The market for electric wheelchairs has grown immensely over the years. And just as there is an increased market, so are there hundred of electric chairs to choose from. From heavy-duty power chairs, foldable electric wheelchairs for traveling to power wheelchairs designed for outdoor use- they are plenty.
While this is a good thing for the users, choosing the right electric wheelchair becomes one of the hardest decisions to make for most people.
On the flip side, it means that there is a perfect electric wheelchair for you. You just have to know how to find it.
And that is where we come in with this post. To guide you into making the best choice.
We hope that with the comprehensive buying guide and detailed review of some of the best electric wheelchairs, you will find the right pick for your needs.
Who Will Benefit from an Electric Wheelchair?
Electric wheelchairs are basically designed for any person with mobility issues, however, they are most suited for users with limited upper body strength. They are the next best alternative to manual wheelchairs.
Some users prefer to use the electric wheelchair outdoors and retain their manual wheelchair for indoor use. There are no fast rules to using an electric wheelchair- it’s entirely up to you and what suits you the most.
The only important thing to keep in mind is there are different types of electric wheelchairs and while some may suit you, others may not.
For instance, if you travel a lot, a foldable and perhaps lightweight electric wheelchair is the most ideal for you. A bulky wheelchair will not serve you because it will be too heavy for you to transport and most likely, it will not fit into the back of your car.
There are many other considerations that you must make before purchasing an electric wheelchair, all of which we will talk about later in this post.
Choosing Between Electric Wheelchairs Vs Manual Wheelchairs
If you are on the edge on whether to purchase an electric wheelchair or manual wheelchair, a few things will guide you.
The top of those factors is of course your physical ability. A manual wheelchair will require you to propel yourself which can be tiresome and not to mention exhausting for someone with limited upper strength. Electric wheelchairs self-propel themselves because they are powered. They are therefore less strenuous to use.
Electric wheelchairs also offer a lot of customization options and have way more advanced features than their manual counterparts. They are ideal for traveling long distances, can be used on any type of surface and offer a higher level of comfort with advanced functions like power elevating seat.
They however require constant maintenance, have a steeper learning curve, are significantly heavier and of course, cost much more than manual wheelchairs.
While manual wheelchairs come at affordable costs, they require little maintenance and fit through all hallways and doorways. They also have a few potential drawbacks like requiring a good amount of upper body strength as we already mentioned and the user needing some assistance to get around. As well, they are most certainly not ideal for going up inclines or traveling for long distances.
When choosing between the two chairs, you want to remember that you are making a choice over your quality of life, comfort, safety and independence, so make a wise choice.
Types of Electric Wheelchairs
Electric wheelchairs have advanced tremendously. As a result, we have electric chairs that are faster, more high-tech, and way more convenient than the earlier models. Even better is that power is now being delivered to one set of big wheels (drive wheels) unlike before. The drive wheels are connected to the drive motor of the chair and are the ones tasked with propelling the wheelchair while the small wheels are solely left for stability purposes.
And It is the location of these drive wheels that determines the type of electric wheelchair. They also determine the driving power, turning ability, and the maneuverability of the wheelchair.
Let’s explore the three main types of electric wheelchairs so that you understand how powerful the drive wheelchairs are and how they will influence your choice of wheelchairs.
A front-wheel electric wheelchair as the name suggests has two large drive wheels at the front and small caster wheels at the back. The front wheels provide driving power to the wheelchair while the rear caster wheels offer stability as well as maneuverability.
Front-wheel drive electric wheelchairs drive exceptionally well on all terrains and maneuver pretty well outdoors.
Because of their tight turning radius, front-wheel drive wheelchairs navigate well on tight and narrow spaces, provided they have a reasonably standard width. With a 360 degree turning radius, it’s no surprise that they offer a full range of movement.
Even though front wheel chairs can be used on all surfaces, they are most ideal for the outdoor terrain.
Newer electric wheelchair models offer a greater range of control options, from chin to head control. The choice is dependent on your physical inability.
