Tag Archives: New

What is A New/Used Wheelchair van?

When shopping for a new or pre-owned wheelchair van at a mobility dealership, you may hear or read the term “New/Used”. Sounds confusing, right? The term New/Used describes an accessible vehicle for sale that has a new conversion added to a pre-owned used minivan. These vehicles tend to have less than 40,000 miles and are only 2-3 years old. The reason they tend to be newer and with very few miles is that conversion manufacturers want quality vans that are going to provide reliable transportation for many years to come. New/Used van conversions can be side entry or rear entry, with most having a fold-out ramp (vs. an in-floor ramp). A VMI Summit on a Dodge Grand Caravan is just one example of a fold-out ramp conversion. Folding wheelchair ramps on a minivan can be powered or manual. Powered ramps are operated with a push-button inside the vehicle, a key fob or both.

Deciding whether to buy a new or used wheelchair van can be a difficult decision. Your choice may depend on how often or how far you plan to travel every year, whether you are the driver (with the use of hand controls) or passenger, and your preferences for a specific conversion, make or color. A lot of people want all of the latest electronic accessories and gadgets that can only be found in a new vehicle — but they also want something in a used vehicle’s price range. New/Used vehicles provide an “almost new” vehicle at significant cost savings – and may have all of the amenities that you’re are looking for.

Side Entry Versus Rear Entry Wheelchair Vans

The question of a Rear Entry wheelchair van versus a Side Entry van often comes up in conversation when a first time buyer enters the accessible van market. There are several things to consider; first, the family or care giver needs to decide on where the wheelchair user is going to sit. If the person in the wheelchair is able to drive and will be independent there are other things to consider, but for now, let us stay with an assisted member of the family.

Door height is an issue. For that we need to know how tall the person sits in their wheelchair.

Scooter or Power chair is next. Size and weight combination will come into play as we move along in the discovery process.

Will the person transfer into a  seat or will they remain in their wheelchair while traveling?

Okay, now we get into seating. The side entry offers both mid-section and front seat options with tie-downs located throughout. In a rear entry van, the mid-section to rear of the vehicle, are the only seating options while remaining in the wheelchair.

There are five passenger seats available for family members in a side entry van versus six available seats in a rear entry. Both are in addition to whoever is in the wheelchair, which gives a total of six people in a side entry and up to seven in a rear entry.

For folks with a long wheelchair or scooter the rear entry is ideal. Over six feet of space is afforded to tie down the wheelchair and no turning to forward face is necessary.

A side entry requires up to eight feet accommodating the lowering of the ramp allowing access into your van. This may prohibit the use of the ramp while inside a garage or if someone parks to close while at the mall or a doctor’s appointment.

The rear entry does not have the blocked in problem, you are always accessing your van from the aisle.

In summation, like anything else, it is best to try before you buy. Our Mobility Center has both styles of wheelchair vans. See which style suits your lifestyle and then consider the purchase of either a new or used mobility equipped van. Always consult with your mobility product specialist for any additional questions you may have.

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.

Ready To Sell You Wheelchair Van? Make sure Its Ready To Be Bought!

If you’re trying to sell your wheelchair accessible vehicle by yourself, you should know the average mobility vehicle could take a few months to sell. The number of people with limited mobility in one local area who are in the market to purchase can be very small. Add to that the specialized equipment on your van that a potential buyer may not want, and the weeks roll by (and you’re still making payments on the old van).

The fastest deal is at a local mobility dealership. We buy and sell new and used vans throughout New England, take trade-ins, buy vehicle outright and/or can put them on consignment—whether it’s a non-converted vehicle or a converted van.

In order to get the best offer (or trade-in value), you should make sure its in “buying condition”.

Look at the vehicle with fresh eyes—like a buyer would. Ask yourself, “Would I buy this vehicle?”

  • If something needs repairing, fix it. A small investment can add hundreds to the value.
  • Wash it, wax it or take it to a detailer for a shine, inside and out. Maybe you only need to wash it and perhaps buy new floor mats.
  • Write down vehicle information such as year, make, model, interior and exterior colors and mileage; VIN number; side or rear entry, configuration of the interior of the van; standard features; removable features and any other adaptive extras.
  • Double check safety features: Are the tie-downs still sturdy and clean? Does the lift or ramp still operate smoothly?
  • Consider replacing the tires if they are bald.
  • Take out all personal items you may want to keep.
  • Find the registration, warranty, owner’s manual, equipment manuals and repair receipts.
  • All controls should be clearly labeled—and work!

Now you’re ready to sell or trade-in for a newer model.

Questions To Ask Yourself When Searching For a Mobility Specialist Dealer

Now that you have made the decision to purchase a wheelchair accessible vehicle, you need to shop around for the best provider. Many people turn to a mobility specialist dealer. Here are some considerations you may want to keep in mind when doing your research and shopping.

