The Best Electric Wheelchairs of 2019
|Hours of Research||Brands Considered||Brands Selected||Hearing Aids Considered||Hearing Aids Selected|
Electric wheelchairs, also called power wheelchairs, are a modern innovation that has changed many lives for the better. Using an electric wheelchair can renew a senior’s sense of independence, enabling them to take up tasks and pleasures that they had previously given up. Having an electric wheelchair can also relieve physical strain for wheelchair users and their caregivers who have been using an un-powered wheelchair.
Despite all the benefits of using an electric wheelchair, seniors who need these wheelchairs often hesitate to make the purchase. Sometimes they are intimidated by the large selection of brands, models, and special features that are available. Sometimes they see the price tag and don’t know how they will possibly afford the purchase. Hesitation can also come from difficulty with understanding Medicare’s process for funding the purchase of these mobility devices.
To make finding an electric wheelchair easier, we’ve created a guide to the best companies and models on the market. You’ll also find step-by-step instructions to the buying process and answers to the most common questions about electric wheelchairs.
How We Chose the Best Electric Wheelchairs
Extensive Product Line
Not every senior who wants an electric wheelchair has the same needs. We excluded companies from our list that only offered one or two chair models because we wanted to show you companies with a range of products. Many of the companies on our list also offer a variety of accessories such as specialty cushions, carrying cases, and cup holders.
Buying an electric wheelchair that suits you requires an investment of substantial time and money. A warranty can help ensure that what you invested in the purchase doesn’t go to waste, so during our research, we eliminated companies that offer no warranty. All included companies offer at least some coverage in case of problems that occur within the first year, and many offer more.
Electric wheelchairs are heavy-duty mobility devices, and they can cost about $11,000 in some cases. In our company reviews, we only included companies that offer at least one electric wheelchair that costs between $1,000 and $6,000, the lower half of the available price range.
Electric Wheelchair Basics
When you’re looking for an electric wheelchair, you’ll find some terms that appear frequently on dealer websites. We’ve explained a few of the most basic terms below to make your shopping experience easier.
Front-, Mid-, & Rear-Wheel Drive
All electric wheelchairs have four or six wheels, but only two wheels of the chair receive power directly from the motor. The other wheels (“casters”) stabilize the chair. Mid-wheel drive tends to be best for turning completely around in tight spaces, while rear- and front-wheel drive wheelchairs tend to provide the smoothest rides and handle outdoor terrain best. It’s wise to consult with an occupational therapist to determine which type of wheel drive will be best for your daily use.
The turning radius is the smallest u-turn that the electric wheelchair can make. The smaller the turning radius, the better the chair will be for indoor use or small spaces. A turning radius between 20” and about 35” is common. Bulky chairs will have large turning radiuses, but other factors like the angle of the footrest and the wheel drive also affect the turning radius.
An electric wheelchair’s travel range- often simply referred to as “range” – is the miles that it can travel before its batteries need to be recharged. Range varies widely, from 4 or 5 miles in some chairs to up to almost 20 miles in others. The range can be shorter than advertised if the passenger is unusually heavy, the terrain is not smooth, or the battery is getting old. Finding an electric wheelchair with a high range is most important for those who plan to travel or regularly take their electric wheelchairs outside for solo trips to the store or other places.
Electric wheelchairs usually have “limited” warranties and not all daily wear and tear will be covered by the manufacturer. Most warranties cover structural components such as the metal frame of the chair for five or ten years, and they will usually cover other parts for shorter periods of time specified in the warranty agreement. In the overview table and company profiles below, the number listed next to the word limited (for example, “5 year limited”) indicates the highest amount of coverage in the warranty, which is usually for the frame.
The Best 8 Electric Wheelchair Companies of 2019
Overview of Electric Wheelchair Companies
|Available Electric Wheelchair Types||Warranty||Medicare Coverage Eligible*||Financing Available||Price Range|
|5-Year Limited Warranty||Unlikely||Depends on the Dealer||$4,000—$10,000|
|KD Smart Chair||Foldable Rear-Wheel Drive||5-Year Limited Warranty||Very Unlikely||Yes||$2,000—$2,800|
|Limited Warranty Lifetime||Likely||Depends on the Dealer||$1,500—$2,500|
|Pride Jazzy Power Chairs||Folding|
|13-Month Limited Warranty||Likely, (Depends on the Dealer)||Depends on the Dealer||$1,100—$4,499|
|Hoveround||Front-Wheel Drive||5-Year Limited Warranty in Most Cases (Varies by Model)||Very Likely||No||$2,450—$3,900|
|Golden Technologies||Center-Wheel Drive|
Compact Rear-Wheel Drive
|Limited Lifetime Warranty or 5-Year Limited Warranty (Varies by Model)||Unlikely||Yes||$1,400—$4,600|
|EZ Lite Cruiser||Foldable Rear-Wheel Drive||10-Year Limited Warranty||Very Unlikely||Yes||$2,200—$2,630|
|1-Year Limited Warranty||Likely||Depends on the Dealer||$5,970—$11,090|
|*Note: Medicare provides funding for electric wheelchairs to those whose mobility issues prevent them from carrying out routine daily activities within their own home. A prescription from a Medicare doctor is always required in such cases.
