Tag Archives: Wheelchair Accessible Truck

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.

Steer Yourself In The Right Direction To Find The Perfect Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

Purchasing or financing a wheelchair accessible vehicle takes time, money and a little bit of research. Because of the many available options when it comes to handicap vehicles, and the investment they require, knowing where to start your search is crucial and can shape the entire process. NMEDA member dealers work with individuals with disAbilities, as well as their caregivers and families, to ensure we steer you in the direction of the perfect vehicle for you. Here are a few useful tips and resources:

Go to the Pros
By going straight to a NMEDA members dealership, like ourselves, you’ll be sure that you’re getting the best possible care and attention, as well as professional service. All dealerships are required to adhere to strict quality standards under our Quality Assurance Program and, will provide you with the best solutions for your specific needs. Starting your search at a NMEDA dealer near you means you are sure you get behind the wheel of a handicap vehicle that’s right for you.

Establish Your Needs
Who will be the vehicle’s primary driver? Will you be driving from a wheelchair, transferring into the vehicle’s seat or transporting a loved one with a disability? Will you need to enter and exit the vehicle on your own or will help be nearby? Are you looking for a truck, car, minivan or a SUV? The answers to these questions can help determine what kind of adapted vehicle and equipment you need before diving into inventory listings.

Know Your Budget
We know that one of the most difficult parts of purchasing a new vehicle is making sure the cost is within your means. When it comes to finding a wheelchair accessible or adaptive vehicle, there are more options than you might realize. There are several state and government organizations in place to help get you the car you need.

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.

Steer Yourself In The Right Direction To Find The Perfect Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

Purchasing or financing a wheelchair accessible vehicle takes time, money and a little bit of research. Because of the many available options when it comes to handicap vehicles, and the investment they require, knowing where to start your search is crucial and can shape the entire process. NMEDA member dealers work with individuals with disAbilities, as well as their caregivers and families, to ensure we steer you in the direction of the perfect vehicle for you. Here are a few useful tips and resources:

Go to the Pros
By going straight to a NMEDA members dealership, like ourselves, you’ll be sure that you’re getting the best possible care and attention, as well as professional service. All dealerships are required to adhere to strict quality standards under our Quality Assurance Program and, will provide you with the best solutions for your specific needs. Starting your search at a NMEDA dealer near you means you are sure you get behind the wheel of a handicap vehicle that’s right for you.

Establish Your Needs
Who will be the vehicle’s primary driver? Will you be driving from a wheelchair, transferring into the vehicle’s seat or transporting a loved one with a disability? Will you need to enter and exit the vehicle on your own or will help be nearby? Are you looking for a truck, car, minivan or a SUV? The answers to these questions can help determine what kind of adapted vehicle and equipment you need before diving into inventory listings.

Know Your Budget
We know that one of the most difficult parts of purchasing a new vehicle is making sure the cost is within your means. When it comes to finding a wheelchair accessible or adaptive vehicle, there are more options than you might realize. There are several state and government organizations in place to help get you the car you need.

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.

Truck Mobility Seats

W:C Truck 3100
Three Axis Extended and Lower Mobility Seats

The 3100 mobility seat is intended to be installed in pick-up trucks. When activated, the Freedom Seat smoothly rotates, extends, and ascends or descends in-to or out-of the vehicle so you are perfectly positioned on the ground or behind the wheel. It has a weight capacity of 350 lbs as well as multi-access programmability for optimal axis movement.

The 3200
has all the same features of the 3100, except it is designed for a passenger set-up and can be installed in SUV’s, sedans, and minivans.

The 3300 & 3400 mobility seats offer you the flexibility to enter from the front passenger position using an after-market seat, or from the mid-row using the original or after-market seat.

