The 9 Best Wheelchairs

Updated June 21, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

9 Best Wheelchairs
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 40 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top selections for this wiki. If you or a loved one are immobilized, then you'll probably want to take a look at these wheelchairs. We've included everything from lighter models suitable for short-term rehabilitation to more durable and comfortable options for longer-term use. They are ranked by durability, comfort, and ease of deployment. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best wheelchair on Amazon.

9. Karman LT-980

The Karman LT-980 is an ultra-lightweight option that weighs in at a mere 24 lbs. It's compact and comfortable, yet rugged enough to travel over almost any surface, making it a great chair for temporary or intermittent use.
  • adjustable height footrests
  • built-in rear pouch
  • stiff to fold and unfold
Brand Karman Healthcare
Model LT-980
Weight 34.2 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

8. Drive Medical Silver Sport Reclining

The Drive Medical Silver Sport Reclining offers a comfortable chrome and Naugahyde back pad that can recline down to a full 180 degrees, allowing its user the chance to lie flat whenever necessary. It even has a cushioned neck rest.
  • hydraulic reclining mechanism
  • precision sealed wheel bearings
  • seatback release can get sticky
Brand Drive Medical
Weight 63.3 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

7. Medline Deluxe Transport

The rugged and handy Medline Deluxe Transport is a lightweight option that has 12-inch rear tires that roll smoothly over the majority of terrains, perfect for moving a patient from the parking lot to the lobby or a waiting room.
  • available in burgundy or blue
  • low-maintenance composite wheels
  • reasonably priced
Brand Medline
Model MDS808210AB
Weight 31.3 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

6. Medline K4 Standard Lightweight

With smooth-rolling mag wheels and low-maintenance, flat-free tires, the Medline K4 Standard Lightweight is an ideal choice for anyone without the personnel or technical capabilities of maintaining their transport on their own.
  • premium welds increase durability
  • 2-inch seat height adjustments
  • handles fit too loosely
Brand Medline
Model MDS806550E
Weight 44.8 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

5. Drive Medical Cruiser III

The attractive and sturdy Drive Medical Cruiser III has a carbon steel frame with a silver vein finish, providing both good looks and durability. Excluding the front riggings, it weighs just under 36 lbs., which might be too heavy for some.
  • built-in seat rail extensions
  • durable nylon upholstery
  • push-operated wheel locks
Brand Drive Medical
Model K320DFA-SF
Weight 46 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

4. Medline Excel Hybrid 2

The Medline Excel Hybrid 2 is a modern and sleek transport that is sturdy enough to support people weighing up to 300 lbs. This is a great choice for use in hospitals or clinics where a variety of patients make short moves.
  • elevated footrests
  • rear wheels detach
  • frame is somewhat fragile
Brand Medline
Model MDS806300H2
Weight 44.4 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

3. Karman Ergonomic Ergo Flight

Considering how uncomfortable seated confinement can become, the Karman Ergonomic Ergo Flight provides unparalleled structure and support. Its extra-thick padding is responsive to the contours of your body, and the whole unit weighs less than 20 lbs.
  • antimicrobial upholstery
  • footrest is removable
  • sensitive companion brakes
Brand Karman Healthcare
Model S-2512f
Weight 31.1 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. Invacare Tracer EX2

The Invacare Tracer EX2 provides the same level of design and technology as more expensive models -- like true dual axle positioning -- but it does so at an affordable price. It is a stable and durable option that can still fold away into a trunk.
  • soft seat padding
  • customizable wheel placement
  • worry-free lifetime warranty
Brand Invacare
Model TREX20P-T93HC
Weight 46.8 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. Nova Medical Products 22-Inch Transport

The Nova Medical Products 22-Inch Transport is a heavy-duty option that features a pair of flip-up desk arms, making it easier for users to get in and out of the seat. With a wide berth and a 400 lb. weight capacity, it's an ideal choice for larger patients.
  • locking hand brakes
  • attractive red color
  • 12-inch rear wheels
Brand NOVA Medical Products
Model 332R
Weight 37.9 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

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, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.

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