The above statements about Medicare approval being very likely, likely, unlikely, or very unlikely are based on one or more of the following factors: 1) the type of product offered, 2) what the company says about its product’s Medicare eligibility, and 3) the company’s expressed willingness or unwillingness to help customers with the Medicare approval process.
Most Customizable Electric Wheelchairs
Quickie is one of several mobility brands developed and owned by Sunrise Medical. Based in Malsch, Germany, Sunrise Medical has been providing disabled people with quality mobility equipment for 38 years. Sunrise Medical has distribution and manufacturing facilities throughout North and South America, including in Fresno, California, Boulder, Colorado, and Indianapolis, Indiana as well as in Tijuana, Mexico. Overall, Sunrise Medical sells its Quickie electric wheelchairs in 130 countries.
When you order one of Sunrise Medical’s Quickie electric wheelchairs from an authorized dealer, you will be presented with an array of customization options that are rare to find in other brands. With Quickie electric wheelchairs, you’re able to make choices about cosmetic details like the color of the chair, but you’re also able to customize the power, size, and placement of important parts, as well as to select upgrades such as LED screens. Quickie electric wheelchairs give the buyer an amazing control over features.
Overview of Quickie Wheelchairs Products
|Electric Wheelchair Categories||Rear-Wheel Drive
|Warranty||5-Year Limited Warranty|
|Financing Available||Depends on the Dealer|
Sunrise Medical sells Quickie electric wheelchairs through a network of authorized dealers. You can find a local dealership or an authorized online retailer under the “User Resources” section of Sunrise Medical’s website.
To learn more about Quickie electric power chairs, review the pros and cons below.
Pros and Cons of Quickie Products
- Range of Models: With eight different models listed online, Quickie has electric chairs with styles that accommodate different kinds of terrain and different body types. Seniors can choose between mid-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, and heavy-duty models.
- Customizable: Some Quickie models have as many as thirty different categories of customization. You might be able to choose from as many as 19 colors and five battery choices. Whether you have very specific needs or you are just interested in making your chair your own, you’ll have options.
- Travel-Friendly Batteries: Quickie Wheelchairs don’t always include a battery, but customers can often choose between a gel battery and an AGM battery for an extra fee when buying their chair. Gel batteries are considered “non-spillable” and safe to take on planes.
- Costly Add-Ons: The model of chair and which dealership you buy from will determine what is included in the base price. For example, some models won’t include a battery in their base price even though the battery is essential for operating the chair. Adding a battery can add between $500-$600. To avoid these extra costs, you may want to compare prices and packages from different dealers before you make your purchase.
- Limited Medicare Participation: Many dealers who sell Quickie electric wheelchairs choose not to engage in the Medicare approval process on behalf of customers, so the chances of getting a Quickie electric wheelchair covered by Medicare are low.
Most Affordable Folding Model
KD Smart Chair was founded by entrepreneur Roland Reznik and has its headquarters in Miami, Florida. Reznik showed the original KD Smart Chair design in the San Jose Abilities Expo of 2014. KD Smart Chairs brand has since been featured in multiple television segments of the CBS show The Doctors. The company has also recently participated in important research to move mobility science forward. In 2018 the brand partnered with students of the University of California San Diego to develop open-source electric wheelchair technology.
KD Smart Chairs makes a great low-cost choice for anyone looking for an electric wheelchair that can travel easily with them. Many electric wheelchairs have travel-friendly features such as gel batteries or foldable frames, but few brands make chairs that fold quite as easily or weigh as little as a KD Smart Chair does.
Overview of KD Smart Chair Products
|Electric Wheelchair Categories||Folding
|Warranty||Limited Warranty Lifetime|
|Financing Available||Depends on the Dealer|
You can purchase the KD Smart Chair lightweight electric wheelchairs directly from the company’s website or through third-party retailers such as Amazon.
Read on to discover the benefits and drawbacks of chairs from this brand.