Freedom Sciences has a complete line fully-powered articulating mobility seats. After years of meticulous development and research, Freedom Sciences brings to market multiple seating applications for Passenger Vans, Mini-vans, Trucks, and Full-Sized Sedans. Our multi-axis movement allows us to fit our Freedom Seat into tighter applications hence providing more flexibility and span more vehicle applications than was previously available. With the patent pending Freedom Seat base, the end users seating pathway is custom programmed to their specific needs, optimizing every inch in and around the door opening – this maximizing feet and leg room while entering and exiting the vehicle. The Freedom Seat also offers seat products which are driving or passenger applications that exit the vehicles from the second row bay door. This innovative design allows for easy transfer in and out of vehicles by providing greater space outside of the vehicle for larger power chairs, wheelchairs, or scooters.

Retaining the OEM/factory seat should always be explored as it preserves the safety and comfort functions initially designed into the seat. Retaining the OEM/factory seat requires a series of client measurements that your Freedom Seat dealer is trained to perform, and if the OEM/factory seat requires adjustments for final fitting, either your local dealer or Freedom Sciences can provide this service. Alternatively, you can choose from one of our premium, aftermarket seats if the OEM/factory seat can not be used in conjunction with the Freedom articulating seat base. Either way, the Freedom Seat’s state-of-the-art articulating base has no equal in providing superior pathway seat performance, safety, and comfort.

Specifications:

  • Lifting Capacity: 350 lbs.
  • Total Seat Extension at 90 degrees Rotation: 50-7/16″
  • Elevation Travel: 14-3/4″
  • Vehicle Clearance at 90 degree Rotation: 21-5/16″
  • Footrest Extension: 0-7″
  • Seat Maximum Recline: 15 degree
  • Maximum Seat Rotation: 120 degrees

Why a Toyota should be your next wheelchair van if you live in New England

Toyota offers some of the best options on the market when it comes to wheelchair accessible vans.  Each van offers comfort, reliability, and reasonable pricing for its conversion.   Choosing a new wheelchair van isn’t always as easy as choosing a traditional car.  There isn’t a particular one-size-fits-all van that covers every need or preference. As you make your choice, keep in mind a few practical reasons to choose an accessible Toyota.

why a toyota should be your next wheelchair van if you live in new england

why a toyota should be your next wheelchair van if you live in new england

Variety

Toyota’s wheelchair accessible minivan is a modified version of the Toyota Sienna and is the most popular Toyota vehicle that is converted for accessibility.  Overall, it’s an easy vehicle for the major wheelchair accessible vehicle manufacturers to convert. Toyota currently produces five different models of the Sienna that are available for modification:

  • Sienna L- the L model is the most basic model of Sienna.  It includes all the standard features and will often be the lowest priced model.
  • Sienna LE- the LE is still a fairly basic model but includes a rear-view camera and enhanced climate controls.
  • Sienna SE- Sienna SE is a mid-level option that offers enhanced navigation displays, rear-view cameras, and cross-traffic controls for ease and maneuverability.
  • Sienna XLE- Sienna XLE is outfitted with leather-trimmed driver and front passenger seats.  It also features a blind spot monitor and a power lift gate with jam guard.
  • Sienna Limited- The Sienna Limited is the final and most luxurious model of Sienna.  The Limited features many of the standard and upgraded features of the other models while offering more extras like a JBL sound system, driver and passenger leather- trimmed seats, and a dual moon roof.

Any one of these models of the Sienna can be easily modified to accommodate your specific needs.  Budgetary constraints and your individual situation will play a major part in which model you decide to purchase.  Once you’ve made that decision, VMi New England Bridgewater, MA Mobility Center will help you find a Toyota wheelchair van that combines Toyota’s infamous quality with comfort and accessibility.

Adaptability

Toyota’s wheelchair accessible vans don’t start out being adapted for accessibility.  These vans start as traditional vehicles without any modifications before being converted to accommodate individuals with disabilities.  Toyota relies on certified wheelchair conversion manufacturers, such as VMI, to fit the vehicles with lowered floors, kneeling systems, ramps, and more.

why a toyota should be your next wheelchair van if you live in new england

why a toyota should be your next wheelchair van Bridgewater, MA Mobility Center

After the initial conversion is made the vehicle is sent to our Bridgewater, MA Mobility center where we can make even more adaptations to your vehicles. Mobility seating, hand controls, and pedal extensions are all available and fit beautifully inside the modified Toyota Sienna. There are even products that allow users to control the vehicle by pressing a few key buttons or by simply flipping a switch on the vehicle.

