Electric Wheelchair Versus Mobility Scooter: Which Is The Right Choice For You?


An electric wheelchair vs a mobility scooter, which should you choose? Though both electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters have the same general function, that of transporting people with various levels of reduced mobility from one place to another, they also have many differences. They are very popular amongst senior citizens and the physically impaired.

Mobility scooters enjoy preference among those who experience pain due to age-related bone diseases or other health complications, but who nevertheless still have fine motor skills and can use both hands. 

Electric wheelchairs, on the other hand, are popular with those who suffer from the inability to be on their feet for long periods of time, those who have almost no mobility in the body due to paralysis, or have reduced mobility in the arms, neck or upper body.

Thus, in general, mobility scooters are better suited for people with mobile abilities than those who are restricted to a wheelchair. 

What Is An Electric Wheelchair?

A power chair is basically a wheelchair that is powered by batteries and an electric motor that is designed for constant use. They offer support to the back and sides of the individual for added comfort. With hand controls on the armrests, the wheelchair can be controlled without extension of the arms or leaning too far forward. This allows for a stable position for those individuals who have limited mobility of the arms or the upper body. 

Around the same time that people were switching from regular power wheelchairs to power-base wheelchairs, there were tons of major improvements happening in the electronic world. Suddenly, users could add power tilt and recline systems, and even program things like speed and acceleration. And, to top it off, the classic joystick used to guide electric wheelchairs looked just like the ones used for video games. Talk about cool advancements!

Electric wheelchairs can actually be classified based on where the drive wheels are located. There are three types to choose from: front-wheel drive, mid- or center-wheel drive, and rear-wheel drive. It used to be that rear-wheel drive was the go-to option because it mimicked the design and maneuverability of manual wheelchairs. But these days, center-wheel drive wheelchairs are growing in popularity because they offer even more maneuverability.

What Is A Mobility Scooter?

A mobility scooter is a scooter made for those who are not completely immobile. They allow for easy mounting by lifting up the armrests in order to easily slide in and out.  They are powered by batteries and controlled by switches attached to handlebars; sometimes a finger lever or a twist grip throttle. Their bases are constructed more sturdier and thus they are more solid.

The steering column at the front of the scooter is where you'll find the tiller. This tool allows you to control the scooter's speed and direction both forward and in reverse. With features like speed limits, lighting controls, turn signals and a battery indicator, the tiller is a one-stop-shop for all things scooter. And the best part? You can control the direction with either thumb paddles, finger controls or a switch.

Scooters are usually cheaper, easier to navigate off-road terrain, and can be customized to your liking. Basically, they're perfect for anyone who needs a little help getting around but doesn't always require a full-on power wheelchair. Plus, people who use power chairs for medium distances or standing periods, or who can't drive cars for medical reasons, often choose mobility scooters instead.

Pros & Cons

Mobility Scooters


Mobility Scooters


Come in different shapes and sizes

Can tackle different terrains

Some are more easily transportable

Can reach faster speeds


Can be more expensive

Can be more cumbersome to transport

Typically more bulky

Offer a bigger turning radius

Electric Wheelchairs

Electric Wheelchairs


Transportable in a car trunk 

Tighter turning radius

More options & adjustable dimensions

Quite stable 


Can be heavier than a mobility scooter

Joystick takes longer to master

Doesn't go as fast

Requires more maintenance

Major Similarities And Differences Between A Mobility Scooter And A Power Chair 

Is It Foldable?

Some power chairs can be folded, and of the foldable types there are those that fold into one piece and those that can be taken apart into few lightweight pieces for easier transportation. Although they are foldable, their not many that can handle a bariatric size person.  They are made of material that is not as durable or heavy duty. The model of electric wheelchair that can take more weight tends to weigh a lot more as well, making it difficult to lift onto a vehicle.  Foldable wheelchairs have a great turning radius, some under 30 inches, with some models going as far down as 24 inches, making them really well maneuverable in tight spaces or around corners.

Mobility scooters that are foldable are available as those that can be disassembled into pieces without using any tools, and those that you fold into one piece. A great thing with the latter is that they only take a few seconds to fold and many of them are TSA approved for airline travel. What’s more, it is completely free to take them with you on an airplane. They range in weight from about 34 to 60 lbs, with the heavier ones slightly more durable, have a stronger motor, and are able to support more weight. Some have remote fobs that allow you to press a button for them to fold or unfold. After unfolding you can wheel them behind you like you would your luggage.