Pros and Cons of KD Smart Chair Products
- Ideal for Travel: KD Smart Chairs weigh between 58 and 72 Ibs, including battery weight. The smallest wheelchair folds to approximately 13’ x 23’ x 33’, and the largest design is a few inches larger in all directions. Although heavier than a manual wheelchair, these chairs are much lighter than many other electric wheelchairs and can easily be picked up and stored in a car’s trunk.
- Economical: The prices of KD Power Chairs vary depending on the retailer, but all models usually fall within the very low $2,000-$2,800 price range. Free shipping is also frequently available for these chairs. KD Power Chair puts mobility in reach for those with limited funds.
- Easy Returns: When you purchase directly from KD Smart Chair, you can take advantage of the company’s generous return policy. KD Smart Chair allows returns within the first 60 days for any reason, as long as you return the chair in good condition according to the directions provided by the company. Customers who return a chair are charged a 10% restocking fee.
- Movable Controls: With KD Smart Chairs, during setup, you can choose to place your joystick on the right or left armrest. Using clips, the joystick connects to the armrest and plugs into the back of the chair. There’s no need to customize your order if you’re left-handed, as all chairs come with this movable feature.
- Not Medicare Approved: Although affordable, lightweight electric chairs like KD Power Chair exist, Medicare rules still favor approval of much heavier electric chairs. KD Smart Chairs is currently working on getting Medicare approval, but there’s no guarantee if or when that will happen.
Drive Medical, also known as Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare, excels at bringing home medical equipment to customers and institutions through its dealers. Founded in 2000, this brand now has offices and manufacturing facilities in North America and Europe, and it sells to nations across the world. In addition to providing sleep, respiratory, and bathroom safety aids, Drive Medical carries a full line of powered and unpowered mobility products tailored to a variety of needs. This brand has recently experienced financial growth, and in 2019 it received 35 million in new capital from its stakeholders.
Drive Medical has one of the most generous electric wheelchair warranties of the companies that we researched. Very few companies offer coverage on any parts for more than five or ten years, but Drive Medical offers a limited lifetime warranty on the basic structural components of each chair. The brand also covers a variety of other parts of its chairs for shorter periods such as 14 months and 6 months. This brand is a great choice for those who want reassurance that the structure of their mobility device will last for years to come.
Overview of Drive Medical Products
|Electric Wheelchair Categories||Folding
|Warranty||Limited Warranty Lifetime|
|Financing Available||Depends on the Dealer|
Since Drive Medical doesn’t sell directly to consumers, you’ll need to search for its products on other websites after you use the company’s website to familiarize yourself with available electric wheelchairs. At retailers, Drive Medical products may also be labeled as “Drive DeVilbiss ” or just “Drive.” These are different versions of the same name.
Read on to discover more about the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing an electric wheelchair from Drive Medical.
Pros and Cons of Drive Medical Products
- Helpful Website: Drive Medical makes it extremely easy to view specifications and user manuals for its many different chair models on its website. You’ll also find minute details on measurements, weights, and parts such as motors and brakes. Drive Medical also provides HCPCS Reimbursement Codes which can help determine insurance or Medicare eligibility.
- Foldable Option: Among the many great options from Drive Medical, the Cirrus Plus EC model stands out because it’s foldable. This chair has great power and durability, but it can be vertically collapsed, making it slimmer though the height remains the same. When folded, this electric chair becomes easy to store in a closet, corner, or large vehicle’s trunk as the need arises.
- Heavy Chairs: Many chairs from Drive Medical weigh about 140 pounds with the battery in. This includes travel-friendly models like the foldable chair. These heavy chairs can probably handle rough terrain, slopes, and heavier users with more stability than chairs that weigh less, but they are difficult for caretakers to lift or transport.
Largest Selection of Electric Wheelchair Models
Pride Mobility has provided mobility devices from its headquarters in Duryea, Pennsylvania since 1986. The brand now manufactures in three American locations as well as abroad. Pride Mobility emphasizes taking care of both its employees and the communities it operates in. In the American communities where Pride Mobility manufactures or distributes, the company’s employees spend time volunteering with numerous nonprofits, including the Boys and Girls Club, local libraries, and YMCAs. Pride Mobility, in turn, supports its over 1,000 employees through generous benefits packages and rewarding careers.
Through its Jazzy Power Chair product line, Pride Mobility has the largest selection of electric wheelchairs of any of the companies on our list. There’s a model with an elevating seat, a super-maneuverable model with a 20-inch turning radius, two travel models, a bariatric model for heavier users, and much more. With sixteen unique models to choose from, customers who shop Jazzy chairs can find an electric wheelchair for almost any need.
