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Wheelchairs: Different Types and How to Buy Them

When mobility becomes impacted as you age, you have to look to different support options to help yourself navigate the world around you. Limited mobility can drastically change lives but with durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, your life can continue as similar as possible. Figuring out what type of equipment that might be best for you can feel overwhelming, but we have done a lot of the research for you when it comes to wheelchairs!

Wheelchair Buying

When buying a wheelchair, you will need to decide if you want to buy one from an on-line retailer or go to a retail store near you. If you decide to go to a store near you make sure that the wheelchair and place that you are purchasing from can be covered if you are using insurance. If you decide to buy on-line then you can probably find a reasonable price but must make sure that you have the capacity to put the chair together. 

Paying for a Wheelchair

Many people might not realize that a wheelchair can be covered with insurance. To get coverage you will need to:

  • show your doctor that you would benefit from a wheelchair in your day to day life
  • receive a prescription for your wheelchair from your doctor

Insurance can cover some or all of the cost of your wheelchair. You have the option to buy a wheelchair or rent one. Renting one might be cost effective initially so that you can get a feel for the type of chair you like. The coverage of the wheelchair will depend on the type of insurance you have so make sure to check with your insurance company before purchase. Wheelchairs can also be covered by Medicare part B because they are considered durable medical equipment. Usually you will pay 20% of the cost after your deductible is met. Make sure that your doctor and DME provider are enrolled in Medicare. 

You do not need to have a prescription or insurance to buy a wheelchair and can pay out of pocket for it instead.

Types of Wheelchairs 

Manual Wheelchairs

Manual wheelchairs are what most people choose for the start of this process. These chairs are usually for people who can walk for shorter distances either by themselves or with the help of a walking stick. Manual wheelchairs are here to support you for the longer distances that you may need to travel. They are easy to use and transportable. You have two options when it comes to manual wheelchairs. 

  • Attendant-propelled: you will need to either have someone that is able to push you in your wheelchair
  • Self-propelled: you will need to have good arm strength to propel yourself


Standard wheelchairs are the least expensive wheelchairs but can also be the most uncomfortable for long-term use. These wheelchairs can weigh up to 40 pounds which can make them harder to transport and move by yourself. Standard wheelchairs can cost anywhere from $100 to $800.


Lightweight wheelchairs are lighter and easier to use than the standard wheelchairs. They may also be considered transport wheelchairs and can be used when traveling. These wheelchairs are created to easily fold up and be moved from one place to another. Lightweight wheelchairs can cost anywhere from $100 to $800.

Heavy Duty 

Heavy Duty wheelchairs are made to accommodate people that need more support. The person might be taller or wider than average so a heavy duty wheelchair may be necessary to have adequate comfort. Heavy Duty wheelchairs can fall around $500 to purchase.

Electric Wheelchairs

Electric wheelchairs are great for you if you have limited mobility and are not able to operate a self-propelled wheelchair and want to be independent of needing a person to push your wheelchair. There are different types of electric wheelchairs. There are chairs that are best for indoor, outdoor or both. These types of wheelchairs do tend to be more expensive and heavier than a standard chair. But, you can find Foldable electric wheelchairs now that are a little bit easier to travel with.

The downside to having an electric wheelchair is that you will need to have a place to charge your wheelchair. The charge of the wheelchair will impact the length of travel that the wheelchair will be able to handle, so you will need to be diligent about charging. Electric wheelchairs can fall on the expensive side and can range from $1,200 all the way up to $7,000. Some can even be more expensive depending on the type of wheelchair. 

Features to Consider When Buying a Wheelchair

Finding a wheelchair that is perfect for you will help make the transition to a wheelchair easier. Below are some considerations when purchasing a new wheelchair:

  • Comfort: if you are using your wheelchair on a daily basis then you need to make sure that it is comfortable. Wheelchairs can come in different materials such as vinyl or nylon. You might need to add padding or cushioning to help make the wheelchair more comfortable. Adding cushioning can ease pressure and friction and offer support for your body and navigation.
  • Seats: seats can be customized depending on the chair that you buy. You will want to make sure that you are purchasing a chair that will support you but also be easy to clean. You will also want to have the right depth and width of the seat. You will want to take measurements of yourself sitting in an upright active position to find the right size for you. 
  • Sizing: chair weight and height can impact how easy it is to maneuver your wheelchair. You will want to make sure that you are getting the apportioned weight and height for your needs. 
  • Wheels: Knowing if you purchased a wheelchair that requires little wheel maintenance or a wheelchair that needs to have the wheels changed after a certain point of wear is important to know before purchasing. The type of wheel can also change how it navigates and rolls on different surfaces. Wheels can be either rubber or semi-pneumatic

Investing in your Future

Wheelchairs can have a positive impact on your ability to get around comfortably which can give you better opportunities for navigating the world around you. Investing in a new wheelchair can feel like a big move but with the right chair it is a positive investment in your mobility future.

Additional Resources:

Best Electric Wheelchairs of 2022 By Forbes Health

Best Lightweight Electric Wheelchairs of 2022 by Forbes Health

Power Wheelchairs that Require Prior Authorization by Medicare

Best Wheelchairs by Chicago Tribune


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