2013 Toyota Sienna VMI Summit Silver VMi New England

2013 Toyota Sienna XLE VMI Summit Silver VMi New England

Though the middle row of seats is removed to accommodate a wheelchair, there are still plenty of options to satisfy your needs. Both front seats can be removed to allow the wheelchair user to ride up front and there is a full bench seat in the back for children or guests. There is also a large trunk to accommodate groceries or additional supplies.

Safety locks and straps are installed into the floor of the van to keep wheelchair passengers in place and prevent any excess movement during transit.  The lowered floors help to compensate for a wheelchair passenger’s added height.  There are countless additional features and add-ons, so it is clear that the Toyota Sienna’s adaptability and flexibility are two key factors that make it a good choice for an accessible vehicle.

2013 Toyota Sienna VMI Summit Silver VMi New England Mobility Center

2013 Toyota Sienna VMI Summit Silver VMi New England Mobility Center

Style

When it comes to the Sienna, you’ll be hard pressed to find a vehicle as stylish. This Toyota is available in a rainbow of colors from a vibrant cherry red to a subtle sage green. Its sleek exterior is curvier and more modern than that of some types of minivans.

The interior is stunning, and the more customizations you make, the more personal and warm the vehicle feels. Its spaciousness accommodates passengers for a ride to the store or a road trip to Disney World with the same comfort and style you’d get from a luxury vehicle. If you’re looking for an accessible vehicle that is practical and attractive, be sure to consider the Toyota Sienna for its superior style.

 

Why Choose a Toyota?

A Toyota Sienna with a VMI Northstar 360 is one of best wheelchair accessible vans on the market. The variety of options means there’s really one for everyone. It’s able to be adapted with ease and features many options to suit all your needs. And, to top it all off, it’s a beautiful vehicle that will provide its purchaser’s with a long life and a lot of fun. It has, without a doubt, cemented its place as a top-rated accessible van that will retain its value and perform under the most rigorous conditions.  If the Toyota Sienna fits what you’re looking for in an accessible van, then come take it for a spin! Contact VMi New England today to schedule a test drive by filling out our online contact form or by giving us a call at 508-697-6006.

mobility concept vehicles for wheelchair drivers

“To get something you never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.” ~Unknown

dodge wheelchair driver and passenger concept vehicles
Were going to change the world one person at a time
Join the revolution
Do you want a 4×4 wheelchair vehicle you can drive?
We have built 4×4 accessible vehicles going all the way back to the 80’s
Want a 4×4 SUV you can drive your wheelchair from?
Want a Ford Explorer SUV that is a wheelchair accessible vehicle?
We can and will build you a concept vehicle you can drive from a wheelchair.
 'Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.'    - -George S. Patton
‘Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.’    – -George S. Patton

One definition of resilience is “the ability to cope with shocks and keep functioning in a satisfying way”. Resilience is about the self organizing capacity of systems. This means the ability to bounce back after disaster, or the ability to transform if a bad stage has happened. Both of these forms of resilience seem relevant to explore in our times, especially in relation to Assistive Driving Technology for Wheelchair Drivers.

Vmi New England and Automotive Innovations as a company is aware of this challenge and has been working on cutting edge wheelchair driving technology since the 80’s

automotive mobility concept vehicle systems
Vmi New England and Automotive Innovations is leading in its study of ever evolving automotive wheelchair driving systems.

wheelchair driver and passenger concept vehicles

Ford wheelchair driver and passenger concept vehicles

The way we see it, everyone has a fundamental need to have there own personal transportation, to access anything they need like, clean water, food, fibres and many other goods and services.

For future human development it is essential to understand the contribution each person can make to human livelihoods, health, security and culture if given the chance.

wheelchair driver and passenger concept vehicles

wheelchair driver and passenger concept vehicles

Resilience thinking is part of the solution, as it thrives at building flexibility and adaptive capacity. People and nature are interdependent. That means, we have to look for collaboration within society to find resilient solutions.

