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?


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We are just starting to look at vans also. Last weekend we went tot he Abilities Expo here at the Anaheim Convention Center and were able to look at van conversions from a number of different companies. The major difference we noticed between the side and rear entry vans were the placement of the seats and leg room. The Odyssey and the Sienna seemed to have the least amount of leg room. The rear entry vans had the middle row seats up so far in order to accommodate the wheelchair that there was really no leg room. If you have small children that is probably not an issue, but my 19 year old daughter is just a smidgen under 6 feet, she would be eating her knees. I think we left there with more questions than answers. Throw in that fact that I am married to an engineer who looks at things with a whole different perspective than anyone else. He doesn't like the idea of the dropped floor, but he kind of let that issue go after he measured the clearance of his '97 Camaro, it only has about 6.5 inches of clearance. The side entry Dodge Caravan has the same clearance. The rear entry has more like 8 or 9 inches.

I really liked the ramps in both the rear and side entry, they were really easy to use. The remote control ramp can be used manually if something goes wrong. You can literally use a single finger lift it. They only had one type of tie down on the vans at the show so we didn't get to compare them.


In the Sienna and the Odyssey, would your son be stuck by himself in his own row, or would he be in a row of seats with at least one other passenger?

In all the vans we looked at, both side and rear entry, the wheel chair would be by itself in is own row. The only exception would be in the Dodge/Chrysler minivans where the front passenger seat could be removed and the chair tied down in the front. I don't know how easy it is to take that seat out though. Even the one full size Ford van they had the wheelchair was in the middle of the van with a bench seat in the back. My husband wants to look more at the full size vans but I am not thrilled with that idea.

In our rear entry van, Justins chair is in the middle of the second row. There are chairs behind the drivers and passengers seats and Justins chair sits in between those two seats so there is people on both sides of him. There is a bench seat that folds up and down behind his chair in the very back. There isnt the best leg room in the seats next to Justin. I dont know how much leg room there is with the bench seat. I have never sat back there. My daughters over 6ft boyfriend sits back there and he manages to get his legs stretched out somehow!

Maybe late but here are my 2 cents on vans. I wish I could afford both a mini van and a full size! Having said that, we have a full size/side entry van. We opted not to get a rear entry simply because at some point, my son backing out would probably be too difficult. Also, most accidents are rear enders and the thought of that happening and him being stuck in the van bothered me. When we were looking for a van to purchase we were advised to consider a few things...Where do you do most of your driving? City streets or country roads? Clearance is an issue there...also think of speed bumps you'll have to nagivate over. Raised roof or not? Well...how many parking garages do you use and how is your hospitals parking? Do you travlel much and how many are in the family? Later on traveling might mean taking along a lot more medical equipment than just the wheelchair and lifts and all can take up a ton of room. We are happy with our full size van with the exception of the gas mileage of course. I would love to get a Sprinter!! Our lift splits in half when it folds into the van so the doorway is always clear (Clearway is the lift's name I think). I would't go with an under the van lift. Like someone said on here, they are known to have issues and dirt and freezing can effect how well the operate. We bought a van that was pretty bare boned and had it converted. It was a bit cheaper that way though not my ideal van. Good luck. Oh, and we chose not to do the easy lock system where there is a bolt under the wheelchair. We were afraid the bolt would be a problem and get hung up on things as he drove around town and I wanted tie downs in case he had to borrow a wheelchair because his was getting worked on or something and tie downs are universal where that bolt system works only on the chair with the bolt on it. Its late and I'm rambeling now. Sorry. Night all.

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