“How can one move around when you find yourself immobilized due to injuries? Why sit at home when you can restore some of your mobility with the use of a wheelchair? In this Review, we examine the options offered by both the manual and electric mobility transport chairs and the brands with the most impressive features“
Types, Buying Guide & Reviews of Wheelchairs with Elderly Friendly Features
You can have your pick of causes that can hinder a person’s ability to move around freely. The inability to move around can be traced to medical issues, accidents, or other types of impairments. It might also be caused by old age or severe obesity.
But with the right type of wheelchair, you can restore some of your mobility and freedom, which enables a better quality of life. The distances you can travel on a transport wheelchair might depend on other factors like the accessibility of public transportation.
Your desire to either buy one that is manual or one that uses battery power might depend on the type of injury and the length of your recuperation. The wheelchair brand you select for injuries that would keep you immobilized for weeks might be different from the one needed for injuries requiring lengthy rehabilitation or permanency.
A manual wheelchair in simple terms will require your effort or that of someone else, to move it along to your destination. An electric wheelchair, on the other hand, comes with the auto-power mechanism to propel it forward to your intended destination.
With each type of transport chairs, we’ll also look at the features you need to keep in mind while searching through wheelchair brands. To complete this evaluation, I have included several brands taking into consideration the opinions of the current users.
The Buying Guide for Manual Wheelchairs
A clear distinguishing factor in identifying a manual wheelchair is the absence of a battery mechanism to propel it forward. To get the wheelchair moving forward or backward it would either have to be pushed by someone or you can roll the wheels with your hands.
Manual wheelchairs are not suitable for every type of immobilizing injuries. It is far common to find those using manual wheelchairs being pushed by someone else to their destination. Let’s consider some of the pros and cons of using a well-made manual wheelchair.
Most of the high-end wheelchairs without electric features will cost you far less to own and operate.
Most of the manual wheelchairs will offer portability features, like the ability to quickly fold them away for storage.
Without a battery mechanism to supply the electric power, manual wheelchairs will weigh less and might be easier to transport in a vehicle.
Since they weigh less, it will be far easier for your assistant or helper to push you along. It is also simpler to maneuver the wheelchairs around.
It might not work for all types of immobilizing injuries. If you cannot push yourself along and your assistant disappears, you might get stuck in unpleasant places, especially in an emergency.
Even a rugged and sturdy manual wheelchair will have limited range. It can only go as far as you’ll push it. Just imagine if you had to pay the assistant pushing you around, it can get pretty expensive within just a few days, which negates the initial cheaper investment cost.
Factors to Consider in your Search for a Manual Wheelchair
Your search for the wheelchair that requires the use of physical labor to move around must take into consideration your present lifestyle, physical abilities, and personal preferences. The following questions and factors should be on your mind during the selection process.
Present Living Quarters – Some homes are wheelchair friendly, while others are not. In your home, do you have the right ramp that would allow you to get to your apartment unit with ease? If you live on the second or third floor with no elevators, getting to your unit will be much harder than finding even the highest quality wheelchair.
The Seriousness of your Injury – Most often, it is the type of injury that caused your disability or inability to move on your own two legs that will determine your wheelchair selection. If you still have your upper body strength, buying a manual wheelchair might make sense.
Your intended Destinations – You’ll have to deal with different types of limitations that will hinder your mobility and ability to get to certain places. Luckily, most public transport systems are designed to accommodate passengers using wheelchairs.
You would also discover that some stores will have wheelchair accessible ramps, while many others will not. Apart from figuring out how to get to your destination safely, your patience and ability to improvise will be severely tested.
Should you get one with a Braking System? – While your manual wheelchair is hand operated, a braking system offers another reliable way to get the transport chair to a complete stop. Those with hand brakes might cost extra, but it might enhance your ability to use the manual wheelchair safely.
Do you need one with Foot Rest? – While most of the lightweight wheelchairs without electric will have armrests, which is not the case with footrest. Having a padded rest area for your feet might not be a bad idea especially if you expect to navigate the city’s sidewalk.
It is definitely a needed option if you sustained serious injuries to your foot or both feet.
Reliability of the Manufacturer – The durability of most wheelchair brands can be traced to the reliability of the manufacturer of the product. Some manufacturers have an enviable record within the industry, while others are not so liked by both users and competitors.
