event of a accident.

I use a wheelchair, but a van or minivan just isn’t “me.” Are they my only options?

You have other choices.

Lowered-floor conversions with fold-out ramps can be done on the Honda Element, Chrysler PT Cruiser and Toyota Scion. The conversions are small and don’t fit as many people.

Due to them being built on a much smaller scale, the ones we have seen have not been built with the same level of quality as the minivan conversion. Parts availability and repairs have been a problem, some of the companies that converted them are out of business and or have no support for “something they used to build”

If you prefer to keep your standard car rather than purchasing a modified vehicle — and can make the transfer from a wheelchair to a car seat — the answer may be as simple as a set of hand controls or a left foot gas pedal

Turning seats can be used in a wide range of vehicles, from sedans to SUVs and pickup trucks. A way to transport the wheelchair (like a rear lift) also is needed.

The rate at which your symptoms worsen is one thing to consider when looking at turning seats — is it likely you’ll be able to transfer and ride in a car seat for many more years? Also, be sure to check with a mobility dealer to determine if your vehicle can accommodate a turning seat and a wheelchair lift.

Why are modified vehicles so  expensive?

A vehicle conversion can cost consumers upwards of $27,000 —  and that’s just the cost for the conversion, not the vehicle. The total package can run between $45,000 and $80,000 — or more.

Besides the cost of the components, the reason it’s so pricey is that basically there is a lot of work involved to build a quality vehicle.

Modified vehicles from certified manufacturers and dealers must meet NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). That means all modified vehicles must be properly crash tested. (To learn more, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.)

It’s quite a labor-intensive process because of the customization. When you make structural modifications to a vehicle, you have to go through all of the crash testing, and you have to show that the vehicle is compliant again, and those tests are very expensive.

Most of the time lowering the floor in a minivan requires replacing or moving the fuel tank. Once the conversion is finished, the vehicle still has to meet the original requirements for evaporative emissions, in addition to NHTSA requirements.

How can I pay less?

You have  a few options.

You could cut costs by purchasing a pre-owned vehicle with a new conversion, typically saving you around $10,000 to $12,000.

The previous van owner already has absorbed the depreciation hit on a new van, which essentially occurs right after they’ve driven off the dealer’s lot.

Buying used can be beneficial for first-time buyers who want to try out a vehicle for a few years before buying new.

But if you plan to buy used, do some research and make sure the vehicle is structurally sound including the conversion. Ask for a vehicle history (CARFAX) report, and get the vehicle inspected by a mobility dealer to ensure it’s in good shape and was well taken care of.

Another tactic to help save you money is to ask your Certified Mobility Dealer about any rebates or financial aid options that could benefit you.

How do people manage to pay for it?

Many consumers used home equity loans to purchase a vehicle and adaptive equipment.

Many dealers and manufacturers work with lending institutions that offer extended-term financing, including 10-year loans, allowing consumers to make lower, more affordable monthly payments. The downside is that consumers are locked into the vehicle for 10 years, and end up paying more in interest.

If you finance for 10 years, and you’re not going to keep the vehicle for that amount of time, you’re going to lose money when you try to sell or trade it because you haven’t paid off much of the balance.

When you buy a new vehicle, many car manufacturers offer mobility reimbursement programs (up to $1,000) to help offset the cost for the purchase and installation of adaptive equipment.

Wheelchair Van Conversion Styles: In-Floor Ramp Vs. Fold-out Ramp

There are several wheelchair accessible van conversion styles you’ll want to consider when choosing the right mobility solution for you. One decision you’ll have to make is to choose between an In-Floor wheelchair van ramp and a Fold-Out wheelchair accessible ramp.

In-Floor Vs. Fold-Up Wheelchair Ramps
Another important consideration to make is whether you’d prefer a fold-up or an in-floor wheelchair ramp in your handicap van. As their name implies, fold-up ramps fold in half and stow upright, next to the side passenger door. On the other hand, in-floor ramps slide into a pocket underneath the vehicle’s floor. People who opt for in-floor ramps prefer the ramp out of the way of the passenger entrance. Typically, fold-up ramps tend to be less expensive and easier to maintain, and they present a lower ramp angle. In-floor and fold-up wheelchair ramps are available in a wide range of handicap minivan conversions.

Ramp Styles For Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles

Perhaps the most important part of choosing a new or used wheelchair accessible vehicle is determining how you, or your passengers with disAbilities, will enter and exit the vehicle. Wheelchair ramps are great, affordable and flexible options for those interested in handicap accessible vehicles, as they provide an easy to use loading and unloading solution that are as safe and secure as they are convenient.

If you believe wheelchair ramps are the right option for your transportation needs, the following will shed some light on the types of ramps available for conversions and the unique benefits they each provide.

In-Floor Ramps
As their name suggests, in-floor ramps are stowed under the floor of wheelchair accessible minivans, creating additional interior room for improved maneuverability. These ramps allow for an obstruction-free doorway and clean, uncluttered interior. In-floor models also provide added safety, as there are no components on the floor of the van that one might struggle with.

Fold-Out Ramps
For strength and durability, fold-out ramps are great options for passengers in wheelchairs. When not in use, these ramps sit on the floor of wheelchair accessible vans and extend outward in a folding motion when deployed. Many models offer side rails for easy navigation and perforations of the ramp floors to allow for easy cleaning and debris removal. In addition, fold-out ramps are more budget-conscious than in-floor options.

Each of these options offers unique perks and both are fantastic options for anyone looking to increase their mobility and independence through the use of a handicap accessible van. If you need assistance deciding which of these models is right for you, don’t hesitate to call for more information.

BraunAbility MXV™: Wheelchair Accessible SUV

BraunAbility MXV™

The BraunAbility MXV™ features a never-before-seen door operation, an innovative in-floor ramp and removable seating. This innovative wheelchair accessible SUV represents a brand new era in mobility and we want you to be a part of it. Availability of this vehicle begins Summer 2015.

 

BraunAbility MXV™ Features

  • Fold flat 3rd row seats for extra cargo space
  • Integrated Ford keyfob
  • Nerf bar
  • Sliding shifter for increased space
  • In-floor and lighted ramp
  • Innovative seat design allowing more interior space
  • Removable driver and passenger seats

Sporty Looks and Feel

  • EPA Estimated 17city / 24 hwy / 20 combined
  • 6-Speed Automatic
  • Wheelbase 112.6″
  • Maximum Towing Capacity (estimated) – 5000 lbs.
  • Power Glide Door Integrated w/Factory Key Fob
  • 28″ In-Floor Ramp Width
  • 54 1/4″ Door Entry Height
  • LED Ramp Lighting System
  • Cantilever Seat Bases For Easy Removal

Interior View
The interior of the MXV allows for both front seats to be removed, and the middle seating is removed for wheelchair access. The 3rd row seats remain and allow for 4 passengers in the vehicle.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles: Ramp Styles

Perhaps the most important part of choosing a new or used wheelchair accessible vehicle is determining how you, or your passengers with disAbilities, will enter and exit the vehicle. Wheelchair ramps are great, affordable and flexible options for those interested in handicap accessible vehicles, as they provide an easy to use loading and unloading solution that are as safe and secure as they are convenient.

If you believe wheelchair ramps are the right option for your transportation needs, the following will shed some light on the types of ramps available for conversions and the unique benefits they each provide.