Overview of Pride Mobility Products
|Electric Wheelchair Categories||Folding
|Warranty||13-Month Limited Warranty|
|Medicare Eligible||Likely, (Depends on the Dealer)|
|Financing Available||Depends on the Dealer|
Pride Mobility provides its Jazzy Power Chair product line through a variety of retailers, both online and in stores.
Read on to learn about the pros and cons of these electric wheelchairs.
Pros and Cons of Pride Mobility Products
- Reasonable Costs: Electric wheelchairs from the Jazzy product line are durable and innovative, yet they fall on the lower end of the electric wheelchair price spectrum. We routinely found that no Jazzy chairs cost more than $4,449, and many cost only about $1,100. Some retailers also run seasonal sales, offer free chair accessories, or offer financing plans with low monthly payments.
- Detailed Specifications: For each Jazzy Power Chair listing on its website, Pride Mobility includes a tab that, when clicked, reveals extremely detailed product specifications. Details available usually include turning radius, the weight of the chair, weight capacity, a Medicare code for determining reimbursement eligibility, warranty information, and much more.
- Medicare Help: Many companies do not attempt to engage with the complex Medicare system, but Pride Mobility goes above and beyond by assisting customers with helpful Medicare code information and by providing resources for understanding Medicare approval. Medicare approval for a mobility device always depends on a doctor’s assessment of a patient’s needs as well as on complex Medicare regulations, so eligibility is never guaranteed. However, working with Pride Mobility and its dealers makes the Medicare system easier to navigate.
- Short Warranty: Jazzy warranties cover parts except for the seat and tires for thirteen months. Five or ten-year limited warranties are relatively common in the electric wheelchair industry, so Pride Mobility’s thirteen-month warranty is less robust than the warranties of many other electric wheelchair brands.
Best for Medicare Recipients
Hoveround was founded 25 years ago by Tom Kruse, and since its founding, it has grown to be the largest direct-to-consumer electric wheelchair brand. This company is proud to eliminate middlemen. Hoveround is headquartered in Sarasota, Florida and uses a mix of domestic and quality imported parts to assemble its products. As a leader in the mobility industry, Hoveround maintains memberships in multiple professional associations, including the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA).
Hoveround is committed to serving customers who use Medicare. It engages with Medicare’s bureaucracy even though doing so requires significant time investments and isn’t always profitable for the company. Hoveround offers two chair models that are routinely approved by Medicare for eligible patients, and its employees are trained to help patients with the process of determining Medicare eligibility.
Overview of Hoveround Products
|Electric Wheelchair Categories||Front-Wheel Drive|
|Warranty||5-Year Limited Warranty in Most Cases (Varies by Model)|
|Medicare Eligible||Very Likely|
Unlike most companies on our list, Hoveround never sells its chairs through other retailers. This brand caters to those for whom a Hoveround chair is a medical necessity. Nine out of ten Hoveround electric wheelchairs that are sold are fully or partially covered by a combination of Medicare and supplemental insurance funding.
To learn more about Hoveround, review the pros and cons listed below.
Pros and Cons of Hoveround Products
- Full-Service Company: Hoveround prides itself on participating in every aspect of the production, sale, distribution, and servicing of its electric wheelchairs. Hoveround goes so far as to deliver its electric wheelchairs to many of its customers (including those who receive their chair through Medicare) through its “white glove” delivery service, which includes help with setup and training to use the chairs correctly. Customers whose wheelchair isn’t covered by Medicare may need to pay an extra fee for this service.
- Unique Accessories: Hoveround’s electric wheelchair accessory line includes some uncommon items such as a cane holder, crutch holder, and a special foam joystick knob to improve accessibility for those with conditions that affect their hands. This brand also offers convenient add-ons such as cup holders, bags, and attachments that support oxygen tanks.
- Highly Maneuverable: Hoveround electric chairs are suitable for indoor and outdoor use, and they all feature a highly maneuverable design. With front-wheel drive and compact shapes, these electric chairs have turning radii between 22.7” and 24”, depending on the model.
- Travel Drawbacks: Hoveround electric wheelchairs are quite heavy (about 170 pounds, depending on the model) and cannot be folded. While durable and excellent for indoor and outdoor use, these chairs present problems with loading and unloading in cases where there are no ramps or lifts.
Most Experienced American Mobility Company
Golden Technologies has an extensive history as a family-owned American business. Founded in 1985 by Rich Golden and Fred Kiwak, this brand has been manufacturing mobility aids such as lift chairs in Old Forge, Pennsylvania for 34 years. For many years it has also has been importing quality products designed exclusively for its customers, including scooters and electric chairs. Thanks to its excellent mobility product standards, Golden Technologies has maintained a contract to supply scooters to veterans through the U.S. Veteran’s Administration since 2003.
