Buying the right car once a wheelchair is part of your family is a difficult process. We shared our experience a year and a half ago when we bought “Rhonda”, our car, which is a Honda Odyssey. Obviously this car would not suit many people but we use this car for business purposes during the week and as a family car on weekends. BJ is able to transfer so this is the perfect car for us. When we are travelling as a family of four the wheelchair can fit in the back of the car in one piece (BJ’s wheelchair does not fold) but we have the option of using the extra seats. If we are taking extra people with us we take the wheels off the wheelchair and fold down the back rest and we can use one of the additional seats making the car a 6 seater. We looked at other vehicles but the majority of the 7 seater cars required BJ to step up into the car. I find that a huge strain on my body as BJ gets taller. I thought it was time to share a post on car modifications and wheelchair accessible vehicles in the hope of helping those looking for a car or van.
There certainly is no “one size fits all” approach to finding the most suitable car. Your needs and budget will determine you choice. To help you in that process we have collated a range of vehicles and their owner’s comments into one blog. A big thank you to our very generous facebook community who have provided photos and their experiences. I am sure this blog will benefit many people around the world.
The MDNSW guide is a great place to start for guidance with purchasing a vehicle. Thanks to Kathryn for sharing this helpful resource.
CONVERTED TOYOTA TARAGO
Thanks to Daniel for showing his family’s converted Toyota Tarago. This is what Daniel has to say about it, the “Conversion is from Freedom Wheels in Western Sydney (we are from Adelaide). We are happy with it. It doesn’t require tie downs as wheelchair is converted to the lock in mechanism. It has tie down capacity though if using wheelchair stroller etc. It has a button so ramp automatically comes down and goes up. Really good for electric wheelchairs that cant be folded down.”
Thanks to Daniel for providing a video of how everything works. Click the link below –
CONVERTED TOYOTA RUKUS
Thanks to Jenny for allowing me to bail her up and quiz her about her car conversion. Jenny only needed a car which could transport herself, her husband and son so they chose to purchase the Rukus and remove all rear seating to allow plenty of room. Jenny has been very happy with the car which they purchased new and then had converted.
converted Chrysler Grand voyager
Thanks to Lisa for sharing her Chrysler Grand Voyager and conversion story. Lisa says, “just wanted to share our car experience! We have a wheelchair converted Chrysler Grand Voyager. We call it ‘the mystery machine’. We bought our car second hand from a fantastic business in Sydney called freedom motors. They do van conversions and re-sell their cars second hand when the owner upgrades. We didn’t choose the car for it’s looks or speed. Our daughter suddenly became a quadriplegic (she has CP) after a brain injury. We really just needed a car in our price range that could accommodate our daughter travelling in her wheelchair as soon as possible. Freedom Motors were fantastic!! We went down for a meeting with the owner, Garry, and he explained everything, all the pros and cons, all about the conversions, and he even took us for a tour of the factory and workshops! He helped us work out the best option for us, and set us up with a great car that really suits our needs.”
VOLKSWAGEN CARAVELLE WITH HYDraulic LIft
Thanks to Helen for sharing her views on the Volkswagen Caravelle and the features in her van. Helen says, “I’m half tempted to recommend a ramp with a winching system rather than a hydraulic lift. The reason being, that if the lift breaks down, you have to lower it with a manual crank. It’s do-able but an enormous palaver!!! In my experience, simpler things have less go wrong with them. So maybe a ramp is best. Plus ramps are a lot cheaper!” Regarding the harnessing system Helen says, “The harnessing system has 2 positions. Evan normally rides centrally, but can be positioned to the left. This allows us to place another passenger seat to his right, when we need to” Helen’s experience is that, “side sliding doors are much better, especially if the parking space is a bit tight!”
Regarding the lift pictured above, Helen cautions, “the lift stores under the vehicle which is great BUT speed bumps must be approached with great caution.”
CONVERTED KIA CARNIVAL
Thanks to Janet and family for sharing their story about their car. Janet says, “This is our beautiful car that has changed our lives. It is a Freedom Motors Australia modified Kia Carnival. The ramp is electronic with a button on the side I press for it to go up and down. We have a docking station, so the wheelchair slides in, docks, then I put the seatbelt on and off we go. NO BENDING. Plus, there are manual systems for everything, so the ramp can be set to manual and the wheelchair can be secured using the old fashioned straps. We all love it.”
