What to Look for When Choosing an Electric Wheelchair

  Mar 18, 2024
Reviewed by Ravinder Kaur

electric wheelchair

“ If I were a Wild West cowboy, I wouldn’t ride a horse—I’d ride a wheelchair. More romantic.”

  •  Jarod Kintz, This Book is Not FOR SALE

When choosing the perfect electric wheelchair, comfort and mobility are the first things that come to mind. As it usually takes less space and provides tighter turning circles, that’s what makes it a suitable fit for both indoor and outdoor use

Picking the right armchair is vital for maintaining flexibility and independence. Unlike manual ones, powered portability aids boast various extra features that you don’t face in traditional chairs; thus, they cost more. 

In this read, we will highlight the key features that will help you search for a solid movability aid that is worth the investment. 

Getting a Proper Evaluation

A professional evaluation is the very first vital step when starting your electric wheelchair search. A doctor or physical therapist will assess striking details like:

  • Size and weight – to determine the load capacity and dimensions like seat width/depth.
  • Range of motion – for designating control types that accommodate your dexterity.
  • Home layout and obstacles – door widths determine transport size. Thresholds impact drive functions needed.
  • Postural needs – specialty cushions or recline options may be recommended for pressure relief.

This assessment matches you to appropriate models for your physical abilities and spaces. An incorrect chair size or type may cause discomfort, so getting fitted by an expert provides ideal recommendations.

There are many electric armchair configurations ranging from basic transport to highly customizable power options like a wheelchair with an elevating seat or side mirrors. Your needs analysis guides the best setup for optimizing comfort and functionality. Don’t skip this step.

Did You Know? 

In 1916, a Canadian engineer named George Klein invented the first-ever wheelchair to help injured soldiers during World War 1.

Key Features to Consider

Powered wheelchairs have several components that can be customized to your requirements. Here are some fundamental items to evaluate:


The drive wheels directly impact riding performance. Mid-wheeled chairs are nimbler, while rear-wheels offer stability at higher speeds. Larger wheels handle bumps better but reduce transport size. Casters affect turning and anti-tips enhance stability.


Seat width/depth fitting is a necessity, with extra cushions accommodating postural issues. Tilt/recline functions also aid comfort. Various adjustable armrest types provide ergonomic support.


Standard joysticks suit most. Specialty items like chin controls or breath-actuated joysticks aid those lacking grip strength. Control placement depends on hand dominance and range of motion. Avoid overreach or discomfort.


Enhanced wheelchair electronics aid independence. Lights improve visibility, and Bluetooth connections enable device syncs. The input controller type also falls under electronics. Touchpads and specialty joysticks provide alternate control outside standard joysticks.

When reviewing options, factor in your physical and spatial needs first. Then, weigh bonus features for enhanced mobility or convenience. Don’t overbuy on functions you won’t utilize. Match capabilities to your ability level for optimized usability.

Features to consider while choosing wheelchair

Assessing Safety and Durability

Comparing wheelchairs requires reviewing key metrics indicative of quality and reliability:

  • Specialty testing – review supplemental metrics like electronics weatherproofing, battery lifespan/protection, and number of drop tests passed. High testing scores demonstrate extreme durability binding for daily reliance.
  • Materials assessment – aircraft-grade aluminum or corrosion-resistant steel boosts longevity compared to standard plastics. Carefully scrutinize weld points and moving joints prone to failure over time. 

A durable armchair well-tested for safety gives confidence for daily reliance over the years without breakdown risk. Scrutinize reports and quality metrics as part of any purchase decision.

Personalizing with Accessories  

Standard electric wheelchairs ship with basic components, but some trinkets enable further customization for your lifestyle:

  • Extra batteries extend range/reduce charge frequency.  
  • Charger types vary – onboard or external charging ops.   
  • Trays, bags, and mounts enable organizing items close by during use. 
  • Aesthetic upgrades like shrouds, colors, and lights allow personalization too.  

Factor in the costs of future upgrades you may need beyond the basics. This optimizes your investment for the long term. Discuss potential with suppliers early when comparing quotes.

Setting Up Your Budget

Electric wheelchairs vary in pricing, so determining your budget first helps guide you to appropriate models. Basic power chairs typically cost $2,000 to $3,000. The price tag goes for a new mid-wheel drive standard model with seating and electronics to meet basic mobility needs.

More customizable with enhanced controls, faster speeds, and recline functions generally span from $4,000 to as much as $8,000+ for top-tier design with the most robust feature sets. Complex rehab wheelchairs with specialty customizations for severe physical disabilities cost over $10,000 in many cases.

Purchasing a used armchair can provide significant savings, with lightly used models potentially 50% less than new ones. However, older chairs may need minor repairs or battery replacements, reducing long-term savings.

Check operating conditions and test thoroughly before purchasing any used power wheelchair. Generally focuses on frame integrity as other components get replaced over time.

For those unable to afford battery-operated ones independently, Medicare, Medicaid, and many private insurers provide complete or partial funding based on physical necessity and financial need.

 Veterans Affairs also supplies free wheelchairs to qualifying former military personnel. Specialized charities assist ownership for those lacking coverage. Discuss options with your medical supplier early when exploring financial assistance avenues.


Getting a proper mobility evaluation and then reviewing key wheelchair components and metrics ultimately simplifies your purchase. Correctly identifying features that suit your physical and spatial needs improves selection.

 Don’t forget to compare the quality and reliability indicators to determine the best long-term investments. Keep these handy tips in mind while researching to identify optimal models catered to your lifestyle.