Choosing the right wheelchair can be an exhausting process for both the patient and the caregiver.
You need to consider so many things.
Is it a comfortable chair? Is it practical? How hard is it to move?
These are the questions i get asked on a daily basis by my patients.
To save you research time, this article will give you all the information you need to know before purchasing the best wheelchair for your needs.
On our list, we’ve included both manual and electric wheelchairs which have proven to be the best on the market.
I’ll also discuss other specific things like features, determining the right size, medicare funding, and more.
Favorite Wheelchair For Seniors
- Extremely light.
- Companion lock system.
- S-shaped seat design.
- Weight capacity 220 lbs.
The Karman wheelchair is a good choice for people that move around a lot and need something light-weight for their trips.
This wheelchair weighs only 19.8 lbs and is made of aircraft-grade aluminum. It folds easily, and the backrest can also be folded, which is very helpful for people that don’t have spacious vans.
Design & Comfort
The design of the Karman was made with both the user and caregiver in mind. The seat follows the natural S-shape of the back making this chair a bit more comfortable than the rest.
People usually choose the 18’’ wide seat, and the depth can be further adjusted. The footrests can be removed quickly if necessary. The 20’’ wheels will allow self-propulsion.
The Karman also comes with handbrakes which is a life-saver for caregivers, although they do not lock in place.
All in all, this wheelchair is very easy to maneuver and comfortable to push.
What We Like
- Truly lightweight 19.8 lbs.
- Companion brakes.
- Ease of use.
What We Don’t Like
- Handbrakes do not lock in place.
Best Electric Wheelchair
- Strengthened metal alloy frame.
- Dual motors and dual batteries.
- Shock absorption in the front.
- Weight capacity 265 lbs.
The designers of the Forcemech R2 wanted to keep this chair extra visible. This is why they chose the bright yellow color and added rear reflective lights on it.
This wheelchair weighs 43 lbs without the batteries (56 lbs full weight) and the frame was strengthened with metal alloy ensuring its durability. The dual brushless motor will allow the user to travel up to 16 miles and the battery lasts a long time.
Created with ergonomics in mind
The seat was made with ergonomics in mind and is extremely comfortable even for longer periods of time. The arms can be rotated out of the way making it easier for the user to sit at a standard table.
The wheelchair folds and unfolds easily. The only issue for some people is the backrest pad that takes time to be centered correctly if removed.
The footrest can be positioned higher or lower but unfortunately can’t be removed which might cause some issues for the caregiver if trying to transfer the user into and out of a car.
What We Like
- Smooth motors.
- Sleek-looking design.
- Rotating arms.
What We Don’t Like
- Non-removable foot-rest.
Best For Everyday Use
- Reclines up to 180 degrees.
- Head immobilizer pad.
- Removable leg rest.
The Drive Medical wheelchair comes with a great feature – it reclines up to 180 degrees.
This will be helpful for the everyday user that tends to lean forward or hunch in a standard wheelchair. The ability to recline even a little bit is amazing.
The headrest and the entire piece behind it can be removed so you can still use the Drive Medical as a regular chair if needed.
This wheelchair comes with a carbon steel frame and people have been using it for the last 20 years without an issue.
Easy to maintain
The Nylon seat and backrest is also a great option for the everyday user since it keeps cooler than vinyl and can be maintained with ease. The armrests and the swing-away footrests can be removed if needed.
The Drive Medical weighs 64 lbs so you would need a stronger caregiver to place this baby in the trunk. The only thing some users didn’t like is that the controls of the hydraulic lift are placed in the back so the user would need assistance to recline.
What We Like
- Reclining option.
- Detachable footrests and armrest.
What We Don’t Like
- Reclining controls placed in the back.
Extra Wide Wheelchair
- Carbon steel frame.
- Swing-away foot-rests.
- Easy access wheel locks.
- Weight capacity 500 lbs.
The Medline extra-wide chair was made with taller and heavier users in mind.
Its carbon steel frame makes it possible to hold up to 500 lbs of weight, but it also makes the wheelchair heavier, bringing it to 59 lbs. So you’ll need to have a strong caregiver, and an SUV, a truck, or a van for transport.
The wheelchair comes with a wheel lock option that is accessible to the user. The footrests can be positioned higher or lower, or they can be completely removed.
For an extra $40 you can choose an accessory that allows you to incline the footrest, a very important option for some users.
The wheel’s performance is great indoors even on thicker carpets, and outdoor on flat surfaces. Due to its heavy size and thin rear wheels, it is not suitable for dirt, sand, or grassy terrains.
We really liked the accessible wheel lock system, something that lacks on most wheelchairs. The only downside – the Medline lacks handbrakes so it might get tricky for the caregiver.
