Lightweight yet sturdy. Great details, including padded, anti-bacterial seat and ergonomic contouring.
Expensive. Quick-release wheels can be tricky to operate.
Rolls smoothly. Quick-folding for transport, with removable leg cushions. Fits larger users well.
Front legs angle out a bit, making it tough to negotiate tight spaces. Plastic foot rests may break easily.
Bright blue frame. Dependable, solid tires.
"Desk-length" is the only arm choice. Occasional complaints about product quality and durability.
Sturdy build and comparatively lightweight at 45 lbs. Versatile configuration with movable arm and leg rests. Adjustable leg rests are a big help.
Lacks shock absorbers, so rolling outside can be bumpy. Leg rest cushions can detach after a few weeks of use.
Light enough at 24 lbs. to lift easily into a vehicle. Offers smooth ride at home or on sidewalks.
Wheels are smaller than some expect, though it provides a good tradeoff in weight. Hand wheels are uncomfortable for some to grip. Front wheels are a bit wobbly.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Though electric wheelchairs offer tremendous advantages for those with long-term mobility issues, a self-propelled wheelchair is a better option in terms of cost and portability for many. For example, a person recovering from a broken leg has only a short-term need for assistance; buying a self-propelled wheelchair could actually be more cost-effective than renting one in this scenario.
In this shopping guide and the product matrix above, we at BestReviews have chosen to focus on self-propelled wheelchairs. They are more cost-effective and often easier to transport because of their lighter weight. They also tend to offer more maneuverability for users.
Below, you'll find a handy guide outlining important considerations to keep in mind when shopping for a self-propelled wheelchair. The information and tips are designed to help you or a loved one acquire the best possible wheelchair for your needs.
Ask yourself the following questions before you buy a wheelchair. Your answers will help guide you toward the right wheelchair choice.
The answer to this question dictates the size and type of wheelchair required. A larger user may require a wheelchair with a sturdier frame, whereas a smaller user (like a child) might be able to get by with a lighter frame.
If the wheelchair will be used on flat terrain or an indoor environment, a non-electric wheelchair could serve your purposes. For rough outside terrain or sports use, however, a sturdier wheelchair with durable wheels would be necessary.
Denise has a background in healthcare and physical therapy. She also has the unique experience of raising three boys. Through the years, she has coached her sons and many of their friends through their share of childhood health problems and accidents. When not helping others recover from their injuries, you may find Denise working in her garden or reading.
Many basic wheelchairs are lightweight and compact, so they're easy to take from place to place.
Some wheelchairs are even collapsible; this is convenient if you’ll be traveling in a vehicle or on a plane with the wheelchair.
Find out if the manufacturer offers any sort of guarantee on the wheelchair you’re looking at.
This is especially important if the wheelchair will be used frequently and/or if a lot of strain will be put on the chair.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Karman S-305 Ergonomic Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair
Comfort is King
When it comes to comfort and ease of use, the Karman Healthcare S-305 chair ticks all the right boxes. It's undeniably light. It folds and unfolds with little effort. What’s more, it’s sturdy, well-built, and easily portable. The included cushions receive lots of praise; several people have bought an extra set.
Most basic non-electric wheelchair models share some common features. You'll want to consider the following when browsing different units.
If you want a wheelchair that’s easy to transport, look for a chair that can collapse in on itself. This makes the wheelchair much easier to carry and store.
Most wheelchairs include footrests. Some footrests are permanently attached; others can be pushed out of the way. Armrests are a part of the package, but some are more comfortable than others. If comfort is a concern, look for a wheelchair with extra arm padding.
Customization is an important feature to consider when shopping for a manual or powered wheelchair. Seat height is just one of many adjustments required for maximum comfort.”
If you can’t test a wheelchair before buying it, you should at least check out what others have to say about its comfort and overall quality.
A poorly designed chair can cause back pain and other discomforts.
Lightweight wheelchairs are easier to move and navigate whether they are being propelled by the user or someone else.
Make sure the chair you choose doesn't put additional strain on your body by requiring too much force to move it.
If you’re buying a wheelchair for long-term use, get a professional to help you find the right fit. Since you’ll be spending a lot of time in the chair, comfort matters.
Although this buying guide focuses on non-electric wheelchair models, there are several wheelchair types available on the market that suit a variety of needs.
This type of wheelchair gives the user a choice between being pushed and manually propelling the wheelchair. Standard non-electric wheelchairs are usually more durable than transport wheelchairs. They also tend to be lighter and more maneuverable.
Power wheelchairs run on electricity; they do not require physical strength to move. This type of wheelchair is intended for users with more severe disabilities.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Drive Medical Cruiser III
A Solid Option
The budget-wise Drive Medical Cruiser III rides smoothly and is easy to fold for storage or travel. The frame is made of solid carbon steel, and the chair's nylon seat covering is easy to wipe down for cleaning. The comfortable leg rest can be moved out of the way if desired, and the depth of the seat is easily adjusted and can accommodate a person up to 350lbs.
This type of wheelchair is often used in hospitals to transport patients from one place to another. The user cannot manually move this kind of chair; someone else must push it to propel it forward.
Transport wheelchairs are usually very basic with few, if any, bells and whistles.
A sports wheelchair is suitable for active individuals who require superior mobility. This type of wheelchair is ultra-light and maneuverable.
If you’ll be making quick, agile movements, this could be the right choice for you.
Ask your insurance provider whether wheelchairs are covered as part of your healthcare plan.
A folding wheelchair is an excellent choice for short-term use.
If you're not sure whether you need footrests, opt for a wheelchair with a footrest component that can easily swing out of the way.
If your home, workplace, or school has narrow doorways, make sure your chosen wheelchair is small enough to fit through them.
If you will often be maneuvering your wheelchair over uneven terrain, consider getting a wheelchair with some kind of suspension system.
Renting a wheelchair is certainly an option if you'll be needing it for only a short period of time.
Q. How much does a wheelchair cost?
A. The cost of a wheelchair ranges from approximately $100 to $800. Pricier wheelchairs will be lighter, heartier, and easier to move. Transport models are usually priced lower than most other units. Powered wheelchairs tend to cost the most money.
Q. Is purchasing a used wheelchair a good option?
A. If you’re on a tight budget and your health insurance won’t help you purchase a new wheelchair, you may be tempted to buy a used wheelchair. However, you'll want to make sure the wheelchair is in working order before committing to the purchase. Make sure the tires are still functional, the upholstery is still in good condition, and the chair fits your body comfortably.
Q. Is it essential to get fitted for a wheelchair?
A. Yes, this is a crucial step to take if you’re buying a new wheelchair. Getting a good fit is extremely important for your comfort and long-term physical health. An improperly fitted wheelchair could end up being the root cause of all sorts of aches and pains. Ask an expert to help you with selection and fit.
Q. I no longer have a use for the wheelchair in my home. What are my options?
A. You could try to sell your used wheelchair. Alternatively, you could donate it. Many hospitals and other healthcare facilities gladly welcome wheelchair donations.
Q. Why choose a standard non-electric wheelchair over a powered one?
A. For people who don't require additional assistance, a non-powered wheelchair provides much better control. Non-electric chairs are usually lighter and can fit in places a powered chair cannot. They are also much more economical.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.