A few years ago, I went through the process of choosing a vehicle to be converted for accessibility. It was not an easy process and there were many decisions to be made that aren’t normally thought about. Though I did almost everything right, I still ended up with a lemon and learned a few important lessons. I thought I would share some tips to have the best success in purchasing a vehicle for an accessibility conversion and choosing a company to do the conversion. 


How to choose a vehicle conversion company


Conversion Company – The first decision you should make is choosing what company will do the conversion. Choose wisely. This could really make the difference in whether this process goes smoothly or not. It is also a long term relationship, so make sure you’re happy with them. If you or your child is receiving physiotherapy or occupational therapy, check which conversion company they recommend. Chances are they have a consultant from a medical supply company on contract to provide you all the information you need. Part of that information is supplying you with their choice of what conversion company to use. Keep in mind they too are probably working under contract. It may not be the best choice for you and you should still check other sources.  


Referrals – Get referrals from other organizations or drivers of accessible vehicles. Politely talk with them at parking stalls if you have to. I did. Most people were very willing to answer a few questions.


Vehicle conversion company details – Check out several companies using online resources.  Make note of the differences and make inquiries.


Find out what involvement the consultant or conversion company will have with you. Do they help you find the right vehicle? Do they clearly explain conversions of different vehicle brands? Where does it go to be converted? How long? If you need maintenance done, where is it done? What is their availability in the event of an emergency (example: your ramp is stuck)? 


Warranty – What is the warranty? How long and what does it cover? Is there an extended warranty option?


Choosing a vehicle for accessibility conversion


Research – Doing research on potential vehicles is important. Check consumer reports. There is no denying Dodge Caravans have been the vehicle of choice for most accessibility conversions.  Don’t be fooled by the extra bells and whistles like “Stow and Go” seating. The fact is many of the options we think are attractive will be removed with the conversion. Do however; take into account what vehicle brand is more likely to be used in conversions.  There is probably a good reason for that.


Safety – Certain safety options in different brands change with conversions. For example, side impact bags may be removed when the floor is lowered. Check current safety ratings but keep in mind what is affected by the conversion.


Warranty – Again there is a conversion warranty and the vehicle manufacturers warranty. Ask the same questions as above and save yourself some grief – get the extended warranty.


Bill of Sale - If you have a consultant assisting you, they might handle the haggling with the dealer and the bill of sale paper work. READ IT CAREFULLY BEFORE SIGNING. I can’t stress that enough. I was signing mine at the same time my child was in hospital and really couldn’t deal with reading the small print. I later found out they did not put the extended warranty on my vehicle as promised.  When I confronted GM and the consultant, though they admitted it was discussed, neither took any responsibility. Ultimately, it’s my fault for not reading the fine print. It’s been a very costly mistake.


In my experiences with my Chevrolet Uplander from hell, I have learned no matter how prepared or smart you think you’re being in researching your options, it might still backfire. My warranties were gone in a flash, my vehicle has been in the shop a ridiculous number of times, and my wallet…..well you get the gist.  Just recently the torque converter had to be replaced in my transmission. Though I still had a drive train warranty, the warranty on the conversion was expired. When they went to take the transmission out, the carriage, put on by the conversion company, had bolts that were stripped. This meant an enormous amount of grief and labor costs. The mechanics had to go through the interior floor to get my transmission off. The conversion company of course took no responsibility, was less than helpful and never did contact me.


So on a brighter note, there are funding resources for accessible vehicle and conversion costs. Check out my Charities page for more information.  If you have any further questions you think I might be able to help with, drop me a comment or email. 


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(Wheel-ist-ic) Adj: awareness or acceptance of actual fact, real existence, or truth with relation to inclusion, accessibility and/or persons with disabilities.

Let’s Be Wheelisitic is a blog designed to open communication, share and create change through parenting, awareness, inclusion and advocacy. Over the years people have encouraged me to use my voice and experiences with my daughter to help others with or without disabilities, or parents of children with disabilities. This blog is my way of doing just that. I hope you will find this site enjoyable, educational, helpful, and rewarding.
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“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” — E. M. Forster