Interdependence between people and nature.

IMG_0094

Exploring the missing links in our imagination
Solutions to find new possibilities in the Assistive Driving Technology require creativity.

Creativity is the answer to missing links in our imagination, at least according to Jim Sanders. They have found a unique way to explore the relationship between current automotive designs, people and technology.
A safe operating vehicle for people in wheelchairs
“In the face of ever evolving change in transportation needs, we need to work together to find safe mobility solutions for humanity. The key is in creative mobility solutions that connect nature with people. Flexible and adaptive strategies will bring us further. By stretching our imagination, we will start to explore the unknown. And by always looking for new combinations of technology, and common sense, we will find the new solutions.” Jim Sanders 2013

Sometimes even the smallest shift in thinking or doing can create the biggest changes in someones lifecan you save trust for a rainy day?necessity is the mother of invention

IMG_1598

driven by the freedom of the choice  to explore the worlds future possibilities

 VMi New England Mobility Center and Automotive Innovations is one of America’s best providers of wheelchair vans, vehicle modifications, and adaptive equipment including hand controls, wheelchair and scooter lifts, ramps, raised doors, lowered floors and specialized gas, brake and steering controls. With hundreds of accessible vehicles available to be custom built for your specific needs, from the industries best manufacturers such as VMI, Eldorado and Braun, at our New England mobility center.   Founded in 1984 and offering the best equipped mobility facility in New England with a unparalleled commitment to offering a broad selection of specialized vehicles and services to meet the needs of every customer. Our facility is also Quality Assurance Program (QAP) certified (first in Massachusetts) through the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), resulting in Automotive Innovations being held to the highest standards in the vehicle modification industry.   We have a strong and committed Veteran sales staff with many decades of experience satisfying our customers’ needs. Feel free to browse our inventory online, visit our huge indoor showroom where every day is a ability expo, request more information about vehicles, set up a test drive or inquire about financing!   Feel free to call upon our friendly Mobility Consultants with any questions you may have about options on wheelchair vans or any of our other products. 508-697-6006We look forward to exceeding your expectations for decades to come!
concept |ˈkänˌsept|nounan abstract idea; a general notion: structuralism is a difficult concept | the concept of justice.• a plan or intention; a conception: the center has kept firmly to its original concept.• an idea or invention to help sell or publicize a commodity: a new concept in corporate hospitality.• Philosophy an idea or mental picture of a group or class of objects formed by combining all their aspects.• [ as modifier ] (of a car or other vehicle) produced as an experimental model to test the viability of new design features.ORIGIN mid 16th cent. (in the sense ‘thought, frame of mind, imagination’): from Latinconceptum ‘something conceived,’ from concept-‘conceived,’ from concipere (see conceive) .
exceed |ikˈsēd|verb [ with obj. ]be greater in number or size than (a quantity, number, or other measurable thing): production costs have exceeded $60,000.• go beyond what is allowed or stipulated by (a set limit, esp. of one’s authority): the Tribunal’s decision clearly exceeds its powers under the statute.• be better than; surpass: catalog sales have exceeded expectations.mobilitynoun1 elderly people may become socially isolated as a result ofrestricted mobility: ability to move, movability,moveableness, motility, vigour, strength, potency.2 the gleeful mobility of Billy’s face: expressiveness,eloquence, animation.3 the mobility of the product: transportability,portability, manoeuvrability.4 an increasing mobility in the workforce: adaptability,flexibility, versatility, adjustability.
freedom |ˈfrēdəm|nounthe power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint: we do have some freedom of choice | he talks of revoking some of the freedoms.• absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government: he was a champion of Irish freedom.• the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved: the shark thrashed its way to freedom.• the state of being physically unrestricted and able to move easily: the shorts have a side split for freedom of movement.• (freedom from) the state of not being subject to or affected by (a particular undesirable thing):government policies to achieve freedom from want.• the power of self-determination attributed to the will; the quality of being independent of fate or necessity.• unrestricted use of something: the dog is happy having the freedom of the house when we are out.• archaic familiarity or openness in speech or behavior.

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.