Stock
What vehicle brands does the dealer offer? Do they have a wide-range of vehicles for you to choose from? Do they provide both new and used choices? Do they convert other vehicles besides vans, like SUVs and trucks?

Range of Conversions
Does the company offer the ramp and product options that are specified to your needs? Do their vehicles provide the safety features and equipment you need?

Aesthetics
Which vehicle best fits your personality and will keep you happy in the long run?

Location
Is the dealer close to where you live?

Funds and Financing
Is purchasing from this provider beneficial to you in terms of cost? Do they provide a range of priced vehicles, or are all of their products around the same price?

Reviews
What have others said about this company? Are they a reputable dealer or have they had issues? Does the dealer provide feedback from previous customers or is it hard to find customer reviews?

On-Site Evaluations
In addition to the evaluation from a Certified Rehabilitation Specialist, will I receive another evaluation from the dealer? How will they know the equipment will fit properly? Will it be safe for me to drive?

Training
Once I have purchased my vehicle, how will I learn to use my new equipment? Will the dealer provide me training? Will they be available to address any questions I may have regarding the use of my equipment?

Customer Care
What does the company provide for you? Do they offer incentives like 24-hour local emergency service, warranties and/or trained Ability Specialists that can help you in your decision?

Dealers
Is the mobility specialist well informed and up-to-date on the technical skills necessary in today’s mobility market? Do they belong to the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association – the industry association for safe and reliable transportation options for people with disabilities?

Each of these factors are important to consider during the buying process.

Tips For Buying A Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

You’re a first time wheelchair van buyer, and like many other customers have questions about handicap vans, or how or where they are built, and what kind of prices to expect. This portion of our website will assist you to find answers to your questions and provide creative mobility product solutions. We encourage you to gather as much information as possible, but the best education of needs and options is done through a consultation with a Mobility Consultant. Our staff knows the inside and out of Adaptive Equipment and can custom fit and recommend the perfect wheelchair accessible vehicle transportation for friends, family, and most importantly you!

There are many different options and possibilities with handicap accessible vehicles; the most common option is a wheelchair accessible minivan. A wheelchair accessible van is modified to allow a wheelchair or scooter user to drive their mobility equipment directly into the handicap accessible vehicle with no assistance. Featuring a 10-11″ dropped floor for easy entry and exist (with headroom up to 58″!) and removable front seats that allow the user to ride safely in the front passenger area or even drive from their wheelchair.

TIPS TO BUYING A WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE VEHICLE:

  • Create a list of features you want and need, so you can accurately access the cost differences.
  • Take into consideration how you’re going to transport the whole family.
  • Consider the adaptive equipment that needs to be transported. Will it change over time?
  • What is the age of the user and caregivers?
  • Have a budget. Check with a Mobility Consultant to obtain all information including 10-year financing options and rebates available.
  • Talk with a Certified Mobility Consultant to explain features and benefits, and guide you through the wheelchair van conversion buying process.
  • Purchasing your new or used wheelchair van from Ability Center provides a piece-of-mind because we are a Certified Mobility Dealer that is part of NMEDA and is QAP certified.
  • Rent and try before you buy. Ability Center will apply your handicap van rental costs to the purchase of a new or previously-owned handicap accessible vehicle.
  • Buy for today, and tomorrow! It’s a big investment that should last you many years.

HERE ARE SOME OF THE MOST COMMON QUESTIONS AND THEIR ANSWERS:

