What to Look For When Buying a Wheelchair: A Quick Guide 1

Disabilities are not discouragements. More than 25 million Americans have travel-limiting disabilities. They may struggle to walk or maneuver themselves.

Wheelchairs are affordable and practical tools. But there are tools to help all Americans move. Yet you have to consider several factors before buying a wheelchair.

A disabled man is sitting in a wheelchair. He holds his hands on the wheel. Nearby are his colleagues.

What kinds of wheelchairs can you buy? How can you promote accessibility inside your house? How can you assess the comfort of a wheelchair?

Answer these questions, and you can find a new wheelchair that will help you move for years to come. Here is your quick guide.

Wheelchair Types

You have many wheelchair options. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and you should differentiate amongst the different kinds of wheelchairs.

Manual Wheelchairs

Manual wheelchairs are what most people think of when they read about wheelchairs. As their name suggests, they are chairs with large wheels so the person sitting in the chair can push themselves around.

Manual wheelchairs tend to be lightweight, so users do not exert themselves. This makes it easier to transport the chair itself. Yet it can limit the chair’s durability, especially if it is made with plastic.

There are a few subtypes of manual wheelchairs. Some have removable desk arms, allowing the user to move up to a table. Others have full arms so the user can rest their arms while not turning the wheels.

Leg rests are another essential feature of manual wheelchairs. Elevated leg rests pick the feet off the ground while sitting. But a swing-away leg rest slides off to the side of a chair, letting the user get out quickly.

Electric Wheelchairs

Electric wheelchairs rely on battery packs to operate. A user controls a joystick to go where they want to go. They do not have to turn the wheels or pump brakes with their feet.

Electric wheelchairs can go faster than manual ones. Many people like to use them when shopping or to travel from one place to another.

A user may not be able to swap the battery out themselves. They can ask someone else to change the battery or plug the wheelchair into an outlet.

Besides its power source, electric wheelchairs function almost identically to manual wheelchairs. Yet they are heavier, and they can cost more.

Transport Wheelchairs

Transport wheelchairs are lightweight wheelchairs used to get people from one place to another. They are good to get someone from a car into a building or across a large complex.

Most transport wheelchairs are manual. They may be nearly identical to a standard manual wheelchair.

But their seats tend to be lighter and less supportive of the user’s body. Some people have trouble if they have to sit in a transport chair for a long time.

Some chairs have brakes so the wheels can lock. Nearly all chairs are foldable, allowing you to carry one in the back seat of your car.


A new wheelchair should conform to its user’s house. The user should be able to enter and exit their house without adjusting the chair or their seat. They should also go to the store or push themselves down the street without issue.

You may need to install ramps or smooth over the concrete outside your house. You should also install a wheelchair lift so you can get to the upper levels of your home.

Another person should be able to push or pull your wheelchair. See how others can hand objects to you and maneuver the chair behind.


The best wheelchair is one that you will feel comfortable in. The seat should support your lower back and legs. You should be able to lean back and turn around in your middle without the material constricting you.

The wheels and brakes should be accessible to you. You should be able to stop the wheelchair within a couple of seconds.

You can inspect a wheelchair before you buy one. As most rentals have been used previously, you must do this for a wheelchair rental.

Visit a website like mobilitypluscolorado.com to inspect your options. Then go and visit a store so you can test out different chairs.


Your wheelchair should have a bag or pouch so you can store your belongings. Most bags hang off of one or both arms of the chair. It is okay to buy a chair with hanging pouches, but make sure they do not interfere with the turning wheels.

You may be able to hang a purse or messenger bag along the back or side of your chair. Check to see that the straps in your bag do not catch in the wheels.

Your chair can also have a pouch on the back. This is good for manual wheelchairs that someone else may be pushing.

Your chair should support the weight of groceries and a laptop computer. Test out how objects of different weights affect your chair.

The Key Factors for Buying a Wheelchair

Buying a wheelchair takes a little work. Manual wheelchairs are lightweight and cheap. But if you need to travel quickly, electric wheelchairs are best.

You may need to modify your house to use your chair correctly. Test out a few chairs and find the most comfortable one.

Make sure you have pouches or bags to store things in. Someone who is pushing you should put something in the back.

Once you buy a wheelchair, you need to know how to use it. Read guides on wheelchairs by following our coverage.