The 10 Best Transport Wheelchairs

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This wiki has been updated 28 times since it was first published in October of 2016. These transport wheelchairs are set apart from their full-size counterparts by a lighter weight and the ability to fold down easily for placing in a vehicle. They’re great for helping those with limited mobility get to and from the doctor’s office, the pharmacy, or the grocery store, and offer various practical and safety-minded features, like handbrakes and flip-up footrests. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Nova Medical Products Heavy Duty

2. Graham-Field Lumex HybridLX

3. Nova Medical Products Lightweight

Editor's Notes

October 31, 2020:

Today the versatile and reliable Graham-Field Lumex HybridLX comes on board, and it’s from a company that has been manufacturing medical devices like wheelchairs for more than five decades. This thoughtfully designed model doubles as a wheeled walker, also known as a rollator. It’s great for those with enough mobility to use it as a walker, and it’s quick and easy to transform into a wheelchair that supports up to 300 pounds in weight. It handles turns with ease and is equipped with secure handgrips, locking handbrakes, and footrests that can be detached. This well-rated selection replaces the Drive Medical Super Light, which we removed because it simply doesn’t have as much of a proven track record.

For a heavy-duty model that can support more weight than the Lumex, look to the Nova Medical Products Heavy Duty, which is another choice that’s customizable in its own right. This one features quick-release footrests, a wide adjustable seat belt, locking handbrakes, 12-inch rear wheels, and an integrated anti-tipping mechanism. It can accommodate users of up to 400 pounds. For a similar model from the same manufacturer, yet one that doesn’t support as much weight and is a few inches narrower, check out the Nova Medical Products Lightweight, which is highly maneuverable on inclines and rough ground, and the user’s feet will stay securely in place throughout, thanks to sturdy heel loops. It comes with a convenient storage pouch and sports a sleek metallic red frame. Look to the Elite Care ECTR05 for a choice that’s sure to fit with ease into a trunk, and it tucks away neatly into the zippered carrying bag that comes with it. It’s got specially designed arms that allows it to be pushed all the way up to a table or desk.

For safety’s sake, as mentioned in our last update, be sure to engage the brakes on a wheelchair whenever you sit down into one our transfer out of it. Have your wheelchair checked regularly to make sure it’s in proper working order. To avoid injury, do not allow children to play on these devices or go for rides in them.

December 18, 2019:

Joining the list today is the Nova Medical Products Lightweight, which is as rugged as it is easy to transport in a vehicle. It maneuvers well, including on inclines and rough terrain, thanks to its durable rear wheels. Patented, locking hand brakes make it easy for a caregiver to stop it when necessary. The lift-up footrests feature heel loops that keep one’s feet comfortably and securely in place.

The Carex Foldable, another new addition, is easy to fold up into a compact size and place into the trunk or cargo area of a vehicle, so it’s useful when traveling as well as for regular trips to the doctor, grocery store, or pharmacy. It can be assembled in minutes, with no tools required. It measures 23 inches in overall width, with a seat that’s 19 inches off the ground.

Leaving the list today is the Juvo Mobi Convertible Rollator, which some users report is rather difficult to maneuver, as well as the Karman Healthcare Ergonomic, which many find is too small for an average-sized user.

For safety’s sake, always lock the brakes on a wheelchair before you attempt to get into or out of it, and adjust the footrest and armrests during transfer, if necessary. To avoid injury, never allow a child to play on a wheelchair.

For more wheelchairs that are convenient to store or transport in the back of a vehicle, see our list of best folding wheelchairs.

Special Honors

Xenon² SA Weighing just under 23 pounds and featuring compact folding dimensions, this model is easy to handle and transport. Patients can transfer easily in and out of it, thanks to its swing-away front frame. It sports a sleek, minimalistic style that’s great for a person who enjoys an active lifestyle. It’s made from aerospace aluminum, along with a strong frame and thin tube walls.

4. Elite Care ECTR05

5. Carex Foldable

6. Roscoe ProBasics Aluminum

7. Drive Medical Lightweight

8. Medline Folding

9. Karman Healthcare 23-Pound

10. Drive Medical Bariatric

Getting Around With A Companion In Tow

This comes in very handy when traveling to and from doctor's appointments and when a caregiver or family member is required to drive an immobilized person a great distance.

Regardless of whether you've undergone major surgery or you're in the middle of physical rehabilitation, you know that getting around from place to place can be somewhat difficult when you're trying to recover. That said, if you're looking for a lightweight and portable option to maintain your own mobility or that of a loved one, a transport wheelchair will provide the necessary freedom needed to get from one place to another with minimal fanfare.