As great as they sound, front-wheel drive wheelchairs are not user-friendly, particularly for first-time wheelchair users- they require a bit of a learning curve. They also tend to fishtail when driven at high speeds or when a user takes sudden sharp turns.
Mid wheel drive
Mid wheel drive electric wheelchairs have their large wheels at the center, just right underneath the seat. These types of power chairs are considered the most stable because the center of gravity pulls right over the wheels. And it is because of this reason that the mid-wheel drive is the most preferred especially for beginners.
Besides being stable, it is easy to drive, make turns as well as maneuver in tight spaces. Mid-wheel drive motorized wheelchairs have the most compact radius and therefore are most suited for navigating crowded places like malls, grocery stores, institutions and coffee shops.
They however do not do so well on rough terrains, very soft and inclined surfaces. They also do not drive as smoothly as the rear-wheel drive chairs.
Rear wheel drive electric wheelchairs have their largest wheel (drive wheel) located at the back while the small caster wheels are on the front. The rear location of the drive wheel allows this type of wheelchair to have far greater control even at high speeds compared to any other type of wheelchair.
They also propel much faster than front and mid wheelchairs and do exceptionally well on rough terrains as long as there no big obstacles. This is why they are most preferred for outdoor use.
Rear wheel drive electric wheelchairs however have such a big turning radius that makes them difficult to maneuver indoors and in small spaces. Also, their capability over obstacles is not so great. It’s not uncommon to get stuck when attempting to climb over big obstacles.
Other than these two shortcomings, they have the best directional stability as well as excellent shock absorption and hence ride smoothly even on bumps. This makes them super comfortable for the rough outdoor terrain.
Best Electric Wheelchairs
After a careful analysis of some of the best electric wheelchair models in the market, our team was able to compile a comprehensive list for you to choose from.
Here goes the best electric wheelchairs of 2022
A good power wheelchair is comfortable, stable, and user-friendly: all of these aspects are present in the approved FDA eVolt traveler power chair.
This wheelchair is prominent for excellent mobility and durability. It is also highly serviceable, especially for travelers, because of its portability.
The chair also comes with a 12″ rear wheel, a joystick controller on its left side, and removable armrests.
And the best part? An unsurpassable foldable feature. You can fold it to “31″ x 25′ x 13,” meaning it can fit in the trunk of almost any car: It is folded and unfolded using a button push.
Adding to its striking features, is its favorable price point which makes it the best power chair for individuals on a tight budget. You can never go wrong with the eVolt traveler power chair, its top-notch quality can serve your needs for years without breaking down.
The Jazzy 600 ES Power from Pride Mobility is our best pick for outdoor use because of how stable and powerful it fairs compared to other electric wheelchairs. It’s a mid-wheel drive, that means the center of gravity pulls right underneath the seat making it super stable and the caster wheels are both on the front and on the rear for added stability.
Featuring a tight turning radius of 21″, you can easily navigate all tight and small spaces without getting stuck or knocking things down. And with an ATX suspension system, you can enjoy a smooth and comfortable ride no matter the terrain you are driving on.
For an even more comfortable ride, Pride mobility’s Jazzy Air comes with a high-back seat for both comfort and back support, an adjustable seat width to allow you to shift positions and swing-away footrests for easy transfers.
In addition, the joystick can be mounted on either the left or right-hand side for easy access and operation.
Pride Jazzy is definitely not your average electric wheelchair, it scores highly on all crucial aspects- comfort, durability, appearance, safety, and performance. And the best part? It comes with a limited lifetime warranty of the frame.
The featherweight wheelchair is by far one of the best folding electric wheelchairs and also one of the most lightweight electric wheelchairs- tipping the scale at just 33 pounds. And because of these two attributes, it tops our list as the best travel electric wheelchair.
Aside from its lightweight nature, the chair is easy to transport. It basically fits into the trunk of most cars.
This folding electric wheelchair features a 9.8-inch wheel that drives exceptionally well on all surfaces, in addition to a joystick control that can be fitted on either side of the chair for easy operation. This is particularly helpful for users who are unable to operate the joystick using either their left or right hand.
