Wheelchair accessible vans (WAVs) are specialized vehicles designed to accommodate individuals with mobility challenges. These vans are equipped with wheelchair ramps, lifts, and securement systems, ensuring the safe and comfortable transportation of wheelchair users. When choosing a wheelchair van, it is crucial to consider the point of entry. There are two options available: side-entry and rear-entry.

Side-entry vans allow the wheelchair user to enter from the side, while rear-entry vans allow entry from the back. Both side-entry and rear-entry vans use a ramp or lift to facilitate a safe entry and exit for the wheelchair user. They can be manual or powered, with powered wheelchair ramps or wheelchair lifts activated by a button, switch, or remote. 

When deciding on the point of entry, it is essential to consider the individual needs and preferences of the wheelchair user and their families or caregivers. Here are some benefits of both side-entry and rear-entry wheelchair accessible vans.

Benefits of a Side-Entry Wheelchair Accessible Van

Passenger and Driver Option:

Side-entry vans can be modified to allow the wheelchair user to be the driver or the passenger. As a driver, the van can be modified to accommodate the wheelchair user to drive directly from their wheelchair or by transferring to the standard driver seat. Side-entry vans can be further customized to suit the specific needs of the driver, including adding hand controls, and other features that enhance their driving experience. As a passenger, the wheelchair user can sit in the front, center, or back of the van from their wheelchair or by transferring to a standard seat.

Less Steep Ramp:

Side-entry ramps tend to be less steep, making them easier to climb. This would make the van more suitable for individuals who have limited upper body strength or for individuals who experience difficulty with balance and stability.

Additional Passenger Seating or Storage Space:

Side-entry vans can accommodate up to six additional passengers. With the entry point at the side, the rear interior area is open to accommodate these extra passengers. Alternatively, this interior space can be utilized for additional storage.

More Flexibility:

Side-entry vans offer more flexibility with the modifications and features available during the van conversion. A higher level of customization is possible because the entry point of the van is located on the side, which provides more space for modifications and adaptations within the van.

Benefits of a Rear-Entry Wheelchair Accessible Van

Additional Space for the Wheelchair User:

Rear-entry vans offer more interior space for the wheelchair user in the center and back of the van. This additional space is ideal for individuals who have larger wheelchairs so that they can maneuver, enter, and exit the vehicle with ease.

Larger Ramp:

Rear-entry vans can accommodate broader and heavier ramps. Many wheelchairs will fit a standard ramp width; however, if you have a larger wheelchair or require more space, a rear-entry van may be the better option.

More Parking Options:

Rear-entry vans can park in both handicapped and standard parking spaces. They are easier to maneuver in small spaces, making them an excellent choice for urban areas where space can be limited. Parallel parking could be the only potential challenge when parking a rear-entry wheelchair accessible van.


Rear-entry vans are more cost-effective and fuel-efficient due to their simpler conversion options. If you have budget constraints and need to be mindful of costs, beginning your search with rear-entry vans could be a good option.

Types of Side-Entry and Rear-Entry Wheelchair Accessible Vans:

We have an extensive inventory of side-entry and rear-entry wheelchair accessible vans, featuring top brands such as Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Mercedes, and Toyota. Our inventory is constantly changing, and we may have additional vans in stock that are not yet listed on our website. If you have any questions, our conversion specialists are available to guide you through our entire inventory and discuss custom solutions for you or your family members.

Questions to Ask When Choosing the Right One for You

1. Is The Individual With Mobility Challenges Going To Be A Driver Or A Passenger?

Determining whether the wheelchair user will be a driver or a passenger is a critical factor when choosing between a side-entry van or a rear-entry van. If the wheelchair user will be the driver, a side-entry van is the only option. If the wheelchair user will be a passenger, both side-entry and rear-entry vans are viable options. As a passenger, the decision of which entry point is the right choice will ultimately depend on the individual or their families specific needs and preferences.

2. Where Will You Be Parking The Van Most Often?

When deciding between a side-entry van or a rear-entry van, it’s crucial to consider where you will be parking the van most frequently. This factor plays a significant role in the convenience and usability of the van and its modifications. Both side-entry and rear-entry wheelchair accessible vans require sufficient space beside or behind the vehicle for the lift or ramp to extend so the wheelchair user can safely enter and exit the van.

A rear-entry van is the best option if you have limited parking, such as a 1-car driveway or a standard parking spot. This can make a rear-entry van an ideal choice for individuals who live in urban areas, where parking may be limited or smaller. Rear-entry vans are also easier to maneuver in confined spaces, such as parking garages.

If you have more parking space available, such as a 2-car driveway or a handicapped parking spot, both side-entry and rear-entry vans are viable options. In this case, the decision of which entry point is the right one for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences or those of your family. 

3. How Much Storage Space Is Needed or How Many Additional Passengers Will The Van Need to Accommodate?

When choosing a wheelchair accessible van, it is important to consider what else you plan to use the van for. If you need the van to have more storage space or accommodate additional passengers, side-entry is the better option. If you do not require as much storage space or additional seating, rear-entry is the better option. Side-entry vans can accommodate a wheelchair user and up to six additional passengers. Rear-entry vans can accommodate a wheelchair user and up to four additional passengers.

4. What Is Your Budget?

Whether you are purchasing a new or pre-owned wheelchair accessible van, budget should always be a consideration. If you have a more limited budget and the wheelchair user will only be a van passenger, a rear-entry new or preowned wheelchair van is the better option. If you have a more flexible budget or require the wheelchair user to be a driver, a side-entry new or preowned wheelchair van is the better option. Side-entry vans tend to be more expensive due to the extensive modifications and features available.

Access Point: SideAccess Point: Rear/Back
Driver or PassengerPassenger Only
Lift or Ramp, Manual or PoweredLift or Ramp, Manual or Powered
Enter/Exit: Requires Additional Space Beside the VehicleEnter/Exit: Does Not Require Additional Space Beside the Vehicle
Van Capacity: Wheelchair User + 6 Additional PassengersVan Capacity: Wheelchair User + 4 Additional Passengers
Budget: More Expensive to Buy or ConvertBudget: Less Expensive to Buy or Convert