  • Do you convert the mobility vans there? No. Vans with new ramp conversions are converted in three locations: Indiana, Michigan, and Arizona. We obtain them complete. We install external or internal lifts, and any adaptive equipment necessary to custom fit the driver to their van.
  • What vans are being converted? Currently, the manufacturers are converting the Dodge/Chrysler minivans, Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey Chevrolet/Buick minivans, and Ford E-Series vans & Transit Connects.
  • I want to carry two wheelchairs. Can I? Most handicap van conversions make carrying two wheelchairs a breeze, but that depends on the style of chair or scooter. Talk to our Mobility Specialist they’ll know what will work for you.
  • I can’t make it down to your store. Can you come out? Yes. We love in-home demonstrations. It gives you the chance to have your whole family there and try the new or used handicap van in your own environment. Just pick a van, and we’ll bring it out to you at no-charge.
  • How do I secure my wheelchair? Depending on the model, there are several ways to secure your equipment. Three typical ways are: 4-piont manual strapping system that comes with every van; optional 4-point retractable straps; and the EZ-Lock bracket system. Please check with your Mobility Specialist to see if a bracket designed for your equipment. There are some popular wheelchairs on the market that do not have a bracket.
  • I want to save more money. What do you have? Besides taking advantage of any and all rebates out there, consider a manual ramp version or the very popular used van with a new conversion. A pre-owned conversion van may be the way to go if you are considering a budget. You can save thousands on a pre-owned van.
  • Why is the price set the way it is? The final price is a combined cost of the van AND the mobility conversion. What will determine the overall price is what you want out of the van and options (i.e.: Toyota Sienna Limited versus Dodge Grand Caravan SE). The conversions are priced very closely and do not generally affect overall price.
  • Can I trade in my non-converted vehicle? YES! Bring it by and we’ll give you the best deal on non-converted or converted vehicles. We’ll take the stress out of selling the vehicle on the market.
  • Can I try the van first? Absolutely you can test drive the vehicle to see if it going to work for you and your family!
  • I want to buy my van at the dealer; they’ve been nice to me. Depending on the manufacturer and conversion, that could be done. You will not take physical possession of the van, but your relationship with them will be continued. Before you do, talk to our Mobility Specialists and they’ll let you know if that van can be purchased through your favorite dealer. We have a great working relationship with most dealers, so we know how to work with the auto dealers in your town.
  • Do you offer financing for handicap vans? Yes. We work with banks that finance mobility vans up to 10 years, or on terms that fit your needs. Our rates are comparable to what is on the market.
  • Can I use my own bank? Certainly. But be cautious, you must let them know that it is a van converted for wheelchair access. Some private or national banks will not finance the total cost of the mobility van, and only finance up to 120% of the value of the van prior to conversion. Call your Mobility Specialist before you go to your bank, it may be helpful to assist you with your bank by letting them know of your intentions.
  • Does Medicare pay for vans? No. Due to Medicare guidelines and policy the vehicle conversion is a “deluxe item” only to be used outside the home, for which that equipment Medicare does not deem “medically necessary.”
  • Who will assist with funds for me? Depending on where you live, your state could have funds set aside for financial assistance. These funds are available upon application and approval of your case and if the state has funds available. Sometimes this can take up to 6 months or longer. Call our Mobility Specialist; they will know where to direct you to start the process.
  • I am a disabled Veteran. How do I obtain a mobility van? If the VA has provided you with a wheelchair or scooter, you are entitled to a lift for your existing vehicle or a mobility conversion to transport that equipment. Depending on your diagnosis or if your disability is service connected or not, either will be provided. Call us; we’ll work with your local VA to help you start the process. We are very experienced with Veterans policy and procedures.
  • Can I convert my own van? The handicap vans we offer are complete, but you could convert your own. This is a very rare circumstance, but if it absolutely needs to be done your vehicle needs to fit the manufacturer’s criteria for converting a customer-owned van. In just about all cases, because of the time and additional expenses, it is more beneficial and cost effective to the customer to purchase a van post-converted to take advantage of rebates. Conversions cannot be financed on their own.

VMI’s End Of 2014 Sale!

VMI's End Of 2014 Sale!

Get up to $3,000.00 in rebates on new 2014 Toyota and Honda VMI Conversion Minivans

This Deal is Limited to the following Vehicle Conversions:

  • New 2014 Honda Odyssey Northstar Conversion
  • New 2014 Honda Odyssey Summit Conversion
  • New 2014 Toyota Sienna Northstar Conversion
  • New 2014 Toyota Sienna Summit Conversion

Promotion Timeline:
The Promotion Started on Oct. 13, 2014
The Promotion expires on Dec. 31, 2014

The Possible Rebates Include:

VMI's 2014 Year-End Sale -- Possible RebatesVMI also offers a Rebate for disabled veterans, The Operation Independence Rebate, which is for $1,000.00

Terms and Conditions:
Final rebate amount is subject to dealer participation. Promotion runs from 10/13/14 through 12/31/14. Retail delivery must be made between 10/13/14 and 12/31/14, no exceptions. VMI will contribute $1,000.00 end user rebate on a new 2014 Honda or a new 2014 Toyota Northstar/Summit conversion minivan. Rebate offer is not applicable toward the purchase of Toyota Northstar E360. Rebate will be issued from VMI after retail delivery. Dealer must fax completed form to VMI at 602-304-3290 within 10 days of retail delivery. This rebate offer cannot be combined with any other offer except VMI Operation Independence Rebate. Restrictions apply. Promotion is subject to change without notice.

**VMI Mobility Dealer must buy replacement 2014 Honda or Toyota from VMI PDN inventory for end user to be eligible for the $1,000 VMI rebate. Dealer stipulations apply for rebate eligibility from VMI. Replacement VIN must be supplied when rebate form is submitted and is subject to verification.

*Participating dealers only.

***Honda or Toyota mobility rebate must meet eligibility requirements for Honda or Toyota conversion minivan purchases.

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.

What is A New/Used Wheelchair van?