In-Floor Ramps
As their name suggests, in-floor ramps are stowed under the floor of wheelchair accessible minivans, creating additional interior room for improved maneuverability. These ramps allow for an obstruction-free doorway and clean, uncluttered interior. In-floor models also provide added safety, as there are no components on the floor of the van that one might struggle with.

Fold-Out Ramps
For strength and durability, fold-out ramps are great options for passengers in wheelchairs. When not in use, these ramps sit on the floor of wheelchair accessible vans and extend outward in a folding motion when deployed. Many models offer side rails for easy navigation and perforations of the ramp floors to allow for easy cleaning and debris removal. In addition, fold-out ramps are more budget-conscious than in-floor options.

Each of these options offers unique perks and both are fantastic options for anyone looking to increase their mobility and independence through the use of a handicap accessible van. If you need assistance deciding which of these models is right for you, don’t hesitate to call for more information.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles: Q&A

Wheelchair
Accessible Vans

Rear entry Vs. Side entry
Buying New Vs. Buying Used
Manual Ramp Vs. Powered Ramp
Honda Vs. Dodge/Chrysler Vs. Toyota Vs. Ford
Certified Mobility Dealer Vs. Car Dealer Vs. Buying online
What do you need to know to get maximum benefit for minimum expense?

Good information is the key to saving money and getting the most value for the dollar when making a big-ticket purchase like a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.

With that in mind, Seek out and find experts who truly care. Here are some answers to common questions about adaptive mobility equipment.

Can I just go to a car dealer down the street or do I need a certified mobility dealer?

Certified mobility dealers will help you buy the right vehicle and adaptive mobility equipment to meet your needs now and in the future. Future planning is especially important for people with muscle diseases that get progressively worse over time.

“Technology has improved tremendously over the years so there are numerous products available. Our goal is to help people find the right equipment that best fits their needs,” says Jim Sanders, president of Automotive Innovations based in Bridgewater, MA for over 25 years.

“Many times, consumers will go to a car dealer and buy a vehicle that can’t be modified or one that doesn’t fit their needs. And once you buy a vehicle, normally it’s very difficult to return.”

The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), a nonprofit organization that provides consumer guidance and ensures quality and professionalism in the manufacturing and installation of mobility equipment. Members include mobility equipment dealers, manufacturers, driver rehabilitation specialists and other professionals.

NMEDA member-dealers must follow the safety standards established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in addition to NMEDA’s own stringent guidelines.

Some dealers choose to enroll in NMEDA’s Quality Assurance Program (QAP), which requires them to adhere to national motor vehicle safety standards, and use proven quality control practices to yield the highest level of performance and safety. Automotive Innovations was the First Mobility Dealer in Massachusetts to enroll and exceed the safety standards.

“The QAP dealer is audited by an outside engineering firm to verify that technicians have been trained and that the dealer has insurance and make sure the facility is ADA-compliant,” which means the QAP dealer is going above and beyond.

 

Can I get a better price if I buy online rather than from a dealer?

As with any online shopping, the warning “buyer beware” rings true. Buying online without trying out different vehicles with different conversions can be a costly mistake. Furthermore there are many grey market converted vans being offered as quality conversions.

Online, you are mostly shopping blind. Typically you will have no idea how the vehicle you need will work for you, even with specific recommendations from a driver evaluator or occupational therapist.

“You definitely shouldn’t buy a wheelchair accessible vehicle online, most online sellers are not qualified Mobility Dealers attempting to assess your needs, they’re just car dealers trying to sell you something.”

Some online dealers even have questionnaires on their websites to try and give you the idea your getting what you need. But, it will never replace being able to go to a local mobility dealership and try the vans out first hand.

A mobility vehicle is probably the second-largest purchase after a house. You should see it, try it out, and make sure it’s something that will work for you and your family. It’s horrible when people spend so much an a vehicle that will never work for them.

Every vehicle is a little bit different — such as in the dimensions, electrical and fuel systems, or suspension modifications. “If you go online and buy a wheelchair accessible vehicle based on the price, you’re not really looking at the total package.”

While buying online may be able to save you some money up front, it won’t over the long term.

In addition to you missing out on the important local service contact that a mobility equipment dealer provides, these online deals or grey market vans are worth much less when it comes time to trade it in.

 

What are some common mistakes people make when buying a modified vehicle?

Manufacturers and mobility dealers agree that one of the most common — and costly — mistakes is buying the vehicle first and then shopping for the conversion or adaptive mobility equipment. Not all vehicles can be converted.

For example, If you purchase a minivan from a traditional car dealership you can hit a roadblock if it doesn’t meet specific requirements to have the floor lowered for a rear- or side-entry conversion.

 

What are some good questions to ask a dealer or manufacturer?

Although buying a modified vehicle can be “a daunting experience,” says VMI’s Monique McGivney, it also can be “exciting and fun when you walk in armed with good questions and information.”

Prior to getting an assessment from a mobility dealer, evaluate your needs and try answering the following questions:

  • What vehicle will fit in my garage?
  • What kind of parking issues will I encounter where I live?
  • What is the size and weight of my wheelchair?
  • What is my seated height in the wheelchair?
  • How many people will ride in the vehicle?
  • In what part of the vehicle do I want to sit?
  • Will I be able to drive with hand controls?
  • Do I want a full-size van, minivan or alternative vehicle?
  • Do I want manual or power equipment?
  • Will an in-floor ramp or fold-out ramp meet my needs?
  • What is my budget, and do I have access to supplemental funding?

The first question most mobility dealers will ask you is: “What is your seated height in the wheelchair?” From there, the dealer can advise whether a full-size or minivan is appropriate, and what kind of conversion is needed.

Be sure to ask the dealer about the warranty and how the vehicle can be serviced.

Which Make and Model is the best for a handicapped accessible vehicle?

It honestly depends on what you fit into best and what options you prefer.

No two wheelchair accessible vehicles are the same. They vary in size, shape, color, features and design depending on the vehicle’s make and model. The only way to guarantee which is the best vehicle for you is if you come in and try them all out.

For example: The Honda has a little bit more room inside to maneuver a wheelchair than a Dodge, just as a Toyota has a bit more space than a Honda. A Ford offers more headroom than all of the above. But that all depends on the conversion and manufacturer.

Although color and features matter least to us, some find them just as important as fitting into the vehicle. Each Manufacturer offers their own color schemes, which you can look up on their websites. You can also search for what features you would prefer to have.

When you come into our Mobility Center we will help you find the vehicle that best fits you and your family’s needs. If you love the vehicle but not the color or features we can custom order a vehicle for you. That way we know you are buying a vehicle that best fits you and one that you are 100% happy with.

Which is better: rear entry or side entry?

The most important difference between a rear entry and side-entry conversion is that with a rear entry, wheelchair users can’t drive from their wheelchairs nor can they ride in the front passenger seat. From there, the choice comes down to personal preference and budget.

In recent years, because of quality, convenience and cost, there’s been a shift toward side entry vehicles. Rear entry is more of a frugal modification, involves a less of conversion process and is typically a little less expensive than a side-entry conversion.

Many people prefer side entry with an in-floor conversion for many safety reasons additionally  because they can park almost anywhere and not worry deploying the ramp out into traffic. Also, side entry allows the consumer to ride in the passengers front position along with maintain the rear seats in a minivan because the conversion doesn’t affect that area.

Rear entry is harder to get out of compared to a side-entry.

Anyway you look at it side-entry vehicles are more versatile. For example, side entry allows someone with a progressively worsening condition to use the vehicle for a longer period of time. A wheelchair user can start out driving from his or her chair, and then move to several other positions in the vehicle when no longer able to drive.

