Side Entry vs. Rear Entry Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles

March 6th, 2021 by

Wheelchair accessible vehicles give you the freedom you need to get where you need to go. There is a whole list of decisions you need to make before choosing the wheelchair accessible vehicle that works best for you. Choosing between side entry and rear entry is one of the biggest decisions to help you narrow down your selection. What is the difference between the two, and how do different entry points affect the overall use and experience in the accessible vehicle? We’ll cover everything you need to know to choose your next wheelchair accessible vehicle.

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Side Entry Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles

Side entry wheelchair accessible vehicles are versatile, allowing the user to drive the vehicle or sit as a passenger. There are a few types of vehicles that can be equipped with a side entry ramp, and this route offers a number of important advantages.

Types of Vehicles That Come With Side Entry Ramp Options

Whether you want a minivan or something a little more compact, there is a side entry option for you. Consider the Toyota Sienna, a classic minivan model that can accommodate a side entry ramp.

Benefits of Side Entry Wheelchair Vehicles

These are the top advantages of choosing a side entry wheelchair accessible vehicle:

  • Driver’s seat positioning: Side entry vehicles allow for wheelchair users to easily position themselves in the driver’s seat, either in their chair or with a simple seat transfer. This can leave room for more passengers, even another wheelchair user. This is a high priority for people who want to be able to drive themselves.
  • Curbside parking: People who live in busy, high-traffic areas will find that side entry vehicles allow for easy curbside parking. Side entry vehicles also accommodate parallel parking. You do not need clearance at the rear of the vehicle for a ramp. Some people may also feel safer getting in and out of the vehicle from the curbside in busy areas with traffic.

Specific Needs a Side Entry Wheelchair Vehicle Meets

Side entry wheelchair accessible vehicles are best if you need:

  • To drive yourself: If you plan to drive from your wheelchair, you will need a side entry vehicle. You cannot drive from a wheelchair in a rear entry wheelchair accessible vehicle. For people who have a range of mobility and want the independence of driving themselves, the side entry vehicle is essential. Curbside parking also makes it easier to disembark in high-traffic areas, which is helpful if you are driving solo. Not all side entry vehicles are designed to accommodate drivers who are in a wheelchair. Be sure to check the configuration of the vehicle you are considering.
  • Storage space: The positioning of a side entry ramp generally means that the row of passenger seats aligned with the side doors is removed. There may be less room for other passengers, but once the ramp is securely folded up or placed in the floor, there remains ample room for storage. If you require more space for a larger wheelchair or other items, a side entry vehicle can meet that need. Plus, you can also have the entire trunk available for storage.

Rear Entry Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles

A wide variety of vehicles can be equipped with a rear entry ramp, giving users more choice when it comes to the make and model. Rear entry ramps can be manual or automatic. If you are looking for the convenience of an automatic ramp, know that Freedom Motors USA is the only manufacturer of automatic rear entry ramps. Check out some of the common SUVs, vans and hatchbacks that offer rear entry and learn why this option might be a good fit for you:

Types of Vehicles That Come With Rear Entry Ramp Options

Side entry vehicles may be common in the market, but that does not mean your rear entry options are limited. Consider different minivans and SUVs to decide what best suits you:

  • Buick Enclave: The Buick Enclave is a stylish, luxury sport utility vehicle (SUV) that offers an alternative to a wheelchair accessible van or minivan. A variety of different years and models of the Buick Enclave can accommodate a rear entry ramp.
  • Chevrolet Traverse: The Chevrolet Traverse can serve as a rear entry wheelchair SUV. As another sport utility vehicle, this vehicle is roomy on the inside and offers a powerful engine paired with fuel efficiency.
  • Chrysler PacificaThe Chrysler Pacifica has refined the minivan experience which is taken to the next level with rear entry converison .
  • Dodge Grand CaravanAnother classic minivan option, the Dodge Grand Caravan, is available with rear entry accessibility. Like many vehicles capable of handling rear entry, the Dodge Grand Caravan is suitable for larger ramp sizes up to our Superwide 40″.
  • Honda HR-VThe Honda HR-V offers sporty options for rear entry access. These SUVs tend to feature a wider ramp size of 34″, which is an important feature for people who have larger wheelchairs.
  • Kia Sorento: Kia Sorentos, also sport utility vehicles, represent another departure from the typical wheelchair accessible van you might expect. You can consider options with rear entry automatic or manual ramps.
  • Kia Soul: If you like Kia but you want a slightly different look, the Kia Soul is also compatible with rear entry ramps. Customize with a power transfer seat and automatic ramp for independence.
  • Kia Telluride: The popular Kia Telluride is a full-size SUV, while the Sorento is a mid-size SUV and the Soul is a crossover. The Telluride is a possible contender for those who are looking for a roomier rear entry SUV.
  • Toyota Sienna Hybrid: Beginning with the 2021 model year, the Toyota Sienna is available with a Hybrid drivetrain only. No problem! Freedom Motors is the first manufacturer to convert this new model with a rear entry 40″ wide ramp.
  • Toyota Sienna: For model years 2020 and earlier, the Toyota Sienna has the flexibility to serve as a side entry or rear entry wheelchair accessible vehicle. With the rear entry conversion, the ramp can be 30″, 34″, or our Superwide 48″

Benefits of Rear Entry Wheelchair Vehicles

The following advantages make a rear entry vehicle a convenient choice:

  • Larger ramp sizes: Rear entry wheelchair accessible vehicles can accommodate larger ramp sizes. If you have a larger wheelchair, rear entry offers you ample room to easily maneuver in and out of the vehicle.
  • Parking flexibility: Side entry vehicles are easiest to use with access to handicap parking spaces, but that isn’t always possible. Rear entry vehicles allow you to park nearly anywhere without worrying about leaving enough clearance for a ramp on the side of the vehicle.
  • Price: Rear entry wheelchair accessible vehicles tend to be less expensive than side entry options. If you are working with a smaller budget, rear entry may be a good place to start your search.
  • Ground clearance: Rear entry wheelchair accessible vehicles offer more ground clearance than side entry vehicles.