In terms of comfort, this is not the most comfortable wheelchair and if you plan to use it for long stretches of time you’ll most certainly need some pillows.
What We Like
- High weight capacity.
- Sturdy and durable frame.
- Accessible wheel lock system.
What We Don’t Like
- Lack of handbrakes.
Ideal Wheelchair For Outdoors
- Magnesium alloy frame.
- Lightweight and easy to fold.
- Quick-release wheels.
- Front & hand brake.
The Hi-Fortune lightweight wheelchair has made many caregivers and users happy. The entire wheelchair weighs only 21 lbs and comes with two sets of brakes.
The front ones are accessible to the user and the handbrakes are essential for the caregiver. It’s made of magnesium alloy which is more difficult to manufacture than aluminum but also stronger.
Perfect for traveling
The design of this wheelchair was made with travel in mind, and it can be folded to an equivalent of a 29’’ luggage bag.
The wheels have a quick release system, and it takes about a minute to pop them back in. The wheels perform perfectly both indoors and outdoors even of rough terrain.
Provides more independence for the user
The user can self-propel and brake with no assistance, making them more independent and mobile. The swing-away foot-rests can be easily detached if needed.
This wheelchair will hold up to 220 lbs of weight. The seat is 17.5’’ wide which is a bit narrower than the standard and has left some customers yearning for a 20’’ seat in some future model.
What We Like
- Strong and durable frame
- Extremely light-weight and portable
- Both hand and front brakes
- Easy self-propulsion
What We Don’t Like
- Seat too narrow for certain users
Common Wheelchair Questions
What wheelchair features should you pay attention to?
Choosing the right wheelchair will depend mostly on the needs of the user and the caregiver. Here are some universal features that every customer should pay attention to:
Make sure the wheelchair is easy to maneuver; a lightweight frame will be easier to push than a heavy one.
The rear wheels should also be made of lightweight material, and you’ll usually find this type of wheels on transport wheelchairs.
Make sure there’s a handbrake for the caregiver and a front brake for the user.
The option to recline is something you don’t often see in a wheelchair but users state it is very important to be able to recline at least a little bit.
Also, make sure you choose an ergonomic seat that will be comfortable for the user and will support their back through the day.
Most wheelchairs can be bulky and heavy, but this is not the standard anymore.
If you plan on traveling a lot, make your life easier by choosing a model that can be easily folded.
Quick-release wheels and footrests are a must for the traveling companion.
Should you choose an electric or manual wheelchair?
When choosing the right wheelchair most people will have to make a compromise between what they need and the budget that’s available.
The electric wheelchairs definitely cost more but they will give you more freedom of movement as well. Let’s look at the positive and negative sides to both options:
Manual wheelchairs are lighter, easier to transport, do not need batteries, and they’re easier to navigate in tighter spaces.
On the other hand, they require a certain amount of strength to be used, can cause shoulder problems for the user, perform poorly on inclines, and can’t be used for longer distances.
Electric wheelchairs, do not require any level of strength from the user so they can travel a lot further without tiring.
On the other hand, they’re much heavier and need to be constantly charged. Transporting an electric wheelchair requires a lift mechanism to be used.
Are there different sizes of wheelchairs?
Wheelchairs are not a one-size-fits-all deal. Actually there are 3 different kinds of measurements you’ll need to think about: Seat width, seat height, and hip to knee legroom.
Seat width is the space you sit on measured between the armrests. This is the most crucial sizing to get the most comfort out of your wheelchair.
Determining the seat width you need
Choosing a narrow seat could cause blisters, and a seat that’s too wide would make it difficult for the user to maneuver the wheelchair.
The average adult would usually choose 20’’ for the seat width, 18’’ for the seat height, and 27’’ for the hip to knee legroom.
However, seat width is best measured by sitting the user on a flat surface, measuring the widest point on their hips or thighs, and adding 1’’ to that measurement.
Does Medicare cover wheelchairs?
For people with limited mobility, Medicare Part B covers 80% of the price of a manual wheelchair.
The doctor who issues the wheelchair and the supplier of the wheelchair will both have to be enrolled in Medicare for the cover to be processed.
Your doctor can issue a wheelchair if you are finding it difficult or are unable to perform daily activities such as getting in and out of bed, moving around, using the bathroom, dressing, or similar activities.
On the other hand, you would need to be able to safely operate the wheelchair or have someone do it for you.
After you cover your Part B deductible for the year you’ll need to pay 20% of the approved amount for the wheelchair.
Other Recommended Wheelchairs
The Ranger X6 is a foldable electric wheelchair and is an excellent unit for various needs.
