Purchasing a vehicle is a significant investment. If you are a wheelchair user looking to purchase an accessible vehicle, then not only is this a significant financial investment, it’s also a lifestyle choice. While there are many factors to consider when purchasing a vehicle, the tips below can help you make sure that your vehicle and accessibility needs are being met.
1. Look Toward the Future
When researching accessible vehicles, it is important to consider what your needs are now, and what they may be in the future. Will the features of the accessible vehicle continue to meet your needs throughout the lifetime of the vehicle? For example, will you still be able to transfer as you do currently to and from the vehicle in two or three years’ time? If your needs are likely to change, then ensure that your selection criteria for an accessible vehicle will meet your long-term needs.
If you receive assistance from family or a caregiver, it is also important to consider their continued ability to perform the tasks they do now in the years to come. For example, manually lifting and stowing a manual wheelchair in the trunk of the vehicle.
There are several vehicle adaptations and conversions available to meet your needs, such as hand controls or wheelchair lifts, which you may wish to consider. These adaptations may provide you with different solutions to meet with your functional needs and promote your specific mobility needs.
2. Consider Your Mobility Needs
Determining whether you choose an SUV, van, or sedan as your accessible vehicle will largely depend on your function, equipment, and mobility. For wheelchair users who independently transfer sedans offer the advantage of an accessible seat height. However, individuals may wish to make use of a wheelchair accessible van with a ramp or a lift, and in this case, transfers and seat height may not be an issue.
Many drivers of accessible vehicles may drive from their power wheelchairs. It is important to consider space as well as the securing mechanism required to lock the wheelchair in place.
Other individuals may be occupants in the accessible vehicle, opting to travel in their wheelchair, as their primary seating. In this case a vehicle tie-down system to secure the wheelchair and a wheelchair occupant restraint system to keep the individual secure during transportation is required.
Clearance height at access and egress points are always tricky. Ensure that the access point at the ramp or the lift allows you to enter the vehicle and that there is sufficient internal clearance and head height. This is especially of importance when receiving new mobility equipment to ensure that it is compatible with your current vehicle.
It’s important to know your budget for an accessible vehicle. In most cases, choosing a sedan over a van or SUV may be more financially manageable.
3. Practicality is Important
While a sedan might be a more attractive option, a van or minivan may typically be more practical. It all depends on your needs and if you have other occupants who also need to be transported with you, such as family or caregivers.
It may be worth considering alternative options for accessing the vehicle, such as those offered by a van or minivan, as these drivers can access the vehicle by means of a ramp or a lift and will not need to manually lift their wheelchair into the vehicle. Alternative access options may help preserve the shoulder joints by reducing stress and strain in the long run.
4. The Weather Issue
An important factor to consider is the weather conditions where you live and typically drive in. If you live somewhere with a warmer and drier weather, a sedan may be suitable. However, if you live in a location where you are likely to face harsh winters and wet roads, a van or SUV with AWD might be a better option.
5. Ask for Help
While doing your own research on suitable accessible vehicles may help you in your quest for an accessible vehicle, it’s a good idea to ask for help from a qualified sales representative.
A qualified sales representative will be able to guide you through all the options and accessories available to suit your needs now and in the future. They will have knowledge about ways you can make changes or adaptations that may work for you.
Remember that purchasing an accessible vehicle is a big decision – be sure to trial several vehicles to ensure that you are not only happy with the price tag, but also the drivability and that the various features and options available are also compatible with your current and future mobility equipment.
Sources: www.edmunds.com, Accessed: 7/25/17