Specific Needs a Rear Entry Wheelchair Vehicle Meets

Rear entry wheelchair accessible vehicles can be a good option for many different people because they meet a few specific needs, including:

  • Passenger space: The ramp in rear entry configurations takes up very little room, and the side doors are not blocked. This allows for passenger room in the second row with additional, optional third row seating options available in select models. If you have a family or need the space for multiple passengers in the vehicle, rear entry wheelchair vehicles meet that need. The larger ramp size and ample space that come with a rear entry vehicle are also a good fit for larger wheelchairs.
  • Confined parking: If you regularly park in tight spaces, a rear entry vehicle is a convenient choice. You do not have to worry about finding a space, either in a parking lot or parking garage, with ample side clearance. Parallel parking is the only parking issue that may be a challenge for a rear entry vehicle.

Which Is Best for You? Questions to Ask Yourself

Side entry and rear entry wheelchair accessible vehicles meet different needs. Ask yourself these questions to help you decide which is the best fit for your unique needs:

1. Will the Wheelchair User Also Be Driving the Vehicle?

If the person using a wheelchair plans to drive the vehicle, a side entry vehicle is likely the right choice. In some side entry vehicles, a wheelchair can be maneuvered into the driver’s seat position, eliminating the need for a seat transfer, which can be uncomfortable or difficult for some people. In other side entry vehicles, the wheelchair can be positioned for a smooth seat change from the wheelchair to the driver’s seat or to a transfer seat.

You cannot position a wheelchair to drive if using a rear entry ramp. If the person using a wheelchair is able to independently transfer, customize with a power transfer seat; and hand controls, if needed.

2. What Ramp Size Do You Need for Your Wheelchair?

Many wheelchairs will fit a standard ramp width, but some people have more specialized needs. If you have a larger wheelchair that requires a larger ramp, a rear entry vehicle may be the best fit. Rear entry ramps can range from 30 inches to 48 inches in width. If you do not require a larger ramp to accommodate the wheelchair, you can consider side entry options, which run from 28 inches to 30 inches.

3. How Much Storage Space Will You Need?

How will you be using the car? Do you only need it to drive or to sit as a passenger? How much room will the wheelchair take up? Will there be other passengers in the car? Do you need to store other items in the vehicle?

A side entry vehicle offers more storage space than a rear entry vehicle. You don’t even need to store the wheelchair in side entry vehicles that allow you to drive without a seat transfer. You have more room for other passengers, even potentially another passenger in a wheelchair, in a side entry vehicle. If storage space isn’t an issue, rear entry vehicles are still an option.

4. Where Will You Be Parking Most Often?

If you are considering a side entry versus a rear entry wheelchair van, your regular parking situation is one of the top issues to consider. Side entry wheelchair accessible vehicles are ideal for curbside entry and exit, which means parallel parking is quite easy. Side entry is more difficult if you are regularly parking in a tight garage or parking lots with little space between vehicles.

Rear entry vehicles can present a challenge if you regularly parallel park, which is common in crowded urban areas. This option is ideal for other tight parking situations that do not lend themselves to entering and exiting from the side of the vehicle.

5. What Features Are You Looking for Most in a New Vehicle?

The vehicle features that are most important to you can help you to narrow down your options. Does the overall look of the vehicle matter to you? If you are happy with a minivan, side or rear entry options are on the table. If you prefer an SUV to a minivan, looking at rear entry options may make more sense. Regardless of your entry preference, you are no longer limited to a traditional accessible van. You have more model and make options to consider than ever before.

What kind of ramp do you want? Do you prefer an automatic ramp or a manual ramp? A fold-up ramp or an in-floor ramp? Both rear entry and side entry vehicles have different ramp configurations to consider, so knowing your preferences can help you sort through the possibilities.

6. What Is Your Total Budget?

Whether you are purchasing a new or preowned wheelchair accessible vehicle or exploring the possibility of converting a vehicle you already own, your budget is an important factor. While there are affordable options for both side entry and rear entry, rear entry options are typically more affordable. If you are trying to stick to a budget and the person using the wheelchair does not need to be in the driver’s seat, looking at rear entry options could be a good starting point.

Contact a Mobility Specialist to Help Determine if a Rear Entry or Side Entry Vehicle Is Best for You

With a clear understanding of the difference between rear entry and side entry, you might already know what is best for you. If you are still unsure, our mobility specialists are here to work with you to find the right fit and help you select your vehicle or conversion plan. The right ramp, the right car and the right features are all possible. Contact us today to learn more about our rear entry and side entry options.