What to Look and Listen For in a Used Handicap Van

Buying a used wheelchair accessible van is like buying any other used vehicle—with a few additional items to consider. Keep in mind, the only warranty (if any) you’ll have on the van (excluding the conversion) is whatever might remain of the original manufacturer’s warranty. As with any used car, van, SUV or pick-up truck, it’s always wise to take the vehicle to a trusted mechanic for a full inspection and recommendation before signing on the dotted line.

Here are a few things to check when you’ve identified a used handicap vehicle that will serve your purpose—which is to have a wheelchair accessible vehicle in good working condition:

  • General Appearance
    Most handicap van dealerships repair most cosmetic problems before they put a used vehicle on the market. Inspect the exterior carefully, looking for signs of rust, dents repaired with body filler and chipped paint. The underside should be checked, too, which is why a trip to your mechanic is a good idea. Go over the interior for general appearance, torn upholstery, and any missing items like a rear-view mirror. Make sure all the windows go up and down, the door locks work, the radio/CD player and all necessary features (lights, windshield wipers, turn signals) are operating.
  • Engine Sounds
    Pop the hood and take a look. Is the engine clean and free of rust? Do you see any leakage around the valve cover and head gasket? Does the engine start immediately? It should. With the engine running, listen for unusual knocks or rattles.
  • Brakes and Transmission
    Request a test drive to make sure the brakes work properly and there’s no slippage in the transmission.
  • Service Record
    Ask for a record of the vehicle’s maintenance to see if the vehicle had regular oil changes and check-ups. Make sure the van is “certified used”, which means it goes through a multi-point inspection to meet stringent “certified used” standards. Reputable online handicap van dealers and local dealerships sell only “certified used” vehicles.
  • Ramp/Lift Operation
    Whether it’s a new or used conversion, make absolutely certain the ramp or lift works properly. Look for conveniently operated, single-operator controls for all powered equipment.
  • Interior Space
    Will the wheelchair user be able to enter, ride in and exit the van with ample head room and maneuvering ability? Are the restraints working securely? Is there sufficient additional passenger space?

To get the most “bang for your buck,” pay attention to detail when scoping out your “new” used handicap van.