Side-Entry vs. Rear-Entry Mobility Access: Which Wheelchair Van Option is Right for You?

Mobility van experts at Classic Vans help you consider all the angles when choosing between side entry and rear entry handicap accessible vehicles.

There are lots of options when it comes to choosing the right wheelchair van for you or your loved one. Each person is unique and has different needs, wishes and specifications. Finding a disabled access vehicle that suits you perfectly takes time, research and a thoughtful understanding of your choices.

One of these choices is entry access. There are two wheelchair van entry options: side-entry and rear-entry. Which will you choose? Read on to explore the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Side-entry wheelchair accessible vehicles

Wheelchair vans that are accessible through automatic or manual side lifts and ramps are by far the more common of the two entry options, even though they are typically more expensive.

Most side-entry conversion vans feature a dropped floor to allow more headroom for passengers in a wheelchair. Removable front seats are also equipped in most side-entry mobility vehicles so that wheelchair users can ride in the front or drive the vehicle themselves if desired.

wheelchair van with side entry access

Side-entry wheelchair accessible vans can accommodate both fold-out and in-floor ramps.


  • Rear bench seating remains intact
  • Curbside parking may be easier since passengers can enter/exit from the side
  • Ramp angle is usually around 8 degrees (w/ a kneeling system)
  • Wheelchair user can drive themselves
  • Most side-entry conversions are fully-powered, one-touch systems
  • Allows the most freedom and independence for the wheelchair user


  • Side entry vehicles are generally more expensive than rear-entry models
  • User needs 5-7 feet to safely enter or exit the vehicle from the passenger side

Rear-entry mobility vans

Rear-entry wheelchair vehicles, on the other hand, house a fold-out ramp or lift that either manually or automatically extends out the back cargo area of the van. Handicap accessible vehicles equipped with the rear-entry option typically have a lowered center area to maximize interior space for bigger wheelchairs and more head space. This option is usually less expensive than side-entry vehicles, but wheelchair users will not be able to sit in the front seat as a passenger or driver.

wheelchair van with rear entry access


  • Cost less than side-entry and other conversions
  • Curbside parking is unnecessary
  • Less of a change from the original van structure


  • Wheelchair user cannot access the front passenger position or drive on their own
  • Wheelchair user has to reverse out of the van backwards to exit the vehicle

The key to selecting the perfect disabled access van

The importance of doing your due diligence and researching all the options when looking for the right mobility van for you or your loved one cannot be overstated. If buying a handicapped accessible van is something you’re considering, we invite you to continue learning about the many factors that go into making such a big decision by reading these related articles:

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to get an expert opinion by contacting or visiting a qualified mobility van dealer. Based in the San Francisco Bay area, Classic Vans is America’s #1 conversion van dealer. Our skilled mobility van consultants have years of experience and knowledge under their belts. We’d be happy to help you decide on the best wheelchair van options for you or your loved one by getting to the bottom of questions like:

  • Does the wheelchair user plan on driving the vehicle?
  • Will the wheelchair user have an attendant while the vehicle is in use?
  • What direction do you want the wheelchair to face while in the vehicle?
  • Will side or rear entry fit your wheelchair?
  • How often will the mobility van be used?
  • What are the most essential features you want in your handicapped accessible van?
  • Where will you be parking the vehicle most of the time?

Ready to get started? Call us today!