It is ultra-light for an electric chair (59 lbs) and folds into a black bag that can be easily rolled around if you’re taking a trip.
A release lock makes it super-easy to collapse the whole thing in a few seconds.
The frame of this wheelchair was made of aluminum alloy and it is run by dual 500W motors. It comes with two batteries that are allowed on planes and can get you up to 14 miles with one full charge.
Design & Features
The seat is 19.6’’ wide and both the arm and the footrest can be flipped up for your convenience.
The thing that makes the Ranger X6 stand out is its maneuverability, as it can be used on any terrain including grass and snow.
Another amazing feature that somehow lacks in most wheelchairs is the storage space placed underneath the seat that makes it easy for the user to reach into.
The ranger X6 will carry people that weigh up to 265 lbs, and if you use it 3-5 hours a day you’ll need to charge it every other day.
The Innuovo is similar to the Ranger X6 in many ways (foldable, lightweight, and smart storage underneath) with two major differences:
First of all, it has both electric and manual capabilities, so even if the dual Lithium batteries went dry you could still switch to manual at any time.
Secondly, the Innuovo comes with super-strong solid tires that are puncture-proof and wear-proof.
The seat cushion and backrest were made for comfort and to prevent bedsores, plus it is only 50 lbs which is pretty light for an electric wheelchair.
The only thing we found a bit limiting is the seat width, which is 16.5’’ and could be narrow for the average user.
The Forza electric wheelchair was made for the heavier user and has a carrying capacity of 360 lbs.
Among the electric wheelchairs on our list, this one’s batteries will last the longest and can take you up to 20 miles on a full charge.
The tires as similar to the Innuovo; solid and puncture-proof. It also folds easily within seconds, and you won’t have to remove any parts to do so.
It comes with two 250W motors that will take you up and down inclines with ease.
Weight & Comfort
On the other hand, this sturdy workhorse is a bit heavier and weighs 67 lbs with the batteries included.
It is also more expensive than the rest, but customers seem to love it, and they especially appreciate the outstanding customer service this company provides. The seat is 18’’ wide and very comfortable.
The Viper plus is a manual wheelchair that offers adjustability features and also reclines which is especially helpful to users that have difficulties sitting up straight.
The frame is all-aluminum and can hold up to 300 lbs of weight. You’ll be able to choose between 16’’ and 20’’ of seat width depending on your needs.
The seat depth can be adjusted and it goes from 16’’ to 20’’ giving you room for an extra pillow underneath.
The reclining option is a life-saver for most users, although it doesn’t go all the way down like the Silver Sport wheelchair on our list (same company). The Viper Plus model reclines at an angle of 5-20 degrees.
Another adjustable part of this wheelchair is the back height, and you can choose between 17’’, 18’’ or 19’’ of height.
This adds to the comfort level of the user.
You’ll also be able to adjust the length of the footrest, another feature that has been quite helpful to users.
Even the armrests can be flipped back and this helps with transferring the user with ease.
The only thing you’ll need to be careful with – the reclining handles could be mistaken for brake handles causing the caregiver to drop the backrest when the user is not expecting it.
The Karman ergonomic wheelchair offers comfort and freedom for the user. It comes with large 24’’ tires that allow the user to push themselves with little effort.
Weighing only 25 lbs without the footrests and 37 lbs total, it is considered to be lightweight compared to most manual wheelchairs.
It might be a bit stiff to fold, but that also means it has a stable platform that is easy to push.
Design & Comfort
The seat comes with the well-known Karman S-shaped axis making it ergonomically superior to other wheelchairs on the market.
It is extremely comfortable to sit in even for longer periods of time, although some users stated they would prefer a bit thicker seat cushion.
The thing that makes this wheelchair different is the anti-bacterial (and machine-washable) seat and back cushion making the Karman ergonomic a perfect choice for the active user.
The Strongback 24 was made for users that need lumbar support.
The makers of this wheelchair won a design award in 2018, and for a good reason. Most users agree it is one of the most comfortable wheelchairs they have used so far.
The number 24 means you get 24’’ tires that will allow the user to propel with ease. It is also lightweight coming up at 33 lbs with everything on.
Adjustability & Storage
The wheel axis can be adjusted in 3 positions depending on whether the user is a beginner, intermediate, or expert.
The Strongback wheelchair will work well both for storage and transfers, and it can be placed in the trunk of a car without issues.
The footrests can be removed if needed and the wheels have a quick-release option.
There are certain things which could be improved though, as caregivers would love to have the option of hand-brakes on the handles.
This wheelchair definitely comes with a learning curve, but it moves much more easily than the standard wheelchair.