Which electric wheelchair is best? Choosing an electric wheelchair is largely a question of which chair is best for you.
So, which electric wheelchair is best for me? We’ve listed the strengths and weaknesses of the different wheelchair configurations below—but don’t forget you can talk to one of our therapists if you want to know more about chairs in general, or any particular model.
Non Prescription Power Chairs
Non prescription wheelchairs are great if you are not a full-time wheelchair user but struggle with mobility. These chairs do not require a therapist’s assistance to prescribe and set up.
Front-wheel drive chairs
- Obstacles: Obstacle climbing ability is the strength of front-drive power wheelchairs, as the drive wheels are pulling the chair over obstacles rather than pushing. Not only that, FWD wheelchairs have great stability and weight distribution, as the weight of the chair can be spread by having drive wheels toward the front of the chair and the batteries to the rear. When it comes to obstacle climbing, the answer to “which electric wheelchair is best?” is probably a FWD chair.
- Cornering: FWD power chairs manage tight corners well as they have a shorter front end than other configurations. However, the user must account for rear part of the wheelchair when turning, which may take some getting used to.
- Smoothness of ride: FWD chairs are usually a smoother ride outdoors, due to having larger casters than mid wheel drive chairs.
- High speeds: Front-wheel drive chairs don’t perform as well at high speeds, and may fishtail. When braking hard, FWD chairs may tip forward.
- Obstacles: Mid-wheel drive electric chairs are very stable due to the location of the chair’s centre of gravity. As a result, MWD chairs are the most stable chair configuration on slopes.
- Cornering: As the user sits right above the turning axis, the chair can be turned 360 degress—on the spot. Those with very tight spaces in their homes and who need good manoeuvrability often choose mid-wheel drives. If you want to know which electric wheelchair is best for tight spaces and general manoeuvrability, it’s probably a MWD.
- Smoothness of ride: MWD chairs often have smaller casters, resulting in a slightly harder ride than rear or front wheel chairs. However, this can be offset by the softness of all wheels and good suspension.
- High speeds: At higher speeds, MWD chairs more sensitive to change of direction than rear wheel drives.
- Obstacles: Rear-wheel drive chairs are not as efficient at obstacle climbing as they have to push the front casters over obstacles. RWDs can be less stable, as most of chair’s mass is located toward the rear of the chair.
- Cornering: Rear-wheel drive electric chairs usually are larger in terms of overall size of the wheelchair’s footprint, and turning radius. Thus, RWDs can be more difficult to manoeuvre in tight spaces. On the plus side, the user doesn’t need to worry about what’s happening them, as most of the chair is directly below or in front.
- Smoothness of ride: RWD chairs usually have a smoother than MWD chairs due to larger casters.
- High speeds: Rear-wheel drive chairs have the highest top speed of all configurations, and are easier to handle at higher speeds.
Standing power chairs
There are psychological and physical benefits being able to stand, such as being better able to interact with your environment and reducing the risk of pressure sores. There are a few caveats as to who can use standing chairs however; for example, the user’s legs and joints must be able to support the user’s torso weight without pain or causing any damage—and the user must have full range of motion of hips and knees.
Which electric wheelchair is best for you?
See AC Mobility’s range to find out!