2005-2012 Ford E-Series Wheelchair Vans Compared


Before Ford started referring to its full-sized vans as the E-Series, they bore the Econoline name. The first Econolines made their appearance in the early 1960s and almost immediately established themselves as the top work and commercial use wheelchair van in the marketplace.

Ford has never relinquished its position as a leader in full-sized wheelchair van sales. Today, the E-Series continues to dominate the disability marketplace.

The E-Series has a reputation for being a stale and unchanging vehicle. In some respects, that’s a fair description. Ford hasn’t significantly altered the van’s overall design since the Clinton administration. However, when you look past the looks of the van and take note of what Ford has been doing to perfect the vehicle year after year, it becomes a little easier to see why the E-Series options remain so popular.

The 2005 E-150, E-250 and E-350 didn’t break new ground. They were near mechanical duplicates of the 2004 vans. That’s a recurring theme, but it isn’t a byproduct of indifference. Ford retains consistency in order maximize appeal to companies who have particular conversion plans and for upfitters who are accustomed to working with the established vehicle configuration. Staying the same is a tactical move on the part of Ford.

The 2005 vans featured three different gasoline engine options, two V8s and a powerhouse, 6.8-liter V10 that generated 305 horsepower. Some E-Series vans utilized a 6.0-liter diesel alternative. The gas engines were matched with four-speed automatic transmissions; the diesel used a five-speed automatic.

In 2006, Ford updated the E-150, E-250 and E-350 by adding roll stability control systems. Ford maintained the same powertrain options. 2007 was a near repeat of 2006. However, Ford did make a series of mechanical improvements including an electric throttle control and oil coolers. New options included a stronger alternator, rear parking sensors and other improvements.

In 2008, the E-Series vans received a new front grille. Ford also rolled out an improved chassis that had a positive effect on drive quality. Ford eliminated the diesel engine option.

The 2009 E-150, E-250 and E-350 featured a new instrument panels, wider doors and a massive range of commercially-targeted electronic gadgets. The exterior didn’t change, nor did the components under the hood. There’s no real appreciable difference between the 2009 and 2012 models. Distinctions are subtle and have little bearing on vans’ performance.

An Overall Assessment of the Ford E-Series Wheelchair Vans

If you’re going to buy a full-sized wheelchair van, there’s a very strong likelihood of buying a Ford E-Series wheelchair van. These are extremely popular work vans–and they’re capable of serving as family travel vehicles or wheelchair vans, as well.

The E-Series handicap vans have developed a loyal following for one primary reason: They’re extremely durable. The primary target audience for the vehicles consists of commercial interests. Ford builds a van that can be converted for almost any specific need and that will withstand the punishment of hard work, day after day.

That rugged durability comes with a tradeoff, of course. The E-150, E-250 and E-350 don’t offer the most comfortable rides or best handling on the market. They supply the kind of bumpy driving experience you’d expect in a large truck. If you want punchy acceleration or the ability to turn on a dime, they aren’t going to meet your needs. They are, however, extremely sturdy.

The E-Series has retained the same basic look for over a decade. It marries a Ford pickup truck’s front end with a traditional box in the rear. The interior, in straight-from-the-factory form, is Spartan. The only real beauty in the E-Series is in its simplicity and potential for transformation. E-Series vans serve as shuttle vehicles, wheelchair vans, work vans, ambulances, city fleet vehicles and just about anything else you can imagine thanks to their amenability to conversion.

The Ford E-Series as a Wheelchair Vans

Prior to the advent of the minivan in 1984, those who wanted a wheelchair van relied on full-sized options like the Ford E-Series. Most wheelchair van drivers are happy that those days are gone and aren’t interested to returning to bigger vehicles. There are exceptions, though.

People with larger families, those who need additional cargo space and individuals who’d like to make use of larger wheelchair and mobility chair lifts may want to consider a full-sized van option. Many of those folks will be more than happy with an E-Series van.

The E-150 is the most frequently converted member of the E-Series family. The Chateau trim package, which was offered for the bulk of the van’s 2005-2012 run, was a slightly more comfortable edition designed for family drivers. It’s the smallest E-Series option, but it still offers more than enough room. Other variations of the E-Series have also been converted to serve as either individual or commercial wheelchair vans.

It’s possible to configure the vehicles for accessible side or rear-entry. They’re amenable to almost any conversion and, most importantly, they offer the space necessary to support heavy-duty wheelchair lifts that can’t be used in most minivans.

The E-Series is built with upfitters in mind. Most qualified conversion manufacturers can transform a full-sized Ford van into a fully functional wheelchair vehicle.

Is the E-Series Right for You?

If you want a comfortable, high-performance vehicle to serve as a wheelchair van, you don’t want a Ford E-Series van!

If you want space and sheer durability or have specific needs justifying a larger vehicle, it can be a strong choice.

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