The 8 Best Folding Wheelchairs

Updated February 06, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

8 Best Folding Wheelchairs
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
Being confined to a wheelchair, either permanently or while recovering from injury or illness, does not mean that you have to limit your activities. These folding wheelchairs make it easy to stash your ride in a vehicle, on a train or on a plane, so you can still travel anywhere. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best folding wheelchair on Amazon.

8. Drive Medical Rebel

The Drive Medical Rebel is one of the smallest folding wheelchairs available, making it a smart choice for those who are limited on space. It features tool-free removable front casters and quick-release rear wheels. Unfortunately, this chair is rather heavy.
  • tight turning radius
  • arthritis sufferers can wheel it
  • assembly is required
Brand Drive Medical
Weight 51.5 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

7. Karman LT-980-BD-E

The Karman LT-980-BD-E has classic burgundy accents and nonslip wheels that grip even the slipperiest of surfaces, making it ideal for navigating around malls and airports. It also comes with a lifetime warranty on the frame.
  • includes a composite pelvic seatbelt
  • handles are at a good height
  • brakes require a strong grip
Brand Karman
Model LT-980-BD-E
Weight 39.1 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

6. Healthline Trading Full Arm

The Healthline Trading Full Arm features extra long 20-inch armrests, so the user can stretch out. Its dual-axle wheels make it stable even when the user is moving at higher speeds, and it also has removable flip-back arms that allow for easy transfer.
  • front casters are adjustable
  • allows for custom back inserts
  • back does not fold down
Brand Healthline Trading
Model pending
Weight 50.4 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

5. Invacare Veranda

The Invacare Veranda is made with the user's comfort in mind, with extra padded rests that support the back of a person's thighs. It also has elevating leg rests, making it perfect for those who need to keep their legs up to alleviate swelling and other conditions.
  • easy for users to wheel themselves
  • chair arrives fully assembled
  • not suitable for tall people
Brand Invacare
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

4. Roscoe Medical KTA1916SA-BL

The Roscoe Medical KTA1916SA-BL features nylon upholstery that is easy to clean, and strap handles on the seat that make it simple to lift and fold up. It also has a padded back rest for added comfort and strong hinges that won't wear down after years of use.
  • powder coated finish
  • folding backrest
  • only supports 250 pounds
Brand Roscoe Medical
Model KTA1916SA-BL
Weight 28.1 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

3. Elite Care ECTR04HD

The Elite Care ECTR04HD folds down small enough to fit inside the included bag, making it ideal for caretakers who often travel with their patients. Plus it boasts a unique blue hue and puncture-proof solid tires, so it can withstand rough terrain.
  • foot rests are removable
  • multiple cross braces for strength
  • folds up in less than two minutes
Brand Elite Care
Model ECTR05
Weight 22.5 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. Giantex Swingaway

The Giantex Swingaway is under $100 but doesn't fall short on helpful features. It has two separate nonslip footrests, padded armrests and predominantly steel parts. The backrest is made from highly durable plastic polyvinyl chloride.
  • storage pocket on the back
  • hand rims can be removed
  • lightweight at just 35 pounds
Brand Giantex
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

1. NOVA Medical Products 332R

The NOVA Medical Products 332R features an extra wide 21.25-inch seat and can support up to 400 pounds. While it is heavy duty, it can still fold into a compact shape. Its large rear wheels and locking hand brakes add security, too.
  • flip-up desk arms
  • has an adjustable seatbelt
  • ergonomic handles for a caretaker
Brand NOVA Medical Products
Model 332R
Weight 37.9 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

A Brief History Of Folding Wheelchairs

Wheeled furniture has existed in China and Greece since at least the 6th century B.C.E., but it was not until three centuries later that wheeled seats were used to transport the disabled, according to records.

The same wheeled seats were used by the Chinese to transport heavy items, especially in work settings. Finally, around 525 C.E., wheeled chairs were designed specifically to move people.

In Europe, the first prominent wheeled chair was created by an unknown Spanish inventor for King Phillip II. This chair boasted support for both the arms and legs, but could not be propelled by the user. Instead, the chair required another person to push it.

