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Power Wheelchair Buyer’s Guide

Power Wheelchairs are designed for occupants who lack the upper body strength to propel a manual wheelchair. With so many choices and models of electric wheelchairs available in the market, it’s critical to focus on finding a chair that has all the features suitable for individual needs. Electric Wheelchairs should be purchased keeping in mind your lifestyle and personal preferences, as well as factors such as the terrain you will cover, whether transportability of the chair in your car is a necessity, and what your home and workplace are like.

Some power chairs perform superbly outdoors, but are too bulky for indoor use. Other power wheelchairs are compact enough to fit into the trunk of a large car, but are low on performance. Other electric wheelchairs can easily navigate indoors, but are unsuitable for heavy outdoor use.

The main advantage of an electric wheelchair over the manual counterpart is that it requires very little effort to use and to control on the part of the user.

The basic questions to ask before buying a Power Wheelchair are:

  • Will you be using the electric wheelchair primarily outside, inside, or both?
  • Will you be transporting your wheelchair?
  • What is the narrowest width that your chair must pass through?
  • How much do you weigh?
  • What seating style will you find most comfortable, captain's, solid pan, or rehab?
  • What type of Range and Speed do you want to reach?

By answering the above questions, and then applying those answers to the information provided in this guide, you can best assess any power wheelchair by finding the class and model that will offer the most liberation to your lifestyle.

Power Wheelchairs can widely be classified into 9 categories:

  • Folding Travel Power Wheelchairs
  • Front-Wheel Drive Power Wheelchairs
  • Center-Wheel Drive Power Wheelchairs
  • Rear-Wheel Drive Power Wheelchairs
  • Four Wheel Drive Power Wheelchairs
  • Standing Power Wheelchairs
  • Heavy-Duty Power Wheelchairs
  • Pediatric Power Wheelchairs
  • Travel Power Wheelchairs

Other Manual Wheelchair Resources include:

  • Power Wheelchair Seating Systems
  • Power Wheelchair Electronic Systems
  • Power Wheelchair Accessories

Guide to Rear-Wheel Drive Wheelchairs

Rear-Wheel Drive Wheelchairs are the most stable chairs in most instances. Rear-wheel drive wheelchairs have the highest top speeds available of about 6 mph but are difficult to maneuver in tight places because of a large turning radius of about 33". However, when going up steep hills, the chair tends to lean back on its anti-tip tubes to assist in preventing the chair from tipping backward.

Guide to Front-Wheel Drive Wheelchairs

In Front Wheel Drive Wheelchairs, the drive wheels are forward of where the occupant is seated. Front Wheel Drive Wheelchairs are very stable for uneven terrain and off-road use. It can climb over small obstacles. The occupant has to be careful while turning because most of the chair’s body is in back of the seat. The overall speed of a front wheel drive wheelchair is slow because the front-wheel drive tends to over-steer at higher speeds. The usual top speed is about 5 to 5½ mph and the overall turning radius is about 25" to 28".

Guide to Center-Wheel Drive Wheelchairs

In Center-Wheel Drive Wheelchairs or Mid-Wheel Drive Wheelchairs, the center of gravity of the occupant is about even with the center of the drive wheels. Hence, the drive wheels are directly under the occupant. Center-Wheel Drive Wheelchairs are maneuverable in small spaces. The overall turning radius is about 24" to 26" and the top speed is about 5 to 5½ mph. The drawbacks of center-wheel drive wheelchairs are the possibility of the front or rear caster getting stuck when riding on uneven terrain, and the possibility of suspending the center drive wheels when going up and down curb cuts with a steep transition, so they have no contact with the ground.

Guide to Standing Power Wheelchairs

As the name suggests, Standing Power Wheelchairs allow the occupant to raise the chair from a seated to a standing position. Standing Power Wheelchairs come in both pediatric and adult sizes. Standing Wheelchairs give the occupant the capability to stand on his/her own, lie flat, tilt in space, sit, lift, recline and relax on the same wheelchair. Stand-up Wheelchairs are specifically designed for people with paraplegia/quadriplegia, advanced multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy and polio. Standing at regular intervals has many advantages like promoting urinary drainage, improved circulation, reduction in skin breakdown, prevention of contractures etc.

Guide to Heavy-Duty Power Wheelchairs

Heavy-Duty Electric Wheelchairs (Bariatric Power Wheelchairs) are designed for occupants who require higher weight capacity; upto 650 lbs. Heavy-duty electric wheelchairs generally have higher capacity batteries which allow an extended range of 11 to 16 miles are available in a range of styles, including folding frame, center-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive etc.

Guide to Pediatric Power Wheelchairs

Every parent should consider their children’s mobility and independence. Children with special needs want to be treated as normal. So it is the duty of their parents to provide their children independence by choosing the right wheelchair for them. Pediatric Power Wheelchairs are essentially available in 3 models. Rear-wheel drive pediatric wheelchairs are the most popular and move faster but are difficult for turning. Front-wheel drive wheelchairs have tighter turning capabilities and have slightly lower top pace compared to the rear-wheeled since they have the tendency to turn very fast. Mid-wheel drive wheelchairs have the tightest turning capabilities of all the three models and tend to be unsteady when the user is about to stop or start.

Guide to Power Wheelchair Seating Systems

Power Wheelchair Seating Systems are developed to accommodate the occupant’s growth as well as their changing functional seating needs. Custom Wheelchair Seating Systems are generally available for frame widths from 10" to 16" and seat depths from 8" to 20" providing enough room to grow. Most modern power wheelchairs allow swapping the stock seating system with advanced customizable wheelchair seating systems making the wheelchair more comprehensive and tailored for the occupant. Modern Power Wheelchair Seating Systems allow the occupant to tilt, recline, precline or elevate, or even a combination of any of them.

If you’re still not satisfied with the suggestions you have gathered, you can call our wheelchair experts at (845) 569-1250 or visit us at, or just visit one of our local retail showrooms to inquire about the types, attributes, and prices of various wheelchair models.