Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs) Guide

Wheelchair accessible vehicles Guide

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A wheelchair can change your life in terms of mobility, but sometimes, your wheelchair can’t take you as far as you need to go. In this case, you’ll need a wheelchair-accessible vehicle which can make getting from A to B with your wheelchair a lot easier.

What is a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV)?

What is a wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV)?

Wheelchair accessible vehicles, sometimes known as a WAV, is a van which has been converted in order to make more internal room, allowing for the transportation of a wheelchair.

The entry to the van is wider and may feature a ramp or even a powered wheelchair lift to make getting in and out much easier and safer.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Entry Options

It is possible to modify a vehicle in many ways in order to make it wheelchair accessible. However, one of the most important modifications is the entry for your wheelchair. There are two main options here; side entry and rear entry.

As with anything, there are pros and cons to each type. Which you choose will depend on your needs, so it’s important to weigh this up.

Side-Entry Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

Side-entry wheelchair accessible vehicles

A side entry WAV has its main wheelchair accessible door on the side of the van. Out of the two options, most people go for this option. The main reason being that there is greater scope for headroom so you can remain in your wheelchair without worrying about hitting your head.

In these vehicles, there are normally options to remove the front seats so that you don’t have to sit in the back in your wheelchair. In some cases, you can even remove the driver’s seat and drive yourself while still using your wheelchair.

There are several different side entry models on the market, all ranging in price. However, you should keep in mind that you’ll like pay a little more for a side entry WAV.


One of the main pros of the side entry WAV is that you have the option to drive the vehicle yourself which means you can remain much more independent. Moreover, when getting in and out of the vehicle, it is much more natural and in keeping with the way a regular vehicle is designed. The dropped floor means that you have more headroom for comfortable getting in and out of your vehicle.

When you choose a side entry WAV, you will also have far more options in terms of the floorplan. Whether you need space for a single wheelchair or room for up to three in the back, the possibilities are far more generous.

Side entry WAVs allow you to fit either a powered lift or a wheelchair ramp, depending on your needs. These can often be operated using a single touch control which makes them easy to use and again, improves independence.


While the side entry WAV is a popular choice, there are a couple of downsides to consider. Primarily, you will have to be prepared to fork out a little more for this type of conversion. So, if you’re working to a tight budget, this may impact your decision.

Moreover, the side entry WAV means that you will need more space to get in and out and this can make parking in certain places a little more difficult, even when there are disabled parking spaces.

Rear-Entry Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

Rear-entry wheelchair accessible vehicle

As the name suggests, a rear entry WAV allows you to access the vehicle through a door at the rear. While these are less popular than the side entry versions, they are more affordable.

These vehicles are usually fitted with a ramp that covers the wheelchair when it isn’t in use and feature a more standard design. However, new rear entry WAVs are constantly being developed with features that improve comfort and ease of use.


Unlike the side entry WAV, a rear entry WAV doesn’t limit your parking choices as much. While you’ll still need plenty of space to get in and out, it’s rare that you won’t have this at the rear of the vehicle.

If you are modifying an existing van then the changes you’ll need to make for a rear entry WAV won’t be as complicated. This makes it a great option for caregivers as there’s no need to remove the front seats or mess around with the internal layout as much as you would with a side entry vehicle.

Moreover, rear entry WAVs have a large cutout in the back part of the vehicle, designed for the wheelchair. This is typically quite large and so makes it easier to transport bigger wheelchairs.

When getting in and out of the vehicle, there is no need to position the wheelchair as you can simply wheel it straight in and out using the built in ramp.


As with the side entry WAV, there are a few downsides to consider with a rear entry vehicle. For starters, you don’t have as many options for seating, and the wheelchair user will not be able to drive, so they’re not ideal if you want to increase your independence.

When coming out of the vehicle, it is necessary to reverse down the ramp. While there are raised sides on the ramp, this may still pose a slight risk and can be more difficult to navigate.

Can a Vehicle be Converted to a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle?

Can a vehicle be converted to a wheelchair accessible vehicle?

While you can purchase a readymade WAV, it is also entirely possible to make the conversion yourself by hiring a professional company.

The vehicle you are looking to convert will need to be the right size, and there are typically only certain vehicles that will work. For example, things like the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey are popular options.