What we loved the most is that the wheelchairs come fully assembled right out of the box. This means no tools, no assembly and no stressing about what goes where. Simply unpack your wheelchair, plug it into the charger and when fully charged, you are free to use it.
We also loved that it comes with a quick-release buckle, carry handles, anti-locking wheels to keep you from moving forward and backward when the wheelchair has stopped as well as strong solid anti-puncture tires.
While everything else about this power chair seems great, its durability is the most outstanding thing about it. With an aluminum alloy frame and upholstery made from thick and strong nylon, nothing beats a sturdy long-lasting folding power wheelchair. It is the best choice for frequent travelers.
Consider the EWheels EW M45 as ab alternative to the featherweight.
Model H high Hybrid wheelchair is both a manual and an electric wheelchair. It’s an ideal choice for users who like the convenience that comes with an electric wheelchair but would still like to wheel themselves around sometimes. Or those who don’t mind pushing themselves but would like to use an electric wheelchair on some difficult terrains.
Weighing just 39 pounds, the electric wheelchair is perhaps one of the most lightweight foldable power chairs and therefore the most portable power wheelchair as well. Even without folding it, you can easily lift it up to load it in the car trunk or store away.
Like most other electric wheelchair manufacturers, the makers of this wheelchair were considerate enough to pre-assemble it. This makes it easier for first time users as they only need to unpack, charge and they are ready to go.
In addition to having standard features like a seat belt to keep you secure, footrest to comfortably rest your legs, cup holder, remote control, lithium-ion batteries, the chair is also made with standard dimensions making it fit for both small and big spaces. It also maneuvers pretty well in tight spaces.
Further, it comes with adjustable armrests for comfortable riding. And if you fancy more accessories like a joystick controller for easier operation, you can always have them customized into the chair. Too bad it does not come with an extra pack of batteries. Fortunately, the existing battery can cover you a reasonably longer distance of up to 13 miles when fully charged and if it runs out, well, you can always switch to the manual mode.
Similar to other electric wheelchair models, the Model H is airline approved. This is great news for frequent travelers.
The model H hybrid is by far the best motorized wheelchair packed with safety features including anti-tippers to keep you from falling over to speed control motor, a safety horn, flat-free tires and an anti-lock system.
Another hybrid model that we recommend as one of the best electric wheelchairs of 2022 is the Model X Travel Power Chair. Compared to the Model H model, this one is slightly lighter, weighing just 31 pounds.
Other than that, it features large 12″ rear wheels designed for smooth ride even on rough terrain. The rear wheels do exceptionally well, especially when going up on slopes or going over obstacles.
In addition, switching between manual and electric modes is super easy. For the manual mode, there are two comfortable push bars that caregivers can grip on to help push you around.
The hybrid electric wheelchair maneuvers fairly well on tight spaces and can be folded and unfolded for easy storage and transport.
Even though a great electric wheelchair, we found its weight capacity to be limiting- just 220 pounds. Compared to the weight capacity of many electric wheelchairs, we must admit that this is on the low side.
Perhaps the trade off for this would be the smartphone app function that allows you to operate the wheelchair “hands free”. You don’t find this feature in a lot of manual + power wheelchairs, that is why it stood out for us.
With a single fully charged battery, the electric wheelchair can take you a distance of up to 13 miles when fully charged at a speed of 5 mph.
If the raving online reviews are anything to go by, then it’s no surprise that the Move-Lite Power Chairs made it to our list of the best electric wheelchairs. And even though it is not the most lightweight powered wheelchairs with a weight of 50 pounds, it is no doubt one of the most durable.
The motorized wheelchair is easily foldable making it easy to not only store but travel with, especially because it fits into the trunk of most cars. To fold or unfold the power chair, simply push the fold/unfold button and in just seconds, your chair should fold down or fold up.
The power wheelchair runs on a powerful Lithium-ion polymer battery that can cover a distance of up to 15 miles when fully charged at a top speed of 5 mph. And with large 12″ wheels you can be sure of navigating most if not all terrains and surfaces.
