Friday, April 22, 2022

ACCESSIBLE LIFE: Buying a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

During our recent pandemic state of emergency in California, our governor...Gavin Newsom...declared that only electric vehicles would be allowed to be sold (as new) in our state starting in 2035. President Biden declared a similar strategy with a plan that all 50% is all new vehicles sold starting in 2030 will have "zero emissions."

The question is, where does that leave wheelchair users?

Electric vehicles that are wheelchair accessible basically don't exist yet and it's not on Elon Musk's radar...or any other vehicle this time. So let's look at what is available.

 Minivans...the most popular type of vehicle for conversion. Chrysler, Toyota, and Honda minivans are the most popular in the U.S. adaptive vehicle market. While you may be able to find a new Chrysler van for under $60k, the Toyotas and Hondas can go for a breathtaking $75k+.

The appeal to a minivan is having more room that a regular car while getting better mileage than a full-size van. There are also numerous options to have a hybrid power plant where you can plug it in to operate in electric mode while the gas engine would kick in when the electric power dwindles. This would add $10-20k to the price.

You can get not too old used vans for about half that price but you really don't know what you're getting until you drive it. Making sure you have a warranty and a right of refusal on delivery if you dont' like it can help with peace of mind on a used purchase.

The next option is for a full size van. The pros are that you have a lot of room, the cons are that you won't get the mileage you do with a minivan. That is getting better, though. 

While a 2014 Ford E-150 van (the last year that Ford made that model) got 12 miles to the gallon in the city and 17 on the highway, the replacement Transit now gets over 15 miles per gallon. That's about the same as a Chrysler Pacifica minivan.

Still, the price for a new Transit van (or Ram or Mercedes, which are very similar) can go for almost $100,000.

Alternatively, used adapted Transit vans in good condition can range in the $40-50k and above neighborhood.

More conventional full size vans...think Ford Econoline, Dodge Ram Vans, Chevey 1500s...can also be found used, already adapted, for more reasonable prices

Other options include SUV's that have been adapted such as Ford Explorer, Honda Element and Pilot, Scion xB, and Ford Transit connect. Prices are about the same as for minivans and can be a good option for better mileage if you can fit comfortably...for us, we've tried these and Tim's chair just doesn't quite fit.

There are several mobility dealers in the U.S. that can help you find and finance an adapted vehicle for you...

Mobilityworks is a large chain of vehicle dealers

AMS Vans has locations in Georgia and Arizona and ships nationwide (this is where we bought our current van)

Sunset Vans in Southern California has some decent prices

Plus many more that you can Google. is an online-classified newspaper dealing in adapted vehicles where you can find some of the cheapest prices, mostly from private sellers.

So what did we end up with? We've gone through a range of accessible vehicles, mostly Chrysler minivans, a Dodge full size van, and Ford full size vans. 

For us, the best combination of room needed, dependability, and cost of ownership are the Ford E-Series vans but the problem is Ford stopped making these vans after the 2014 model year and replaced them with the Transit line, which doesn't quite do the job for us like the E-Series does.

We were lucky to find a low-mileage (under 14k) Ford E-150, already adapted, for $30,000 just before the pandemic. Last time I checked, an almost identical van with more than double the mileage was for sell at the same dealer for almot $50k.

Our plan is to maintain it as well as we can to make it last as long as we can.

Darryl Musick
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