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The Ultimate Guide to Power Wheelchairs
In this Ultimate Guide to Power Wheelchairs, you'll learn:
Power wheelchairs (a.k.a - electric wheelchairs) have been around since the 1600s. Over 365 years ago in 1655, Stephen Farffler invented the first self-propelled electric wheelchair. He was a German watchmaker who was also a paraplegic. However, this was a very different looking electric wheelchair. It would undergo several changes and modifications over the next hundred years.
In the late 1800s, a rear push wheel design was patented by A.P. Blunt and Jacob S. Smith. It slightly resembles the modern-day wheelchair. In 1881, self-propulsion was available via added push rims. While not a powered wheelchair, this would pave the way for the modern design electric power wheelchair.
About 30 years later in the early 1900s, the first motorized wheelchair was built in London, England. However, it was not an electric wheelchair that you see today. That is because the first wheelchair that was self-powered had to have the patient turn their wheels to make it move.
The first motorized electric wheelchair was created in 1916 but was not mass-produced. George Klein who was a Canadian inventor is credited with the first electric power wheelchair. He worked under the National Research Council of Canada whose main goal was to assist veterans after returning home from WW2.
A power wheelchair boiled down to its most fundamental parts, is a wheelchair with a joystick, motor, and battery. It allows you to effortlessly travel without the assistance of another person to push you nor have you rely on your own strength to propel the wheelchair. There are various different types of electric wheelchairs which we will review in more thorough detail in another section. Each type thrives with certain use cases.
A power wheelchair differs from a traditional mobility scooter because you will only need one hand to operate a power wheelchair whereas, with an electric powered scooter, you generally need hands to safely operate it. With a power wheelchair, you may have the option to request the joystick be placed on the left or right armrest. This is helpful if you are left-handed and need the joystick to be on the left side.
The operation of a powered wheelchair is relatively simple. First, you will want to ensure that the unit is in drive mode. There is a lever that puts the wheelchair in neutral which allows you to push it should the battery die. However, the unit will not function in neutral mode even with a full battery.
First, you’ll want to make sure that the unit is charged. If you will travel long distances, then you will want to make sure that it is fully charged. This will help you ensure that you do not get caught or left with a dead unit and stuck. After you have ensured that it is ready for operation, you simply sit in the power wheelchair. Be sure to buckle up as many units will have a buckle that is used to safely strap you into the chair.
Once strapped in, you’ll want to turn the power wheelchair on. At this point, you can look at the joystick which will show you a battery range. If there are no issues, you’ll near no beeping sequences in most cases. Look at the speed modulator. You can reduce the unit's top speed by turning the knob on most power chairs.
Simply place your hand on the joystick and push the joystick where you’d like to go. In most cases, this is forward. Slowly press forward, you will hear a click which is the electric wheelchairs brake system disengaging, this is completely normal. Practice turning while going forward so you can learn how your electric wheelchair responds to how you turn. To turn, simply point in the direction you’d like to go. So if you wish to make a broad left, you’d push the joystick in an NWN position.
As briefly touched upon earlier, we learned there are very different types of electric wheelchairs which are largely dependent on your desired use case. The right chair for your friend or neighbor may not be the right one for you. In this section, we will highlight the different types of electric wheelchairs along with their advantages and disadvantages.
Folding Power Wheelchairs - This category of electric wheelchairs is one of the fastest-growing categories of products that we carry. Because many of our customers are independent, being able to easily travel with their power chairs without affixing a vehicle lift is very important. While these units have the smallest footprint and the lightest weight, they can get quite expensive. You must consider that a cheaper travel power wheelchair that needs a vehicle lift can easily cost more than a folding wheelchair.
Advantages - Easiest to travel with. Small Footprint. Lightweight.
Disadvantages - Costly. Not as comfortable as larger options.
Travel Power Wheelchairs - With these types of wheelchairs, you’ll have the ability to travel with them at a lower cost than most folding wheelchairs. Because they disassemble into many pieces they are cheaper to manufacture when compared to a folding wheelchair. However, keep in mind that an important specification you’ll want to ensure you are aware of is the weight of the heaviest piece. If the heaviest piece is 49lbs, you or someone you are with will need to be able to lift that amount of weight in order to successfully travel with this power wheelchair.
Advantages - Lower cost option to travel with an electric wheelchair.
Disadvantages - Must be taken apart. The heaviest piece can sometimes still be rather heavy. Not as comfortable as large options.
Full-Size Power Wheelchairs - This type of wheelchair is ideal for those who do not travel as often unless you have a vehicle that can accommodate a more serious vehicle lift. Many people who want the comfort associated with a larger power wheelchair acquire a vehicle lift along with their full-size wheelchair. This allows them to have the best of both worlds. The ability to travel with the power wheelchair as well as not sacrificing comfort.
