Disabled drivers can choose from three different Dodge wheelchair van options. They can invest in a used Caravan, a Grand Caravan or a Dodge Sprinter. Each of these vehicles offers something unique and all share a few similarities. One key similarity is that fact that all three can utilize both ramps and lifts to provide the wheelchair user with access to the vehicle.
How do these various ramp and lift options help the disabled Dodge driver?
Let’s consider that question within the context of the different vehicle types in order to reach our conclusions.
We’ll group the Caravan and Grand Caravan together in this analysis. Both are Dodge minivans and they shared the same basic design and features over the years. In 2008, Dodge dropped the Caravan from its roster, but maintained the extended wheelbase Grad Caravan. The Sprinter, a full-sized van will be considered separately.
Anyone interested in converting a Caravan or a Grand Caravan to wheelchair van use needs to understand the options the minivans can and can’t support. These vehicles can be configured for rear-entry or side-entry. It’s possible to use an external lift on rear-entry variations. One can also use a ramp on these variations. Side-entry Caravans and Grand Caravans don’t support lift. They can only utilize a ramp.
Dodge Handicap Vans Using Lift For Disabled Access
Lifts do have advantages. They’re incredibly sturdy and are capable of lifting a tremendous amount of weight. That makes them an attractive option for disabled individuals who may use heavier, powered scooters and similar mobility aids. They also have a smaller footprint than ramps, which makes them a wise choice for those who frequently deal with limited space when entering and exiting a vehicle.
Lifts also have drawbacks when used with the Dodge minivans. Initially, they cost much more than ramps. Secondly, they can only be used with rear-entry designs, many of which are only useful if the wheelchair user will only be a passenger and not the vehicle’s driver. Third, the limited size of the minivans means that anyone choosing a ramp will need to be comfortable with fold-up models that stay outside of the vehicle. Finally, most Caravan and Grand Caravan conversions are side-entry, and ramps just can’t be used with these variations.
Dodge Wheelchair Vans With Wheelchair Ramps
Ramps offer some advantages of their own. First, there is a wide variety of ramp types, which makes it possible for the conversion van owner to choose the model that fits his or her individual needs. Second, are generally far less expensive than lifts. Third, many ramps, including auto ramps and other powered options can be extended and retracted with the push of a button, aiding in overall access and convenience. Fourth, most ramps are easier to store. Fold up versions can stow neatly within the vehicle and automatic options can “hide” under the vehicle when not is use.
That doesn’t make ramps perfect, however. Users need to be concerned with their ability to properly use them, as the may require more effort than lifts. It’s also important to assess the weight limits for ramps, as some may be too weak to support scooters and powerchairs.
The Verdict On Wheelchair Ramps and Lifts
Overall, automatic wheelchair ramps tend to offer the most practical form of access assistance to Caravan and Grand Caravan users. Their reasonable price tag, automatic operation and under-vehicle storage combine to create the best overall option.
The Dodge Sprinter is a re-branded and slightly modified version of a full-sized van released in Europe by Mercedes. Though primarily built for use in the commercial sector, it can be a good wheelchair van option for those who require additional space. The basic lift and ramp technology one can use with the Sprinter is identical to that referenced in our discussion of the minivans. As such, we’ll move directly to an overall assessment.
The Sprinter has the advantage of being able to easily handle side-entry lifts. Depending on a user’s personal situation, this can represent a huge advantage. The Sprinter can also utilize rear lifts without the need for external storage.
Thus, our recommendation shifts somewhat when we consider the Sprinter. Anyone considering the purchase of one of these full-sized wheelchair vans is probably motivated, in large measure, by its ability to utilize power lifts and shouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of that capacity.