- 20 Jul, 2021
How Much Do Wheelchairs Weigh? Electric vs Manual
Many first-time wheelchair users don’t list weight as one of the top issues to consider when buying a new device. When you think of a wheelchair, you imagine it rolling firmly and safely on the ground, right? You don’t really think of it stowed away or being lifted up in the air, do you? This is why novices to wheelchair use tend to think their wheelchair’s weight and the weight of its heaviest part are not really that important: what truly matters is what happens once one is rolling on the floor.
But as any experienced user will tell you, this assumption couldn’t be further away from the truth. Even if you buy a wheelchair with a large range per charge, chances are there will be quite a few times when you’ll need to transport it on a car, train or plane. And every time that happens, either you or someone else will have to mount and dismount it and, depending on the model, disassemble or reassemble it. This poses several questions. Will you be doing all this work yourself? Is there someone there to help you? How strong are they? Are there times when your caretaker or helper might not be around?
Running these scenarios in your head will hopefully give you an idea of just how important it is to consider the weight of your wheelchair when making a decision. Remember you can have the best wheelchair in the world, but if you hope to travel or visit places you can’t just ride to from home, then it is essential that it is portable enough to come with you in the car. Similarly, if you are looking to explore without relying too much on anyone else, then having the opportunity to cover several miles without straining yourself is crucial. If budget is not an issue, you could buy a wheelchair carrier, but most models require an SUV and you might already be spending enough in your wheelchair to even think about buying a new device at the moment.
When choosing your next wheelchair, the weight difference between manual and electric models can play a key role in helping you decide which one to buy.Manual wheelchairsrequire you to propel yourself using the strength of your arms or that someone else pushes you when traveling. They demand mobility, flexibility and strength from the user, or the presence and aid of a caretaker to push them around. They are great for users that like to keep active and the lack of a motor comes with the advantage of a substantially lighter weight.
Electric or power wheelchairsare propelled by electric motors, which are usually powered by lithium batteries. They can be extremely useful to those unable to physically propel a manual wheelchair or suffering from a cardiovascular or fatigue-based condition that prevents them from walking long distances or making big efforts. Power wheelchairs are great for those that feel limited by their strength, energy levels and mobility but would still like to travel longer distances.
Both types of wheelchairs have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. You’ll have to decide what you’re willing to trade and what your non-negotiables are. Keep reading to understand more about the key issue of wheelchair weight and learn how to find the right model for you.
How Much Does a Wheelchair Weigh?
Wheelchairs traditionally come in one of the following predetermined weight ranges.
Standard manual wheelchairs are the ones you might see when arriving at an airport and hospital. If an airline attendant has ever waited for you to wheel you to the counter then you almost certainly rode on a standard wheelchair. Since they are made for commercial use, they tend to be on the heavier side and are usually around 35 lbs to 40lbs. Keep in mind these have not been designed for long-distance self-propelling or for lifting in and out of a car. They are mostly suitable for doctor’s offices, airports, hotels or other commercial businesses that might require a wheelchair for their clients. TheKarman Healthcare Standard Wheelchair and the Drive Chrome Sport Wheelchairare two popular standard wheelchair models that you might have used yourself.
Lightweight wheelchairs have been built with transportability in mind. They are specifically designed to be easily moved and lifted. They are usually made of steel or aluminum and tend to weigh between 29 and 34 pounds. Even lighter ones are usually known as ultra-lightweight and can weigh between 14 and 30 pounds. TheColours Zephyr Sport, for example, can carry up to 250 pounds, yet weighs only 14 pounds. Lightweight wheelchairs can come in two types of frames: folding, which are great for seniors as they are easy to transport, and rigid, ideal for younger users that like to be active and self-propelling.
Heavy-Duty wheelchairs can carry up to 300 lbs. They traditionally weigh between 40 and 60 pounds, and tend to be the heaviest out of all manual wheelchairs. They can be difficult to mount and unmount from a car without a ramp, but will provide extra support and stability to heavier users. One of the strongest models, theConvaquip EZ Way Transport Chaircan carry up to 500 lbs, though it tends to be more suitable for medical practices. It is important to notice that despite being less practical and harder to transport,heavy-duty wheelchairsmight be the right choice for some users. It will inevitably bring more stability and safety to heavier users and can truly make a difference in their life, even when considering the difficulties attached to them.
Finally, transport wheelchairsusually weigh between 15 lbs and 30 lbs. They tend to have the smallest wheels out of all the different types of wheelchairs and are used for short trips, like going out to the mall or to a restaurant. These wheelchairs can’t be self-propelled and are only planned for sporadic use but non-disabled individuals that might need some assistance when going out. At just 17.5 pounds, theDrive Transport Aluminum Transport Wheelchairis a great example of a transport wheelchair, easy enough to lift in and out of cars.
How Much Does an Electric Wheelchair Weigh?
Power or electric wheelchairs are propelled by a motor, usually powered by a lithium battery. Most models will have a max speed of 4-8 mph and can cover a range of 7 to 20+ per single charge.
There’s a reason why these devices are gaining popularity every year, as the pros of choosing an electric wheelchair are plenty. They also have one main disadvantage: their weight, which can make them difficult to transport if you don’t own a wheelchair carrier or have someone to help you. Power wheelchairs can weigh anything between 44 (20 kg) and 400 pounds (180 kg), a much higher range than heavy-duty manual wheelchairs.
Lightweight electric wheelchairs are usually in the 130 pounds or 60 kg range. TheEasy Rider’s Transport M Easy-Moveis a highly recommended, super-light product. At 42 pounds (20 kg) it’s one of the lightest models available, and one that might be relatively easier to transport by car or train. On the other side of the spectrum, heavy-duty power chairs tend to weigh between 200 and 300 pounds. TheShoprider Streamer Sportis a mid-size electric wheelchair with a 300 pounds capacity that weighs 203 pounds, while theConvaquip Power Wheelchaircan weigh up to 250 pounds, depending on the batteries.
Why do Electric Wheelchairs Weigh More?
Electric wheelchairs are heavier because they require several parts to function. This is necessary so that the device moves automatically and without demanding any effort from the user or anyone else. There is no way around it: the force that your arms would otherwise provide needs to be inside the wheelchair, which inevitably adds weight to your device.
When buying an electric wheelchair it is extremely important that you check not just the overall weight of your new wheelchair before taking the plunge, but also how much the heaviest part weighs. This is because you will most likely be taking it apart when taking it on a trip or visiting the doctor, so you need to be sure that either you or someone around you will be able to lift the heaviest independent part of your vehicle once you’ve disassembled it.
The advantages of electric wheelchairs are hard to overstate. For someone that wants to explore, feel completely independent and not be constrained by the availability of their caretakers, electric wheelchairs can lead a remarkable change in the quality of life of the user. As we’ve already covered, weight can be a disadvantage and it’s important that users consider whether they’ll be able to transport their wheelchair when hoping to travel longer distances.
Since manual wheelchairs don’t require a motor, they are also inevitably lighter. This means that the user can move freely, while also being able to lift the wheelchair in and out of vehicles, and taking it when going on a trip or vacation. For users with limited strength or mobility, however, operating a manual wheelchair can be exhausting or even impossible.
You will need to choose the one that best suits your lifestyle. Remember that no type is better than the other: it’s about finding the right device for you and enjoying the sense of independence it can give you.