VMi New England Wheelchair vans & ramp:Lift options
When shopping for a new or pre-owned wheelchair van at a mobility dealership, you may hear or read the term “New/Used”. Sounds confusing, right? The term New/Used describes an accessible vehicle for sale that has a new conversion added to a pre-owned used minivan. These vehicles tend to have less than 40,000 miles and are only 2-3 years old. The reason they tend to be newer and with very few miles is that conversion manufacturers want quality vans that are going to provide reliable transportation for many years to come. New/Used van conversions can be side entry or rear entry, with most having a fold-out ramp (vs. an in-floor ramp). A VMI Summit on a Dodge Grand Caravan is just one example of a fold-out ramp conversion. Folding wheelchair ramps on a minivan can be powered or manual. Powered ramps are operated with a push-button inside the vehicle, a key fob or both.

Deciding whether to buy a new or used wheelchair van can be a difficult decision. Your choice may depend on how often or how far you plan to travel every year, whether you are the driver (with the use of hand controls) or passenger, and your preferences for a specific conversion, make or color. A lot of people want all of the latest electronic accessories and gadgets that can only be found in a new vehicle — but they also want something in a used vehicle’s price range. New/Used vehicles provide an “almost new” vehicle at significant cost savings – and may have all of the amenities that you’re are looking for.

Everyone Has A Story To Tell: Help A Local Hero Win A New Wheelchair Van!

Everyone Has A Story To Tell Help A Local Hero Win A New Wheelchair Van
Who Is A Local Hero?

  • Local Heroes can be Defined as People who Volunteer, Educate, Advocate, Achieve, and Persevere.

Whether you are living with a disability or have dedicated your time to helping someone who is, we want to hear what makes you/them a Local Hero.

How To Enter

  1. Get the Promo Code From your Local Dealer (including us: 508-697-6006)
  2. Complete the Local Hero Entry Form and include either a written story or a video.
    • Written: Write up to 400 words with a picture of the local hero (1MB or less).
    • Video: Make a YouTube video that is no longer than 2 minutes.
  3. Preview your Story and Submit your Local Hero Entry Form here

Important Dates

  • February 25, 2014 – NMEDA will begin accepting Local Hero entries
  • March 11, 2014 – Public voting begins — Click here to vote
  • May 9, 2014  – Local Hero entries and voting end
  • May 30, 2014 – The Local Hero Winners are contacted
  • June 2014 – Local Heroes will publicly be announced
  • June/August 2014 – Wheelchair Accessible vehicles will be delivered

New VMI Northstar E Series: A Manual Side Entry In-Floor Ramp Conversion

New VMI Northstar E-Series Van
Introducing The New VMI Northstar E-Series Wheelchair Van Conversion

What could compare to VMI’s innovative Northstar wheelchair accessible minivan? The economically driven Northstar E-Series. The nearly effortless manual slide-out ramp contains no powerdrive components, affording absolute reliability and assurance. An abundance of interior and cargo space provides more comfort and convenience on short drives or long trips. Distinct exterior styling presents an appearance every bit as notable as the fully automatic Northstar. Finally, freedom feels as good as it looks.

Standard in every VMI Northstar E-Series Conversion Minivan:
  • 11″ Lowered Floor
  • Maximum interior headroom
  • Manual In-Floor Wheelchair Ramp
  • Quick Release Front Seats
  • Optional Mid Row Seating
  • Complete undercoating and rust proofing
  • Automotive Quality Interior
  • Manual Wheelchair Tie-down System
  • Fully Crash Tested
  • Fully Carpeted Seat Bases
  • Ample Floor Space

Tips on purchasing your first mobility van or wheelchair accessible vehicles

You’re a first time wheelchair van buyer, and like many other customers have questions about handicap vans, or how or where they are built, and what kind of prices to expect. This portion of our website will assist you to find answers to your questions and provide creative mobility product solutions. We encourage you to gather as much information as possible, but the best education of needs and options is done through a consultation with a Mobility Consultant. Our staff knows the inside and out of Adaptive Equipment and can custom fit and recommend the perfect wheelchair accessible vehicle transportation for friends, family, and most importantly you!

There are many different options and possibilities with handicap accessible vehicles; the most common option is a wheelchair accessible minivan. A wheelchair accessible van is modified to allow a wheelchair or scooter user to drive their mobility equipment directly into the handicap accessible vehicle with no assistance. Featuring a 10-11″ dropped floor for easy entry and exist (with headroom up to 58″!) and removable front seats that allow the user to ride safely in the front passenger area or even drive from their wheelchair.

TIPS TO BUYING A WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE VEHICLE:

  • Create a list of features you want and need, so you can accurately access the cost differences.
  • Take into consideration how you’re going to transport the whole family.
  • Consider the adaptive equipment that needs to be transported. Will it change over time?
  • What is the age of the user and caregivers?
  • Have a budget. Check with a Mobility Consultant to obtain all information including 10-year financing options and rebates available.
  • Talk with a Certified Mobility Consultant to explain features and benefits, and guide you through the wheelchair van conversion buying process.
  • Purchasing your new or used wheelchair van from Ability Center provides a piece-of-mind because we are a Certified Mobility Dealer that is part of NMEDA and is QAP certified.
  • Rent and try before you buy. Ability Center will apply your handicap van rental costs to the purchase of a new or previously-owned handicap accessible vehicle.
  • Buy for today, and tomorrow! It’s a big investment that should last you many years.