The wheelchair brand should at least be supported by online resources that can be accessed 24/7. A well-navigated website is a must, which should also contain manuals, warranty details, usage instructions, and possibly, how to use videos.
Opinions of Current Users – You want to take some time and look over the feedbacks from current users of the wheelchair brand. It is quite obvious the brand will not have 100% satisfaction rating, but at least a majority should be happy with the performance of the product over time.
Reading some of the feedbacks might also give you the impetus to know what brands to stay away from.
Elite Manual Wheelchair Brands
1 – Drive Medical Blue Streak Wheelchair
The first manual wheelchair to be reviewed is from a company called Drive Medical. This is a manual wheelchair brand you can purchase in two styles, with three sizes to select from. It is capable of holding up to 250 pounds of user weight capacity.
The use of nylon upholstery throughout the wheelchair means it is quite easy to keep it clean. The Drive Medical blue streak wheelchair has solid wheels with mounted rubber tires. This is a low maintenance manual wheelchair and you should get excellent mobility uses out of it.
The arm rests embedded on this transport chairs are fully padded. Apart from the elevating leg rests, the inclusion of a braking system that can be activated with push enhances the safety of this product. It is protected by a three-year limited warranty from the manufacturer.
It is quite easy to fold this manual wheelchair from Drive Medical, which makes it easier to transport or put away for storage. The addition of a pouch in the back of the wheelchair for your personal items gives it an added advantage over other competing brands within the same price range.
2 – Medline Transport Wheelchair
Another transport chair with excellent performance metrics is from a company called Medline. It has a fabulous and fast braking system, based on the feedbacks from some of the users. You get to choose from two popular colors red and blue.
While it has a lightweight design and capable of holding user weight of up to 300 pounds, the frame itself is made from powder coated aluminum. The rear wheels are quite larger than other brands, which enhances the riding experience even on rough outdoor surfaces.
The use of nylon for the upholstery means it would be easy to keep clean. The wheelchair itself weighs only 22-pounds. You get a one-year warranty coverage on the major components of the Medline Transport Wheelchair.
3 – Drive Medical Lightweight Steel Transport Wheelchair
Not only is the next product from the same company that made the first wheelchair reviewed, it also has fewer features and cheaper. Despite the plainness of the transport chair, it is available for purchase in two different sizes.
The upholstery handles enhance the way the chair can be folded. The backrest is also foldable, which ensures you can put it away for storage or transport it. Apart from the padded arm rests, the inclusion of rear wheel locks increases the riding comfort level of the user.
This is lightweight transport wheelchair from Drive Medical is built sturdy and can be bought online with ease. This wheelchair weighs about twenty-six pounds and is limited to users weighing 250 pounds or less.
4 – Karman LT-980 Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair
Apart from the fact that it is well-designed and offers high-performance metrics, this manual wheelchair from Karman is quite pricey. To increase the safety of the occupant there is a traditional seatbelt that can be used.
You can put your personal belongings in the attached pouch found on the back of the transport chair from Karman. Not only is the footrest adjustable it can also be quickly removed if not needed. The 22-inch rear wheels are made from solid polyurethane.
Despite all the added features it only weighs 24-pounds, without adding the weight of the footrest. The compact frame means it can be easily pushed by your assistant and it is collapsible for easy transport or storage.
Karman LT-980 is a lightweight folding wheelchair that some of the users called the best in its class. The limited warranty period for the Karman LT-980 ultra-lightweight wheelchair is only one year.
The Buying Guide for Electric Wheelchairs
The most enviable feature of an electric wheelchair is that most have the ability to take you far without the need for an assistant to push you along. The limitations found in powered wheelchairs can be traced to the type of battery used and how long it can last after a full charge.
An electric wheelchair will also come with larger wheels, which might make it easier to control and maneuver the device around with ease. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of owning even a top electric wheelchair.
Most will have enhanced mobility due to the use of battery power to move the chair along. Learning to use one involves using a control pad or a joystick, which most people are accustomed to in this digital age.
You get mobility advantages even manual wheelchair brands with merit cannot come close to matching.
The seats found on electric wheelchairs are more plush and comfortable, which enhances the riding experience.