Thanks to Wheelchair Thailand Hua Hin for sharing your vehicle. Here is what they had to say, “When you don’t have kids think about sitting next to the driver. More comfortable than in the back of the car. This is a Ricon lift.”
CONVERTED RENAULT KANGOO
Thanks to my friend Sandy who has shared her converted Renault Kangoo. Sandy needed a car which could transport her son in his wheelchair and purchased this from Fleet Works Mobility. She found it a great benefit buying it already converted so she didn’t need to buy the car and then be without a vehicle while the modifications were being done. Sandy says she doesn’t feel it would be good as a family car as the back seats are not full size but for her needs she finds it quite roomy.
HI-ACE CONVERTED VAN
Thanks to Toni for sharing her experience with the Toyota HiAce van. Toni says she “loves it, drives the chair in and click, she’s (her daughter) locked in ready to go!”
CONVERTED CHEVY EXPRESS
CONVERTED PEUGEOT TEPEE
Thanks to Angela for sharing her family van, a Peugeot Tepee expert long wheel base. Angela says, “We have 4 seats plus wheelchair space but you can get two extra seats at the back.”
DODGE CARAVAN – UNMODIFIED
It is fantastic to get such a range of stories and although many people choose to modify their car it is great to hear about families who do not. Thanks to Julie for sharing her story. Julie says, “I did a lot of research before we purchased our Dodge Grand Caravan. My son is still small, so I lift him and his chair in and out. Since they widened his chair a bit, it’s torn up the plastic cover, but that is easily replaceable. When we lay down the 3rd row seats, I can fit his gait trainer, sit to stand, wheelchair, and all the trays. We fit 7 rather comfortably and we have!”
ADDING A RAMP TO EXISTING FAMILY VAN
A WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE TRUCK
Thanks to Andrew for sharing his story. Andrew says, “Bigger is better. I modified this one in 2001 & have travelled 2,300,000 Km’s . There s not many places in Australia we haven’t been, I’ve had 4 newer trucks over the years but keep going back to the old & simple Scania.”
If you would like to watch a great video about Andrew and see him accessing the truck then click on the video link below –
CONVERTED TOYOTA NOAH
Lina has an interesting experience to share, “we have recently purchased a Toyota Noah. We imported it from Japan using an import broker. 5 seater with hydrolic rear to lower the motorised ramp. Wheelchair passenger can sit in second row. It is smaller than a targo or multivan. We transport our son who is 4.5 in a powered wheelchair. Still room to include other equipment at the back if you fold one of the back seats up.”
CONVERTED MERCEDES VITO
Michele shares her experience with a Mercedes Vito van, “we have a Mercedes Vito van with rear hoist, 2 years old when we bought it. Only had one single seat in back (behind driver) and room for wheelchair next to it directly behind the two front seats. We are a family of 5 so added a fold down jump seat between the two front seats to start with then later added a two person bench seat that folds down as a back row once the wheelchair is in. Boys are now too big for the jump seat (13 and 15) as they get in the way of me changing gears, but it is great for our two small dogs! Nathan is 18 and 2 years ago we had to start taking the headrest off his wheelchair when loading because it didn’t fit the entry so we now put the chair in tilt when in position and click the headrest back in and return it to upright position. Headroom, including your headrest need to be considered when choosing your vehicle. When going on holidays we put a luggage pod on the roof and can still safely fit 3 surfboards next to it. Buying a wheelchair accessible van was life changing, it meant Nathan could have his independence using his power wheelchair when we went out instead of only using it at school.” Photo courtesy of Google and an example only.
sienna minivan WITH LIFT
Thanks to Adapted World for sharing their experience. If you would like to read the whole story head to the link below to read the full blog. A wheelchair lift on the back of a van avoids the necessity to modify the floor in a vehicle and avoids ramps, so it is definitely a great option to consider. Head to their blog here
CONVERTED VOLKSWAGEN CADDY
Kathy shares her experience, “we have a long wheelbase Caddy with a fold down ramp – very light and easy to put down. Great to drive long distance and heaps of room. We have 3 seats. We had a Kangoo prior to that but an hours drive to Sydney was long enough as the seat wasn’t comfy” Thanks to my friend for providing photos of her Caddy.