Side-entry conversions typically are a little more expensive than rear-entry because they’re more intrusive and labor intensive. For example, with a minivan, the entire floor and frame must be removed and replaced with a lowered floor and new frame.


What’s the difference between a fold-out ramp and in-floor ramp?

This decision comes down to safety, aesthetics, convenience and cost.

A fold-out ramp folds up into the vehicle, takes up valuable space in the passengers front area and must be deployed whenever the door is opened.

The in-floor ramp slides under the floor which makes riding in the vehicle safer for anyone seated in the passengers front position or the mid-ship position. There is no obstruction to the doorway so other passengers can enter and exit without deploying the ramp. In-floor ramps are currently only available as a side-entry minivan conversion, but they offer a manual (un-powered) option as well.

In-floor ramps in addition to being safer will generally provide more room in the vehicle because there’s nothing blocking the doorway. The ramp is “out of sight, out of mind” and may last longer because it doesn’t have to be deployed each time the side passenger door opens.

Fold-out ramps generally cost a little less than an in-floor ramp and consumers can select from manual and power versions; a power fold-out ramp still costs less than an in-floor ramp.

If an in-floor ramp system breaks down or the vehicle loses power, VMI’s in-floor ramp systems have a backup system (sure-deploy) that bypasses the vehicle’s battery.

A lot of people just feel more secure knowing there isn’t a fold-out ramp next to them in the event of a accident.

I use a wheelchair, but a van or minivan just isn’t “me.” Are they my only options?

You have other choices.

Lowered-floor conversions with fold-out ramps can be done on the Honda Element, Chrysler PT Cruiser and Toyota Scion. The conversions are small and don’t fit as many people.

Due to them being built on a much smaller scale, the ones we have seen have not been built with the same level of quality as the minivan conversion. Parts availability and repairs have been a problem, some of the companies that converted them are out of business and or have no support for “something they used to build”

If you prefer to keep your standard car rather than purchasing a modified vehicle — and can make the transfer from a wheelchair to a car seat — the answer may be as simple as a set of hand controls or a left foot gas pedal

Turning seats can be used in a wide range of vehicles, from sedans to SUVs and pickup trucks. A way to transport the wheelchair (like a rear lift) also is needed.

The rate at which your symptoms worsen is one thing to consider when looking at turning seats — is it likely you’ll be able to transfer and ride in a car seat for many more years? Also, be sure to check with a mobility dealer to determine if your vehicle can accommodate a turning seat and a wheelchair lift.

Why are modified vehicles so  expensive?

A vehicle conversion can cost consumers upwards of $27,000 —  and that’s just the cost for the conversion, not the vehicle. The total package can run between $45,000 and $80,000 — or more.

Besides the cost of the components, the reason it’s so pricey is that basically there is a lot of work involved to build a quality vehicle.

Modified vehicles from certified manufacturers and dealers must meet NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). That means all modified vehicles must be properly crash tested. (To learn more, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.)

It’s quite a labor-intensive process because of the customization. When you make structural modifications to a vehicle, you have to go through all of the crash testing, and you have to show that the vehicle is compliant again, and those tests are very expensive.

Most of the time lowering the floor in a minivan requires replacing or moving the fuel tank. Once the conversion is finished, the vehicle still has to meet the original requirements for evaporative emissions, in addition to NHTSA requirements.

How can I pay less?

You have  a few options.

You could cut costs by purchasing a pre-owned vehicle with a new conversion, typically saving you around $10,000 to $12,000.

The previous van owner already has absorbed the depreciation hit on a new van, which essentially occurs right after they’ve driven off the dealer’s lot.

Buying used can be beneficial for first-time buyers who want to try out a vehicle for a few years before buying new.

But if you plan to buy used, do some research and make sure the vehicle is structurally sound including the conversion. Ask for a vehicle history (CARFAX) report, and get the vehicle inspected by a mobility dealer to ensure it’s in good shape and was well taken care of.

Another tactic to help save you money is to ask your Certified Mobility Dealer about any rebates or financial aid options that could benefit you.

How do people manage to pay for it?

Many consumers used home equity loans to purchase a vehicle and adaptive equipment.

Many dealers and manufacturers work with lending institutions that offer extended-term financing, including 10-year loans, allowing consumers to make lower, more affordable monthly payments. The downside is that consumers are locked into the vehicle for 10 years, and end up paying more in interest.

If you finance for 10 years, and you’re not going to keep the vehicle for that amount of time, you’re going to lose money when you try to sell or trade it because you haven’t paid off much of the balance.

When you buy a new vehicle, many car manufacturers offer mobility reimbursement programs (up to $1,000) to help offset the cost for the purchase and installation of adaptive equipment.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles: Manual Ramp Vs. Automatic Ramp

Manual Infloor Ramp

Side Entry VMI Northstar E Manual Wheelchair Accessible Ramp Van

Manual Wheelchair Accessible Ramp

Pros:

  • Conversion costs less
  • Option of in-floor side access ramp or fold out rear access ramp

Cons:

  • Not impossible to access the ramp, but hard to manually operate while seated in a wheelchair
  • No kneeling system

 

Automatic Infloor Ramp

Side Entry VMI Northstar Automatic Wheelchair Accessible Ramp Van

Automatic Wheelchair Accessible Ramp

Pros:

  • Easy access whether in a wheelchair or not
  • Option of using a kneeling system
  • The key-fob (remote) can operate the ramp with the press of a button
  • Option of in floor or fold out ramp
  • Option of side entry or rear entry

Cons:

  • Conversion costs more
  • If the vehicle experiences a power or an equipment failure you have to manually operate the ramp which can be difficult when in a wheelchair

 

10 Questions

When searching for a wheelchair van, take these 10 questions to your local Certified Mobility Equipment Dealer and take 10 minutes to get educated.  Test out different vehicles with you and your family and see which best fits you.  Just because it is a wheelchair accessible van, does not mean it is a one size fits all.

  1. What are the differences between an in-floor and fold-out ramp?
  2. How does SURE DEPLOY help in case of vehicle power failure?
  3. Why is a 55 1/2″ or higher door opening height so important?
  4. What is the benefit of having an 8 degree ramp angle?
  5. Why is an 11″ or lower dropped floor beneficial?
  6. What does “wheelchair maneuverability” in an accessible van mean?
  7. How do I know how much interior headroom I need in an accessible van?
  8. Is the functionality of the front passenger’s seat the same with all ramp systems?
  9. Where is the spare tire located and how is it accessed?
  10. How much ground clearance do I need to clear speed bumps?

Wheelchair Van Conversion Styles: In-Floor Ramp Vs. Fold-out Ramp

There are several wheelchair accessible van conversion styles you’ll want to consider when choosing the right mobility solution for you. One decision you’ll have to make is to choose between an In-Floor wheelchair van ramp and a Fold-Out wheelchair accessible ramp.

In-Floor Vs. Fold-Up Wheelchair Ramps
Another important consideration to make is whether you’d prefer a fold-up or an in-floor wheelchair ramp in your handicap van. As their name implies, fold-up ramps fold in half and stow upright, next to the side passenger door. On the other hand, in-floor ramps slide into a pocket underneath the vehicle’s floor. People who opt for in-floor ramps prefer the ramp out of the way of the passenger entrance. Typically, fold-up ramps tend to be less expensive and easier to maintain, and they present a lower ramp angle. In-floor and fold-up wheelchair ramps are available in a wide range of handicap minivan conversions.
Wheelchair Van Conversion Styles- In Floor Ramp Vs. Fold out Ramp

VMI Northstar Vs. Summit

VMI Northstar Vs. Summit
Shopping for a wheelchair van can be a confusing and long process, especially if you don’t know how or what to look for. All wheelchair-accessible vehicles are different and there are several features to consider before making such a large purchase. Think about things like your preferred make and model, how much space you need, whether you will be the driver or passenger, and what type of ramp system you want.

