Minivan Conversions | Full Size Conversion Van | Handicapped Vans
Information on Minivans Conversions, Handicapped Vans, and Wheelchair Accessible Adaptive Equipment
Side-entry minivan conversions
What Should You Do Prior to Getting a Minivan Conversion?
How Much Does a Minivan Conversion Cost?
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards FMVSS Affected by the Minivan Conversion Process
Minivan conversions are probably the top of the line wheelchair van accessible vehicle package for a person in a power wheelchair for the following reasons:
· Quick and easy access to get inside
· Any transfers from the wheelchair to an interior seat occur inside: out of the rain, snow, and wind.
· Wheelchair accessible minivan conversions look essentially no different than any other minivan
· The wheelchair is transported inside minivan conversions: out of the rain, snow, and wind.
With features and increased consumer demand come a higher price and wheelchair accessible minivan conversions are one of the more expensive solutions on the market. New minivan conversions are in the $48,000+ range while minivans conversions that are a few years old sell for around $42,000+.
Lowered floor (also referred to as a dropped floor) wheelchair accessible minivan conversions have the following features:
The floor of minivan conversions have been "dropped" or lowered approximately 10" or 14". This allows enough headroom for the consumer to either get into the vehicle while riding in their wheelchair or to be transported while sitting in their wheelchair.
A ramp that allows the person in a wheelchair to ride into the minivan conversion.
Additionally some minivan conversions include automated sliding doors and automated ramp deployment/stowage. Other minivan conversions require manual operation of the sliding door and ramp. Some side entry minivan conversions feature a kneeling system. A kneeling system is a modified suspension on the side of the vehicle with the ramp whereby the vehicle "kneels" down or is lowered to minimize the ramp angle for wheelchair entry/exit.
You plan to drive from your wheelchair and you sit either tall or short. You should consult a certified driver rehabilitation specialist but if your floor to eye height is around 50" then you should explore either a drop floor full size van or 14" drop floor minivan conversions. 10" drop floor minivan conversions are is probably not the right solution for you. If your floor to eye height is around 45" and you will be a passenger only, not a driver, then you should explore a non drop floor full size conversion van with handicapped lifts.
The combined weight of you and your wheelchair is large. 600-750lbs is the maximum rating of the ramp in wheelchair accessible minivan conversions but if you're in the 500lb range you should give serious consideration to a full size conversion van with a handicapped lifts.
You plan to drive with lots of passengers or require a larger cargo carrying capacity.
You live in an area with uneven roads or rougher roads. Wheelchair accessible minivan conversions sit lower to the ground and will bottom out more often than a wheelchair accessible full size conversion van.
You don't have the money to spend on a minivan conversion.
Wheelchair accessible minivan conversions are sold as a generic package from the conversion company such as Braun or VMI. This means that the minivan conversion comes to the dealer without any additional final adaptive equipment such as hand controls, 6-way transfer seat, EZ-Lock, etc. Because the additional adaptive equipment is very customer specific, it is left up to the dealer or modifier to install those items as required by the individual customer. So when you're looking at wheelchair accessible minivan conversions on the dealer lot, you'll notice that the insides are bare. They are however designed for final modification by the end dealer and include removable front driver and passenger seats for occupancy by a person in a wheelchair with appropriate wheelchair electric restraint or manual tiedowns.
Note: It's generally not a good idea to purchase a non-conversion or OEM minivan on your own and expect it to be converted after the fact, especially a used minivan. The majority of wheelchair accessible minivan conversions are purchased as a complete package these days. First, you run the risk that something about your minivan will prevent it from being able to be converted, Braun Toyota conversions especially have this problem. Second, the conversion process is 1-2 months long during which time you'll be without your vehicle. Third, it doesn't appear to save any money, in fact it probably will cost you more unless you happen to get a great deal on the vehicle. Even in those situations, you should contact your dealer to discuss if this is a viable option.
Vehicle makes/models used in wheelchair accessible minivan conversions are:
Chrysler Town and Country (VMI and Braun)
Dodge Grand Caravan (VMI and Braun)
Honda Odyssey (VMI and Braun)
Toyota Sienna (Braun only but only in the 14" XT conversion)
You may not be able to get the base model in all cases because it can lack automatic sliding side doors. However the customer can usually pick from a wide array of models, colors, and features depending on their budget.