Move-Lite Power Chair has a weight capacity of 300 pounds, even though this does not right away qualifies it as a heavy duty power wheelchair, it can accomodate most users with more weight on their frame without necessarily slowing down the chair.
Lastly, the mobility device, comes with some nice features like the joystick controller that can be fitted on either side of the chair for easy operation, adjustable armrests and comes pre-assembled.
It is also FDA approved and airline-friendly. That said though, you should check with the airline before turning up with your wheelchair to the airport just to be sure.
The AirWheel H3S has it all- ergonomics, safety, comfort, and reliability. Just about everything you’d fancy in an electric wheelchair. On top of that, it is lightweight, portable, and durable.
With a weight capacity of 286 pounds, the AirWheel H3S electric chair comes fully assembled, so no setup is needed. You only need to plug it into the charger until it is fully charged, and you can start driving it around.
And the best part? Charging only takes 2-4 hours, and the battery can take you up to 15 miles on full charge. Even though the chair comes with only one battery pack, you can always purchase an additional pack to act as a backup.
The electric wheelchair has a folding mechanism which means you can collapse it for easy storage and transportation and you can fold it up once you get to your destination. The folding mechanism is fully automatic and only takes the push of the button to fold down or fold up.
What makes this chair one of the best electric wheelchairs, in addition to everything we’ve talked about, is that it is FDA approved. This is a clear mark of excellence and safety.
As well, it comes with a joystick controller that you can choose to mount either on the left or right hand side for easy and comfortable operation and large rear wheels that can navigate all terrains.
One of the most outstanding things about the Airwheel H3S is the powerful yet extremely silent brushless motors. This is one feature that most electric wheelchair companies don’t focus on yet has a big impact on the performance of the wheelchair.
Last on our list of the best electric wheelchairs of 2022 is the FeatherFold power wheelchair. Much like the Featherweight wheelchair, this wheelchair is super lightweight, tipping the scale at just 35 pounds.
It is also foldable and folds down to a mere load that measures just 18 inches x 22 inches x 26 inches. With such a small load, loading it into the car trunk or moving around with it won’t take you much energy, and when you get to your destination, you simply push the button to unfold.
The chair offers maximum travel speed of 4mph and can travel as far as 10 miles on a full battery. And if you need it to go a couple more extra miles, you simply purchase an additional pack of batteries.
We loved the adjustable and retractable armrests. They make getting in and getting out of the wheelchair so much easier. You just slide in and slide out from the sides.
How to Choose the Best Electric Wheelchairs
An electric wheelchair is such a significant purchase that should not be taken lightly. That is why you must take into consideration all aspects of the wheelchair. Here is a detailed guide to help you choose the best electric wheelchair.
Use of the power wheelchair
Before anything else, you want to determine how often you intend to be using your wheelchair and how far you plan to be traveling with it. These two will help you a great deal figure out what type an electric wheelchair you need. Whether a foldable one, a heavy-duty one, or even a hybrid wheelchair. It will also help you figure out important factors to be on the lookout for like battery power, maximum speed, among others.
Since an electric wheelchair is battery-powered, you obviously want to go for a long-lasting battery, especially if buying a power wheelchair for outdoor use.
We highly advise that you opt for a wheelchair powered with lithium-ion batteries. They are superior quality batteries that are also airlibe approved.
Dual batteries should be top on your list because then you can travel for a longer distance without needing to charge the batteries. So for instance, if one battery pack takes your for 15 miles, then with a pack of two batteries you can cover up to 30 miles!
Maximum Weight Capacity
This may be a rather obvious point but one that can easily be overlooked. So just as a reminder, look for an electric wheelchair that can handle your weight. The weight capacity should not be exact, but slightly higher than your weight.
Seating and Positioning
Because you will be spending enormous amounts of time seated in your wheelchair, you want to ensure that you will be comfortable. Comfort in a wheelchair equals good physical health.
To ensure you are comfortable and seated in the right position all through your trip, look for a seat with an ample seating area. To add to the comfort, look for a padded seat.