For customers who care about quality goods provided by an American company that’s accountable and responsible, Golden Technologies is a great choice. Golden Technologies is in its second generation of family ownership, and it’s proud of its American roots. With the motto of “build it right the first time,” this brand delivers value that its customers can trust.
Overview of Golden Technologies Products
|Electric Wheelchair Categories||Center-Wheel Drive
Compact Rear-Wheel Drive
|Warranty||Limited Lifetime Warranty or 5-Year Limited Warranty (Varies by Model)|
Golden Technologies’ electric wheelchairs cannot be purchased directly through the company, but they are offered through many dealers. It’s easy to find a dealer through Golden Technologies’ website by clicking the “Shop Now” button at the top of the page.
To explore the positive and negative features of Golden Technologies electric wheelchairs, read the pros and cons listed below.
Pros and Cons of Golden Technologies Products
- Affordable: Electric wheelchairs from Golden Technologies frequently sell for under $2,000 dollars, especially when on sale. Many dealers offer payment plans and free shipping for these chairs, making them an easier investment for those who are purchasing without Medicare or insurance funds.
- Innovative: Some electric wheelchairs in the center-wheel drive line feature an innovative Springless Articulating Chassis. This platform design keeps six wheels on the ground at all times, ensuring maximum stability even on rough ground.
- Tall: With high headrests on three out of four models, Golden Technologies’ electric wheelchairs can comfortably accommodate taller than average individuals. The back height on some models can adjust as high as 29.25”, making their height comparable to that of a large household chair.
- Variable Warranties: Not every model from Golden Technologies offers the same level of protection in its warranty. Most electric wheelchairs from this brand have structural parts covered under a limited lifetime warranty, but certain variations of the Compass model are only covered under a limited 5-year warranty. Having different policies on different wheelchairs can lead to confusion, so you’ll want to read provided warranty information carefully before selecting a model.
- Lack of Medicare Resources: Golden Technologies itself does not help its customers with the process of determining eligibility for Medicare or insurance assistance for an electric wheelchair purchase. Some dealers may offer assistance, but many will not. Since Golden Technologies does not offer specifics about how Medicare rates its chairs, it’s difficult to say whether or not someone seeking Medicare funding to purchase one would receive approval.
Best Return Policy
EZ Lite Cruiser is a fairly new Los Angeles-based company that offers innovative folding electric wheelchairs at low prices. Founded in 2013, EZ Lite Cruiser has many happy customers who enjoy the way the brand’s mobility products can fit into even small trunks. EZ Lite has its electric wheelchairs manufactured abroad, and it sells through its Los Angeles storefront as well as online to customers around the world.
EZ Lite Cruiser cares about giving customers a fair chance to evaluate an electric wheelchair’s quality, so it offers a unique return policy. Many companies won’t take an electric wheelchair back unless it’s in mint condition, but EZ Lite Cruiser is much more forgiving and even will take back electric wheelchairs that have been used outdoors. This return policy, which offers between 90% and 100% of the purchase price back to the customer, mitigates much of the financial risk associated with such a major purchase.
Overview of EZ Lite Cruiser Products
|Electric Wheelchair Categories||Foldable Rear-Wheel Drive|
|Warranty||10-Year Limited Warranty|
|Medicare Eligible||Very Unlikely|
EZ Lite Cruiser electric wheelchairs are all made in similar folding designs, but there are ten models that provide variety in size and a few features These electric wheelchairs are available from some other retailers like Amazon as well as through the company’s website.
Pros and Cons of EZ Lite Cruiser Products
- Travel-Friendly: With a foldable, lightweight design, this chair is perfect for travel. The standard model weighs just 51 pounds with the battery in, and measures 28.5″ x 22.4″ x 12.25″ when folded. Other models are slightly heavier and larger. Some models break into separate pieces for even easier storage in tight spaces. These chairs are also safe and approved for travel on most airlines. EZ Lite Cruiser provides links to policies from prominent airlines so that its customers can be prepared for travel.
- Easily Returnable: There are three phases to the “trial period” that EZ Lite provides its customers after they have purchased an electric wheelchair
- Phase A: Free return shipping and 100% money back if the wheelchair has only been used indoors for seven days or less.
- Phase B: Free return shipping and 90% money back for chairs that have been used indoors and/or outdoors for 14 days or less.
