Wheelchairs allow their users to get from point A to point B with a freedom that otherwise wouldn't be possible, but there are still individuals who have trouble operating a manual wheelchair or aren't able to operate one at all.
In this case, an electric wheelchair is a preferable choice, allowing people to get out and about without needing someone to push them. Our top electric wheelchair is made by Innuovo and is a solid FDA-approved choice. Read our guide for electric wheelchairs and to see our three favorite options.
Considerations when choosing electric wheelchairs
Travel vs. full-size
First consider whether you want a travel-size electric wheelchair or a full-size model. Travel models are more compact and lightweight than full-size electric wheelchairs. They're usually foldable so they can be packed up for use at different locations, which is convenient if you want to go on an outing with a friend or family member who doesn't have a vehicle set up to accommodate an unfolded wheelchair. Full-size electric wheelchairs are best for day-to-day use, especially for long-term or lifelong wheelchair users. They tend to be more comfortable and have a better range of features than travel models.
Choose between front-wheel, mid-wheel, and rear-wheel drive. Front-wheel drive models are great for maneuvering in tight spots but aren't particularly fast-moving. Mid-wheel drive electric wheelchairs are the easiest to maneuver so they're great for indoor use, but they're not great over rough ground. Rear-wheel drive options are swift and highly stable on all terrain, but not particularly maneuverable.
Lithium ion batteries are the most common choice in new electric wheelchairs since they're powerful and long-lasting. The batteries on an electric wheelchair should charge quickly and be easy to change.
Electric wheelchairs are usually controlled by a simple joystick, but you can find models with additional adaptations to accommodate the needs of different users.
The seat of your electric wheelchair should be comfortable and well-padded to avoid pressure points. Some models feature a headrest.
Armrests and footrests
Armrests and footrests tend to come as standard with electric wheelchairs, but not all are created equal. They should be adjustable for the comfort of people of different heights. You may also prefer a wheelchair with removable armrests and footrests if you don't use them all the time.
Electric wheelchair prices
Electric wheelchairs aren't cheap, but in some cases your insurance provider covers all or part of the cost. You can find some basic travel models starting around the $1,000 mark, but the quality doesn't tend to be great. You need to spend at least $1,500 to $2,000 for a quality lower-end model and as much as $3,000 to $5,000 for a high-end full-size model.
Q. Is there a weight limit for electric wheelchairs?
A. All electric wheelchairs have a maximum weight limit, which varies depending which model you choose. Standard travel or full-size electric wheelchairs usually have a maximum weight limit of between 200 and 300 pounds, but you can also buy bariatric models, which have higher weight limits and are designed with the needs and comfort of the larger wheelchair user in mind.
Q. Can I recline the seat of my electric wheelchair?
A. Reclinable seats can help to relieve pressure, provide comfort, and aid in the ease of some personal care. Some electric wheelchairs allow you to recline the seat, so be sure to check before buying if this is a feature you require.
Electric wheelchairs we recommend
Best of the best: Innuovo Intelligent Foldable Electric Wheelchair
Our take: If you want a foldable electric wheelchair, this is a fantastic choice combining comfort and maneuverability.
What we like: The updated joystick steers incredibly, while the electromagnetic braking system brings you to a halt quickly and easily. A well-padded seat provides comfort on the go.
What we dislike: Small wheels and solid tires aren't great on rough ground.
Best bang for your buck: Drive Medical Cirrus Plus Folding Power Wheelchair
Our take: This affordable choice makes a great backup for when a full-size model won't do, but it's not the best option as the only wheelchair for lifelong or long-term users.
What we like: The decently sized air-filled tires provide some natural suspension. It's easy to fold for transportation and has comfortable seat cushions.
What we dislike: Some users had issues changing the batteries.
Our take: A solid full-size choice that's great for day-to-day use. It's certainly not the cheapest model, but it's worth the money.
What we like: The mid-wheel drive makes this electric wheelchair extremely maneuverable. It has a great suspension, and the dampening system alleviates problems with vibrations.
What we dislike: It's not a portable option.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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