Also known as a companion chair and different from its electric-powered counterparts, the transport wheelchair is a lightweight, manually-operated support device that requires the presence of a caregiver to push the chair from behind. Unlike full-sized wheelchairs, the transport chair is marked by smaller rear wheels, so it cannot be self-propelled in the same way as other wheelchairs. For this reason, the transport chair is often (but not always) used as a short-term solution for indoor and outdoor travel to help those with limited mobility. Transport wheelchairs usually weigh around 15 to 20 pounds and offer sturdy frames constructed from a combination of durable, rust-resistant aluminum or steel tubing. The most common seat width for transport wheelchairs ranges between 19 and 24 inches with a maximum weight capacity of between 250 and 300 pounds for the most heavy-duty models.

People who benefit from transport wheelchairs fall into one of three categories, including those unable to operate a full-sized wheelchair on their own due to some type of physical or mental disability, those with a temporary ailment requiring a certain time for recovery, and those with a need for assisted mobility and who may live in areas with limited resources. Transport wheelchairs are also common in hospitals where nurses are required to move patients to and from various locations on the premises.

A key advantage to the transport wheelchair is its ability to fold down for convenient storage. This comes in very handy when traveling to and from doctor's appointments and when a caregiver or family member is required to drive an immobilized person a great distance. The chair can be folded and easily stored in the trunk of a vehicle or even in the back seat. A recovering patient receives the same benefits of comfort, freedom, and mobility from this alternative without the expense associated with many of its electric-powered, self-propelled counterparts.

Safety And Comfort Above All Else

Since safety and security are among the most important factors to consider when investing in any wheelchair, it's important to understand the differences between brakes and wheel locks. Wheel locks are generally used to keep a chair stationary (in park), which is important when transferring from the chair to a vehicle or some other piece of equipment. By contrast, brakes are used to slow the chair down or stop it completely when traveling uphill and down. Keeping in mind that the transport chair isn't self-propelled, so a caregiver must remain attentive to the chair's overall speed of travel. That said, both locks and brakes will provide additional assurance just in case an unexpected mishap occurs. Many transport wheelchairs also feature handle brakes that can be accessed by the user on the chair's armrest. As an added safety measure, look for a chair with a comfortable, durable, and easy-to-adjust seatbelt, as this will ensure extra protection for a patient who's being pushed over uneven terrain.

The chair's upholstery should be resilient and relatively easy to clean. Nylon and vinyl are the most common synthetic materials used to cover many transport wheelchairs. Nylon is more porous than vinyl and this is fine for patients who don't suffer from incontinence or some other physical ailment that would cause the upholstery to be soiled on a regular basis. Otherwise, a vinyl choice may be the more practical alternative to consider.

In an effort to ease the pain associated with arthritis or post-surgery recovery, consider investing in a good wheelchair cushion. This will make all the difference when it comes to extended travel times.

A Brief History Of Transport Wheelchairs

The invention of the wheelchair dates back to ancient China with the earliest records of wheeled furniture found in Chinese stone carvings as early as the 5th century B.C.E. Devices used to transport the disabled often took the form of rudimentary wheelbarrows as early as 300 C.E. These wheelbarrows served as a method of transport for both people and heavy objects.

Unfortunately, the Bath chair required being pushed or pulled by a horse due to its extra weight.

The first practical wheelchair designed to support those afflicted with disabilities and mobility impairments was engineered centuries later by an unknown Spanish inventor. Referred to as an invalid's chair, this device was fashioned in 1595 for King Phillip II of Spain. It was one of the first of its kind to be equipped with integrated footrests and an adjustable backrest, making it in an early precursor to the wheelchairs we are familiar with today.

By 1655, paraplegic watchmaker Steven Farffler developed the first self-propelled wheelchair, which included three wheels and leveraged a system of cranks and cogwheels to move. In 1783, England resident John Dawson invented a wheelchair known as the Bath chair. This chair consisted of two large rear wheels and a smaller wheel at the front. Unfortunately, the Bath chair required being pushed or pulled by a horse due to its extra weight.

The first steel-made folding wheelchair was invented in 1933 by mechanical engineers Harry C. Jennings and Herbert Everest. Both Everest and Jennings saw the business potential for the folding chair and joined forces as one of the most well-known manufacturers of wheelchairs at the time. Their invention became the forerunner for the portable wheelchair used in many hospitals today.

Wheelchair sports gained a lot of popularity during the 1950s, with the first games taking place in England in 1952, followed by the first Paralympics in Rome by 1960.

Today's transport wheelchairs maintain a focus on durability, security, and ensuring superior comfort for both the user and caregiver.

Karen Bennett
Last updated by Karen Bennett

Karen Bennett lives in Chicago with her family, and when she’s not writing, she can usually be found practicing yoga or cheering on her kids at soccer games. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and a bachelor’s in English, and her writing has been published in various local newspapers, as well as “The Cheat Sheet,” “Illinois Legal Times,” and “USA Today.” She has also written search engine news page headlines and worked as a product manager for a digital marketing company. Her expertise is in literature, nonfiction, textbooks, home products, kids' games and toys, hardware, teaching accessories, and art materials.

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