Is a Wheelchair Accessible Van or SUV Better for Your Needs?

A row of three wheelchair accessible Kia SUVs with their ramps deployed.

The Key Differences Between a Wheelchair Van and SUV

When it comes to side and rear-entry wheelchair accessible vehicles, Freedom Motors USA has lots of highly customizable options to make sure you get the best fit for your needs. 

Let’s take a look at which options are available and break them down based on what needs wheelchair users might have.


The Biggest Deciding Factors 

There are many factors that will go into deciding which vehicle is right for you, but these are the ones that will have the most impact on which van or SUV to choose.

Will the Wheelchair User be Driving?

One of the first things to consider when looking to purchase a wheelchair accessible van or SUV is if the wheelchair user is going to be driving the vehicle. There are models that can accommodate this in various ways.

Drive From Your Wheelchair

Some models, like the side-entry Toyota Sienna, have options to allow a wheelchair user to drive the car from their chair. Featuring removable front seats, the wheelchair user can simply anchor their chair in place and operate the vehicle. Hand controls are also available to further facilitate this. 

Power Transfer Seats

The Toyota Sienna and other rear-entry vehicles like the Kia Soul, Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Pacifica have power transfer seats as an available option. Power transfer seats can be used for the driver or front passenger seat and move on a track to the middle of the vehicle, near the wheelchair position. This allows wheelchair users to transfer themselves to the seat independently or with the help of a caregiver, allowing them to ride or drive up front in the OEM seat.

 

Do you specifically need a side or rear-entry ramp?

It’s also important to consider what additional features you may need before choosing a rear or side-entry option, because some options are only available for certain conversions. For example, those looking to drive from their wheelchair will only be able to choose a side-entry vehicle. 

Likewise, it will be important to consider what kind of seating arrangement you will need. Because both side and rear-entry conversions heavily modify where the vehicle’s second and third row seats would be, OEM seating is often swapped out or removed. If you need seating to accommodate for either more ambulatory passengers, child car seats, or other considerations, please ask one of our Mobility Specialists about what vehicles would be the best fit for you.

Wheelchair Van Seating Options

Do you need an extra wide ramp size?

Having an extra wide ramp can provide extra security and confidence when entering or exiting an accessible vehicle, especially for those with larger wheelchairs. Freedom Motors has a large variety of ramp sizes available, with the widest being on our rear-entry Superwide 40” Grand Caravan, Superwide 48” Toyota Sienna and the Superwide 40” Toyota Sienna Hybrid

 

2021 white toyota sienna hybrid with open doors and trunk

Other Deciding Factors

Now that the most impactful decisions are out of the way, here are some more things to keep in mind to help you fine tune your choice of vehicle.

Where will you be parking?

Choosing a side or rear entry vehicle will dictate how you need to park, which can limit your options to certain vans or SUVs. 

Rear-entry models have the advantage of being able to park without space behind them, making them great for parking lots. Because they don’t need additional space on the side of the vehicle for a ramp to deploy, wheelchair passengers aren’t limited to disability designated parking spaces. 

That being said, side-entry vehicles can be easier to park in crowded urban areas where parallel parking is more common. When parallel parked, the side-entry ramp can be deployed directly on the sidewalk, while a rear-entry ramp may not have room to deploy.

Does Fuel Economy Matter?

Those who will be driving often will likely be looking for a more efficient vehicle to save some money at the pump. The Toyota Sienna Hybrid offers the best fuel economy in its class with a combined average of 36 miles per gallon, with no need to install or plug it in to an electric car charger.

For those looking for an efficient vehicle that is more compact, the rear-entry Kia Soul offers a combined 28 miles per gallon average. With the rise of wheelchair accessible hybrids and our extensive line of SUVs available, there’s no need to keep driving a gas-guzzler for the sake of mobility.

How Much Power Do You Want?

For those who live in areas where road and weather conditions can make getting around difficult, a vehicle with extra horsepower can come in handy. Our line of wheelchair accessible SUVs offers a variety of cars that offer the mobility options and spacious interior you need without sacrificing engine power, like the Kia Sorento’s 191 horsepower 3.5L V6 engine.

Resale Value

Purchasing a vehicle is a big investment, and buying the right wheelchair accessible vehicle is no different. Even though accessible vehicles are extensively modified, they still offer great resale value because of their utility.

Vans have been a staple of the mobility industry since the inception of the wheelchair accessible van (that we first converted in 1987 and have been ever since). Because of this, you’ll find that they will always be in demand on both retail and commercial markets. Their utility in commercial markets is especially good for their resale value, as taxi companies or nursing homes are always looking for mobility vehicles to use for their business.

On the other hand, accessible SUVs are emerging as a new option in the mobility market and demand for them is high. All for good reason — wheelchair accessible SUVs offer a stylish, sleek and powerful alternative to vans without sacrificing interior space. This will undoubtedly help them on the resell market for years to come.

A Kia Soul and Kia Sorento with deployed wheelchair ramps

Will You Be Doing a Lot of City Driving?

Driving can be a challenge in crowded urban areas, even with a compact vehicle. Driving and parking a van in crowded places like a parking garage can be a headache. 

In these situations, an SUV can provide the added maneuverability and visibility that you need. The rear-entry conversion can also prove to be advantageous, allowing you to park in tight spaces as long as there is space behind the vehicle. More compact vehicles like the Kia Soul or Honda HR-V can navigate crowded areas with ease.

As mentioned earlier, side-entry vehicles like the Toyota Sienna can also come in handy due to their ability to easily parallel park. The wheelchair ramp can be deployed directly onto the sidewalk, making trips in the city easy.

Do You Get Harsh Winter Weather?

In areas with lots of snow and ice, driving a larger vehicle like a van can be daunting. Limited visibility and a larger profile that can be difficult to control are not things you want to contend with when driving through a blizzard.

Powerful SUVs like the Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave or Kia Sorento can mitigate this problem and make braving the weather much easier. Though they are full size SUVs, they are easier to maneuver than vans and their stronger engines give them extra power when you need it.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle SUVs Enclave and Traverse

More Options Means You Don’t Have to Compromise

Freedom Motors is proud to be able to provide an extensive lineup of wheelchair accessible vans and SUVs as well as customization options to make each vehicle unique for its owner. Our variety of makes and models as well as seating arrangements and mobility options means you can get the vehicle you want to fit your needs. Don’t compromise or settle for less, contact one of our Mobility Specialists today to find out more about getting a vehicle equipped for your lifestyle.

About Freedom Motors USA Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles

Why buy your wheelchair accessible vehicle from Freedom Motors USA? It’s simple. Freedom Motors is family-owned and has been creating accessible vehicle conversions since 1987, making us one of the first companies in the industry. We have experience getting our customers what they need.

  • Don’t know where to start? Our team of Mobility Specialists will work with you to help find the vehicle that best suits your needs.
  • Shop from Home – Freedom Motors will come to you anywhere in the country to provide a demonstration of any of our wheelchair conversions.
  • Exclusive Stock – Shop our expansive list of rear-entry accessible SUVs that you won’t find anywhere else in the mobility industry, including the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, Kia Sorento, Kia Soul, Kia Telluride and Honda HR-V.
  • Premium Features – Freedom Motors conversions offer top-of-the-line features, like the automatic rear-entry ramp or our full and half-cut options that allow for more passenger seating options.
  • Superwide Ramps – Freedom Motors offers some of the widest ramps in the industry that you won’t find anywhere else, including the Superwide 40” Dodge Grand Caravan and the Superwide 48” Toyota Sienna.
  • Dedicated to Keeping You Moving – Contact us today and we’ll work with you to find the right vehicle for you.

 

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