There are two basic wheelchair ramps for vans – in-floor and fold-out ramps. In-floor ramps, like VMI’s Northstar, store under the floor when not in use for added safety inside of the vehicle. Fold-out wheelchair ramps, such as the Summit from VMI, are stowed within the vehicle and extend outward when deployed.

Each van wheelchair ramp has its own benefits and can accommodate users of different sizes with different types of wheelchairs. Benefits of the fully-powered Northstar in-floor wheelchair ramps include:

  • An obstacle-free doorway for safe entry and exit
  • More open space to maneuver inside of the minivan
  • Cleaner interior free of dirt and debris
  • Accommodating high capacity and width

While the Northstar wheelchair ramp system is convenient for almost any wheelchair user, the Summit wheelchair ramps offer other helpful benefits, such as:

  • A great value at an affordable price
  • Easier navigation because of high side rails
  • Corrosion-resistant strength and durability
  • A manual deployment option for reliable access

Although both of these wheelchair van ramps provides users unique perks, both are great options and can increase independence through better mobility. If you need help deciding which wheelchair ramp would be right for you, contact us today.

Wheelchair Van Ramp Information

Wheelchair ramp information
There are two types of wheelchair ramps, the in-floor ramp and the fold out ramp.

In-floor ramps are stored inside the floor of the van so that it is out of the way and allows more access space inside the cabin.

The Pros of The In-Floor Ramp:

  • With no ramp in the doorway, passengers who are not in wheelchairs can enter and exit the vehicle without having to deploy the ramp.
  • If you’d been bothered by the foldout ramp interfering with the front passenger seat reclining, that issue is eliminated with an in-floor ramp.
  • Out of sight, out of mind! An in-floor ramp is completely concealed, so the interior looks closer than ever to that of a standard Vehicle.

The Cons of The In-Floor Ramp:

  • The in-floor ramp has a slightly higher ramp angle compared to the foldout.
  • Deploying an in-floor ramp onto a high curb could be a problem.
  • An in-floor ramp may require more maintenance because the ramp tends to collect more debris.

Fold out ramps are stored folded up inside of the cabin which reduces the Cabin space, but does allow a lower

The Pro’s of The Fold Out Ramp:

  • If you pull alongside a curb, it’s very easy to deploy a foldout ramp onto the sidewalk.
  • In the case of an emergency, a wheelchair user can always push a foldout ramp until it deploys.
  • Because the ramp is stored upright, less debris is able to get trapped and result in maintenance issues.
  • Compared to the in-floor option, the foldout conversions have a lower ramp angle

The Cons of The Fold Out Ramp:

  • Because the foldout ramp is housed in the doorway when stored, it takes up a small amount of interior space.
  • The ramp can limit the front passenger seat from fully extending in a reclined position.
  • In order to enter or exit on the ramp side of the vehicle, the ramp must be deployed.

You Have Other Choices, Too

Side Entry Ramp

At the risk of stating the obvious, the side entry ramp deploys from the side of the van rather than the back. The side entry ramp is deployed after the power-operated door on the side of the van slides open. Ramps can be automatically activated or manually opened and closed. For maximum safety, a power ramp should have a manual override in case of a power failure. All AMS side entry ramps are automated, with a manual override, and operation by remote control or controls inside and outside the door.

A side ramp can present a problem if you park in a two-car garage or in a non-handicap-accessible parking space, because you won’t have enough room to deploy the ramp properly. That said, they work beautifully in handicap parking spaces and won’t require you to open the ramp into oncoming traffic.

Rear Entry Ramp
Usually less costly than a side ramp conversion, the rear entry ramp wheelchair van deploys from the back of the van and is typically better suited for the wheelchair user who prefers to sit in the middle or back of the vehicle. Manual operation is the standard for rear entry ramps, which accounts for the lower cost, but automated rear entry ramps are available. Long-channel rear entry ramps can accommodate two wheelchair users in a minivan. Rear entry ramps can be hazardous in some parking situations if you have to deploy the ramp into a lane of traffic.

Portable Ramp

A lightweight, portable ramp offers flexibility in that you can use it for vehicle access as well as access to homes and buildings without handicap access. A portable ramp includes the same safety features (non-slip surface, side guards) as a permanently installed ramp, and these ramps typically fold up for easy portability.

Channel/Track Ramps
Instead of one wide ramp, economical channel or track ramps have two ramps with slip-proof channels, with each one wide enough to accommodate one wheel of a wheelchair. Also portable, track ramps can be adjusted to accommodate wheelchairs of any width simply by spreading them further apart.

What to Look For in a Wheelchair Ramp
Wheelchair accessible ramp designs vary, but there are a few things to look for in a ramp that affect your safety and ease of use. As always, price is a factor. That said, some of these features are, or should be, non-negotiable.

Non-Slip Surface

Also called an anti-slip surface or non-skid surface, a non-slip surface can be painted on or applied, like a rubberized coating. The need for a non-slip surface is indisputable, and most wheelchair van ramps are treated in some way to prevent slips and skids.

Sufficient Width
Wheelchairs come in different widths, and so do accessible van ramps. Make sure the ramp on your chosen van is more than wide enough to accommodate your wheelchair.

Side Guard/Lip
Side guards (or lips) on either side of the ramp help prevent your wheelchair from falling over the edge of the ramp during entry or exit.

Maximum Weight

Wheelchair ramps have weight limits, and they vary, though most ramps can handle several hundred pounds. Always ask. Take both your weight plus the weight of the wheelchair into consideration.

Degree of Incline

A lower incline or slope means an easier climb up the ramp. The ADA recommends a 2:12 slope, which means every 2″ of vertical rise requires one foot of ramp (9.5 degrees of incline).

Manual/Motorized
An onboard ramp can be manually operated or automated to deploy and retract at the push of a button. An automated ramp adds to the price of the conversion; if you choose an automated ramp, make sure it has manual back-up. If, for some reason, the vehicle loses power, you’ll still be able to enter and exit.

Dodge Grand Caravan With VMI Northstar Conversion – More information

VMI Northstar on a Dodge Grand Caravan
The VMI Northstar on a Dodge Grand Caravan is the result of the progressive engineering approach at VMI. Vantage Mobility International has included a multitude of accessible features on these wheelchair conversion vehicles. Items like Power Kneel, power in-floor ramp, and remote control activation make them the perfect choice for disability transportation.

Next Generation Thinking for a Handicap Conversion Van
Next generation thinking has been accurately implemented in the Dodge Grand Caravan with the VMI Northstar handicap conversion van.

Dodge Grand Caravans with the VMI Northstar mobility van conversion represent wheelchair access taken to a whole new level. VMI Northstar wheelchair conversion vans have been around since 1993 and have always been a crucial element to Vantage Mobility International’s product line.

Disabled Access in a Handicap Vehicle Conversion
Disabled access plays a major role in every aspect, from design to manufacturing. Featuring a power sliding passenger door and in-floor wheelchair ramp, the VMI Northstar handicap vehicle conversion is a great solution for disability travel.

