Shopping for your first wheelchair van can be an exciting experience, but like any major purchase, that experience can come with a list of questions. And, sometimes that list may seem daunting.
Questions regarding van wheelchair lifts, financing and seller reputations are always common. But the list of questions often continues as wheelchair users and their families or caregivers get further along the purchasing process.
While no two customers will have exactly the same set of questions, one question we get asked by almost every first time customer is about the differences between rear-entry and side-entry vans. And more importantly, which option is better for them.
In this post we will take a look at the differences between the two styles with the goal of helping you or the wheelchair user in your life select which of these options is best for their first (or next) wheelchair van purchase.
More About Side-Entry Vans
Side-entry vans offer the widest range of flexible seating options and are a must have for any wheelchair user who will be driving the vehicle. They are the only vans that allow wheelchair users access to the driver’s seat while remaining in their wheelchair and are also ideal for parents who have multiple children or anyone who is looking to transport large groups of people.
Side-entry vans also can be converted using multiple ramp or lift styles that suit the needs of the widest range of customers. These include in-floor ramps, fold-out ramps and wheelchair lifts. Additionally, since the entrance to these vans is located on the side, cargo space isn’t compromised by wheelchair access, and many wheelchair users find that their van still has ample space for their storage needs. Many rear-entry van owners point out that the lack of storage space in their vans is one of the drawbacks.
One last big advantage to side-entry vans is the resale value. Because there are many more wheelchair users that can use a side-entry van, the resale value of a side-entry van is often greater and the resale process is easier. All of these advantages have led to the side-entry van models being more common of the two conversion van styles.
More About Rear-Entry Vans
Rear-entry van conversions cost less to convert and are a less expensive option for the end-purchaser. This is why many wheelchair users look at rear-entry vans when they first start looking for a vehicle.
If the wheelchair user is not going to be driving the van at any time, a rear-entry van is a viable option. Essentially this means that rear-entry wheelchair vans are best for wheelchair users who intend to be a passenger within the center cabin of the vehicle.
Another one of the main benefits of this style of van is that the lift does not interfere with passenger entry into the side of the vehicle. So, passengers won’t need to wait for the wheelchair user to enter the van, or use just one side of the vehicle to enter into the interior cabin.
The Disadvantages to Rear-Entry and Side-Entry Wheelchair Vans
While both wheelchair van options may seem like they serve the same purpose (i.e. allowing a wheelchair user to safely enter a van while remaining within their wheelchair), they are quite different in regards to what each of the vans has to offer. And while both styles of vans have their advantages, they have their own unique disadvantages, as well.
For example, did you know that rear-entry vans often do not grant wheelchair users access to the front seats? This means that the wheelchair user will not be able to drive the vehicle from their wheelchair. The configuration of a side-entry van does allow space for wheelchair users to be able to drive the vehicle from their wheelchair or transfer into the driver’s seat with the use of a transfer seat.
Another example has to do with parking options for the van. Side-entry vans must utilize either a handicap parking space or street parking parallel to a curb in most instances to allow for enough space for the wheelchair user to enter and exit the vehicle. This can make some special event parking difficult. With rear-entry vehicles, wheelchair users can park in just about any parking space, but they must take more caution when exiting the vehicle, as they may be exiting into traffic. Additionally, they need to take caution with parking spaces that would allow another vehicle to park directly behind their van, such as street parking parallel to a curb, as they may be blocked and not have enough room to get back into their wheelchair van.
So Which Wheelchair Van is Better?
It is important to know what you are looking for when buying a wheelchair van. The best thing that you can do to prepare for your purchase is understand the needs of the wheelchair user inside and out.
As a good starting point, try asking the following questions:
- Will the wheelchair user be driving the van at any time?
- How much storage space is needed inside the wheelchair van?
- How will entry impact daily use like parking and entering/exiting the vehicle?
- Is cost a factor that will impact the decision?
- What wheelchair van features are needed most?
After you have the most ideal grasp of the wants and needs, you can decide which van is the best fit for you or the wheelchair user in your life.
The Final Decision
In the end, side-entry vans are the more common choice but there is also a place for rear-entry vans, as well. No one van style will be perfect for every single wheelchair user, and in the end the choice will be different for every wheelchair user. At Rollx Vans, our job is to help you or the wheelchair user in your life determine which style of wheelchair van will help them lead a more independent life.
Our experienced team of sales representatives is ready and waiting to help you hit the open road. Contact our team to learn more about the differences between side-entry and rear-entry wheelchair vans, so you can choose which style of van will be best suited to your needs. We can’t wait to hear from you!