CONVERTED KIA CARNIVAL
Robyn shares her family’s experience with a Kia Carnival, “we bought a Kia Carnival and had it converted for a wheelchair last year…..the floor lowers down so there is no extended ramp at all which means that we can now park in “normal parking spots”……..waited 12 years for this and it has changed our lives.”
CONVERTED FORD F250 VAN
And a heart warming story from Sandra. Sandra shares, “We frequent Colorado National Speedway and the drivers and their families pitched in and bought this full size F250 for my son and myself. Very grateful for this blessing!! That I can stand up as I tie down the chair is a bonus beyond belief!!” Thanks Sandra.
DODGE CARAVAN AND ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE
NISSAN XTRAIL WITH TRAILER
Kathryn shares how she manages without a modified car, “At present while we are working out what wheelchair ( power chair) I now need after changes to my health we are using a regular trailer ( with our Nissan xtrail) and a 3 metre portable fold in half ramp , I get as close to the passenger seat as possible and transfer into car (Nissan xtrail has just the right height for me to transfer) my husband then loads the power chair into the trailer up the ramp and then ties down chair and ramp into trailer, VERY rudimentary but works as an interim measures, as you have to know the dimensions of your chair before you can get a vehicle modified, thought I’d share in case anyone needs temporary measures. Gets me home from work and saves the cost of a taxi until I get my taxi card”
Thanks to Judy for sharing her experience with two different vehicles. Judy points out some issues that are well worth keeping in mind when test driving a car. This is what she has to say, “I had a full size Ford van with a side entry lift, for 15 years. It had the 2 front seats plus the back bench seat. The 2 middle chairs were removed to accommodate the wheel chair. No raised roof or lowered floor. We loved that van. Milage wasn’t the best but we took it everywhere, heavy duty. The agency my son goes through now, uses a Chevy mini van, with a lowered floor and a folding ramp. The ramp is not heavy and easy to use. The back bench is not comfortable, as the floor has been lowered, your feet either dangle or sit on a folding platform that is not comfortable. It is also not well insulated against sound, especially the bottom. I would not purchase this style. Maybe a different model with more luxury would make a difference.”
CARAVAN VS TOWN AND COUNTRY
Christy shares her experience with two different vehicles. “We’ve had a rear entry Caravan with a bench seat in the middle. That one was ok. No real trunk space unless you wanted stuff loosely around the wheelchair.It was also pretty difficult for anyone but me to use the tie downs for the front of the wheelchair. I also didn’t like that I couldn’t easily access my son if needed; I would have to pull over and park. Downtown parking, I had to be careful that no one could park behind me. It also felt a little dangerous at times, so I got cones out so people could see the end of the ramp. The manual ramp wasn’t bad until I broke the spring on it. The worst part of it was that I’m really short so it was difficult for me to shut the back of the van.
Our second van is a Town and Country. Love, love, love it. We opted for the bench seat in the back, as normal, and to put in a foldaway jump seat. It’s through ams vans. I love the floor because it’s so easy to clean. It has an electric ramp and little extra room in the trunk. I was going to get the EZ locks but they don’t work as well with the tilt in space chairs. It can be a little tight for the wheelchair with the jump seat down and having the wheelchair tilted, but completely doable. I wanted the option to grow my family (we have 3, one with Cerebral P) so I love this van. It’s nice on road trips when I can hop back in the jump seat and sit with the kids, if needed.”
FOR OUR UK FRIENDs – SOME INTERESTING INFORMATION REGARDING FUNDING
Thanks to Olly for sharing this information – “Allied mobility supplied our Peugeot Independence with ramp and safety straps, the also advised that on low income you can apply to have help with the advance payment on a wheelchair accessible vehicle that Motability didn’t tell us about.”
Thank you again to all our facebook community for sharing your cars and vans with everyone. We are thrilled with the variety.
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We would love to hear about your car or van, whether it works for you and if it has any drawbacks. Leave a comment below.