The drive-ability for a wheelchair user is one of the most vital components of the Dodge Grand Caravan with the VMI Northstar mobility conversion van. Simple installation of hand controls, transfer seat, or other mobility driving aid can transform the VMI Northstar equipped Dodge Grand Caravan into a disabled driving system.

Dodge Grand Caravan Models
The VMI Summit is available on Dodge Grand Caravan Express, Main-street, Crew, and R/T minivan models.

Dodge Grand Caravan With VMI Northstar Conversion – Specifications

Dodge Grand Caravan with a VMI Northstar Conversion - specifications
Description

Dodge Grand Caravan with VMI Northstar

  • Interior handles, and switches, buttons are easily accessed
  • Front passenger seat retains regular functions
  • No additional noise from handicap ramp
  • In the event of an accident, the accessible ramp is under the floor-not inside the mobility van
  • Works on curbs up to 10 inches tall
  • Increased maneuverability due to greater space inside the accessible van
  • Ramp-free doorway allows easy entry/exit for ambulatory passengers
  • Minimized handicapped van conversion wear and tear (fewer wheelchair ramp cycles to load/unload additional passengers)
  • Uncluttered and clean wheelchair vehicle interior
  • Mobility vehicle interior gets less dirt inside
  • Increased handicapped ramp width

Specifications

  • Maximum Floor Drop – 11″
  • Handicap Vehicle Ground Clearance – 5.5″
  • Door Opening Width – 31.25″
  • Door Opening Height – 55.25″
  • Usable Mobility Ramp Width – 29.25″
  • Wheelchair Ramp Length – 44″
  • Length from Back Seats to Kickplate – 58″
  • Overall Floor Length – 85.5″
  • Floor Width at Front Doors – 61″
  • Interior Height at Driver & Passenger Positions (Without Sunroof) – 57.25″
  • Interior Height at Center Position – 58.5″
  • Steering Wheel Bottom to Floor – 29.5″
  • Measured Down from Front Edge of Steering Wheel to Front Kick-Up – 16.25″

Standard Features
Dodge Grand Caravan with VMI Northstar only

  • Extremely-low 8.0° handicapped ramp angle
  • Sure Deploy backup system leaves accessible van conversion usable even with power failure
  • Manual secondary backup system for additional peace of mind
  • 600lb. handicap ramp weight capacity

Dodge Grand Caravan with VMI Northstar AND Summit

  • Fully-powered accessible van ramp
  • 11” drop FLEX Floor maximizes interior space and headroom for better maneuverability
  • Complete undercoating and rust proofing
  • PowerKneel system lowers the minivan to reduce ramp angle
  • Seamless integration with Dodge Grand Caravan vehicle electronics
  • Complete control through Dodge keyfob and interior switches
  • Removable front passenger and driver seat bases
  • No-skid wheelchair ramp surfacing
  • Complete crash testing and compliance with all government safety standards
  • 3-year/36,000-mile warranty

Optional Features

  • Durafloor (rubberized flooring) to match Dodge Grand Caravan interiors

Dodge Grand Caravan With VMI Northstar Conversion – Information

Dodge Grand Caravan With VMI Northstar Conversion - Information
VMI first developed the Northstar handicap van conversion in the early 1990’s to meet customer preferences for increased interior space. To this day, the VMI Northstar on the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan remains one of the best mobility ramp vans in America.

By sliding out of a space below the floor, the Northstar mobility ramp maximizes space inside the accessible vehicle. There are so many benefits of an in-floor wheelchair ramp, it is easily understood why its so popular.

Chrysler Town and Country With VMI Northstar Conversion – More Information

Chrysler Town & Country Handicap Conversion Vehicle
The VMI Northstar wheelchair van conversion on a Chrysler Town & Country minivan is the culmination of the forward thinking philosophy at Vantage Mobility International. Some of the accessible features on these handicap conversion vans include a power in-floor ramp, remote control activation, and Power Kneel for a reduced wheelchair ramp entry angle.

When properly implemented, innovative thinking is communicated from design to final product, and VMI believes their VMI Northstar on a Chrysler Town & Country is a superior mobility conversion vehicle.

The Chrysler Town & Country with VMI Northstar handicap conversion vehicle represents the ultimate in wheelchair access. Since its original development in 1993, the VMI Northstar wheelchair vehicle conversion has remained the cornerstone of the Vantage Mobility International accessible van product line. In fact, there are over 10,000 VMI Northstar minivans on the road today.

Every detail has been meticulously designed and manufactured with disability access in mind. From the power in-floor mobility ramp to the power doors, the VMI Northstar handicap van conversion answers the call for disabled transportation. Even the center console has been modified for improved front seat maneuverability.

Important Mobility Vehicle Conversion Features
One of the most important features of the Chrysler Town & Country with VMI Northstar mobility vehicle conversions is the ability for a person in a wheelchair to drive. Whether using a transfer seat, hand controls, or other handicap driving device, the VMI Northstar on a Chrysler Town & Country is a totally independent driving solution.

Chrysler Town & Country Models Available
The VMI Summit is available on Chrysler Town & Country LX, Touring, Touring-L, and Limited minivan models.

Chrysler Town and Country With VMI Northstar Conversion – Specifications

Chrysler Town and Country With VMI Northstar Conversion - Specifications

Description
Chrysler Town & Country with VMI Northstar

  • Handicap vehicle interior left clean and more like the original minivan
  • Reduced debris carried into the accessible vehicle carpet
  • Width of wheelchair ramp increased for wider wheelchairs
  • All interior switches, buttons, and handles are within reach
  • Keep full functionality of front passenger seat
  • No rattling or squeaking from mobility ramp
  • Handicapped ramp will not become a dangerous obstruction in the event of an emergency
  • Deployable on curbs up to 10” in height
  • Maximized space inside these handicapped vehicles for maneuvering a wheelchair
  • Simple exit/entry for additional passengers due to unblocked doorway (no folding mobility ramp in the way)
  • Do not have to activate handicap ramp for ambulatory people to enter/leave vehicle (less wear and tear on the wheelchair accessible van)

Specifications

  • Maximum Floor Drop – 11″
  • Wheelchair Vehicle Ground Clearance – 5.5″
  • Door Opening Height – 55.25″
  • Door Opening Width – 31.25″
  • Mobility Ramp Length – 58.5″
  • Usable Handicap Ramp Width – 29.25″
  • Overall Floor Length – 85.5″
  • Length from Back Seats to Kickplate – 58″
  • Floor Width at Front Doors – 61″
  • Interior Height at Center Position – 58.5″
  • Interior Height at Driver & Passenger Positions (Without Sunroof) – 57.25″
  • Steering Wheel Bottom to Floor – 29.5″
  • Measured Down from Front Edge of Steering Wheel to Front Kick-Up – 16.25″

Standard Features
Chrysler Town & Country with VMI Northstar only

  • Ultra-low 8.0° wheelchair ramp angle
  • Manual secondary backup system for additional peace of mind
  • 600lb. mobility ramp weight limit
  • Sure Deploy backup makes these handicapped accessible vans reliable even when power fails

Chrysler Town & Country with VMI Northstar AND Summit

  • All-electric conversion and handicapped ramp
  • 11” drop FLEX Floor maximizes headroom and interior space for wheelchair maneuverability
  • Complete rust proofing and undercoating
  • PowerKneel system lowers the minivan for a reduction in the angle of the ramp
  • Seamless integration with Chrysler Town & Country electronic systems
  • Controlled via Chrysler keyfob and switches located inside the mobility van
  • Removable front driver and passenger seat bases
  • Skid-resistant handicap ramp
  • Compliant with all government safety standards and fully-crash tested
  • 3-year/36,000-mile warranty

Optional Features

  • Durafloor (rubberized flooring) to match Chrysler Town & Country interior

Chrysler Town and Country With VMI Northstar Conversion – Information

Chrysler Town and Country With VMI Northstar Conversion - Information



In order to accomplish an open interior and greater interior space, VMI engineered the first Northstar mobility van conversion almost 20 years ago. Nearly 20 years on the road and the VMI Northstar on the Chrysler Town & Country is still setting the standard for handicapped vans.

