Vehicle recommendation for wheelchair conversion

Unfortunately we have reached a point that we need a vehicle with a wheelchair lift. I’m looking for a recommendation on what base vehicle to start with. We live in Colorado so we need good handling in snow and ice. Of course we want to consider the standard factors such as gas mileage, reliability, repair costs, etc. Plus you have to remember that the wheelchair conversion tends to void major parts of the manufacturer’s warranty since it involves dropping the floor, adding a major weight, etc.

What I’ve found is that the folks that do the vehicle conversions tend to use Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Dodge Caravan, Chrysler Town& Country, Chrysler PT, Honda Element, or Scion XB. Of these vehicles, what would you recommend, and why?

Any one of the first three. Also look into the Ford Trans Connect. For the snow and ice, you might want a 4 wheel drive version, but I think you can get by with snow tires in the winter, except during blizzards. Just have a set of four mounted on separate wheels for winter use. I think some of the others will be too small.

I think that the Dodge & Chrysler vans are the most readily adaptable to this type of use. In fact, the Braun Entervan is a modified Chrysler van, adapted for wheelchair use. It may even still carry the Chrysler factory warranty. I suggest that you check the Braun website for details.

I know of someone (with wheelchair needs) who recently purchased a new Honda Odyssey van to replace their old Chrysler van, and they have found that, after removing the second seat in the Honda van, there are what they describe as “hostile protuberances” that were not present in their Chrysler van. They are so dissatisfied with the Honda Odyssey for this type of use that they are trying to sell it, with less than 500 miles on the odometer!

What I would recommend, since you’re buying new, is to go to a conversion company such as Braun, and have them buy the vehicle (you’ll get to specify color and factory options, of course) and convert it themselves. Generally when you do it that way, voided factory warranties get replaced by the conversion company warranties, and so you’re covered no matter what.

You should also look at the AM General MV-1, which is a vehicle that’s built from the ground up to be accessible. I can’t tell you how good it is, because it just came out. I haven’t even seen one in person yet.

I was gonna recommend the MV-1, too, but shadow beat me to it.
Price a van and conversion costs and compare it against the MV-1’s price. The MV-1 starts at about $42k; $51k if you wanna use CNG instead of gasoline

The MV-1 seems to have a couple of major drawbacks:

  1. no option for hand controls/wheelchair occupant as driver
  2. V8 which implies poor gas mileage (14.5 mpg by my calculation)
    I’m not looking for something that hauls 6 people.

with the added weight of the equipment, ANY vehicle will get poorer fuel mileage

A V8 does not automatically imply poor gas mileage. If you have 2 identical vehicles, but one has a V6 and one has a V8, and the vehicle’s weight is such that the V6 has to be run wide open all the time just to haul the vehicle around while the v8 can be run normally, the v8 is likely to get better mileage.

My uncle reported better mpg out of his extended cab GMC Siera with the V8 than he did with his single cab V6 Chevy Silverado. Not EXACTLY the same vehicle, but so close it’s barely worth mentioning.

An arguement for the more traditional…I am a huge Chevy Express/GMC Savana fan. Being truck based with a frame makes them much more sturdy for loads and conversions. Our church has one with side load wheel chair lift and puts it to good use. In 4wd which I highly recommend, excellent ground clearance but with steps is a welcome addition. I strongly disagree that you should compromise your safety with snow tires alone when your quality of life is already compromised. Just “getting by” in slippery weather in a wheel chair is not an option and awd will get you there and much closer to off load destinations esp. when snow plows leave snow in lots in less then the most convenient places. Snow tires plus 4wd in snow country with a truck based van is the safest no compromise way to go.