Tips for Selecting the Right Ford Wheelchair Van for Your Needs

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Not long ago, Ford wheelchair vans were among the most popular options for disabled drivers. The Windstar and its successor, the Freestar, were strong players in the minivan marketplace and conversion specialists were able to modify them into compelling wheelchair vans.

Ford ceased production of the Freestar after the 2007 model year, however. Its replacement the Ford Flex crossover hasn’t been a top seller and is not among the most frequently modified vehicles for wheelchair van use.

That doesn’t mean that Ford wheelchair vans are a thing of the past, though. Those who are more interested in a full-sized option still find Ford’s venerable Econoline series a solid choice for conversion.

Purchasing Used Windstars and Freestars for Wheelchair Van Use

ford windstar 2003 wheelchair van whiteIn most cases, the purchase of a used Windstar for use as a wheelchair van use is not recommended. That’s not because the vehicle was deficient. Instead, it’s a simple matter of age. The last Windstars were produced in the mid-90s and are simply too old to be considered a smart choice in most cases.

Freestars are a trickier proposition. It is possible to find low-mileage Freestars that have been well-maintained by their owners. These vehicles continue to score high marks with J.D. Power and Associates for reliability and may be a reasonable selection. However, buyers should be aware that the Freestar offers less space and flexibility than do other minivan options.

If you’re considering a used Ford minivan for use as a wheelchair van, the vehicle should be subjected to close scrutiny. These vehicles are approaching (or have passed) the average anticipated lifespan for a wheelchair van and must be considered a risky purchase.

Purchasing E-Series Full-Sized Ford Wheelchair Vans

ford e250 2005 wheelchair vanThose who prefer a full-sized wheelchair van will want to consider the Econoline. Ford’s E-Series comes in three different grades, the E150, E250 and E350. That’s indicative of the fact that they have been marketed for different purposes to different audiences. While many people enjoy Econolines as a passenger vehicle, they’re also sold for industrial and commercial purposes. Those stripped down vans will be mechanically similar to the passenger models but may lack many of the accoutrements one would expect in a wheelchair van. Conversions on these models generally cost more than they would for other vehicles due to the need to make comfort- and aesthetics-related changes to the interior.

The Econoline is a large, sturdy van and it can accommodate wheelchair users and their mobility devices. Virtually any reputable conversion company should be able to create a solid wheelchair van from an E-Series Ford. Of course, these full-sized vehicles bring with them the problems and limitations generally related to bigger vans. They’re harder to handle and park, they lack the fuel efficiency of smaller vehicles and they have higher operating costs than most minivans.

If one is considering a used E-Series vehicle as a potential wheelchair van, they should consider the way the vehicle has been used by its previous owner. Many full-sized vans are subjected to harsher-than-normal driving conditions and that can shorten the vehicles longevity. Buyers should check all maintenance records and should subject the van to a full examination by a mechanic. As is always the case when buying used, dealer-certified models with warranties are preferable.

Unless the Ford Flex crossover begins to attract some attention in the conversion market, the only compelling Ford wheelchair van offering is the full-sized Econoline. If you’re looking for a full-sized option, both new and used E-Series vans are worth considering. Otherwise, buyers may want to consider wheelchair vans produced by Toyota or Honda.

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