- Phase C: Return of 90% of the purchase price for electric wheelchairs that have been used indoors and/or outdoors for between fourteen and sixty days. At this point, the customer is responsible for shipping fees but may purchase a discounted prepaid shipping label from EZ Lite Cruiser if desired.
- The flexibility of these policies means that customers can test how the wheelchair performs in a variety of environments without losing all of the purchase price if they decide that the chair doesn’t work for them.
- Certified Pre-Owned Options: Because EZ Lite Cruiser allows returns, the company sometimes has lightly used models on hand that it services and resells at a discount. Those who are interested in buying discounted models can call EZ Lite Cruiser directly to enquire if any are available.
- Wear and Tear: Overall, EZ Lite Cruisers are durable and made to last, but some parts are made of plastic that may wear out over time. Using some plastic parts enables EZ to keep its chairs extremely lightweight, and EZ Lite offers many replacement parts at reasonable prices through its online store.
- Not Medicare Eligible: Unfortunately, Medicare does not currently approve any lightweight folding electric wheelchairs. Those who want an EZ Lite Cruiser will need to purchase it for themselves. Financing is available to qualified applicants.
Best Reclining Electric Wheelchairs
Invacare is a worldwide home health goods company that provides a full line of sturdy power wheelchairs. Invacare also offers many other home health and mobility products, including scooters, respiratory devices, lifts and slings, and much more. The brand has thirty different global locations, over 4,000 employees, and roots in the healthcare industry that go back to the late 1800s. The company’s mission is to improve home health care so that patients can avoid the costs and disadvantages of institutional settings.
Both of Invacare’s power wheelchair lines feature seating that reclines in unusual ways. Many models offered have seats that can tip back to be almost parallel with the ground. Such positions aren’t part of everyday use for most people, but those with specialized health and rehabilitation needs can benefit from the unique reclining positions that these electric wheelchairs can achieve.
Overview of Invacare Products
|Electric Wheelchair Categories||Mid-Wheel Drive
|Warranty||1-Year Limited Warranty|
|Financing Available||Depends on the Dealer|
To purchase an Invacare power wheelchair, you’ll need to find a local or online dealer. These chairs are a little more difficult to find online than other brands, but they are available. Invacare’s website can point you to local dealers.
Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of buying an Invacare electric wheelchair.
Pros and Cons of Invacare Products
- Specialty Features: Invacare offers uncommon designs, including several electric wheelchairs that fully recline to meet complex health and therapy needs. Another uncommon feature is the longer-than-average battery range of about 18 miles in some models. And perhaps the most unique feature is the G-Trac™ Technology, which helps the chairs course-correct when uneven terrain would otherwise cause it to veer to the side.
- Power and Non-Power Versions: Invacare has two main wheelchair product lines: the Storm Series and the TDX Series. Each series has both power and non-power versions of its wheelchairs. If you’ve already had a non-powered Invacare wheelchair and are ready to move on to a power wheelchair, you can buy an Invacare chair from the same line. This is a great option for those who have been happy with the style and quality of Invacare in the past and just need a higher level of assistance with their mobility now.
- High Prices: Invacare’s specialty features for its chairs come with a high price tag. On Invacare’s own website, only two out of twelve models list for less than $6,000. Many cost between $7,000-$8,000, and a few cost over $11,000. However, dealers may list these wheelchairs for significantly less than the retail value listed by Invacare.
How to Choose an Electric Wheelchair
If you’re considering buying an electric wheelchair, you may not know where to begin looking or what to do first. We’ve developed a step-by-step guide to get you started below. We’ve also provided a few tips that will help you become comfortable with your electric wheelchair once you bring it home.
Step 1: Consult an Expert to Determine the Model You Need
If you are experiencing serious mobility problems inside or outside of the home, an electric wheelchair might be the tool you need to regain your freedom. If you don’t know much about electric wheelchairs, you may want to start your process by reading our company profiles above or by browsing companies online just to get familiar with the topic. After that, it’s wise to talk to an expert on the best style of electric wheelchair for your needs. Many patients with disabilities consult with an occupational therapist. A primary doctor may also be able to provide guidance.
When you consult an expert, ask questions on the following topics:
- Cushion Style: An inexpensive cushion may be made of foam, whereas a nicer one may be made of adjustable air pockets that relieve pressure points and prevent sores. If you intend to use your electric wheelchair for many hours at a time, your therapist may be able to suggest cushion upgrades that will keep your skin healthy.
- Size and Strength: Talk with your therapist about designs that will support your body the best. Weight, height, and upper body strength all play a role in the selection process. Your therapist may have suggestions about seat styles, controls, seat belts, footrests, and reclining abilities.
