July 10, 2023

How Full-Size Vans Stack Up Against Minibuses 

When buyers are in the market for a high-capacity wheelchair accessible vehicle, oftentimes their first instinct is to consider a…

When buyers are in the market for a high-capacity wheelchair accessible vehicle, oftentimes their first instinct is to consider a minibus. While a bus may seat more passengers, a well-made full-size van outpaces it in terms of affordability, durability and flexibility. Let’s explore the differences between these two vehicles and why a wheelchair accessible van is the better option for many customers. 

Full-Size Van vs. Minibus: What’s the Difference? 

Full-size vans have a singular body consisting of a driver cab in the front and a large open area in the rear. In some types of full-size vans, this area is used primarily for hauling cargo — which is why you’ll sometimes hear a full-size van called a “cargo van.”  

In other types of full-size vans, this area is furnished with seating for up to 15 people. These vehicles are commonly referred to as “passenger vans” or “people movers.” A conversion company can transform a cargo van into a passenger van by installing rear seating — or upgrade an existing passenger van by including premium amenities like wood grain floors and entertainment systems. 

Larger than a full-size van but smaller than a standard school bus, a minibus is a high-capacity vehicle that can accommodate anywhere from 8 to 35 passengers. Minibuses are assembled by second-stage manufacturers who fabricate a bus body and affix it to a cutaway chassis built by an automaker like Ford or GMC. Unlike driving a full-size van, which handles much like other passenger vehicles, a commercial license is normally required to operate a minibus. 

Why Customers Should Choose a Full-Size Van 

Customers who are thinking about buying an accessible minibus — whether schools, medical care centers, or any other organization that transports people  — should seriously consider downsizing to a full-size van. Here are the top reasons why: 

Full-Size Vans Cost Less 

If you’re a facility that transports upwards of 30 people every trip, a minibus makes sense. But as Mindy Ginsberg, Executive Vice President of Global Sales & Strategic Partnerships for FR explains, a minibus is likely overkill for many customers. 

“You find that many healthcare facilities, hospitals, colleges — many of them will have minibuses,” Mindy says. “But what they may not realize is that if they don’t use that minibus to full capacity … it’s more expensive [in terms of] acquisition from the get-go and for every subsequent step in the vehicle’s life.” 

Unless you’re moving a minibus’ worth of passengers every trip, a full-size van is a smarter financial choice. Buses are exponentially more expensive than vans and are rising in price due to inventory shortages. And since the majority of buses are fabricated using third-party parts (more on this later), inflation on componentry is driving higher prices too. 

Besides purchase price, full-size vans also have a lower total cost of ownership. They get more miles per gallon compared to buses and cost less for service warranty repairs as well as scheduled maintenance like oil changes. What’s more, full-size vans also have a tighter turning radius than buses, allowing for greater maneuverability on neighborhood streets and better servicing of customers in densely populated areas. 

Finally, many full-size vans are less expensive to insure. More often than not, drivers don’t need a commercial license to operate them, which gives facilities greater hiring flexibility since applicants don’t have to commit to the time and costs involved in attaining a higher license class. 

Full-Size Vans Are Dependable and Safe 

As mentioned, minibuses are produced by third-party manufacturers who combine a cutaway chassis with a fabricated bus structure. This is in stark contrast to the full-size vans produced by conversion companies like FR Conversions. These vans are original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts from top to bottom, but just with upgraded functional interiors — giving you the strength and durability of original manufacturer parts combined with the customizations of a conversion van. 

Less components to assemble also results in shorter turnaround times, ensuring customers get their vehicles when they need them. Additionally, FR Conversions streamlines and reduces the cost of the conversion process by allowing customers to choose from best-in-class configuration options that have been hand-selected by the company. 

Full-size vans also have higher marks in terms of safety, as OEM vehicles are held to the highest industry safety standards. Plus, if you choose to work with FR Conversions — which conducts its own rigorous crash testing on top of it all — you’ll be getting the maximum level of safety possible in a conversion vehicle. 

Full-Size Vans Are Flexible 

Customers can take advantage of more interior options with a full-size van. FR Conversions’ models can accommodate four rows of seating with a maximum of 15 ambulatory passengers, or a combination of ambulatory passengers plus wheelchairs. Both rear- and side-entry options are available, giving customers the ability to choose where the chair lift is installed. 

Full-size vans can be used as an economy people carrier or be outfitted into something more comfortable with features such as USB chargers, plush seating, television screens and speakers, LED lighting, and much more.  

Similar kinds of customizations can be achieved in a minibus, but often at a much higher price point and with fewer midrange options between a shuttle bus and limousine. 

Choosing the Right Conversion Van Company 

If you need more help deciding if a full-size van is right for your business, it’s essential that you partner with a conversion company that can thoroughly and honestly assess your needs and walk you through options. FR Conversions specializes in commercial transportation, and takes a vertically integrated approach to converting vehicles that reduces costs and maximizes dependability and accessibility. Want to learn more? Contact us here. 

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