Whether you have a health condition or you’re unable to walk on your feet for long periods of time, buying an electric wheelchair requires some basic product knowledge. In order to make the right purchase when you are looking to buy a power wheelchair online, you should know about the types of models and major brands that are available on the market.
Most manufacturers will not sell power wheelchairs to consumers, but would rather utilize a dealer, like us, who sells them to the end-user, which is you. If you don’t do research or have some basic knowledge about the product that you are going to buy, you could end up with a product that doesn't suit your needs.
We pride ourselves on adding as much valuable information and product specifics on every product page and by having a FAQ section that is updated often. Learning a little about the industry and product that you are going to buy is a great way to ensure your buying experience is a good one.
What Are The Best Power Wheelchair Brands?
Drive Medical, Pride Mobility, and Merits Health Health Products are the most popular manufacturers that make electric wheelchairs and they provide excellent products with great manufacturer warranties.
Drive is based out of New York and have been around since 1984. They have excellent pricing and quality products. They are also known to provide excellent customer service and service contracts with each sale, which includes one year of in home service for the first year. Some of their more popular electric wheelchairs are the Trident HD, the Cirrus Plus and the Titan AXS.
Merits is a company that provides reliable, expertly engineered solutions for nearly every need. Their innovative designs constitute years of experience and research to fully understand the special needs of individuals. Through years of consultations, personal contacts, and studies, this company has adapted every way conceivable to satisfy their customers efficiently with quality and professionalism. Backed by the latest state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, they develop high-quality healthcare products at fair prices. Some of the more popular electric wheelchairs by this company are the P322, the P310 and the P101.
Pride is perhaps the biggest brand in the mobility industry. Founded in 1986, they have a long history of creating designs that offer cutting edge technology and many of their products offer patented features that you cannot find anywhere else. They are a big name player and offer an extensive line of products from lift chairs to mobility scooters and to, of course, electric wheelchairs. Many of their products can be customized to suit the needs of the user. Some of the most popular power wheelchairs that this company offers are the Passport, Go Chair, and the Jazzy Elite HD.
Each of the 3 above brands are the top power wheelchair brands in the industry. Combined they have over 70 years of experience and continue to push the envelope in the power chair industry. All 3 have some of the best product warranties in the industry as well, so you know you will be taken care of.
Now that we gotten the best brands out of the way, lets get into the types of power wheelchairs on the market, because their several; and you should know the differences...
Types of Electric Wheelchairs
Folding Power Wheelchairs are made for people who are active and want to travel with their power chair. They can be folded and fit into compact spaces such as the trunk of a car or a storage closet. Electric wheelchairs that fold are known to have a weight capacity that is lower than average mostly because the framework is made with lightweight material not capable of supporting heavy weight. However, there are a few exceptions and those units can hold more, but tend to weigh more for the user to lift as well.
Front Wheel Drive Power Chairs have their wheels in front of the seating area, which in effect allow the unit to pull itself over terrain and obstacles. This configuration is lauded for being very stable up and down hills and on uneven terrain. Because a front-wheel drive chair pulls from the front rather than pushing from the back, it’s good at handling softer terrains, such as grass.
Foot positioning can also be easier because there are no front casters to interfere with foot placement. Therefore, the front-wheel drive design can keep the user's feet positioned closer to the body. However, turning a front-wheel drive chair, can take a little getting used to because most of the chair is in the back of you, so you have to be aware of what is behind you. These types of electric wheelchairs can fishtail at higher speeds, so they tend to have lower top speeds than others.
Mid-Wheel Drive Electric Wheelchairs have the drive wheels in the middle of the unit and not at the front of the chair or the back. Because of their ability to basically spin in place, mid-wheel drive chairs are highly maneuverable, going through doorways or turning in tight spaces. These type of power wheelchairs are also considered more intuitive to drive, especially among consumers who have been ambulatory, because the drive wheels are underneath the seat which mimics the location of our feet when we walk.
Mid-wheel drive power chairs also have more difficulty in climbing obstacles than front-wheel-drive chairs do. Some manufacturers have developed technology to compensate, so some mid-wheel drive chairs now drive more smooth, and are more adept at climbing obstacles.
Rear-Wheel Drive Electric Wheelchairs are known for their power, making it a favorite among consumers who spend a lot of time outdoors or traveling over tougher terrains. Rear-wheel drive has been traditionally capable of offering the highest top speeds, which is a plus for the consumer who has to cover a lot of ground. They also have a reputation for the best overall stability in a variety of different environments.
Its main drawback: With drive wheels in the back, rear-wheel drive chairs have a larger turning radius and therefore cause larger footprints, since the entire chair has to clear the corner before making a turn. Rear-wheel drive chairs are also less intuitive to learn to operate because they don’t closely mimic the way a person walks.
Travel Power Chairs are much lighter than most power chairs and these type of chairs disassemble into smaller pieces making them easy to store away and transport while traveling. They usually have a smaller body frame as well which allows them to squeeze through tight spaces such as doorways or hallways without hassle.
Although they do not last as long as most standard or heavy-duty power chairs, these types of power chairs are a great option for someone who lives an active lifestyle and is always on the go.
Bariatric Power Chairs are best a great option for someone who likes to go indoors and outdoors. Plus, they are made to support above average-sized riders. There are many options to choose from that can carry anywhere from 400 to 700 lbs in weight capacity. These heavy-duty models usually have a lot more torque to add to their performance and also longer lasting battery life. Most importantly a majority of bariatric power chairs come with solid or flat-free tires making them durable enough to smoothly ride through most rugged terrains.
Things to Avoid When Using Your Electric Wheelchair
For first time users there a few things to remember never to do when using your electric wheelchair otherwise you could risk damaging or possibly breaking your unit. When using your electric wheelchair to drive uphill, make sure that it is designed to go up an incline or have a climbing degree anything between 8 degrees and 12 degrees will perform well uphill. This does not mean that you should constantly ride uphill though because it will drain your battery and cause more significant damage in the long run.
By doing this you make your electric wheelchair perform under more power and if this is done regularly, it can ruin your batteries or even your motor. Additionally, make sure you never go over the weight capacity, it is usually best to stay at least 20 to 30 lbs under the capacity. If you exceed the weight capacity, the battery will drain faster and you can ruin the motor or possibly break the frame.
Another important thing to remember is to never leave your power chair in the rain or in the outdoors. Parts can get rusted and they will not be covered under most warranty’s if this is the reason for the damage. Remember these simple things and you will be able to keep your electric wheelchair in great shape for years to come.
If you are unsure that an electric wheelchair is the right fit for you. You can also check out our Mobility Scooter Buying Guide. These type of units can generally go much faster and if you have the ability to use both hands, you can operate these similar to steering a car. We also have an article of our top Folding Power Wheelchairs on the market. This article has been helpful to many people, since this type of power chair is one of the more popular.
If you have any questions about choosing the right electric wheelchair for you, gives us a call at 800-682-9444 and one of our knowledgeable agents will be happy to help you find a unit that works best for your needs.