HERE ARE SOME OF THE MOST COMMON QUESTIONS AND THEIR ANSWERS:

  • Do you convert the mobility vans there? No. Vans with new ramp conversions are converted in three locations: Indiana, Michigan, and Arizona. We obtain them complete. We install external or internal lifts, and any adaptive equipment necessary to custom fit the driver to their van.
  • What vans are being converted? Currently, the manufacturers are converting the Dodge/Chrysler minivans, Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey Chevrolet/Buick minivans, and Ford E-Series vans & Transit Connects.
  • I want to carry two wheelchairs. Can I? Most handicap van conversions make carrying two wheelchairs a breeze, but that depends on the style of chair or scooter. Talk to our Mobility Specialist they’ll know what will work for you.
  • I can’t make it down to your store. Can you come out? Yes. We love in-home demonstrations. It gives you the chance to have your whole family there and try the new or used handicap van in your own environment. Just pick a van, and we’ll bring it out to you at no-charge.
  • How do I secure my wheelchair? Depending on the model, there are several ways to secure your equipment. Three typical ways are: 4-piont manual strapping system that comes with every van; optional 4-point retractable straps; and the EZ-Lock bracket system. Please check with your Mobility Specialist to see if a bracket designed for your equipment. There are some popular wheelchairs on the market that do not have a bracket.
  • I want to save more money. What do you have? Besides taking advantage of any and all rebates out there, consider a manual ramp version or the very popular used van with a new conversion. A pre-owned conversion van may be the way to go if you are considering a budget. You can save thousands on a pre-owned van.
  • Why is the price set the way it is? The final price is a combined cost of the van AND the mobility conversion. What will determine the overall price is what you want out of the van and options (i.e.: Toyota Sienna Limited versus Dodge Grand Caravan SE). The conversions are priced very closely and do not generally affect overall price.
  • Can I trade in my non-converted vehicle? YES! Bring it by and we’ll give you the best deal on non-converted or converted vehicles. We’ll take the stress out of selling the vehicle on the market.
  • Can I try the van first? Absolutely you can test drive the vehicle to see if it going to work for you and  your family!
  • I want to buy my van at the dealer; they’ve been nice to me. Depending on the manufacturer and conversion, that could be done. You will not take physical possession of the van, but your relationship with them will be continued. Before you do, talk to our Mobility Specialists and they’ll let you know if that van can be purchased through your favorite dealer. We have a great working relationship with most dealers, so we know how to work with the auto dealers in your town.
  • Do you offer financing for handicap vans? Yes. We work with banks that finance mobility vans up to 10 years, or on terms that fit your needs. Our rates are comparable to what is on the market.
  • Can I use my own bank? Certainly. But be cautious, you must let them know that it is a van converted for wheelchair access. Some private or national banks will not finance the total cost of the mobility van, and only finance up to 120% of the value of the van prior to conversion. Call your Mobility Specialist before you go to your bank, it may be helpful to assist you with your bank by letting them know of your intentions.
  • Does Medicare pay for vans? No. Due to Medicare guidelines and policy the vehicle conversion is a “deluxe item” only to be used outside the home, for which that equipment Medicare does not deem “medically necessary.”
  • Who will assist with funds for me? Depending on where you live, your state could have funds set aside for financial assistance. These funds are available upon application and approval of your case and if the state has funds available. Sometimes this can take up to 6 months or longer. Call our Mobility Specialist; they will know where to direct you to start the process.
  • I am a disabled Veteran. How do I obtain a mobility van? If the VA has provided you with a wheelchair or scooter, you are entitled to a lift for your existing vehicle or a mobility conversion to transport that equipment. Depending on your diagnosis or if your disability is service connected or not, either will be provided. Call us; we’ll work with your local VA to help you start the process. We are very experienced with Veterans policy and procedures.
  • Can I convert my own van? The handicap vans we offer are complete, but you could convert your own. This is a very rare circumstance, but if it absolutely needs to be done your vehicle needs to fit the manufacturer’s criteria for converting a customer-owned van. In just about all cases, because of the time and additional expenses, it is more beneficial and cost effective to the customer to purchase a van post-converted to take advantage of rebates. Conversions cannot be financed on their own.

Buying a Wheelchair Van For the First Time

Buying a Wheelchair For The First Time
Purchasing a wheelchair van for personal use is not the kind of activity many prepare for in their lives. But then, if you or someone in your family has recently become wheelchair-bound, your life is full of new issues and concerns you probably never thought you’d have to deal with.

Transportation is important though, for work, doctor’s appointments and just being a part of the world. Since so many families end up using a lift-equipped van as the primary family vehicle, you have to consider multiple aspects to make your purchase.