Converting an existing vehicle is usually a more cost effective option. Including purchasing the vehicle, which you may have already done, it can cost anywhere between $15,000 and $30,000 for a conversion.

There are some important things to consider as well as the van type. Most conversion companies will only convert vans below a certain mileage, for example.

Ways to Purchase a Wheelchair Accessible Van

Wheelchair accessible vehicle purchasing options

If you require a wheelchair accessible vehicle then it’s important to consider your options and figure out what will work best for you. It is possible to rent, lease or purchase a vehicle. If you are only going to be using a wheelchair temporarily then renting or leasing might be the most favorable option. Whereas long term wheelchair users may find that purchasing their own vehicle is more cost effective in the long run.

Renting a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

Renting a WAV is a great idea if you need the vehicle for a specific purpose. For example, if you’re going on vacation, have a medical appointment or your own vehicle is out of use for a period of time and you need something to tide you over.


The great thing about renting is that you aren’t tied down to a long contract. You can usually choose how long to rent the vehicle, and this is typically either just a day, a few days, a week or even a month.

Furthermore, many rental companies give you the option to have the van delivered, so you won’t need to worry about collecting it. Do keep in mind that most companies will charge for this service on top of the rental price.

Some companies even offer rent to own programs whereby you can rent the vehicle, and this cost will be deducted should you decide to purchase.

You’ll find that rental companies have a lot of options, so you can choose something that closely meets your needs.


A major downside of renting is that you usually have to book well in advance. If you suddenly find yourself in need of a vehicle, you may find it difficult to get one the same day, or even within a couple of days.

There are also restrictions on who can hire a van. For example, you will need to be more than 21 years of age. If you aren’t then you may need to have someone hire and drive the van for you which is something to consider.

Leasing a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

If you wish to use a wheelchair accessible vehicle for a short period of time; perhaps you’re using a wheelchair for a few months while you recover from an injury, then leasing is usually the best option. These are more cost effective than renting, which is more short term. Leasing allows you to borrow the vehicle for as long as three years.


One of the key benefits of leasing a WAV is that you don’t need to commit to ownership in situations where you don’t need to. It’s usually a much lower monthly payment than buying a vehicle, so it’s a great way to stay within your budget.

You’ll only be in contract for a short period, and for the most part, the vehicle will remain under warranty, so if anything goes wrong, you won’t need to foot the bill.


There are usually mileage restrictions when leasing a WAV, so if you’re someone that travels a lot then you will need to find a company that can cater to your needs.

What’s more, a lease doesn’t free you of all financial obligations. If there are any damages to the vehicle that are your fault, you will need to put these right.

Once your lease is over, you will then have to find an alternative WAV.

Buying a New Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

Some people choose to buy an entirely new wheelchair accessible vehicle. If you’re someone that uses a wheelchair full time and will do so for the foreseeable or permanent future, then having a brand new, reliable vehicle is a must.


The main and most obvious benefit of buying a new vehicle is that you own it, so you won’t need to worry about trading it in or finding a new one at any point down the line.

What’s more, a brand new vehicle will be incredibly reliable and will come with a warranty period. If anything does go wrong, you will be covered within this period.

There is also aren’t any restrictions on how you can use the vehicle. You can travel wherever and as far as you please without the worry of mileage fees.


You have to consider that, once your warranty is over, you will be responsible for the cost of any repairs to your vehicle. Sometimes, this can be quite expensive, depending on the problem.

After some years, you may wish to sell the vehicle and purchase a newer model. However, when you do this, you likely won’t get the full, original value of the vehicle which means you’ll be at a financial loss.

If you are making monthly payments to buy your WAV then these are usually higher than leasing.

Buying a Used Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

You may choose to purchase a used WAV which will almost always be cheaper than buying brand new. There are many used vehicles in excellent condition, but it’s worth shopping around and only purchasing from a reputable second hand dealer.


The most obvious pro of buying a used vehicle is that you’re going to save a lot of money. If the vehicle is still relatively new, you may find that there is some of the original warranty left, so this is worth looking out for.

As with purchasing a brand new WAV, you’ll have complete ownership, so you won’t be limited on how and where you can use the vehicle.


If you do not purchase from a reputable dealer, then you may well end up with a lemon. We would never recommend purchasing anything that hasn’t been fully inspected as there could be unseen repairs that may end up costing a fortune to put right.