The Battery 

If you travel a lot, especially by air, no matter whether you are interested in an electric wheelchair or a mobility scooter, you have to take into consideration the type of battery that your device holds. Lithium batteries are especially questionable and may not be approved by airlines if they exceed the 300AH mark. All other battery types are approved as long as they are sealed. Most power chairs typically come with power cells that are rechargeable. Both lithium and 12-volt batteries weigh between 7-9 pounds. 

The batteries included with either a wheelchair or a mobility scooter can go quite far before they have to be recharged. A typical wheelchair offers a mileage as low as 8 miles and as much as 18 miles on a single charge.  Full-size scooters offer a battery life that can go much longer, as much as 40 miles on a single charge. When riding an electric wheelchair uphill it will deplete the battery life much faster, especially if the incline is higher than 12 degrees. Exceeding that tilt will drain the battery or ruin it. Weight also plays a significant role on how long a battery will hold. Best to stay at least 30 pounds beneath maximum weight capacity. Charging them requires a connection to an outlet for about 8 to 14 hours.

Weight Capacity

Different power wheelchairs can support different weights depending on which model we’re talking about. The folding type of wheelchair has a lower than average weight capacity because of the lightweight material framework it is made of, while the bariatric power chairs are heavy duty and can support anything from 400 to 700 lbs in weight. They are equipped with solid or flat-free tires for this reason. 

Mobility scooters on the other hand especially the full-size and bariatric scooters have a higher weight capacity.  As they are considered heavy duty, they offer some of the highest weight capacity for mobility scooters, in excess of 600 pounds. 

Indoor or Outdoor?

In order to make a better-informed buying decision on either a mobility scooter or an electric wheelchair, you have to determine where you will use the mobility product.  Though both can be used indoors and outdoors, power wheelchairs offer more maneuverability indoors. In contrast, mobility scooters have a more rugged design, are large and wide, and are ideal for outdoor use as they come with suspension parts that are ideal for outdoor navigation on uneven terrain. 


One other difference between mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs is the number of wheels they have.  A mobility scooter has three or four wheels. Once you’ve made the decision on what you prefer height and weight wise in a mobility scooter, it is time to choose whether you prefer stability or maneuverability. Three-wheel scooters are a lot easier to maneuver around tight spaces while four-wheel scooters are more stable and are not inclined to tipping. In general, a four-wheel scooter provides more support.

An electric wheelchair usually has four to six wheels. They come in front-wheel drive, mid-wheel drive, and rear-wheel drive models. The front wheel drive models have bigger wheels in front of the seating area. This sort of electric wheelchair pulls itself well over terrains. Mid-wheel drive electric wheelchairs have the big wheels in the middle of the unit. These types are capable of spinning in place making them very maneuverable. The rear-wheel drive types are very powerful, ideal for outdoorsy people.


Many brands of mobility scooters and power wheelchairs come equipped with a seatbelt.  Electric wheelchairs are easily customizable regarding the padding, seat and controls installed. In terms of seating, they can come with a captain style seat, a solid seat pan or a stadium style seat. Scooters on the other hand come equipped with standard vinyl seating which can be adjusted and, in some cases, can swivel. 

For proper feet placement and comfort, power wheelchairs are equipped with a foot platform that is height adjustable and which can flip away when not used. On a mobility scooter leg room varies according to what type of scooter you choose to buy. Three-wheeled scooters have more leg room for taller people and four-wheeled scooters have a broader wheelbase for easier weight distribution and stability.

Need Financing?

When deciding what to choose, between a mobility scooter and a power wheelchair, take into consideration the method with which you will pay for it. If you are under Medicare, they might cover a percentage of the cost of the mobility device for use at home. However, they will only do so if it can be proved that it is medically absolutely necessary.  Some people find this difficult and thats why we offer financing to help with your purchase.

To dive deeper into more detail on electric wheelchairs specifically, check out our Ultimate Guide to Electric Wheelchairs.  Likewise, we also have the Ultimate Guide to Mobility Scooters to help narrow down the best brands and types.  If you have any questions at all, our helpful agents are available every day from 8AM - 8PM.  Give us a call at 800-682-9444 or email us at info@electricwheelchairsusa.com and we will be happy to assist you!


Abby Haukongo

Abby Haukongo is a key contributor at Electric Wheelchairs USA, known for her deep knowledge in the powered mobility sector. Her expertise in internet technology and content creation enhances her ability to cover trending topics in this niche. Abby's unique blend of technical acumen and industry insights makes her an invaluable asset, providing readers with well-informed, relevant content on the latest developments in powered mobility.

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