The typical person sitting in their wheelchair needs about 55" or so of headroom, some more and some less. This amount of headroom simply doesn't exist in an OEM minivan. In addition to the ramp and kneeling system to get the person in a wheelchair inside the minivan conversion, the floor has to be lowered or dropped approximately 10"+. You can imagine this is drastic surgery to a minivan. The details of how this are done are not so important here, just what lowered floor depths are available once the conversion is finished.
Just like with buying lumber where a 2" x 4" does not actually measure 2" x 4", the same is true in minivan conversions. The lowered floor adds approximately but not exactly 10" to the OEM minivan headroom. 10" minivan conversions are the industry standard. Note: VMI 2008 and newer Dodge/Chrysler minivan drop floor conversion is approximately 11". Most people in the industry would still refer to it as a "10" conversion".
The first manufacturer to offer 14" drop floor wheelchair minivan conversions was El Dorado Amerivan®. Braun has come out with their own 14" drop floor wheelchair minivan conversion in their Entervan XT®. Driver position eye height is around 50" making the 14" drop floor wheelchair minivan conversion similar to the interior room of a 9" drop floor full-size van conversion. All Braun Toyota minivan conversions come with the 14" Entervan XT®. Braun no longer performs a 10" Entervan II® minivan conversion on the Toyota.
Driver option here means the option for the minivan conversion to support a wheelchair driver. The lowered floor has to extend from the mid section cargo area and include the driver area. The driver seat also has to be removable but be able to go back into position if needed. Almost all side entry minivan conversions made these days come standard to support a wheelchair driver.
Because passenger only minivan conversions are missing some of the features found in minivan conversions which leave open the possibility of a wheelchair driver, they are less expensive.
These are wheelchair accessible minivan conversions for the sole purpose of transporting someone in a wheelchair. The person in the wheelchair will be traveling with an attendant who can drive the minivan conversion. The person in the wheelchair will not be a driver in their wheelchair nor can the minivan conversion accommodate a 4-way or 6-way transfer seatbase for the driver seat. The CompanionVan® features a lowered floor from the rear bench seat to just behind the front seat allowing space for one wheelchair. They also feature a manual door and manual ramp which much be operated by the attendant. The CompanionVan® is less expensive than a Entervan® wheelchair minivan conversion because of the reduced drop floor area, the driver and passenger seats are not removable, and manually operated door/ramp. The reduced drop floor area can be difficult for some wheelchairs with larger turning radiuses to maneuver into a proper forward facing position.
Rear entry minivan conversions come standard for passenger only situations. The wheelchair channel cutout stops before the driver/front passenger area. While it is still possible to have a driver situation with a 6-way transfer seat, a wheelchair driver scenario is not possible. Also most rear entry minivan conversions come standard with a manual rear hatch and manual rear ramp designed for an attendant to operate.
Vehicle ramp deploys from the passenger side door. The mid section seats are removed from the vehicle. A kneeling suspension system is added to the minivan to lower rear of the vehicle. This minimizes the ramp's angle when it is deployed making it easier for someone to get into the minivan conversion while in a wheelchair.
Less common than side entry minivan conversions in the United States which affects resale value.
Harder to properly use manual restraints to secure a person riding in their wheelchair. The channel does not offer a lot of space and the tiedown anchor points are not in ideal positions.
Braun is the largest manufacturer of wheelchair accessible minivan conversions in the world. Their main product is the Entervan® minivan conversion, the latest version is specified as Entervan II® minivan conversion. Now they offer the Entervan XT® minivan conversion discussed above. Braun converts Chyrsler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, or Toyota Sienna minivans. Update: Now Braun also converts Honda Odyssey minivans. The Toyota Sienna wheelchair minivan conversion goes by the name of RampVan. The Chyrsler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan wheelchair minivan conversion go by the name of Entervan®. But sometimes the Toyota Sienna wheelchair minivan conversion seems to be going by the name Entervan® as well. Not terribly important but it can be confusing in your internet research attempts.
VMI is the second largest manufacturer of wheelchair accessible minivan conversions in the world. They offer an in-floor ramp option as well as the standard foldout ramp. Their standard conversion is slightly taller than a Braun Entervan II. VMI converts Chyrsler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, or Honda Odyssey minivans. Update: VMI is supposed to be offering a Toyota Sienna minivan conversion in 2011.
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