Buying guide for best electric wheelchairs

For those who need to use a wheelchair, whether short term or long term, the improved mobility of an electric wheelchair can provide a new level of independence.

An array of electric (or power) wheelchairs for any number of mobility requirements is now on the market, from compact travel models that fit on aircraft to sturdy, highly maneuverable wheelchairs for day-to-day use. There are even high-powered wheelchairs made for traveling off-road at much higher speeds.

Determining your wheelchair lifestyle

Before purchasing an electric wheelchair, consider how you plan to use it. What would you like to do with an electric wheelchair? How will your life change with increased mobility? What physical requirements do you have? Here are a few things to consider:

  • How will you be using the power wheelchair most often (mostly indoors, mostly outdoors, or both)?
  • What weight capacity do you need in an electric wheelchair?
  • What is the narrowest width that the wheelchair must be able to pass through?
  • Does the seat need extra cushioning, an adjustable headrest, and/or cushioned legrests or armrests?
  • How fast do you need to go? Are you more comfortable at slower speeds?
  • What range should the batteries have? How many miles will you travel in an average day?
  • Will the chair need to be transported? If so, in what type of vehicle?
  • Do you travel frequently? Do you travel by air, rail, water?

Electric wheelchair types

Electric wheelchairs have undergone a design revolution in recent years. No longer just a conveyance to get from point A to point B, electric wheelchairs are key to a mobile lifestyle. Realizing that every wheelchair user is unique, a wide variety of designs have come on the market to meet various needs.

Travel wheelchairs

Designed for mobility away from home, travel wheelchairs are typically smaller and lighter weight than standard electric wheelchairs. However, wheelchairs classified as “travel” vary widely in weight, size, and portability. Some need to be broken down into separate pieces for transport, which can be inconvenient. The most versatile travel wheelchairs use lightweight batteries that can be taken aboard public transportation including aircraft.

Price: Travel wheelchairs range in price from $1,500 to $3,500.

Folding wheelchairs

This popular class of travel wheelchair is typically lightweight and – as advertised – can be folded into a smaller profile for storage at home or inside a vehicle. Many of these wheelchairs weigh between 50 and 60 pounds, light enough to be lifted by one adult.

Price: Folding wheelchairs range in price from $1,500 to $3,100.

Full-size wheelchairs

For everyday use or for those people who must spend several hours or all day in a wheelchair, the full-size electric wheelchair offers more comfort and stability than a travel wheelchair. This type of chair has a weight capacity of 300 to 350 pounds.

Price: Full-size wheelchairs range in price from $1,800 to $5,500.

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