If you are getting ready to buy your first wheelchair van, keep reading to find out how to make your decision.

What do you need from a lift?
If you are trying to determine whether a used van or a new purchase better suits your needs, you have to consider not only the immediate cost, but the long term costs, as well. Beyond that, though, you need to think about your lift needs.

Most companies that sell wheelchair accessible vans both new and used offer products that already have lifts installed. Because this is the case, you have to look at the size of the wheelchair you’ll be transporting.

Some wheelchairs, specifically electric ones and those constructed for people with more serious muscular issues, may be wider or taller than the standard, and clearance has to be considered in these situations in order to avoid injuries.

If the wheelchair is standard-sized, any lift will probably work well, but if you are dealing with a custom-made wheelchair, you’ll want to take plenty of good measurements to make sure to avoid injuries.

You also want to consider how the lift is controlled. Will the wheelchair-bound person be operating the lift? If so, controls need to be accessible and reachable either through proper door mounting or a remote control.

Who else will be riding in the van?
Companies sell both fill-sized wheelchair vans and wheelchair minivans because they address different sets of needs. For day-to-day travel involving just one or two people, a minivan may be a slightly less expensive option. If you’re planning for your wheelchair van to be your primary family transportation, though, you’ll want to seriously consider going with a full-sized wheelchair van.

You can usually fit a wheelchair into a full-sized van comfortably by removing only the second row of seating, for example, leaving the back row available to transport a larger family. This is not always the case, of course, but the smaller your wheelchair van, the more likely the lift will be installed in the back with all of the rear seating removed.

Other wheelchair van considerations
As mentioned above, different vans will have the lifts installed in different locations. Some designated handicapped parking spaces, for example, are wider in order to accommodate the lowering of a side lift. In other locations, parking may be such that a rear lift is more convenient.

Consider the places you will be going most often and, if possible, go survey the parking situation there. Use what you learn in your survey along with the consideration of how many passengers you need to transport to determine whether a full-sized wheelchair van or wheelchair minivan is a better option.

If you take into account comfort, clearance, lift accessibility and number of passengers, you should be able to build a list of requirements that will help you make the right wheelchair van purchase.

Prepare Your Mobility Equipment For the Colder Weather

Cold temperatures not only slow wheelchair users down, but can also slow down their vans and accessible equipment. For example, if you use a hydraulic wheelchair lift, you may have noticed that the colder the weather, the slower the lift reacts. The cold thickens the fluid, making it move slower through hoses, valves and cylinders.

There’s not much you can do about that, but preparing other equipment for cold weather is important to help avoid accidents and breakdowns.

If you live in the New England area · call our Mobility Center today (508) 697-8324 · We’ll rust proof your wheelchair accessible vehicle, give you an oil change, tune-up, and/or semi-annual ramp/lift service and have any other accessible equipment checked before the temperature dips. If you ask we can also check your battery, antifreeze level, heater, brakes, defroster and thermostat.

Do It Yourself:

  • Purchase winter wiper blades that cut through snow and ice.
  • Keep the gas tank at least half full. It reduces condensation and makes your vehicle easier to start on cold mornings.
  • Buy tires that have MS, M+S, M/S or M&S on them, meaning they meet the Rubber Manufacturers Association guidelines and can bite through mud and snow.
  • For better traction and control, rotate tires so the best ones are in the front.
  • Get an electric engine block heater. It warms the engine so the motor can start. It connects to normal AC power overnight or before driving. In extremely cold climates, electrical outlets are sometimes found in public or private parking lots. 
  • Cold weather is tough on accessible van batteries. Buy one with greater starting power, higher cold cranking amps and reserve capacity for energy when the engine isn’t running.
  • Use synthetic oil to make starting a cold engine easier.

Before you drive:

  • Keep rock salt on hand to melt ice off walkways for a safer wheelchair ride.
  • Clean the snow off the roof and hood so it doesn’t “avalanche” onto the windshield and block your vision.
  • Clear the head and tail lights for best visibility.
  • Scrape the ice off mirrors and windows.

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Here at VMi New England Mobility Center and Automotive Innovations we’ll service and repair your wheelchair accessible vehicle and/or equipment even if you didn’t buy it from us! So bring us your mobility van no matter the year (old or new), chassis (Honda, Dodge, Toyota, Ford, Chrysler, excreta..), or conversion (Side Entry, Rear Entry, VMI, Braun, Ricon, Rampvan, Elorado, Amerivan, excreta..)!!

Side Entry Versus Rear Entry Wheelchair Vans

2013 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT rear entry wheelchair van newenglandwheelchairvan.com12 VS 2013 Toyota Sienna VMI Northstar

The question of a Rear Entry wheelchair van versus a Side Entry van often comes up in conversation when a first time buyer enters the accessible van market. There are several things to consider; first, the family or care giver needs to decide on where the wheelchair user is going to sit. If the person in the wheelchair is able to drive and will be independent there are other things to consider, but for now, let us stay with an assisted member of the family.

