Handicap Van

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Hi Eric…Yes..It’s me. We are looking at buying a accessible van to transport Rodney. I think the VA will pay for all modifications. WE got shot down on the vehicle grant a few years back and never pursued it further. We need to do this as it’s getting harder for me to get him in and out of the car. Here are the choices:
http://www.ildertonvans.com/inventory/?itemid=271 This is on consignment hubby only used it twice before he passed away. Price is too high even according to the person working with us. I can stand up in the van without bending over very much

Other choices will be Dodge caravan and Chrysler Town and country.They buy at auction and send to Braun Ability to be made accessible. Any suggestions?

Vehicle Specs:


Class: Used
Header Title: Vehicle Listings
Year: 2011
Make: Toyota
Model: Sienna
Color: South Pacific Blue
Price: $55,000


Mileage: 1126
VIN: 5TDYK3DC1BS122188
Location: High Point, NC
Conversion Manufacturer: Braun Ability
Conversion Options:
Braun Toyota Rampvan,
13″ Lowered Floor,
Auto Folding Ramp,
Kneeling Suspension,
Multiple Operational Switches,
Multiple Tiedowns,
Removable Front Seats,
Third Row Footrests,
EZ Lock


  1. I happen to know a little bit about handicap-accessible vans as my father used one for about 3 years before he passed and my aunt has been using one for about 10 years now.

    There’s basically two types of vans, full-size and minivan based conversions.

    The minivan models are smaller and easier to drive/park, but are MUCH more cramped inside. They are also not nearly as rugged or comfortable. Another feature of minivans is that most are front wheel drive, which means the load height into the van is a bit lower. This does, however, impair ground clearance significantly. The most common model I’ve seen is the Dodge Caravan conversion with a raised ceiling and side load. It works for lots of folks. Other brands, such as Toyota, tend to be vastly more expensive, though presumably a bit more reliable. I think that’s what you’re seeing with the link you posted. $55k is a bit much, especially used (even if lightly used), but that’s probably about what a new Toyota Sienna conversion would normally run. In general, the minivan conversions are expensive.

    Full size conversion vans offer a lot more room, ruggedness, and comfort. They’re based on real truck frames, so are much better able to handle the added weight of the conversion hardware, such as ramps, lifts, etc, and have room and load capacity to carry a lot of extra stuff, from groceries to medical stuff. They’re much better for long trips as well, though can be a handful in a parking lot for folks not used to driving large vehicles. Interestingly, a full size van usually is a bit cheaper than a minivan, which typically have started to trend over into a luxury role while full size models tend to be more utilitarian. They also don’t get any worse gas mileage, really, than a minivan conversion. This has to do with the fact that the minivan engine is usually not designed to haul around as much extra weight as a conversion setup adds, which hurts gas mileage, while a full size doesn’t seem to be as adversely affected.

    In general, I tend to see people with tighter budgets go with a full-size conversion and folks with a little more financial flexibility go with a minivan.

    However, may I suggest one other possibility: the Ford Transit van. It’s been sold in Europe for generations but has finally made it to North America. They were designed as haulers for businesses (restaurants, plumbing, HV/AC, etc.) and are basically panel vans. However, they have passenger models.


    They have, by design, a tall ceiling and a low load height. They have a 4-cylinder engine that gets pretty good gas mileage (22/27) and are amazingly popular in Europe. They also start at around $22k without the handicap conversion, but you said the VA may cover the cost of handicap modifications. Most of them appear to be set up as a rear-load design, which is much better in most parking lots.

    My guess is that the Ford Transit will quickly become the handicap conversion platform of choice in the next few years. It has a low base cost, likely requires little structural modification to make it handicap accessible (i.e., it won’t cost as much to convert), and is already designed to carry loads. My only concern is that it may be a little on the small side in the interior, but likely no worse than a minivan conversion.

    • Funny you should mention the transit. I learned that due to something called ‘the chicken tax’ Ford brings them into the country as passenger vehicles and then throws away the excess seats and the windows that are removed to sell them as cargo vans. Our lovely federal government at work, protecting the um.. environment?

    • Thanks for the reply. We go to the VA OT department on Friday. I’ll be asking about the van. However, we are going for wheelchair modifications to keep hubby sitting upright instead of his leaning over the side. Hands tend to get hung in spokes. I need something easy for me to drive.

      Does it mean that if the floor is lowered 13″ (Toyota) verses the new vans (dodge/chrysler) at 10″ that I will tend to drag when I go over speed bumps and that I will more easily hit the pavement in the lower minivan I can stand up in? That happens in the Kia that the VA put a wheelchair carrier on.


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