Advantages - Comfortable when compared to smaller options while still providing great value. Fantastic travel ranges and top speeds.
Disadvantages - Size. You cannot typically travel with these units unless you have a vehicle lift.
Heavy-Duty Power Wheelchairs - These are the Cadillac of power wheelchairs. The most common reason most people gravitate towards this category is the weight capacity which is typically over 300lbs. The specifications are often industry-leading such as the ability to travel over 20 miles on a single charge with most top speeds clocking in at 4mph to 5mph. Due to the frame reinforcements, the costs for heavy-duty power wheelchairs are typically greater than when compared to other categories.
Advantages - Has the ability to go off-road or on trails. Best in class specifications like travel range, top speed, etc.
Disadvantages - Cost. Large size. Hard to travel with.
There are several advantages and disadvantages for each category of wheelchairs. You must strongly consider how you will most often use the power wheelchair in order to purchase the best one for you.
Whether you are searching for a power wheelchair store near me or an online store, there are always certain points you will want to research prior to doing business with any retailer. Investing in a power wheelchair can easily exceed $1,000.00+ so you will want to ensure you do everything possible to ensure you are going to ultimately work with a company that has great customer service, rock bottom pricing on new units, as well as expertise to help guide you into the right electric wheelchair for you.
Below are 3 main points you’ll want to consider prior to buying a power chair:
Online Reviews - Crowdsourcing data is the best way one can check the level of customer service given to historical customers. Not one business can operate flawlessly without error, so when something wrong does happen you will want to make sure that the company has your back and will do what is necessary to ensure you end up being a happy customer. Currently, MobilityScootersDirect.com has a 4.7/5.0 which is a very strong rating. Any company that has lower than a 4.0 rating might be considered average. Any company that has lower than a 3.0 rating might be considered poor.
Pricing - A critical factor is pricing. Why would you want to pay more for the same exact product? Some local retailers are forced to charge higher prices because they have rent and overhead to cover. Overhead can typically run in the thousands of dollars per month for a brick and mortar business so this must be factored into their pricing. At MobilityScootersDirect.com, we’re an online store so able to offer you these products at the lowest price the manufacturers will allow us to sell them for. This is known as MAP pricing.
Expert Knowledge of Products - All of our sales staff are trained in electronics and able to physically repair mobility scooters and power wheelchairs. Many of our sales staff have hobbies in aviation and flying of electronic drones. Their passion for electronics translates into a fantastic understanding of products that are simply not found elsewhere. Part of the reason our reviews are so great is because our sales staff consults so well that our customers end up with a unit that not only meets their needs but can even exceed them.
Our Google reviews as of 5/8/2020:
If you are curious what the newest electric power chair models are, this section is for you. As of May 2020, there have been two releases from one manufacturer. That manufacturer is E-Wheels which is an up and coming manufacturer who offers fantastic value by way of including many standard features and aggressive specifications on their products. One reason customers have told us they are interested in the newest models is that they will typically be engineered with newer technology.
E-Wheels M43 - A folding power chair, if you are looking for one of the lightest power wheelchairs, this might be what you are looking for. It also comes standard with flat-free tires so you will never have to worry about being stranded with a flat tire. The design is ultra-modern and extremely different than other folding power wheelchairs on the market.
E-Wheels M48 - A full-size power chair, the M48 is built for comfort and value. Because it is E-Wheels, they include many features where other manufacturers make you purchase them as add-ons. For instance, the 20” captain's seat comes standard with the M48 power chair. While most chairs will top out at 10 miles, this one can travel up to 14.2 miles on a single charge.
Now that you are aware of the newest products to hit the market, you might be curious about what are the top sellers for each different type of chair. Social proof is often looked upon as a valuable resource and we’ve compiled data from thousands of sales to show you which products are the most popular at Mobility Scooters Direct.
Folding Power Wheelchair - M45
Why We Like It: Weighing in at 59lbs, this is one of the lighter folding power wheelchairs that has specs similar to some full-size models. It also comes with two motors. Travel range is incredible at 15.5 miles on a full charge. There is also a rare option that is rare in the power wheelchair segment such as orange.
Travel Power Wheelchair - LiteRider Envy PTC
Why We Like It: This travel power chair has the highest travel range in its class. It also has a storage basket under the seat which many electric wheelchairs simply do not have. This allows you to easily store some belongings with you. It is very slim at 22.5”. A minimalistic design allows it to be easy to disassemble as well.
Full-Size Power Wheelchair - Jazzy Select
Why We Like It: For a full-size power wheelchair, the Jazzy Select is the most maneuverable which is often a point of contention when purchasing a larger electric wheelchair. The travel range is 19.4 miles and it is less than 24” wide which is unheard of for a full-size power chair.