What’s more, it goes without saying that a used vehicle will usually have a shorter life expectancy than a brand new one, so you’ll need to be prepared to go through purchasing all over again much sooner.

One of the most important things to check when buying a used WAV is that the lift or ramp is in good condition. There are some that are no longer strong or stable enough, and not only will this require costly repairs, but it’s very unsafe.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Companies

There are several big names in the WAV industry and, as we have mentioned, we’d always recommend buying from a reputable company. Which company you choose will depend on whether you want to purchase or hire a vehicle, but here is some information on some of the best wheelchair accessible vehicle companies.


BraunAbility is one of the most popular WAV companies in the US and around the world. They serve more than 70 countries despite having humble beginnings in a small town.

The company was created by Ralph Braun who was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy as a child. Having learned from his own mobility needs, his aim was to start a company that could help others and so BraunAbility was born.

BraunAbility caters to a wide range of users with options to purchase, lease or have an existing vehicle converted. With an array of certifications, this is a company you can trust. There are more than 220 dealers across the USA, and you can find your nearest by using the simple search on the BraunAbility website.

BraunAbility Wheelchair Accessible Vans


Entry Options

Ford Explorer

  • Built in power ramp

  • Forward sensing system

Side entry only

Toyota Sienna

  • Blind spot monitor

  • Powered eight way drivers seat

Rear and side entry

Dodge Grand Caravan

  • Powered doors

  • Foldable seating for more options

Rear and side entry

Chrysler Pacifica

  • Powered eight way driver’s seat

  • High end fog lights

Rear and side entry

Honda Odyssey

  • Blind spot system

  • Built in powered ramp

Side entry only

Rollx Vans

Rollx is a company that specializes in supplying WAVs to veterans, and what’s great is that all of their vehicles come with a whopping 7-year warranty.

The company sells both new and used wheelchair accessible vehicles, and they also offer repairs whenever you need them. They’ll come out to your home for both delivery and repairs, and the company prides itself on its charitable work with things like the National Veteran Wheelchair Games.

Rollx Vans is the largest manufacturer of WAVs in the USA and has been running for more than 45 years. You’ll find dealers across the country that serve more than 20,000 customers.

Rollx Vans Wheelchair Accessible Vans


Entry Options

Chrysler Pacifica

  • Rear camera

  • Keyless

  • Ready Alert brakes

Rear and side entry

Dodge Grand Caravan

  • Rear camera

  • Powered eight way driver’s seat

  • Powered lift gate

Side entry

Ford Transit

  • Reverse parking aid

  • Rear camera

  • Ford AdvanceTrac

Side and rear entry

GMC Savana

  • Rear camera

  • Powered driver’s seat

  • Stabilitrak

Side entry

Dodge Ram Promaster

  • Reverse parking aid

  • Rear camera

  • Brake assist

Side entry


Another of the USA’s biggest retailers of WAVs is MobilityWorks. This company has more than 90 dealers around the country, and you can use the website to find your nearest. While the company is one of the younger ones, having been founded in the late 1990s, it prides itself on serving others so you’ll always have a wonderful customer experience.

MobilityWorks sells new and used vehicles and also offers a WAV rental service if you only require something for a short period of time. There are several finance options, including the choice to lease a vehicle.

MobilityWorks Wheelchair Accessible Vans


Entry Options

Chevrolet Traverse

  • Can fit two wheelchairs

  • Sliding shifter console

  • Illuminated ramp

Side entry only

Dodge Grand Caravan

  • 800lbs weight capacity

  • Powered and manual conversions available

Side entry only

Honda Odyssey

  • Removable front seats

  • Key remote

Side entry only

Chrysler Pacifica

  • In floor ramp

  • Spacious for accommodating all wheelchair types

Side and rear entry

Toyota Sienna

  • Hybrid vehicle

  • In floor or folding ramp available

Side entry only

Vantage Mobility International (VMI)

If you are a veteran then VMI is a good choice as they offer up to a $2000 rebate for vets. This company offers a choice of four wheelchair accessible vehicles as well as a whole host of other resources particularly aimed at veterans.

The company is incredibly innovative and released their very first WAV back in 1987, which was a Chrysler minivan. Since then, VMI has continued to apply the latest technology and engineering to create some of the most up to date and feature-packed WAVs on the market.

