What to Consider When Purchasing a Wheelchair

As they age, you may notice that your parent or loved one is not able to move around as freely or as easily, potentially due to pain or fatigue. To make your parent(s) or loved one’s life easier, it may be time to consider a wheelchair in order to improve their mobility and overall quality of life. When searching for a wheelchair you’ll need to decide which type of wheelchair works best for their needs, while taking into consideration where it will be used.

The Types of Wheelchairs Available

The three main types of wheelchairs are manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs, and scooters. Manual wheelchairs require the person in the chair or another party to push the wheelchair. Power wheelchairs, in comparison, are electric and move with no manual effort and allow the user to navigate the wheelchair using a small joystick. Scooters are similar to power wheelchairs but do not provide the same back or leg support.

Wheelchair Type Advantages and Disadvantages

To help determine the right fit for you, here is a list of advantages and disadvantages from the United Spinal Association:


Manual Wheelchairs

  1. Lighter in weight
  2. Greater reliability
  3. Easier to transport
  4. Less expensive
  5. Provides a level of exercise
  6. Easier to overcome accessibility problems


  1. Aesthetics does not look like a wheelchair
  2. Increases mobility range without increased exertion
  3. Swivel seat may allow for easier transfers in and out of the seat

Power Wheelchairs

  1. Greatest mobility range with least exertion
  2. Easier to modify over time, if needed
  3. Available with power seating options – tilt and/or recline


Manual Wheelchairs

  1. Must be self-propelled which could cause possible secondary complications (sore shoulders, wrists and elbows) after long-term use
  2. Must be self-propelled requiring physical effort to be mobile


  1. More complicated to transport in a car than a manual chair
  2. Needs charging
  3. Less flexible to modify to changing physical conditions than a power chair

Power Wheelchairs

  1. More Expensive
  2. More difficult to transport
  3. Less reliable than manual wheelchairs

Additional Considerations

According to the American National Standards Institute “for millions of people who rely on wheelchairs to get around, uneven ground, curbs, doorways, and other obstructions can make it challenging and even dangerous to navigate many areas.” It is important to consider the size of the wheelchair and the width of the doorways at home, as well as the height of dinner tables and the bed. You will also need to consider if your car is big enough to hold the chair. Keep in mind that having a wheelchair may require special accommodations at airports, train stations, movie theaters, restaurants, and other common areas you may frequent.

In addition, according to Agingcare.com, the choice of a wheelchair should depend on the way in which the chair will be used and the particular functional limitations of the user. Some people have two wheelchairs – a manual one for indoors and a powered one for outdoors.

Take the time to shop around for the right wheelchair for you. Consider your loved one’s needs, as well as how to accommodate a wheelchair in your home, car, and regular day-to-day life. The wheelchair should be a benefit to their mobility and not an additional burden. Once you find the right wheelchair, conduct a thorough inspection of the company and product reviews to ensure it is the correct fit.

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