Travel Wheelchairs

Buying a Used Accessible Van, Part 2 – At the Dealer

Custom Van 2Armed with the information I’d learned in Buying A Used Accessible Van, Part 1, I headed down to the dealer.

I wasn’t too impressed with what I saw. The new van in the showroom horrified me. Full disclosure: I’m frugal by nature, and hate few things more than buying a new car — I hate the sales spiels, I hate the way accessories are piled on and made to seem essential somehow, I hate the way the add-ons are packaged so that you have to buy them in order to get something you might actually need. You know, like when they won’t give you the engine unless you spring for automatic locks on the doors — that kind of thing.

I was after reliable transportation — not a jazzy paint job and a fancy music system. And certainly not a television. The point was to get out into the world, not to insulate ourselves from it. And for heaven’s sake, it’s a vehicle — every time it’s used it’s one step closer to being junked — along with those thousands of dollars worth of audio-visual equipment. Dumb! Expensive! Not to mention that Dad already has great audio and TV at home — he doesn’t need to be in a van to enjoy either.

It turned out, anyway, that the van in the showroom wasn’t exactly for sale. ‘Customizing’ is apparently a well-established tradition in the accessible van trade. You pick out a van and someone then cuts, welds, and otherwise tortures a stock product into something that will transport a wheelchair. How long does it take? Well — how long does it take your contractor to finish the job once he (OK, it could be ‘she’) has been paid? About that long. Suffice to say, you don’t get the van in a week. Or maybe a month. Or maybe several months.

One of my dad’s illnesses — a relevant one — is progressive. It wasn’t clear how long we’d have to use his van, so waiting months to get one was out of the question. Scratch buying a new van — it wasn’t going to work, at least not in our neck of the woods.

That was fact one of this visit to the dealer. Fact two was learning that a conventionally customized minivan was not going to work for Dad. Using my trusty plastic pole (see Part 1), I determined without any doubt that he needed a minimum of three more inches of clearance to get in and out of the van. Three inches doesn’t seem like much, but Dad can’t bend his head easily, and that was only going to get worse over time.

Fact three was learning that the supply of used accessible vans actually available at the dealer was limited, to say the least. The dealer had two used ones, neither of which were going to work for Dad. (One had been sitting in the lot for five months, at an almost-new price — but not condition — and had been owned by a woman who drove it only on Sunday. Really. Or maybe on a couple of other days, but hardly at all. It was a miracle it was still available. Really.)

Fact four was learning that prices for new and near-new accessible vans seemed absurdly high, even if they hadn’t been driven only on Sunday. Can you say “captive market”? The price list — the dealer had a long list of vans he could ‘acquire’ if I were interested — left a bad taste in my mouth. It all was too much — I finally took off, hoping devoutly to never return. That’s why this series of articles is called Buying a Used Accessible Van. More about that in Buying A Used Accessible Van, Part 3 — Screening Sellers.

Photo from Flickr

Oh, and by the way, we’ll never buy a new car again. For all the good reasons why (and you’ll read about some in these articles), check out Dave Ramsey’s website. If you care about your financial situation, this is a great resource for making your money work for you.

The series:

Buying a Used Accessible Van, Part 1 — What Do We Need?

Buying a Used Accessible Van, Part 2 — At the Dealer

Buying a Used Acessible Van, Part 3 — The Hunt Begins

Buying a Used Accessible Van, Part 4 — Checking It Out

Buying a Used Accessible Van, Part 5 — “Disabled Dealer”

Buying a Used Accessible Van, Part 6 — Arranging the Sale

Buying a Used Accessible Van, Part 7 — The Purchase

Buying a Used Accessible Van, Part 8 — Securing the Wheelchair