Safety Considerations: Ford E-Series Wheelchair Vans


When people consider buying a full-sized van, they usually think in terms of cargo space, durability, towing capacity, engine strength and overall reliability. Safety may not be a consideration anywhere near their checklists.

However, safety is extremely important. Not only are there obvious reasons to embrace a safer vehicle, there are other reasons including lower insurance premiums.

Fortunately, the most popular full-sized van in the US marketplace, the Ford E-Series, is also extremely safe.

The big, strong E-Series vans have the kind of size and bulk that provide passengers and drivers with an automatic sense of security. A range of additional safety features add to that sense of well-being and tests by both the US government and the insurance industry confirm it. The E-Series is a safe and secure vehicle. That may not be the primary reason for their popularity, but it’s certainly a strong mark in their favor.

A Year-by-Year Evaluation

ford e150 2007The 2005 E-Series vans were equipped with antilock brakes and front airbags. There was little other standard safety equipment on board, although optional modifications could improve the vehicle’s overall safety. Nonetheless, the vans scored extremely well in collision testing, earning a five-star ranking (the highest score possible) from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The NHTSA also reported that the E-Series vans were surprisingly resistant to rollover incidents.

Ford added a roll stability control in 2006. This was designed to decrease already rare incidents of rollover and to help avoid spinouts. Once again, the NHTSA gave the E-Series vans a five-star crash test rating. The Ford vans received similar scores in 2007 and 2008. That continues a lengthy tradition of the Fords being recognized for their safety during collisions.

By 2009, Ford was offering a number of additional options including backup cameras and passenger airbag switches. The E-150, E-250 and E-350 received five-star crash test rankings once again, but did have difficulties in one area. After years of acceptable scores, the 2009 E-Series vans received a surprising poor rating for rollover resistance.

As of 2010, the E-Series range of safety features included the antilock brakes, front airbags, stability control, traction control and side impact panels. The vans continue to do well in government and insurance industry crash testing. It also appears as if 2009’s poor rollover score may be an anomaly.

E-Series vans have been involved in multiple recalls since 2005. However, none of these reflects poorly on the overall safety of the vehicle and should not be a cause for alarm on the part of those considering an E-Series van. Its overall safety record has been admirable over the last several years.

Causes for Concern?

ford e350 2005The sudden shift in rollover scores may be a concern. The failing grade in that department for the 2009 E-Series vans is really somewhat mysterious. Ford didn’t radically shift the design of the vehicle and the vans are outfitted with a proven stability control and anti-rollover system.

The only other factors that Ford E-Series buyers may want to consider is the way the vehicle handles and its size. E-Series vans are bulky and built more for work than for traditional passenger vehicle-style driving. Those who aren’t adept or experienced at driving larger vehicles of this sort may put themselves at increased risk.

The solid nature of the vans makes them extremely safe in most accident situations, but the size makes them more prone to smaller fender benders, parking scrapes and other minor accidents.

It’s also worth nothing that one can improve the overall safety of the E-150, E-250 and E-350 by choosing options and modifications. The core vans are not dressed up, but the addition of better headlights, parking sensors and other optional equipment may be a good idea for some buyers.


ford econoline 2006The 2005 to 2010 E-Series vans are rock solid vehicles and it’s incredibly easy to recommend them–for the right purpose. Those in need of a work van or who plan to convert an E-150 for specialized commercial use will undoubtedly be pleased with their purchases.

On the other hand, very few standard drivers will want to consider an E-Series van unless they’ve found a late model vehicle at an excellent price. The compromise inherent in using a van like this as an every day driver or as a wheelchair van is pretty significant.

The E-150, E-250 and E-350 can’t compare to passenger cars, minivans and SUV’s in terms of handling and responsiveness. Braking is slow. Acceleration is slow. Turning radiuses are wider than what one might expect. The sheer size of the vehicle can pose a number of challenges. While the E-Series vans will survive the roughest of treatment and will provide more than enough space for wheelchair conversions, the negatives associated with full-size van use will probably outweigh the benefits for most drivers.

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