8 Best Wheelchairs | March 2017

If you or a loved one are immobilized, then you'll need one of the wheelchairs on our list. We've included models suitable for short-term rehabilitation and more durable and comfortable options for longer-term use. Skip to the best wheelchair on Amazon.
8 Best Wheelchairs | March 2017

Overall Rank: 7
Best Mid-Range
Overall Rank: 8
Best High-End
Overall Rank: 3
Best Inexpensive
The Karman LT-980 is an ultra-lightweight wheelchair that weighs in at only 24 pounds. It's compact and comfortable, yet rugged enough to travel over almost any surface, making it a great chair for temporary or intermittent use.
The Medline Excel Hybrid 2 is a modern and sleek wheelchair that is sturdy enough to support people weighing up to 300 pounds. This is a great choice for use in hospitals or clinics where a variety of patients make short moves.
The Medline Excel Extra-Wide boasts a generous 24-inch seat width that can safely hold a person weighing up to 500 pounds. It provides long-lasting comfort for its user, and its smooth wheels make it easy to push even under load.
The Invacare Heavy-Duty Wheelchair has a 22-inch seat width and the ability to support weights of up to 400 pounds. The design provides easy maneuverability over varied terrain, though it does require the assistance of a helper.
  • swing-away footrests
  • designed to be durable and reliable
  • very affordable transport chair
Brand Invacare
Model TRHD22FR
Weight 51 pounds
The Drive Medical Silver Sport Reclining wheelchair offers a comfortable chrome and Naugahyde backrest that can be reclined down to 180 degrees, allowing its user the chance to rest while seated. It even has a comfortable neck rest.
  • hydraulic reclining mechanism
  • precision sealed wheel bearings
  • highest quality construction
Brand Drive Medical
Weight 63.3 pounds
The rugged and handy Medline Deluxe transport lightweight wheelchair has 12-inch rear wheels that roll smoothly over most surfaces, perfect for moving a patient from the parking lot to the lobby to a waiting room.
  • availably in burgundy or blue
  • low-maintenance composite wheels
  • very low priced option
Brand Medline
Model pending
Weight pending
The attractive and sturdy Drive Medical Cruiser III wheelchair is the choice of people who want reliability, performance and good looks in one package. This is a decently-priced chair that is suitable for long-term use.
  • built-in seat rail extensions
  • durable nylon upholstery
  • push-to-lock wheel locks
Brand Drive Medical
Model K320DFA-SF
Weight 45.1 pounds
The Invacare Tracer EX2 provides the same level of design and technology as more expensive models, like true dual axle positioning, but at an affordable price. It is a stable and durable chair that can still fold away into a trunk.
  • soft seat padding
  • customizable wheel positioning
  • worry-free lifetime warranty
Brand Invacare
Model TREX20P-T93HC
Weight 46.8 pounds

What Do I Need to Consider Before Buying a Wheelchair?

The first thing that any person needs to consider before purchasing a wheelchair is how that wheelchair is going to be used. If the wheelchair is going to be used by a public facility - like, say, a nursing home - then it needs to feature an adjustable seat (preferably cushioned), adjustable braces, and a weight capacity of at least 250 lbs for accommodating a wide range of residents.

If, on the other hand, you're looking for a wheelchair that can accommodate one person, the primary areas that you'll want to consider are that person's upper-body strength, mobility, measurements, and limitations. Any person whose physical abilities are limited, for example, might benefit from using a wheelchair with electronic steering, whereas a person who is active might actually prefer the opportunity to operate a wheelchair on his own.

Bear in mind that any wheelchair you plan on transporting in a vehicle needs to be collapsible and lightweight. Certain vans can be customized to accommodate a wheelchair and its user by way of a detachable ramp or a motorized platform. But installing a motorized platform is expensive, and any van will need to be converted before it can house a motorized platform inside.

As a precaution, you'll want to take a look at any wheelchair's tires. Most wheelchair tires are made out of rubber or plastic, which is ideal for rolling over indoor surfaces, as well as asphalt and concrete. Certain tires might also feature herringbone tread, which is beneficial in terms of moving over slick terrain without feeling like the wheels might slide, stall, or spin.

Several Tips For First-Time Wheelchair Users

The first challenge that a lot of wheelchair users face is learning how to turn the wheelchair around. Turnarounds can be accomplished rather easily by pushing one of the chair's wheels forward, while turning the other wheel back. After a bit of practice, this maneuver should become routine.

If you use your wheelchair inside a house or an office, it may be worth tying a three-foot length of rope to any doorknobs that you pass. This way you can grab that length of rope, and then use it to pull the doorknob shut. If you work at a desk, be sure to draw back your wheelchair's armrests so that you can position your seat beneath the desk, parallel with its drawers.

Negotiating an incline while in a wheelchair can be challenging. Rather than risk going backward, you may want to lock the brake and catch your breath before moving on. Either that or you can look into buying a pair of grade aids (i.e., wheelchair accessories that make it easier to steer and lock while on a gradient). If you operate a wheelchair near any busy intersections wearing bright colors - or a safety vest - can alert oncoming traffic to use caution.

Strong tires are the lifeblood of any wheelchair, which is why it makes sense to check the air in your tires on a consistent basis. Deflated tires exhaust your arms by making it more difficult to push. On top of which, empty tires tend to grind beneath a wheelchair's rims. This causes wear, which could, in turn, lead to the need for a replacement. Once a year, it helps to have a wheelchair's bearings checked by a professional, as well.

A Brief History of The Wheelchair

During the 2nd Century BCE, the Ancient Chinese began using wheelbarrows as a means of transporting the sick, disabled, mortally injured, and the dead. This represented the earliest record of any wheeled vehicles being used for health-related transport. Approximately 1,000 years later, the Chinese invented the world's first wheelchair, a mechanism designed specifically for use by people who had missing or paralyzed legs.

Wheelchairs remained fairly basic until the 1800s, at which point an inventor from Bath, England patented what would become known as the Bath Chair. Bath chairs looked and functioned like miniature coaches. They were designed with three wheels, a cushioned seat, a canopy, and a hitch so they could be attached to bicycles, donkeys, and sometimes even dogs.

The first collapsible wheelchairs were invented by a pair of American engineers named Harry Jennings and Herbert Everest in 1933. Everest was paralyzed, having broken his back during a mountain-climbing accident. And it was because of this that Everest was able to suggest several structural improvements, including a collapsible frame (for ease of transport), cushioned armrests, and a steel-plated design. Earlier wheelchairs were primarily constructed out of wood, which was not only breakable, but uncomfortable, meaning that users could only remain in the chair for an abbreviated period of time.

Despite being introduced during the 1960s, electric-powered wheelchairs didn't really come into their own until the Reagan Era, at which point advances in technology allowed for adding a handheld joystick (for steering), and numerous other forms of remote control.

Perhaps the most fascinating wheelchair innovations over the past 30 years have occurred in the area of athletics, with streamlined models making it increasingly possible for disabled athletes to excel at basketball, competitive racing, and even handcycling (among other things). There are certain hybrid wheelchairs on the market that have grown so advanced, they can actually enable a paralyzed person to stand and move upright whenever operating them. One of these models, which is known as the iBot, currently retails for a little over 25 grand.

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Last updated: 03/23/2017 | Authorship Information