As you look for a wheelchair accessible vehicle, one of the most important choices you will make is deciding between side entry and rear entry wheelchair vehicles. Read on to see how the conversions compare when it comes to flexibility, layout and price.
The primary difference between side and rear entry wheelchair vans is where you enter the vehicle. Side entry vans make use of the sliding side door and a ramp or a lift. Rear entry vans use the back of the vehicle for wheelchair access. A ramp is the most common point of entry for both conversions.
Your choice of entry location determines the floor plan available for your vehicle. Rear entry vans offer two floor plans for up to four or six passengers.
“The rear entry van’s biggest advantages are ground clearance and being able to park in any parking spot,” Certified Mobility Consultant Roger Lajeunesse of our Londonderry location said. “However, you are limited to four seats with a wheelchair. You do have the option to add a two person flip seat in the back to make your van a six passenger vehicle with no wheelchairs inside.”
A side entry van has more options when it comes to the floor plan. One plan allows for up to three wheelchair users to ride in. Side entry vans will lower the available space inside, as the maximum number of ambulatory passengers in this option is five including three in the rear bench seat.
“The side entry van allows the client to drive from their wheelchair or sit in the front passenger seat area,” Roger said. “The side entry allows up to five passengers and one wheelchair. The disadvantage would be the ground clearance and not being able to park in any parking spot.”
Note that not all side entry vans can accommodate a driver, so ask your local Certified Mobility Consultant which choices will work for you if you hope to drive from a wheelchair.
A new side entry option is the BraunAbility MXV, a wheelchair accessible SUV built on the Ford Explorer chassis. The vehicle allows for four passengers with a wheelchair user. The wheelchair user can drive the vehicle or sit in the front passenger seat.
Both the side entry and rear entry conversions can be affordable solutions for you and your family. A rear entry can be more cost efficient in some cases because not as much of the vehicle has to be converted. However, if you are looking into a side entry, the CompanionVan and CompanionVan Plus are two of the most economical options on the market.
The BraunAbility CompanionVan is built in a streamlined package with a manual door and ramp. If the wheelchair user is travelling with an attendant, this would be an excellent choice. The CompanionVan Plus adds a power ramp system that deploys at the touch of a button. These vans cannot accommodate a wheelchair user as a driver, but they do have a superior lifting capacity up to 800 pounds. While rear entry vans can sometimes be a more affordable option, consider the CompanionVan as a great, budget-friendly choice.
Making Your Choice
This is not a decision you may be able to make immediately. The best option for deciding which configuration works for you is to speak to your local Certified Mobility Consultant at our 56 MobilityWorks stores. Whether you choose a side entry or a rear entry accessible vehicle, we will be there for you every step of the way and make sure your vehicle fits your needs for the miles ahead.