Having owned a wheelchair accessible truck, I have experienced the advantages and disadvantages of this vehicle vs. an accessible van. The decision to get an accessible truck should not be taken lightly — it’s not just about form. Thinking about function and practicality is a necessary reality.
The obvious advantage is that it’s not a van — the default vehicle for wheelchair users. People don’t expect someone in a wheelchair to roll up in a tricked-out pickup truck. People will stop you in parking lots and ask you questions or want to see a demonstration. It’s fun to be the center of attention if you like that sort of thing.
Another advantage is that if your lifestyle requires you to have a truck, then it can be a lifesaver. For example if you live on a farm or frequently haul things, then clearly an accessible pickup truck will be exactly what you need. If you need a vehicle to do some heavy towing, then you’re definitely going to want a wheelchair truck vs. a minivan
Of course there are some things to think about when considering a truck vs. a van.
First, parking can be a problem. If you live in a city or places where you need to use a parking structure frequently, then you will run into a problem one way or another trying to fit into the structure. While this is true of most big trucks, it can be a hassle to get good accessible parking if you can’t get into a parking structure. Also, street parking becomes somewhat unsafe if your lift has to deploy out from the driver’s side.
Second, if your truck battery dies or the lift cannot operate properly, you’re going to have to rely on others to help you to get out of the truck. In most vans you can easily open the side door and deploy a ramp manually if you have to. You’re not shedding independence. Granted it’s a rare occurrence but I did get stuck in my truck at once per year.
Next, an accessible truck can pose a problem if you plan on transporting any other wheelchair users. Unlike a van where you can cram multiple people in chairs into the passenger area, a truck with a lift usually only gives you enough space for one chair. Unless your friends can transfer up into the truck or hop over a center console and disassemble their chairs, it’s not possible.
Lastly, keep in mind the costs. A truck conversion can be much more expensive than a van conversion. Throw in the reduced gas mileage of a truck and you’re definitely looking at a more expensive upfront and ongoing cost of owning a wheelchair accessible truck. The resale market can also be difficult, particularly if your truck is customized to your specific needs. You will take a big hit on the conversion costs if you try to sell your vehicle.
Overall the advantages might be huge for you. Many of the disadvantages are somewhat minor. However do weigh the advantages and disadvantages as they pertain to your situation. You might find that a truck fits the bill. I wanted to pass along the disadvantages just so you get the full picture when it comes to owning a wheelchair accessible truck. Sometimes you don’t think about something until you have to deal with it and it’s important to think this big money decision through.