- Safety: If you sometimes experience dizziness or vision problems or if you take a medication with impairing side effects, you’ll want to frankly discuss whether an electric wheelchair is a safe choice for you. Discuss under what health conditions you should not operate an electric wheelchair.
- Lifestyle: Discuss your routines and living spaces with your therapist. Ask if she or he has a recommendation for which wheels on the wheelchair should have “drive” (directly receive power from the motor). Wheel-drive affects stability and maneuverability, and you need to select a drive style that suits the environments you most often inhabit. If you expect to travel outdoors alone in your electric wheelchair, you can discuss what features will make that as safe and easy as possible. If you expect to travel often in cars or on airlines, you can explore the feasibility of choosing a folding electric wheelchair.
- Progressive Disabilities: If doctors think that your disability will worsen over time, then you’ll want to ask how he or she thinks that will impact your ability to sit in and operate your motorized wheelchair.
Step 2: Make a List of Optional Features You’re Interested In
There are many accessories and upgrades available for electric wheelchairs. As you consider your mobility needs, make a list of which upgrades or accessories (if any) you find necessary, and which you’d like but could live without. As you shop later, you can refer to your lists and see how different companies and chair models measure up. Keep in mind that some accessories might be usable across brands, and others may be model- or brand-specific.
Commonly available optional features include:
- Cup Holders
- High Visibility Items like Flags and Lights
- Custom or Upgraded Paint Colors
- Extra or Larger Batteries
- Travel Chargers
- Upgraded Seat Cushions
- Upgraded Seat Belts
- Bags that Attach to Hold Oxygen Tanks
- Anchoring Systems for Travel In Cars
- Dust Covers and Carrying Cases
- Wire Baskets
- Cane, Walker, or Crutch Holders
- Push Handles
- Extension Kits for Various Parts of the Frame or Seat
Step 3: Explore Your Payment Options
Once you have an idea of the kind of electric wheelchair setup that will work best for you, you’ll need to consider your payment options. How you pay and your budget will influence which companies you can ultimately purchase from.
Common payment options:
- Medicare: To be eligible for Medicare Part B 80% coverage of an electric wheelchair, a Medicare-enrolled doctor will need to see that you need the power wheelchair, as opposed to other mobility devices, in order to complete daily activities around your own home. Only some styles- typically older, heavy styles- will be approved by Medicare. Sometimes Medicare will opt to provide coverage for a rental instead of a purchase.
- For more information on Medicare coverage, you can read Medicare’s own article on the topic or contact your Medicare doctor for information.
- Private Insurance: Private insurance may cover more or less than Medicare does. Review the terms of your plan or contact your insurance provider for details on the process of approval. With insurance, you’ll typically have some kind of copay or coinsurance, just like with Medicare.
- Rentals: Pricing varies by location and company, but it may cost about $15 per day, or $450 in a month to rent an electric wheelchair. An electric wheelchair rental can be a suitable option for temporary needs like after a surgery or injury, when your normal wheelchair is being repaired, or for a special trip or event. A rental can also give you an opportunity to decide if you want to purchase a certain model.
- Paying Out-of-Pocket: If Medicare or insurance won’t approve you for a power chair but you still think that you need one, your best option may be to purchase one out-of-pocket. A simply-designed electric wheelchair that costs $1,000-$2,000 may be just as reliable as a more upgraded one that costs several thousand dollars more, so don’t be discouraged by some of the highest prices on the market.
- Payment Plans: If paying out-of-pocket all at once isn’t feasible for you, you may be able to take advantage of a payment plan offered by the company or dealer. The added cost of interest can be worthwhile if it gives you immediate access to the chair that you need to live a full life.
Step 4: Compare Similar Chairs from Multiple Brands and Retailers
Once you have a clear idea of the electric wheelchair style and features that you need and the way you’ll be paying, it’s time to start looking in earnest at a variety of companies.
Everyone comparison shops in their own way, but the following tips can help the process go smoothly:
- Follow All Medicare or Insurance Guidelines (If Applicable): If Medicare or insurance is helping you pay for your electric wheelchair, diligently follow all provided guidelines and ask for clarification when necessary. You don’t want to be turned down for approval because you tried to purchase from an unapproved company or forgot to complete paperwork.
- Compare at Least Three Companies: Compare not only prices and features but also quality, customer reviews, warranties, and any other relevant details. In many cases, there will be even more than three companies that offer the basic chair style that you need, and it doesn’t hurt to compare even more. Whenever possible, visit a showroom and test drive the model you are interested in.
