The 10 Best Wheelchairs

Updated June 21, 2018 by Lydia Chipman

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We spent 40 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top selections for this wiki. Whether you're in the market for a workhorse to power your way through everyday activities, or a stopgap solution for a loved one who's temporarily off their feet, the range of mobility options is as diverse as the people who rely on them to get around. Our selection includes everything from lightweight and portable manual wheelchairs to heavy-duty electric models for conquering tricky terrains. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best wheelchair on Amazon.

10. Hippocampe All-Terrain

9. Wenzelite Wallaby

8. Medline Premium

7. Foldawheel PW-1000XL

6. Karman XO 505

5. EZ Lite Cruiser HD DX12

4. Nova Transport

3. Forcemech Voyager

2. Karman S-Ergo 305

1. Forcemech Voyager

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 that, 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 B.C.E., 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 $25,000.


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Last updated on June 21, 2018 by Lydia Chipman

An itinerant wordsmith with a broad constellation of interests, Lydia Chipman has turned iconoclasm into a livelihood of sorts. Bearing the scars and stripes of an uncommon diversity of experience—with the notable exceptions of joining a religious order or becoming an artist—she still can’t resist the temptation to learn something new.


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