Door height is an issue. For that we need to know how tall the person sits in their wheelchair.

Scooter or Power chair is next. Size and weight combination will come into play as we move along in the discovery process.

Will the person transfer into a  seat or will they remain in their wheelchair while traveling?

Okay, now we get into seating. The side entry offers both mid-section and front seat options with tie-downs located throughout. In a rear entry van, the mid-section to rear of the vehicle, are the only seating options while remaining in the wheelchair.

There are five passenger seats available for family members in a side entry van versus six available seats in a rear entry. Both are in addition to whoever is in the wheelchair, which gives a total of six people in a side entry and up to seven in a rear entry.

For folks with a long wheelchair or scooter the rear entry is ideal. Over six feet of space is afforded to tie down the wheelchair and no turning to forward face is necessary.

A side entry requires up to eight feet accommodating the lowering of the ramp allowing access into your van. This may prohibit the use of the ramp while inside a garage or if someone parks to close while at the mall or a doctor’s appointment.

The rear entry does not have the blocked in problem, you are always accessing your van from the aisle.

In summation, like anything else, it is best to try before you buy. Our Mobility Center has both styles of wheelchair vans. See which style suits your lifestyle and then consider the purchase of either a new or used mobility equipped van. Always consult with your mobility product specialist for any additional questions you may have.

2010 Chrysler Town and Country · For Sale

We just took in a 2010 Chrysler Town and Country LMT as a trade-in for a converted van.

Additional Information

• 10,421 miles
• 4.0L V6 SFI SOHC 24V
• Fuel Type: Gasoline
• MPG City/Hwy: 17 city/24 hwy

Pictures

2010 Chrysler T&C No Conversion 2A4RR8DX4AR421854 front left 2010 Chrysler T&C No Conversion 2A4RR8DX4AR421854 front right 2010 Chrysler T&C No Conversion 2A4RR8DX4AR421854 rear right 2010 Chrysler T&C No Conversion 2A4RR8DX4AR421854  rear left side 2010 Chrysler T&C No Conversion 2A4RR8DX4AR421854 front side interior view 2010 Chrysler T&C No Conversion 2A4RR8DX4AR421854 interior front passenger view 2010 Chrysler T&C No Conversion 2A4RR8DX4AR421854 front interior view 2010 Chrysler T&C No Conversion 2A4RR8DX4AR421854 dash 2010 Chrysler T&C No Conversion 2A4RR8DX4AR421854 interior front  view 2010 Chrysler T&C No Conversion 2A4RR8DX4AR421854 dvd player 2010 Chrysler T&C No Conversion 2A4RR8DX4AR421854 interior rear seats 2010 Chrysler T&C No Conversion 2A4RR8DX4AR421854 interior rear view2010 Chrysler T&C No Conversion 2A4RR8DX4AR421854 interior left rear floor view 2010 Chrysler T&C No Conversion 2A4RR8DX4AR421854 trunk open seats up view

 

Trade-Ins
We accept both converted mobility vehicles and non-modified vehicles as long as the vehicle is in very good condition. It is also preferred that the vehicle is under 10 years old with odometers at 100,000 miles or less.

2012 Dodge Grand Caravan Information · For Sale

Our New 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT Mobility minivan has a New VMI Northstar conversion

Additional Information

20 miles
 3.6L V6 DOHC 24V
 Fuel Type: Gasoline
 MPG City/Hwy: 17 city/25 hwy

Pictures
VMi New England 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan VMiNewEngland.com VMi New England 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan VMiNewEngland.com VMi New England 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan VMiNewEngland.com VMi New England 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan VMiNewEngland.com VMi New England 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan VMiNewEngland.com VMi New England 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan VMiNewEngland.com  VMi New England 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan VMiNewEngland.com  VMi New England 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan VMiNewEngland.com VMi New England 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan VMiNewEngland.com  VMi New England 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan VMiNewEngland.comVMi New England 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan VMiNewEngland.com VMi New England 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan VMiNewEngland.com VMi New England 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan VMiNewEngland.com VMi New England 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan VMiNewEngland.com

Dodge Grand Caravan with VMI Northstar Conversion

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.

Description
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 conversion wear and tear (fewer 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 – 30.75″
Door Opening Height – 55.125″
Usable Mobility Ramp Width – 29.25″
Wheelchair Ramp Length – 45.75″
Length from Back Seats to Kickplate – 58.25″
Overall Floor Length – 86″
Floor Width at Front Doors – 61″
Interior Height at Driver & Passenger Positions (Without Sunroof) – 58″
Interior Height at Center Position – 57.63″
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
800lb. 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 Wheelchair Van Conversion

Dodge Grand Caravan with VMI Northstar Conversion

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.

