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 Conversion Van - Wheelchair Accessible Full Size Conversion Vans for the Physically Disabled


Nor-Cal full size Ford drop floor wheelchair conversion with platform lift

NorCal Conversion Van

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The wheelchair accessible full size conversion van has been around for many years, long before wheelchair accessible minivan conversions became so popular.  Unlike minivan conversions, a full size conversion van can have raised roofs and raised doors in addition to a drop floor package.  Because full size handicapped vans are so high off the ground, the person in the wheelchair enters by way of a handicapped lifts.  A ramp such as that found in minivan conversions is not possible, the ramp angle would be much too steep.  A lowered floor full size conversion van is capable of having more headroom as compared to a lowered floor minivan conversions.  This makes a handicapped accessible full size conversion van the obvious choice for tall wheelchair drivers.  If you are not a wheelchair driver, and will only ride as a passenger in the cargo section of the van, then you probably don't need a drop floor full size conversion van but would only require a raised roof/raised door modification.  This will save you money.  If you are short stature and will ride as a passenger or of standard height and will drive in your wheelchair, then a standard full size van with essentially only a handicapped lifts may work.  Not having to pay for the lowered floor conversion or raised roof/raised doors in your full size van will again save you money.

Typical side entry drop floor minivan conversions have a cargo carrying capacity of about 1,200lbs.  A full size drop floor conversion van has a cargo carrying capacity of about 3,000lbs.  How much you weigh, the combined weight of your wheelchair, passengers and family, your luggage for the family vacation, groceries, bags of dog food, cases of beer, it all adds up.   This also makes a wheelchair accessible full size conversion van the obvious choice for heavier wheelchair users. 

The advantages of a wheelchair accessible full size conversion van are that it has the most headroom and interior space, has the most cargo carrying capacity, and can support raised roofs/raised doors.  In other words, the main advantage to a full size conversion van is that it's a big beefy vehicle and can support big beefy handicapped lifts.  So if you're a tall/heavy person with a big heavy wheelchair, without knowing the specifics of your situation, I'd recommend a full size conversion van.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you're a short stature person, the wheelchair accessible full size non conversion van may be much more cost effective than drop floor minivan conversions.  Another thing to consider is that Ford's full size vans seem to last.  You can have trouble with any vehicle, but there are lots of old Ford full size vans on the road and that should tell you something.  Another advantage (maybe not the best choice in words) is that if you find yourself in an accident, you want to be in the big heavy car, not the tiny fuel efficient one.  The disadvantages to a full size conversion van are they are larger vehicles, less fuel efficient, and vehicles with raised roofs/raised doors have difficulty being garaged.  Lowered floor full size conversion vans can also cost more than minivan conversions when you consider the project in total.  Another disadvantage is that the full size conversion van has been stigmatized as "handicapped vans".  I'm not going to discount that or say it isn't real, but in the end you have to do what makes you feel most comfortable and allows you to drive or ride safely.   Note: I only mention Ford full size vans because NMEDA has only certified the Ford van raised roof/door conversion and Nor-Cal only provides drop floor conversions on Ford full size vans. Update:  New GM full size vans are also certified for use with NMEDA's raised roof/door conversion.    

A full size conversion van is available with a 4.5", 6” and 9” drop floor conversion.  The standard is the 6" drop floor conversion as it offers the same eye height as minivan conversions.  The 9" drop floor conversion is for taller wheelchair drivers.  The 4.5" drop floor is a newer conversion choice.  Handicapped lifts can be installed in the side or rear of the vehicle.


Note:  It used to be in the not so distant past that local vehicle modifiers performed the drop floor conversion of a full size conversion van.  Even if you aren’t that familiar with cars, you can imagine that this involved some serious welding, relocating of items such as the gas tank, exhaust system, and making adjustments to the vehicle’s suspension.  When these local modifiers were performing this valuable service, there really weren’t any other options out there.  NHTSA had more or less given carte blanche for car modifiers to make vehicle modifications for people with disabilities but hadn’t come up with any real dos or don’ts yet.  Well that has all changed.  NHTSA, NMEDA, and liability insurance have all but taken away that local drop floor conversion industry.  For people who are new to vehicle modifications, the current way is the only way that they’ll know.  But for those who have been customers in the industry for a long time, things have changed.  You cannot go to your local Ford dealer, buy a new Ford E-150, take it to your local modifier and expect the shop to install a lowered floor conversion.  Your local modifier can still perform raised roof, raised doors, and install handicapped lifts, but the drop floor conversion van is almost exclusively handled by larger outfits designated as vehicle alterers.  Two larger full size van converters are Nor-Cal Vans and VMI.            





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