This topic is perhaps one of the least understood and most often misaligned. But, as always, the facts are the facts…..and irrefutable. The simplest analogy to understand a rather technical issue is this Imagine you bought a second hand complete kitchen to install in your house. Now obviously the kitchen cupboards and everything else would have to be chopped and modified to fit the space. Alternatively, imagine if you bought a customised kitchen where everything was tailored by the manufacturer and everything fitted perfectly. Which would you prefer? Obviously it comes down to price and budget but price aside, everyone would logically choose a custom kitchen. There’s no compromises, no strange angles and everything is engineered just for you.
Well that’s the difference between an Australian modified wheelchair van (2nd hand kitchen in example) and a wheelchair van that’s been designed, engineered and built by the manufacturer (custom kitchen example above).
To fit aftermarket wheelchair accessories like a sloper you have to chop, cut and modify the existing structure of the vehicle. It takes time, and because it’s done after the fact, it costs a lot of money. Add to that what we pay for labour and it’s not hard to see why more sophisticated wheelchair modifications domestically cost $45,000+. And unlike their Japanese counterparts with a population of 120,000,000+ we have a very small domestic market. We also don’t produce cars for the world market anymore, whereas a company like Toyota is in the top 2 manufacturers in the world with an excellent reputation because of the Japanese quality.
Don’t get me wrong the Australian modified wheelchair vans work but they just don’t compete with what the Japanese manufacture in house. And how could they – labour costs, lack of local demand, higher raw material costs and it goes on and on and on.
So why doesn’t everyone just buy a wheelchair accessible van that’s made in Japan? Good question because we can’t answer it. If you think it’s about price – you’re wrong. Japanese cars are better and cheaper. If you think it’s about quality you’re also wrong – they’re better again.
Did you know that the wait time for a local wheelchair access modification can be well in excess of 12 months? So not only are they more expensive, inferior quality, you will also have to wait a long time to pay more.
So what’s the downside of the imported wheelchair access vans? You can only buy them as quality used vehicles. So if you’re one of those money bags that can afford to only buy new with no concern for vehicle deprecation, then you can spend more and wait for your car to be modified.
If you’re like the rest of us financially challenged normal people that would prefer to spend our money as wisely as we can then we’re back to the superior Japanese wheelchair access vehicles as the right solution for you.
For the cost of a local conversion alone (excluding the donor car price) you can buy a low km, quality example with unparalleled engineering. As my boss likes to say, and I personally hate the expression, “it’s a no brainer”, no matter how you slice and dice it.
But I encourage you not to take my word for it. If you’re looking for a wheelchair car or van speak to local modification companies and see the cost and quality of their workmanship (it’s pretty good in fairness). But when compared to the quality of a purpose built Japanese wheelchair access van and the sublime engineering and design and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. The expression chalk and cheese readily springs to mind.
When it’s all said and done only you can make the choice as to what it right for you. So forget what the salespeople tell you and use your eyes, not your ears, when buying a wheelchair access vehicle.