The Northstar wheelchair ramp slides out from underneath the floor of the handicapped vehicle instead of using valuable interior space. It is easy to see why the Northstar is so popular within the disabled community when the advantages are so obvious.

Honda Odyssey with VMI Northstar Conversion – More Information

Culmination of Wheelchair Accessible Vans
The VMI Northstar wheelchair accessible van represents the culmination of our forward thinking philosophy. VMI Northstar mobility minivans on a Honda Odyssey chassis feature a power in-floor mobility ramp for open and unrestricted entry by those with a disability.

The Honda Odyssey with VMI Northstar handicap van conversion also offers amazing interior maneuverability. The VMI one touch remote control allows easy and simple wheelchair ramp deployment at your fingertips, while VMI Power Kneel gives an extremely low handicap ramp angle in these mobility vehicle conversions.

The VMI Northstar handicap conversion van on Honda Odyssey minivans is the end result of years of work by Vantage Mobility International engineers. The result is one of the finest and most accessible mobility conversion vehicles on the road.

Different Wheelchair Van Models Available
VMI Northstar wheelchair van conversions are available on Honda Odyssey EX, EX-L, Touring, and Touring Elite. Whether you are searching an affordable disability transportation solution or a fully loaded handicap conversion vehicle, the Honda Odyssey with VMI Northstar has a niche for you.

The combination of accessible features on the Honda Odyssey with VMI Northstar handicap conversion vehicle is unmatched in its wheelchair access. The in-floor wheelchair ramp offers entry and exit into the mobility van conversion, and once inside, a person who is disabled can choose anywhere inside the vehicle to ride. Even the front passenger or drivers position are accessible!

More Information-Compatible Wheelchair Van Accessories
Hand controls or other handicap driving aids can also be added for a completely independent driving solution in Honda Odyssey with VMI Northstar wheelchair vehicle conversions.

Honda Odyssey with VMI Northstar Conversion – Specifications

Honda Odyssey VMI Northstar Conversion Specifications

Description

  • Maximum interior space for wheelchair maneuverability
  • Obstruction-free doorway allows easy entry/exit for able-bodied passengers
  • Reduced accessible van conversion wear (no need to deploy mobility ramp for able-bodied passengers)
  • Clean, uncluttered handicapped vehicle interior
  • Less dirt and debris from ramp into handicap accessible vehicle interior
  • Wider usable accessible ramp surface
  • Easy access to all interior buttons, handles, and switches
  • Full use of front passenger seat
  • No squeaking or rattling from wheelchair ramp
  • Handicap Ramp stowed safely under floor in the event of a collision
  • Deployable on curbs up to 10” in height

Specifications

  • Door opening height – 55″
  • Door opening width – 30.75″
  • Wheelchair Ramp length (angled ramp and transition plate) – 59″
  • Mobility Ramp length (distance ramp protrudes from mobility vehicle) – 43″
  • Usable Handicap Ramp width – 30″
  • Overall floor length – 91.5″
  • Length (from back of seat bases to kickplate) – 61.75″
  • Floor width at B pillar – 60″
  • Floor width at front doors – 60.5″
  • Interior height at center position – 60″
  • Interior height at driver’s position – 57.25″ without sunroof

Standard Features
Honda Odyssey with VMI Northstar only

  • Ultra-low 8.0° accessible ramp angle
  • 750lb. wheelchair ramp capacity
  • Sure Deploy backup system allows users to stow or deploy the mobility ramp van conversion even in the event of complete power failure
  • Manual secondary backup system for additional peace of mind

Honda Odyssey with Northstar AND Summit

  • Full-power ramp and conversion
  • 12.75” drop FLEX Floor maximizes headroom and interior space for wheelchair maneuverability
  • Patented independent rear suspension designed to preserve Honda ride quality and performance
  • E-coated floor for maximum corrosion resistance
  • NEW, ultra-reliable hydraulic PowerKneel system lowers the minivan to reduce ramp angle
  • Seamless integration with Honda Odyssey electronics prevents damage to vehicle/conversion
  • Conversion control through Honda keyfob and interior sliding-door switches
  • Halo-lit, one-touch interior conversion button
  • Ramp ON/OFF switch allows users to disable all conversion features for guest drivers, valets, car wash attendants, etc., and open sliding doors for able-bodied passengers without deploying the ramp
  • NEW lightweight, removable front seats are easier to install or remove
  • NEW quick-release straps allow users to remove front seats in seconds without removing plastic covers or searching for handles/pedals beneath the seat
  • Non-skid handicapped ramp surface
  • Fully crash-tested and compliant with all government safety standards
  • 3-year/36,000-mile warranty

Optional Features

  • Durafloor (rubberized flooring) closely matched to the existing Honda Odyssey interior

Honda Odyssey with VMI Northstar Conversion – Information

Honda Odyssey VMI Northstar Conversion Information

To satisfy our customers’ needs for additional interior space and a clean, obstruction-free accessible vehicle interior, VMI pioneered the development of the Northstar in-floor wheelchair ramp system for the Honda Odyssey minivan. After almost two decades of refinement, the Northstar remains the most technologically advanced handicap ramp system on the market. Instead of taking up space inside the handicap vehicle, the Northstar wheelchair ramp simply rolls out from beneath the floor. When one considers the advantages of the Northstar in-floor wheelchair ramp system, there is no question why the Northstar is far and away VMI’s best-selling product.

Toyota Sienna With VMI Northstar Conversion – Specifications

Toyota Sienna With VMI Northstar Conversion - Specifications
Description

Toyota Sienna with VMI Northstar

  • NEW – Access360 design with more space to enter and maneuver inside the mobility van
  • NEW – Access360 design allows for more flexibility and ease of use
  • Obstruction-free doorway allows easy entry/exit for able-bodied passengers
  • Clean, uncluttered handicapped vehicle interior
  • Greater safety in the event of a collision
  • Less dirt and debris from in-floor ramp into wheelchair accessible vehicle interior
  • Wider usable accessible wheelchair ramp surface
  • No interference with factory seats or controls
  • Full use of front passenger seat
  • Obstacle-free front row floor
  • Ramp stowed safely under floor in the event of a collision
  • 9″ more floor length than any other Toyota Sienna conversion on the market today

Specifications
Toyota Sienna with VMI Northstar

  • NEW – Access360 design with more space to enter and maneuver inside the mobility van
  • NEW – Access360 design allows for more flexibility and ease of use
  • Obstruction-free doorway allows easy entry/exit for able-bodied passengers
  • Clean, uncluttered handicapped vehicle interior
  • Greater safety in the event of a collision
  • Less dirt and debris from in-floor ramp into wheelchair accessible vehicle interior
  • Wider usable accessible wheelchair ramp surface
  • No interference with factory seats or controls
  • Full use of front passenger seat
  • Obstacle-free front row floor
  • Ramp stowed safely under floor in the event of a collision
  • 9″ more floor length than any other Toyota Sienna conversion on the market today