- Check Multiple Retailers: Most electric wheelchair models are available through numerous online and physical locations. When you settle on a model, find out if it’s available elsewhere for a better price or with extra perks like free accessories or free delivery.
Step 5: Consider Making Your Home More Wheelchair-Accessible
Before you bring your electric wheelchair home, consider how you can change your home environment to make it safer. A doctor, occupational therapist, or even an electric wheelchair salesperson may have suggestions for making your home more wheelchair accessible.
Commonly helpful changes include:
- Adding transition strips on thresholds for a smoother ride
- Clearing clutter and moving furniture to create defined paths
- Securing or removing rugs to eliminate the chance of the rug’s edge flipping over
- Adding safe ramps or lifts as needed
You may also find it handy to purchase a grabber tool if you don’t already have one. Bending forward or over the side of an electric wheelchair to pick something up can be quite dangerous, causing tipping in many cases. A grabber tool that allows reaching with little or no bending can help keep you safe.
Step 6: Read the Manual in Full Before Driving
Most electric wheelchair companies take great care to create user manuals for each chair model. It’s extremely important to understand your model’s abilities. Different brands design their mobility devices very differently, and just because you know how to use one kind of electric chair doesn’t mean you know how to use another.
What your manual will help you understand:
- How to get the most out of your battery
- How to tell if a ramp’s grade is safe for your chair
- What weather your chair can handle
- How to avoid tipping that particular model
- How to troubleshoot and interpret error codes
- When your chair needs maintenance
- What your warranty covers
Using your manual and following its guidelines will dramatically improve your ability to enjoy your electric wheelchair safely for many years to come.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will Medicare pay for an electric wheelchair for me?
Medicare does provide 80% coverage of electric wheelchair costs, but only according to strict eligibility standards. If you don’t necessarily need an electric wheelchair to get around your home, then you won’t be approved for one. This effectively eliminates individuals who can still use a regular wheelchair but just prefer to use an electric chair at certain times like when leaving the house. For more details on how Medicare doctors determine medical necessity regarding electric wheelchairs, view this article on the official Medicare website.
What kinds of transportation can I use with my electric wheelchair?
Public transit modes such as city buses usually have lifts and are designed to accommodate mobility devices. The transit authority may require that the electric wheelchair user allow the chair to be secured to the ground. Pride Mobility provides an excellent guide to public transit regulations for electric wheelchair users.
Airline travel is usually possible with an electric wheelchair, but you should always check on up-to-date guidelines regarding batteries before attempting to fly. Gel batteries are generally considered airline safe, as are several other kinds of wheelchair batteries. In most cases, electric wheelchairs will need to be checked (often for free) unless they are foldable and can fit in an overhead bin.
An electric wheelchair’s ability to fit inside a car will depend on its size and structure. Foldable chairs are the easiest to travel with, but ramps and lifts can often be used to move a heavy electric wheelchair into a van. Many companies that sell electric wheelchairs also sell lifts and ramps as well as docking systems for securing chairs to the floor of an accessible vehicle.
What’s the difference between a motorized scooter and an electric wheelchair?
Motorized scooters have handlebars and only three wheels, whereas an electric wheelchair has a joystick and four or six wheels. Electric wheelchairs tend to be more versatile and handle indoor settings better than scooters can. Electric wheelchairs are also better for individuals who have limited upper body strength, as they require significantly less upper body movement to operate.
How can I learn about electric wheelchair safety?
The best way to understand how to safely operate your electric wheelchair is to read its user manual in full. The user manual can help you understand which maneuvers and travel distances that you should not attempt so that you can avoid tipping your chair or becoming stranded.
Aside from information in user manuals, a few common-sense safety rules should always be followed. Some of these include not driving your wheelchair when under the influence of strong medications or alcohol, not taking it out in inclement weather, and not riding with large items on your lap.
Do electric wheelchairs come in all sizes?
Electric wheelchairs come in sizes for everyone. Standard electric wheelchairs frequently are able to carry up to 300 pounds, and many companies also sell bariatric wheelchairs to accommodate passengers heavier than that. There are also some extra small electric wheelchairs on the market, including “slim” designs and even pediatric designs. Those who are tall may be most comfortable in electric wheelchairs that include headrests.
Should I get a folding electric wheelchair?
Folding electric wheelchairs are ideal for those who travel or leave the house often. Caregivers find folding wheelchairs easy to collapse and put in a trunk. Many folding wheelchairs don’t recline, however, and the seats and cushions tend to be smaller and less supportive than those found in more traditional electric wheelchairs. Patients should consider lifestyle and medical needs when making the choice. Medicare does not currently pay for most foldable electric wheelchairs.