The first self-propelling chair was created by a 22-year-old paraplegic watchmaker named Stephan Farffler in 1655. While it looked more like a tricycle than a modern wheelchair, the German's invention paved the way for future innovations, including the so-called Bath chair in 1760, and the rolling chair introduced on Atlantic City's boardwalk in 1887. Invalid tourists rented Atlantic City's rolling chairs, and enjoyed the mobility they provided. The rolling chairs were so successful they eventually became a status symbol, with many healthy tourists hiring the chairs and employing servants to push them along the boardwalk.

It wasn't until 1933 that the first truly modern wheelchair was invented by mechanical engineers Harry Jennings and Herbert Everest. The pair designed a lightweight and collapsible steel wheelchair. Everest, who broke his back in a mining accident and complained frequently about the bulky wheelchairs of his time, served as a test subject along the way. The company they founded, Everest and Jennings, went on to become the world's first mass-marketer of wheelchairs. Today's folding wheelchairs still lean heavily on the duo's original collapsible design. While materials are lighter and more durable now, the appearance of folding wheelchairs is largely the same.

The Basics Of Wheelchair Safety

Proper maintenance is an important step in the safe operation of a folding wheelchair. Not only will a properly maintained wheelchair last longer, but it is also less likely to malfunction and cause injury. See the final section in this guide for more on wheelchair maintenance.

Another safety basic is remembering to lock the brakes before sitting down in, or getting up from the chair. If you fail to lock the brakes, the chair could roll away, and cause the user to fall. After locking the brakes, always lift the footplates before getting in or out of the chair to prevent tripping or snagging. Before getting in the chair, make certain any removable arm or leg supports are locked in place. Once seated, always secure the hip safety belt, even if you're not planning to go far.

If you're sitting in a non-powered wheelchair, you should also avoid pulling on doors, as they could suddenly release, sending you off balance, and potentially out of the chair. You could also tip over if too much weight is placed on the back of the chair, so be careful when transporting items in rear storage. If your chair has anti-tip bars or wheels, these should never be removed.

Children should be told to avoid playing with the wheelchair, and to stay away from its controls. Even giving them a simple ride could damage the chair or cause an accident.

Once you're moving, there are a number of safety considerations. First, lap covers and any other loose items should be kept away from wheel spokes, where they could tangle and cause the chair to tip or suddenly halt. If you plan to ride in the streets, it is wise to use a flag for added visibility. Similarly, if you ride at night, headlights and flashing tail lights should be used.

Be mindful of steep ground where you could easily lose balance, and when you're moving at higher speeds take note of any casters that flutter. This side to side movement indicates the caster should be replaced. It is advisable to avoid operating your wheelchair in the rain, as well.

The Value Of Wheelchair Maintenance

Regular wheelchair service includes cleaning the chair, securing screws and bolts, checking tire pressure, and replacing worn tires, cushions, pads, and positioning equipment.

Cleaning the chair is critical to preventing bacteria buildup and infections. Usually it is acceptable to wipe down the chair with a damp cloth, but detergents and other cleaners should be used for any spots not easily cleaned with a damp cloth.

Many manufacturers suggest using a car wax on your chair's frame to extend the life of its surfaces and make it easier to clean.

You should keep a sharp tool on hand for removing any gunk from the casters and wheels. The axels and bearings are popular places for hair and thread to accumulate, and over time that can cause trouble and impede the rotation of the casters and wheels. It's best to use the tool regularly, rather than waiting for junk to accumulate. Keep this tool along with any wrenches and screwdrivers you need to maintain your chair in a toolkit. The easier it is to locate the tools necessary for maintenance, the more likely you will be to perform maintenance promptly.

It's essential that you regularly inspect the frame for damage, including bends, cracks and breaks. These should be reported to a wheelchair maintenance professional or dealer, as they may compromise the structural integrity of your chair.

Cushions should also be routinely examined, particularly those that regularly contact the body. Thinning cushions and exposed screws or other metal could cause serious injury over the course of several days or weeks of use.

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Last updated on February 06, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.

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