Standard Features
Toyota Sienna with VMI Northstar only

  • Ultra-low 8.0° accessible ramp angle
  • 800lb. wheelchair ramp capacity
  • Sure Deploy backup system allows users to stow or deploy the mobility ramp van conversion even in the event of complete power failure
  • Manual secondary backup system for additional peace of mind

Toyota Sienna with Northstar AND Summit

  • Full-power ramp and conversion
  • 12.75” drop FLEX Floor maximizes headroom and interior space for wheelchair maneuverability
  • Patented independent rear suspension designed to preserve the Toyota ride quality and performance
  • E-coated floor for maximum corrosion resistance
  • NEW, ultra-reliable hydraulic PowerKneel system lowers the minivan to reduce ramp angle
  • Seamless integration with the Toyota Sienna’s electronics prevents damage to vehicle/conversion
  • Conversion control through Toyota keyfob and interior sliding-door switches
  • Halo-lit, one-touch interior conversion button
  • Ramp ON/OFF switch allows users to disable all conversion features for guest drivers, valets, car wash attendants, etc., and open sliding doors for able-bodied passengers without deploying the ramp
  • NEW lightweight, removable front seats are easier to install or remove
  • NEW quick-release straps allow users to remove front seats in seconds without removing plastic covers or searching for handles/pedals beneath the seat
  • Non-skid handicapped ramp surface
  • Fully crash-tested and compliant with all government safety standards
  • 3-year/36,000-mile warranty

Optional Features

  • Durafloor (rubberized flooring) closely matched to the existing Toyota Sienna interior

Toyota Sienna With VMI Northstar Conversion – Information

Toyota Sienna With VMI Northstar Conversion - Information

The all new Toyota Sienna with a VMI Northstar wheelchair van conversion is vehicular perfection for people living with disability. The Toyota Sienna handicap accessible van with a power in-floor ramp offers the most wheelchair access in a flexible package. And like everything from Toyota, the quality and value are unmatched.

The VMI Northstar handicap van engineers put together the Access360 performance package through years of research and experience that have accumulated into the most versatile mobility van on the market. There is more entry space, more interior height, and better aesthetics. It all adds up to Toyota Sienna wheelchair vans that offers flexibility, ease of use, and safety.

Wheelchair Accessible Van Maintenance

Auto Mechanic Car Hood
As with any vehicle, regular maintenance is important especially before a long road trip, as to prevent any maintenance-related issues from popping up. Standard “check-up” procedures such as getting your oil changed, checking the tire pressure, and making sure your spare tire is filled and your emergency kit is stocked are highly recommended.

In addition, there are special handicapped van upkeep procedures that are recommended.

These include the following:

  1. Make sure your lower door tracks are free of debris by using a vacuum along the tracks and ensuring any extra supplies won’t be able to fall onto the track.
  2. Spray your van’s ramp with a silicon or teflon based lubricant to make sure it slides with ease. If you use an in-the-floor ramp there’s one hinge, but if you have a fold-down ramp make sure to spray both the upper and lower hinges.
  3. You will also want to lightly lubricate the kneeling chain and the hand controls, if applicable to your van. Your handicap van’s manual should explain how to do this maintenance.
  4. Check your tie downs and securements to make sure there are no rips and they’re clear of debris.
  5. Tighten your 6-way power seat and make sure it’s clear of debris, if applicable to your van.

If you need any of this maintenance work done call us today to schedule an appointment.

We also provide a rust treatment that will help your wheelchair accessible vehicle last longer.

Accessible Vehicles And Adaptive Mobility Equipment Q&A

Accessible Vehicles and Adaptive Mobility Equipment Q&A

Rear entry vs. side entry. Buying online. Buying used. What do you need to know to get maximum benefit for minimum expense?

Good information is the key to saving money and getting the most value for the dollar when making a big-ticket purchase like a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.

With that in mind, Seek out and find experts who truly care for answers to some common questions about adaptive mobility equipment.

Q: Can I just go to a car dealer down the street or do I need a certified mobility dealer?

A: Certified mobility dealers help consumers buy the right vehicle and adaptive mobility equipment to meet their mobility needs now and in the future. Future planning is especially important for people with muscle diseases that get progressively worse over time.

“There are so many different products out there, and technology has improved so much. We just want to help people make the right decision,” says Jim Sanders, president of Automotive Innovations based in Bridgewater, MA for over 25 years.

“Many times, consumers will go to a car dealer and buy [a vehicle] that can’t be modified or one that doesn’t fit their needs. And once you buy a vehicle, normally it’s very difficult to return it.”

The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), a nonprofit organization that provides consumer guidance and ensures quality and professionalism in the manufacturing and installation of mobility equipment. Members include mobility equipment dealers, manufacturers, driver rehabilitation specialists and other professionals.

NMEDA member-dealers must follow the safety standards established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in addition to NMEDA’s own stringent guidelines.

Some dealers choose to enroll in NMEDA’s Quality Assurance Program (QAP), which requires them to adhere to national motor vehicle safety standards, and use proven quality control practices to yield the highest level of performance and safety. Automotive Innovations was the First Mobility Dealer in Massachusetts to enroll and exceed the safety standards.

“The QAP dealer is audited by an outside engineering firm to verify that technicians have been trained, make sure the dealer has insurance and make sure the facility is ADA-compliant,”

So it means the QAP dealer is going above and beyond.”

Other reasons to seek out a certified mobility equipment dealer include:

They provide a link to qualified service and repair, that it’s crucial to have done on a adapted vehicle serviced.

Some manufacturers of adapted vehicles sell directly to consumers, cutting costs by cutting out the middle man, says Jim Sanders, of VMi New England, based in Bridgewater, MA.

But expert assessment and “try before you buy” remain essentials for prospective buyers, with or without a dealer in the middle.

For example, We, a NMEDA QAP-certified member, send representatives to customers’ homes for assessment and test drives before they buy, and also offer unmatched service/maintenance to just about any modified vehicle including Rollx vans.

Q: Can I get a better price if I buy online rather than from a dealer?

A: As with any online shopping, the warning “buyer beware” rings true. Buying online without trying out different vehicles with different conversions can be a costly mistake. Furthermore there are many grey market converted vans being offered as quality conversions.

Online, clients are mostly shopping blind. Typically they have no idea how the vehicle they need will even work fro them, even if they have specific recommendations from a driver evaluator or occupational therapist.

“You definitely shouldn’t buy it online,” “There not trying to assess your needs by e-mail or over the phone. There just trying to sell you something.

Some online dealers even have a questionnaire on its Web site to try and give you the idea your getting what you need. But, it will never replace being able to go to a local mobility dealership and try the vans out first hand.

A mobility vehicle is probably the second-largest purchase after a house. You should see it, try it out, and make sure it’s something that will work for you. It’s horrible when people get something that they’re disappointed in.

Every vehicle is a little bit different — such as in the dimensions, electrical and fuel systems, or suspension modifications. “If you go online and buy [based] on price, you’re not really looking at the total package.”

While buying online maybe able to save money up front, it wont over the long term.

In addition to consumers missing out on the important local service contact that a mobility equipment dealer provides, these online deals or grey market vans are worth much less when it comes time to trade it in.