There are more than 200 VMI dealers located across the US, and all you need to do to find your local one is check out the search feature on their website. You’ll then be able to choose between purchasing a new or used vehicle.

Vantage Mobility International (VMI) Wheelchair Accessible Vans


Entry Options

Honda Pilot

  • Rearview camera with multi angles

  • Vehicle Stability Assist

In floor manual ramp

Dodge Grand Caravan

  • Rear camera

  • Park assist

Side entry with three ramp options

Toyota Sienna

  • Blind spot mirror

  • Powered lift gate

Side entry with three ramp options

Chrysler Pacifica

  • Park assist

  • Voice command

Side and rear entry with in floor powered ramp option

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

Factors to consider when choosing a wheelchair accessible vehicle

Choosing a wheelchair accessible vehicle can feel like a bit of a minefield since there are a lot of factors to consider. You are going to be spending a considerable amount of money, so you’ll want to make sure that you get it right.

Type of Vehicle

There are different types of vehicle that can be converted to a WAV. Understanding the differences between them is important in helping you make the right decision.

A full sized van is a better option if you need more space. They work well for families or for people who need something to carry more than one wheelchair.

Minivans are a popular option and are ideal for one, potentially two wheelchair users. They provide a lot of space and have both rear and side entry options.

Even more spacious than the minivan is the SUV which not only provides you with a comfortable and roomy way to travel but they’re also great for off-roading.

Rear-Entry or Side-Entry

We discussed rear vs side entry WAVs in detail earlier in this guide. However, let’s briefly recap as this is one of the things you’ll need to consider.

Side entry WAVs are more expensive, but you will find that there are more layout options, especially if you’re looking to be able to drive your vehicle yourself. They’re better for getting in and out as the dropped floor means more headroom. However, they do require a higher initial investment.

Rear entry WAVs offer a more affordable way to convert a vehicle and are great if you’re a caregiver looking for a way to transport the person you care for. They’re brilliant for parking as you don’t need the additional room at the side although you will need to reverse the wheelchair out.

Ramp Type

You will need to consider the type of ramp your WAV has. This will depend on your needs and personal preference. The most common options are as follows.

Fold Out Ramps

Fold out ramps fold up into the van when they are not in use. For the most part, they’ll sit inside of a sliding door.

There are manual or powered options, but in both cases, these ramps work especially well when you’re parked next to a curb or step.

In-Floor Ramps

In-floor ramps sit underneath the van floor when they are not in use. Again, there are powered and manual versions of these ramps. These are great if you want to keep a neat appearance inside the van as the ramp won’t be visible.

Powered vs Manual

Ramps can be powered, usually through the use of an electronic key fob. These are brilliant for convenience, especially if the user wants to retain some independence.

However, manual ramps are much more affordable and are usually easy to operate provided there is a caregiver on hand.

Required Adaptations

Depending on your needs, you may require additional adaptations in your WAV. There are many options, and it’s worth speaking to your supplier who will talk you through these.

A popular option are hand controls for those who want to drive their vehicle. These might include steering aids, push/pull brakes and other things.

You might also wish to add other wheelchair vehicle adaptations, such as a raised roof to make it even easier to get in and out.

Seating Options

You will need to think about the size of your wheelchair and where you wish to place it in the vehicle. For bigger wheelchairs, you’ll obviously need more space. The same can be said if you want to be able to transport more than one wheelchair at a time.

Where seating is concerned, the biggest influence over this will be whether you have a side entry or rear entry vehicle. If you want to have removable front seats so that the wheelchair can be placed in the front passenger space or in the driver’s seat, then you will need a side entry vehicle.

There are other seating options to consider, such as swivel seats if you would like the option to put the wheelchair in the back while you sit in one of the built-in seats. You might also choose adjustable height and improved leg room seats according to your needs.


Even if you are buying a used vehicle from a reputable dealer, you should still get a warranty. In some cases, with brand new vehicles, you may get up to seven years. Of course, the longer the warranty, the better, so it’s worth shopping around to compare your options before you make a decision.

It’s also important to check what your warranty covers and whether there are any restrictions on what the company will repair or replace under this.


Always buy or rent from a trusted dealer. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, even if you already know the answer to them as this will test the dealer’s knowledge and give you peace of mind.

Check out reviews and also make sure that the dealer is accredited by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA).

Frequently Asked Questions