As well, some features go a long way in ensuring that you are seated comfortably like a padded and adjustable armrest, contoured backrest, and a padded headrest.
Some wheelchair manufacturers are kind enough to feature a recline or tilt-in-space function for users who can not shift themselves for better positioning.
Tilt-in space allows one to keep distributing your weight every so often to increase blood flow as well as relieve pressure on certain pressure points while a recline function allows you to stretch your feel. Titl-in-space also makes transfer easy.
Terrain and surface
You must know by now that not all electric wheelchairs are designed to be driven anywhere. Some are solely designed for the smooth indoor surface, while others are designed for the rough outdoor terrain. Outdoor electric wheelchairs can ride on basically anything. Be it sand, gravel, mud, grass, sand- name it.
Check the surrounding of where you will be driving your wheelchair the most. If indoors then ensure that neither the wheels nor the unit itself are too big. Otherwise, it will not fit through your doorways and hallways. Also, ensure that it has a smaller turning radius so that you can easily navigate the corners in your home. Lastly, the tires should be flat-free and non-marking so that you don’t damage your floor.
As for an outdoor wheelchair, the first thing you want to check is that it has larger wheels and a higher ground clearance so that it can handle the roughest of terrains and go over obstacles without falling off.
Whichever the surface, the motorized wheelchair should ride smoothly.
While this is not necessary and a lot of the electric wheelchairs in the market are not FDA-approved anyway, we recommend that you find one that is. Because the wheelchair is a medical device, it is absolutely important that it is FDA compliant.
Aside from the assurance that it is safe and of superior quality, FDA-compliant motorized wheelchairs are allowed by most airlines. If you are a frequent traveler, you understand how important this is.
Type of controller
Most electric wheelchairs are controlled by a joystick which basically controls the direction the chair will take and in some models, it controls the speed, reclining degree among other functions. While a joystick is easy to operate, it does require one to exert some level of pressure. Something that is not easy or even possible for other users because of some medical conditions.
If you are one of those users with limited hand, wrist, or arm strength, then you may want to consider other types of controls. For instance, you can opt for a foot control where you use your foot to control the chair, shin control where you operate using your chin, head control, or even voice controls. These alternative controls are not pretty common but can be added on.
Powered wheelchairs have varying speed limits. While most electric wheelchairs will have a maximum speed ranging between 5mph and 10, some will have such high-speed limits as 15 or more.
High speeds are not necessarily a bad thing. If anything, you should aim for a power chair with a higher speed limit, particularly if for outdoor use. As long as you drive responsibly, you have nothing to worry about.
For an indoor power chair, a lower speed limit will suffice.
Convenience for air travel
If you plan on taking a lot of air travel, one of the most important things that you want to consider in a motorized wheelchair is if it is suitable for air travel. Is it airline-approved? How portable is it?
These are some of the questions you need to answer before making the purchase.
As well, find out how long the battery can take you. This is particularly important when taking extra-long trips.
Does Medicare pay for an electric wheelchair?
Yes, medicare covers electric wheelchairs but with strict eligibility requirements, unlike manual wheelchairs, mobility scooters, and other durable medical equipment. Your doctor must fully ascertain that an electric wheelchair is a medical necessity and that you can’t absolutely do without one. If you don’t necessarily need one, medicare will not approve your request.
Once you meet this vital requirement, medicare will provide you with 80% coverage of the wheelchair costs, and you will have to cater for the 20% as deductibles.
We have a more detailed post on how Medicare covers wheelchairs that you can find more details from.
When it comes to mobility aids, electric wheelchairs top the list as the most expensive aids. Despite their higher price point, they offer the most freedom and comfort over mobility scooters, particularly heavy-duty electric wheelchairs.
Take a look at the electric wheelchairs we’ve reviewed. They offer excellent capability. Most of them are lightweight, portable, easy to use, and come with tons of desirable features.
If you are too spoilt for choice and can’t seem to decide on which one to go for, we recommend the AirWheel H3S for its ergonomics, safety, comfort, and reliability. This electric wheelchair checks off all the boxes for us, and we are sure you will be pleased with it.