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How to Choose the Right Wheelchair Van Ramp


wheelchair ramp (select to view enlarged photo)

SANTA MONICA, CA--Every wheelchair-accessible van should be equipped with a ramp to help users get in and out of the vehicle as efficiently as possible. But a conversion on a new van can cost upwards of $20,000, which makes it crucial for buyers to pinpoint the right ramp for them. Edmunds.com, the premier resource for car shopping and automotive information, lays out the key factors that go into this potentially expensive decision.

“And while their names are self-explanatory, the advantages and disadvantages to each ramp may not be as evident.”

"There are two kinds of ramps on the market: in-floor and fold-out," says Edmunds.com Automotive Content Editor Warren Clarke. "And while their names are self-explanatory, the advantages and disadvantages to each ramp may not be as evident."

To help wheelchair users better anticipate their needs, Edmunds.com offers five questions to consider before settling on a wheelchair ramp:

1. How important is it for able-bodied passengers to have easy access to rear seating? The biggest difference between fold-out and in-floor ramps concerns how they're stowed when not in use. If you expect to frequently ferry able-bodied passengers in the second and third rows, an in-floor ramp is the better choice. The reason is simple: An in-floor ramp allows these passengers to enter and exit the vehicle without obstruction.

2. What's the weather like where you will drive? If you live in a climate that gets lots of rain, snow or even falling leaves, these things will likely collect on your van's ramp when it is in use. If you have a fold-out ramp, you could find yourself with a mess within the cabin due to the way in which this ramp is stowed.

3. Do you plan to use the van in an environment marked by tall curbs and steep gradients? Tall curbs and steep gradients can pose challenges when it comes to deploying your van's ramp. Of the two types of ramp, a fold-out is better suited for this kind of environment.

4. How important is front passenger comfort? With an in-floor ramp, the front passenger seat has full range of motion. However, if you choose a fold-out ramp, the front passenger seat's capacity to recline will be restricted once the ramp is stowed, since this ramp forms a barrier that physically limits how far back this seat can go.

5. How price- and time-sensitive are you? Because it's a limited industry, there often isn't a diverse choice of inventory available at the dealer's lot. If you choose from the selection available on the lot, you may be able to drive your new van home on the day of purchase. However, if you don't see what you want and are willing to wait a few days or weeks for the vehicle to be prepared, you may be able to save money by ordering a conversion van to your own specifications -- sometimes at a lower price point.