Wheelchair Buyer's Guide
How to buy the correct wheelchair.
How to Buy a Wheelchair
Get seat measurements:Seat width and depth can also limit the models available. There are many models available for standard size chairs like 16" and 18" seat widths, but chair seat-widths for heavier users are in demand. As seat-width increases the selection decreases. Those requiring a 22" seat width have a limited number of models to choose from and those requiring 24"-26" have even less to choose from.
Got clearance?Make sure there are no clearance restrictions in the home or anywhere else you go. Measure some of the smallest hallways and doorways you know of that you will be passing through. Excluding Transport chairs, most standard folding chairs overall width can be calculated by adding 8" to the seat width of the chair. (example 16" seat width + 8" = 24" overall width) This rule does not apply to transport chairs, which are about seat width + 3", so a 17" seat width becomes 20" overall.
How & What to measure:If you are shopping for a Transport or Standard chair the seat width and depth is generally all you'll need to know, but keep the user's height in mind if the chair offers multiple seat height settings (usually indicated by Adult or Hemi height). Standard Adult height wheelchairs are 18"-20" seat-to-floor. Hemi height wheelchairs are around 17.5" seat-to-floor. Use our Wheelchair Sizing Chart to measure an individual for a wheelchair.
Weight of Wheelchairs:Weight is usually at the top of everyone's list of wheelchair features. The lighter the better, generally. Transport chairs can weigh 15 to 35-lbs, standard weight chairs weigh around 45-lbs, lightweight chairs are usually around 32-36 lbs, ultra-light wheelchairs are around 25-lbs. Titanium chairs are available that weigh in the high "teens" for Rigid riders.
Folding vs. Rigid wheelchair:You probably came here looking for a folding-chair, but just so you know, there are many wheelchair user's that prefer the "solid feel" of a rigid chair. These are usually more seasoned and active full-time riders.
Wheelchair Tire Types:Pneumatic tires have inflatable tubes and are more cushioned than solid rubber tires. Pneumatic tires puncture quite easily and when they do, you don’t want to ride on them. You can minimize this somewhat by using Kevlar tires which are heavy duty and more resistant. Solid rubber tires never go flat but the ride is not as smooth. These are know as composite polyurethane tires. Pneumatic with flat free inserts-have rubber inserts in the tire instead of a tube and don’t go flat.
Wheelchair Purchasing Options:Pictorial of standard configuration issues when ordering a chair see Wheelchair Frame and Upholstery Options.
Medicare Wheelchairs:Manual wheelchairs are a capped-rental through Medicare. In addition, Medicare restricts billing to suppliers by zip code. This means that you must visit a local supplier that rents chairs and bills Medicare monthly. You cannot file Medicare claims for wheelchairs purchased over the Internet. Learn more about how wheelchairs are covered in our Medicare FAQ