The price tag for even the cheapest electric wheelchairs will be quite significant, which is certainly a deterrent for most people that need one.
Electric wheelchairs are bulky and heavy, which makes it difficult to transport or put into storage.
Since it uses battery power that needs to be charged frequently, running out of “battery juice” might leave you stranded in uncomfortable places, if your estimate of the distance traveled is wrong.
Features to Consider in your Search for an Electric Wheelchair Brand
Some of the factors listed when searching for a manual wheelchair brand can also be applied here. You need to consider how you’re going to use it while indoors and outdoors.
How serious is your injury and what is the length of your recuperation time? Just some questions you need to answer before investing in a brand that would serve your needs right. Now, let’s consider the major factors:
The Battery life of the Wheelchair – The battery life is what will determine how many miles you can travel before it stops working. Most will at least have a battery indicator warning mechanism to keep you in the loop as to how much power you have left to complete your journey.
Apart from the miles per hour, the distance traveled can vary from 12 to 20 miles based on the brand you choose to purchase today.
Is the Design Comfortable – The design of an electric wheelchair will be similar to that of a manual one, but with more plush materials and padding, which enhances the riding experience. The materials used will also camouflage the look of the battery compartment that will be underneath the chair.
The Control Mechanism – After the battery, the next most important feature is the control panel for the wheelchair. Most will be controlled by either the use of a joystick or control pad. The ease of mastering the control mechanisms should also be considered.
Warranty Terms – Unlike your average manual wheelchair that will cost you a few hundreds, even the least expensive electric transport chair will cost way above 1,500 dollars, so the warranty terms do make a huge difference. The minimum industry standard warranty on electric powered chairs is one year or more.
Powered Wheelchairs Reviews
5 – Drive Medical Cirrus Plus Power Wheelchair
When it comes to electric transport chairs, one of the biggest wheelchair manufacturers is Drive Medical. The Cirrus power wheelchair is available in three different sizes and comes with a lightweight frame that’s also foldable.
It is designed to accommodate user weight up to 300 pounds. From the manufacturer’s website, some of the current users called it the premier motorized wheelchair with an integrated programmable controller.
Apart from the detachable arms and flip back arms, the height for this durable electric powered wheelchair can also be adjusted. It has a frame that is manufactured using carbon steel.
The electric wheelchair from Drive Medical is capable of reaching speeds of up to 5 mph. Apart from the foldable design is also has a high ground clearance. The battery life found in this chair is quite good and you get the use of a standard seat belt to help with safety while riding.
6 – Pride Mobility Jazzy 600 ES Electric Wheelchair
The next electric wheelchair in this review is from Pride Mobility, a company that is just as popular as Drive Medical. The Pride Jazzy 600 ES chair has a compact design along with an active suspension system to make riding outdoors a comfortable experience.
With all the powered features found in this brand, there is no question it can be easily maneuvered both outdoors and indoors, but the weight might make it more difficult to transport.
While it is capable of reaching up to four miles-per-hour speeds, a fully charged battery would only be good for 16.65 miles. The weight limit for the user is listed at 300 lbs. by the manufacturer.
The Jazzy 600 ES from Pride Mobility comes with a lifetime limited warranty on the frame, but only 13-months limited warranty on the drive motors and electronics. This is the type of powered wheelchair to buy if your disability will last a long time or it’s permanent.
7 – Drive Medical Cobalt X23 Power Wheelchair
While the look of this powered chair is quite different from that of a traditional wheelchair, it should offer any immobilized person the ability to move around with ease. The Drive Medical Cobalt X23 power wheelchair can reach speeds up to 4 miles-per-hour, and it comes with the right features to adjust the height.
The padded armrests are also removable and adjustable, which adds to the comfort and versatility of the unit. A positioning belt is included along with reflectors that are mounted on the armrests. Some have called it the best wheelchair that uses battery power to move the user around.
This is a motorized wheelchair with anti-tip wheels, and tires that will not mark. The different warranty terms on the major parts create a problem of trust in my opinion.
The base frame is protected by a 5-year limited warranty, while the seat frame is protected for only three years. All the electronic parts, including the motor and brakes, have only one-year limited coverage. Lastly, the battery warranty is only six months.