Where do you want to sit? If you plan to drive from your wheelchair, then a side-entry conversion is what you’ll need, unless you can transfer to the driver’s seat (rear entry). With a rear-entry conversion, the wheelchair user typically is positioned in the back or between two mid-row captain’s seats, while a side entry offers a wheelchair user multiple seating options in the driver, front passenger and middle sections.

Q: What are some common mistakes people make when buying a modified vehicle?

A: Manufacturers and mobility dealers agree that one of the most common — and costly — mistakes is buying the vehicle first and then shopping for the conversion or adaptive mobility equipment. Not all vehicles can be converted.

For example, If you purchase a minivan from a traditional car dealership you can hit a roadblock if it doesn’t meet specific requirements to have the floor lowered for a rear- or side-entry conversion.

Q: What are some good questions to ask a dealer or manufacturer?

A: Although buying a modified vehicle can be “a daunting experience,” says VMI’s Monique McGivney, it also can be “exciting and fun when you walk in armed with good questions and information.”

Prior to getting an assessment from a mobility dealer, evaluate your needs and try answering the following questions:

  • What vehicle will fit in my garage?
  • What kind of parking issues will I encounter where I live?
  • What is the size and weight of my wheelchair?
  • What is my seated height in the wheelchair?
  • How many people will ride in the vehicle?
  • In what part of the vehicle do I want to sit?
  • Will I be able to drive with hand controls?
  • Do I want a full-size van, minivan or alternative vehicle?
  • Do I want manual or power equipment?
  • Will an in-floor ramp or fold-out ramp meet my needs?
  • What is my budget, and do I have access to supplemental funding?

The first question mobility dealers usually ask a client is: “What is your seated height in the wheelchair?” From there, the dealer can advise whether a full-size or minivan is appropriate, and what kind of conversion is needed.

Be sure to ask the dealer about the warranty and how the vehicle can be serviced.

Q: Which is better: rear entry or side entry?

A: The most important difference between a rear- and side-entry conversion is that with a rear entry, wheelchair users can’t drive from their wheelchairs nor can they ride in the front passenger seat. From there, the choice comes down to personal preference and budget.

In recent years, because of quality, convenience and cost, there’s been a shift toward side entry vehicles. Rear entry is more of a frugal modification, involves a less of conversion process and is typically a little less expensive than a side-entry conversion.

Many people prefer side entry with a in-floor conversion for many safety reasons additionally because they can park almost anywhere and not worry deploying the ramp out into traffic. Also, side entry allows the consumer to ride in the passengers front position along with maintain the rear seats in a minivan because the conversion doesn’t affect that area.

Rear entry is harder to get out of compared to a side-entry.

Anyway you look at it side-entry vehicles are more versatile. For example, side entry allows someone with a progressively worsening condition to use the vehicle for a longer period of time. A wheelchair user can start out driving from his or her chair, and then move to several other positions in the vehicle when no longer able to drive.

Side-entry conversions typically are a little more expensive than rear-entry because they’re more intrusive and labor intensive. For example, with a minivan, the entire floor and frame must be removed and replaced with a lowered floor and new frame.

Q: What’s the difference between a fold-out ramp and in-floor ramp?

A: This decision comes down to safety, aesthetics, convenience and cost.

A fold-out ramp folds up into the vehicle, takes up valuable space in the passengers front area and must be deployed whenever the door is opened.

The in-floor ramp slides under the floor, so it safer for anyone seated in the passengers front position, mid-ship position, there’s no obstruction to the door, and other passengers can enter and exit without deploying the ramp. In-floor ramps only are currently only available for side-entry minivan conversions, and there is even a manual (unpowered) option.

In-floor ramps in addition to being safer will generally provide more room in the vehicle because there’s nothing blocking the doorway. The ramp is “out of sight, out of mind and may last longer because it doesn’t have to be deployed each time the side passenger door opens.

Fold-out ramps generally cost a little less than in-floor, and consumers can select from manual and power versions; a power fold-out ramp still costs less than an in-floor ramp.

If an in-floor ramp system breaks down or the vehicle loses power, VMI’s in-floor ramp systems have a backup system (sure-deploy) that bypasses the vehicle’s battery.

A lot of people just feel more secure knowing there isn’t a fold-out ramp next to them in the event of a accident.

Q: I use a wheelchair, but a van or minivan just isn’t “me.” Are they my only options?

A: You have some choices.

Lowered-floor conversions with fold-out ramps can be done on the Honda Element, Chrysler PT Cruiser and Toyota Scion. The conversions are small and don’t fit as many people.

Due to them being built on a much smaller scale, the ones we have seen have not been built with the same level of quality of mini van conversion. Parts availability and repairs have been a problem, some of the companies that converted them are out of business and or have no support for “something they used to build”

For those who prefer to keep their standard car rather than purchasing a modified vehicle — and who can make the transfer from a wheelchair to a car seat — the answer may be as simple as a set of hand controls or a left foot gas pedal

Turning seats can be used in a wide range of vehicles, from sedans to SUVs and pickup trucks. A way to transport the wheelchair (like a rear lift) also is needed.

The rate at which your disease symptoms are worsening is one thing to consider when looking at turning seats — is it likely you’ll be able to transfer and ride in a car seat for many more years? Also, be sure to check with a mobility dealer to determine if your vehicle can accommodate a turning seat and a wheelchair lift.

Q: Why are modified vehicles so darned expensive?

A: A vehicle conversion can cost consumers upwards of $27,000 — and that’s just the cost for the conversion, not the vehicle. The total package can run between $45,000 and $80,000 — or more.

Besides the cost of the components, the reason it’s so pricey is that basically there is a lot of work involved to build a quality vehicle.

Modified vehicles from certified manufacturers and dealers must meet NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). That means all modified vehicles must be properly crash tested. (To learn more, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.)

It’s quite a labor-intensive process because of the customization. When you make structural modifications to a vehicle, you have to go through all of the crash testing, and you have to show that the vehicle is compliant again, and those tests are very expensive.

Most of the time lowering the floor in a minivan requires replacing or moving the fuel tank. Once the conversion is finished, the vehicle still has to meet the original requirements for evaporative emissions, in addition to NHTSA requirements.

Q: How can I pay less?

A: Consumers have some options.

Many consumers cut costs by purchasing pre-owned vehicles with new conversions, typically saving around $10,000 to $12,000.

The previous van owner already has absorbed the depreciation hit on a new van, which essentially occurs right after you’ve driven off the dealer’s lot.

Buying used can be beneficial for first-time buyers who want to try out a vehicle for a few years before buying new.

But if you plan to buy used, do some research and make sure the vehicle is structurally sound including the conversion. Ask for a vehicle history (CARFAX) report, and get the vehicle inspected by a mobility dealer to ensure it’s in good shape and was well taken care of.

Q: How do people manage to pay for it?

A: Many consumers used home equity loans to purchase a vehicle and adaptive equipment. But with home values decreasing.

Many dealers and manufacturers work with lending institutions that offer extended-term financing, including 10-year loans, allowing consumers to make lower, more affordable monthly payments. The downside is that consumers are locked into the vehicle for 10 years, and end up paying more in interest.

If you finance for 10 years, and you’re not going to keep the vehicle for that amount of time, you’re going to lose money when you try to sell or trade it because you haven’t paid off much of the balance.

When you buy a new vehicle, many car manufacturers offer mobility reimbursement programs (up to $1,000) to help offset the cost for the purchase and installation of adaptive equipment.