We are starting the process of purchasing an accessible van and we have a couple of questions. Can anyone tell us your pros and cons of side entry vs. rear entry? Manual ramps vs. power ramps? And also the tie down systems that you use?

Thanks,
Warren

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Warren,
We have only had one van and we have a mini-van with side-entry and a power ramp. I cannot tell you anything about the full-sized vans, but we love the mini-van w/ the side entry. We did use a full-size van when we did his Make-A-Wish trip, but didn't really like that too much. It takes too long for the lift to go up/down. The thing we didn't like about the rear entry vans is that my son would have to sit in the back by himself if it is only him and me going somewhere. I know alot of parents have stated they like the rear-entry for ease of getting the lift down in parking spaces. When someone parks next to us, we just move the van and load/unload at another spot. Hope this helps some.
Tina
Warren,

I purchased our first Dodge Grand Caravan minivan in December. I decided on the manual, rear ramp after listening to the stories of others in our MDA support group. I am very pleased with it. The ramp system seems to be well constructed and is very easy to bring down and to put away. I like not having to worry about moving parts within the ramp or lift system breaking down. We are very careful when putting the ramp down into traffic, however, I stand by the back when my 12-year old backs down the ramp and have had no problems. Good luck with your decision!

Holly
Warren,

We had a full size van and a year ago we traded it in for a Honda Odyssey minivan rear entry. We absolutely love the minivan.

However, I think it depends on the size of your family. At the time we had our full size van, our kids were younger (one was a baby) and we needed to bring more stuff with us, like stroller, diaper bags, etc. My son in a wheelchair would fit in the middle of the van and there would be bench seat in the back. The wheelchair would block the view for those in the back and block those in the back getting in and out of the van when we would just be dropping off somewhere. The mechanics in the lift system (Braun-under vehicle lift) would often need repair and especially in the winter where it would often freeze up and not work at all.

Last year we got our Honda Odyssey minivan manual rear entry. We are thrilled with the van and can’t say enough good things about it. Because it is manual, the ramp can never break and is extremely easy to use. Our son has the EZ lock on the bottom of his wheelchair so he just drives into the back and locks himself into place. The middle of the van stays in tact with 3 people able to sit.

Hope this helps.
Beverly
Are there vans configured where the wheelchair is facing the passengers in the other row of seats? Tina's concern about leaving her son in the back is one I'm having about getting our first van as Alex transitions to needing something a little better than the lighweight scooter he's been using.
we don't have a van yet, but when we get one, we will get one with a ramp on the side.

in CA, most handicap parking spaces have plenty of room on the passenger side. i would rather have my kid going out there than worrying about parking lot traffic at the rear of the van.

we will probably go with a manual ramp as well. less expensive and you don't have to worry about more electronical parts that can break down.
We have a Dodge Grand Caravan with a rear entry ramp. We got ours from FMI. We love ours. The ramp is automatic but can be used manual also. We have never had any problems with ours. Our van seats 7, including Justin in his chair. Justin sits in the middle with chairs on either side of him and a bench seat folds out behind him. The only real downfall is when you are travelling and have to move things in and out to get Justin out. We need to buy a container to keep everything in on top of the van. Where Justin sits in the van is within easy reach of us in the front seat. He can hand us stuff and we can hand him stuff. I think an e-z lock is a must! It locks him in completely and safely!

--Samantha
Samantha,

What is FMI? Is this a resource others can use?

Julie
FMI is the company we went through. Freedom Motors Inc. We talked to them on the phone and online and ordered exactly what we wanted on a van and then it was delivered to us. If anyone wants to use them feel free to give our names! They give referral money! =) We live in Texas and never managed to find any program to help with the cost of the van. The only thing we got deducted from the cost was the sales taxes because it is accessible. We also were able to finance it for ten years.

--Samantha
Christian,

If there were a guaranty that a handcapped parking space would always be available, I would agree with you. Unfortunately, in my experience they rarely are at shopping malls, ballgames, amusement parks or anywhere one is likely to find retired people.
Hello Everyone! We just got our van this past November from Rollx and it is the best purchase we have ever made in regards to giving our 14 year old son independence. We have a side loading van with an electric in floor ramp. One of the cons of side entry is that alot of times there is not enough room on the side to drop the ramp even in a handicapped spot with an access area. Alot of times you will also encounter other handicapped individuals who have parked in the access area just a little bit and this hinders your ability to drop a ramp. In this case, we usually either find a different spot or pull into the spot just enough not to impede traffic and drop the ramp. Once he is unloaded, we just lift the ramp and pull into the spot. Rear entry I am not so familiar with but I just don't like the looks of them. They remind me of a bug with their butts in the air because the backend is so high. In regards to manual ramps vs. power ramps. I truly enjoy our power ramp. In the future, when our son will drive, yes, he will drive, he will not have to worry about having to put the manual ramp back up. All he has to do is push a button with the power ramp and he is on his way. In regards to the tie down system I am having issues. We received to ratchet tie downs for the front and they are always jamming and pinch fingers. I would recommend a type of tie down strap that retracts on its own. An example would be similar to the Q'straint system. I hope this helps! :)
Just wanted to let you know that you could have deducted the cost of the conversion on your federal taxes.

Samantha Dearing said:
FMI is the company we went through. Freedom Motors Inc. We talked to them on the phone and online and ordered exactly what we wanted on a van and then it was delivered to us. If anyone wants to use them feel free to give our names! They give referral money! =) We live in Texas and never managed to find any program to help with the cost of the van. The only thing we got deducted from the cost was the sales taxes because it is accessible. We also were able to finance it for ten years.

--Samantha
We did deduct it on our taxes.....i completely forgot about it until my husband was reading what I wrote a few days later and reminded me!! =)

I dont know if an e-z lock system will work for you, but check them out. It has been a lifesaver. We could never get the tie downs to work right.

--Samantha

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