Dodge VMI Northstar at Automotive Innovations www.bridgewatermobility.com

VMI New England Dodge Northstar Wheelchair Van VMiNewEngland.com

Description
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 conversion wear and tear (fewer 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 – 30.75″
Door Opening Height – 55.125″
Usable Mobility Ramp Width – 29.25″
Wheelchair Ramp Length – 45.75″
Length from Back Seats to Kickplate – 58.25″
Overall Floor Length – 86″
Floor Width at Front Doors – 61″
Interior Height at Driver & Passenger Positions (Without Sunroof) – 58″
Interior Height at Center Position – 57.63″
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
800lb. 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


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Dodge Grand Caravan with VMI Summit Conversion

The Summit folding wheelchair ramp van conversion on a Dodge Grand Caravan is an economical choice compared to the popular Northstar in-floor handicapped ramp conversion from VMI. Summit mobility ramps utilize siderails that are 2 inches tall. This is especially important for those with a hard time navigating an incline. VMI Summit handicapped accessible van on the Dodge Grand Caravan also includes an industry best access ramp length of only 50.25”.

The short handicap ramp provides two key advantages to VMI customers. First, passengers can easily use the Dodge handle for the sliding door and switches because the handicapped ramp is not covering them. Second, users in wheelchairs have more room to move on and off the ramp when other vehicles park too close.

Dodge VMI Summit at Automotive Innovations www.bridgewatermobility.com

VMI New England Dodge Summit Wheelchair Van VMiNewEngland.com

Description
Dodge Grand Caravan with VMI Summit Only
2” siderails help people with a disabilities stay on the ramp when coming in and out
When other vehicles park too close, 50.25” ramp leaves users more room to maneuver
By simply pushing outward on the ramp, it can be deployed incase of a mechanical/power failure
Handicap ramp surface allows debris to fall through so it doesn’t end up inside the vehicle
Mobility ramp has a quiet cabin dut to an anti-rattle device
600lb. handicapped ramp rating

Dodge Grand Caravan with VMI Northstar AND Summit
Fully-powered accessible ramp
11” drop FLEX Floor maximizes head clearance and interior space for maneuvering a wheelchair
Complete undercoating and rust proofing
PowerKneel system lowers the minivan to reduce wheelchair ramp angle
Total integration with Dodge systems prevents damage to vehicle/ conversion
Accessible van conversion is controlled through interior sliding-door switches and Dodge keychain
Easy-out passenger and front driver seat stands
No-slip handicapped ramp
Total crash-testing and compliance with all government standards for safety
3-year/36,000-mile warranty

Specifications
Maximum Floor Drop – 11″
Mobility Vehicle Ground Clearance – 5.5″
Door Opening Height – 54.25″
Usable Wheelchair Ramp Width – 28.88″
Handicap Ramp Length – 50.25″
Length from Back of Seats to Kickplate – 58.25″
Overall Floor Length – 86″
Floor Width at Doors – 61″
Interior Height at Center Position – 58″
Interior Height at Drivers & Passengers Position (Without Sunroof) – 58″
Steering Wheel Bottom to Floor – 29.5″
Measured Down from Front Edge of Steering Wheel to Front Kick-Up – 16.25

Standard Features
Power Folding Wheelchair Ramp with Non-Skid Surface
Power Sliding Door with Easy Manual Operation
Maximum Interior Headroom
Undercoating and Complete Rust Proofing
Manual Backup Ramp Operation
Warranty – Mobiltiy Conversion Van
Fully Crash Tested
Remote Control Activation
600 Pound Load Rating for Handicap Ramp
9.7 Degree Handicap Ramp Angle

Optional Features
Rubberized Flooring

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.

2013 Toyota Sienna Information · For Sale

Our New 2013 Toyota Sienna LE Mobility minivan has a New VMI Northstar conversion

Additional Information

6 miles
3.5L V6 EFI DOHC 24V
Fuel Type: Gasoline
MPG City/Hwy: 18 city/25 hwy

Pictures

2013 Toyota Sienna DS292397 Front Left Side View 2013 Toyota Sienna  DS292397 Front Right Side View 2013 Toyota Sienna  DS292397 Rear Right Side View 2013 Toyota Sienna  DS292397 Rear Left Side View 2013 Toyota Sienna  DS292397 Steering Wheel and Dash Left Side View 2013 Toyota Sienna  DS292397 Right Side Steering Wheel and Dash View 2013 Toyota Sienna  DS292397 Indide View 2013 Toyota Sienna  DS292397 Left Side View - Elias 2013 Toyota Sienna  DS292397 Trunk Open Seats Up View 2013 Toyota Sienna  DS292397 Trunk Open Seats Down View 2013 Toyota Sienna  DS292397 Engine View

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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.

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 ramp  even without power
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 & interior space for wheelchair maneuverability
Patented independent rear suspension designed to preserve the 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 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
(You can 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
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