We would like to take a moment to thank all the veterans of our military whose selfless sacrifice and service are the cornerstone of the great nation we live in today. Unfortunately, many of those brave vets returned home with injuries that had a significant impact on their mobility. The good news is that veterans who have returned to civilian life with disabilities causing limited mobility have many options when looking to purchase a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.
Mobility is critical for the quality of life and well-being of those with motion-limiting disabilities, and choosing an accessible vehicle for day-to-day life comes with many considerations. There are accessible cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs with almost every kind of wheelchair lift or ramp you could want. That’s why the team at Clock Mobility is happy to assist with researching and finding the wheelchair-accessible vehicle that meets the needs of you or the veteran in your life.
I’m Purchasing a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle: What Do I Need To Know?
First and foremost, make sure you are purchasing from a legitimate dealer. The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) uses a system of audits and accreditation to ensure only high-quality and safe vehicles are provided to customers with disabilities. When looking for a vehicle, the first step is to make sure it can accommodate both your specific wheelchair and the number of passengers you’ll need to carry.
It’s also important to understand what types of accessories you’ll need in a vehicle. Will you need a wheelchair lift or just a ramp? Do you prefer a side or rear-entry vehicle? The most popular version of wheelchair vans, the side-entry van, allows access to the middle and front seats of the van, while a rear-entry van typically only allows access to the middle and rear of the vehicle. If you are the driver, you may also need additional accessories, such as modified hand pedals for accelerating and braking, to be added to your vehicle.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and Wheelchair Vans
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a program to help disabled veterans purchase modified vehicles and equipment. You will need to fill out the appropriate VA forms by clicking here. You will also need to file a claim for disability through the VA before requesting vehicle or equipment assistance. If you qualify, the VA will pay the vehicle seller directly. Besides the VA, there are a variety of grants and programs that vary from state to state that can assist you with purchasing an accessible vehicle and additional equipment. These programs are different for each state and situation and require in-depth research to see if you qualify.
Unfortunately, the VA does not have a program to assist veterans with vehicle loans. By obtaining a loan through the USAA, veterans can frequently find waived application fees and low APR financing for a new vehicle. The USAA is just one of many financial institutions, including banks and credit unions, that will offer vehicle loans. As with any vehicle purchasing scenario, it’s best to do your research and shop around for loans before making your final decision.
Modifying an Existing Vehicle for Your Needs
There is always the possibility of modifying an existing owned vehicle. There are dozens of options, such as wheelchair ramps and wheelchair lifts, as well as additional modifications that can be made to the interior of certain vehicles to provide space for your conveyance. Features such as 360-degree cameras and automatic braking can also be added to just about any car on the market to make it more accessible for disabled veterans. For many vets, it’s worth considering modifying an existing vehicle if it is still in good condition. However, if your vehicle is older or in disrepair, seeking assistance from the VA for a new vehicle may be a better long-term solution.
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Tips for Veterans Purchasing A Wheelchair Van
When it comes time to buy your wheelchair-accessible vehicle, there are several things to consider. Fundamentally it is the same as buying any vehicle. Wheelchair vans and their modifications range from $30,000-$80,000. This makes them affordable in many cases but also presents a wide range of expenditures given the options, so setting your budget is the priority.
When searching for a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, you ultimately have three options, each with its pros and cons. The first option is to buy a new van and pay to convert it. This is likely the most expensive option but will provide a reliable long-term vehicle for you and your family that is made to suit your unique needs.
The second option is to buy a used van and have modifications added. This will save on upfront costs but has a few drawbacks. The first is to make sure the van you are purchasing has low mileage to ensure the longest life possible. The second, and possibly biggest concern, is safety. If you don’t buy your used van from a reputable dealer, you must have it inspected by your trusted mechanic as well as the team at Clock Mobility, to ensure it can be safely modified for your needs and is in good working condition.
The third, and easiest, option is to buy a wheelchair van that has already been fully modified. Ready-to-drive accessible vans can be purchased new or used to suit your needs and budget. As always, make sure you’re buying from an NMEDA-certified dealer like Clock Mobility.
Insurance for Vets with Wheelchair Vans
The next step after purchasing your vehicle is to obtain the correct and best insurance available. Having insurance on a wheelchair van is essentially the same as having insurance on any car. Insurance companies are generally most concerned about accidents, so it’s important to note whether your policy covers you in the event of non-accident-related damage.
Discuss your situation with the insurance representative and ask about obtaining a rider. A rider may cost you more monthly, but it will cover things that most insurance plans don’t. You should also make sure your insurance provider has a complete understanding of the cost of the chassis of your vehicle, as well as the cost of each modification, to make sure you obtain correct coverage for every aspect of your vehicle.
Maintaining Your Wheelchair Van
You should schedule regular maintenance appointments for your wheelchair van the same way you would any vehicle. Regular oil changes, tire pressure checks, and fluid level checks are essential every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Other important factors go into maintaining a wheelchair van specifically.
Having your vehicle’s unique modifications inspected regularly will help ensure a long life. For example, checking your battery with each service is something you might not do with a standard vehicle, but a dead battery can cause significant problems in a wheelchair van if modifications like your wheelchair lift can’t be utilized. It’s also a good idea to clean your accessible van thoroughly at least once a month, including the mechanisms of your ramp or lift, your tie-downs, etc.
Meet Disabled Veterans Who Can Help
Finding other disabled veterans who have experience with modified vehicles can be a huge help. Numerous state and federal veteran support networks can be a great way to make connections and get in touch with other vets who can support you through your journey. Resources such as Military OneSource have several programs and non-medical counseling to help veterans set up their lives and careers after the military. People working within these programs are eager to assist disabled veterans in any way they can and could be an excellent path for assistance in choosing an accessible vehicle.
Veteran Assistance for Wheelchair Van Purchases at Clock Mobility
The fact is that everyone deserves freedom of movement and independence, and veterans have many options for obtaining the transportation they need to continue their lives after service. The VA exists to serve our disabled veterans, so don’t hesitate to take advantage of the opportunities, resources, and grants that are available.
A life of mobility is waiting for you. These handy tips are just a few things you can do to acquire a safe and reliable vehicle and get back to living life to the fullest. Contact the team at Clock Mobility to learn more about how we work with disabled veterans, browse our online inventory of wheelchair-accessible vehicles, or visit us at one of our four Michigan locations to start your mobility journey.
Many wheelchair van companies also offer specialized warranties on the chassis and equipment of a modified vehicle.