Heavy-Duty Power Wheelchair - P710 Atlantis
Why We Like It: One of the greatest weight capacities you can get your hands on is 600lbs with the P710 Atlantis. You’ll also enjoy a larger 24” seat which is very comfortable. This power wheelchair also has one of the longest travel ranges at 32 miles. If you are searching for a heavy-duty chair, you’d find it difficult to find one more well equipped.
Elevating Power Wheelchair - Jazzy Air 2
Why We Like It: This elevating power chair allows you to have face to face conversations as well as grab many items that are typically too high for users on a traditional chair. Pride is one of the most recognizable brands in the industry and set the bar high with their Jazzy Air 2. It is available in 9 colors which we love because most power chairs only have one or two choices. The travel range is also 16.8 miles.
There are many medical reasons why one would need to purchase a handicap wheelchair. Without going into specific reasons, there are also general reasons why customers seek to regain their independence. While manual wheelchairs can be self-propelled by users' strength, many times it is difficult to self propel due to health conditions, over great distances, or when inclines are involved. This is when power chairs can assist you greatly.
Below are 4 of the most common reasons customers buy handicap wheelchairs:
Independence - Not having to rely on another person to get from point a to point b can be very advantageous. Those who feel they are a burden to others can now have a sense of independence that they couldn’t have previously.
Safety - Rather than using a wheelchair that requires you to self-propel, you can get tired and end up getting stuck. This can lead to a dangerous situation especially if there are hills or inclines where you live. Having the ability to power yourself up and down hills safely and not gassing out is very important to your health.
Comfort - Many traditional wheelchairs are simply not comfortable to sit in for an entire day. Many electric wheelchairs will have a captain's seat that is extremely comfortable to sit in. Being in a normal wheelchair can give you wheelchair fatigue and make your body sore.
Travel Range - Going the distance is now possible. Where there were previous limits, even if you had an aide. It is difficult for some people to talk 5 miles pushing a wheelchair. Many power chairs have 10+ mile travel ranges with some units going above 30 miles per full charge.
Knowing how you intend on using your power chair will dictate the category that you should look into. For instance, if you know you will travel very frequently in and out of your vehicle a folding electric wheelchair would be a better category to look into when compared to a heavy-duty unit. However, if your weight is over 400lbs, then a folding scooter would not accommodate that weight.
For this reason, on each product, you’ll see a product details tab that houses all the important specifications about each product that you are interested in. If you are unsure as to which category you should be looking into, you can give one of our friendly sales representatives a call and they can help consult with you to find a suitable power wheelchair for you.
Below is a list of the electric wheelchair specifications and why you’ll want to pay attention to them.
Weight Capacity - The total weight that the unit can handle according to the manufacturer. You’ll want to pay attention to this because if you are over the weight limit, the power chair can malfunction or not operate properly.
Seat Width & Depth - The seat's dimensions are important based on the user's measurements. It is important to ensure that the seat is wide enough for you or else you will not be comfortable.
Overall Length, Width & Height - The dimensions of the unit are important if you plan to store it away during travel or when you're not using it.
Weight of Heaviest Piece - If the unit disassembles, then make sure to check if the heaviest piece is going to be manageable for the person who uses it.
Grade Climbable - How the chair can climb aggressive hills. Very important for those living in mountainous or hilly terrains.
Ground Clearance - How far the scooter comes off the ground. If there are bumps in the road or an uneven surface, you’ll want to ensure you have a high enough ground clearance to “clear” the objects.
Top Speed - The maximum speed the unit will reach.
Travel Range - The total distance that the unit can travel on a full battery.
Turning Radius - The turning radius is important to check especially if you need to travel through tight spaces or turns in narrow hallways.
Features - Elevating seat, LED lights, suspension, flat-free tires, etc; are just a few features some mobility scooters will come standard with.
Each manufacturer of power chairs will have different warranties. Something important to consider is if you are able to increase the duration of the warranty. Also, be careful as some websites mislabel a warranty for a service contract. To further complicate things, some manufacturers will have different warranties for each product. For this reason, we strongly recommend that you view the product you are interested in and scroll down to view the specific warranty provided for that unit.
Below are the most popular power wheelchair manufacturers:
Being able to troubleshoot a power wheelchair can be rather difficult if you are not a factory-trained technician. However, some issues might be easier to identify than others. There are some common failures on power chairs and not so common failures.
Below are the most common steps you can take if your power chair is not operational:
- Ensure that your unit is powered on with the on-switch.
- Ensure that your brakes are in the drive position and not neutral.
- Ensure that your unit is not plugged into the wall, the power chair will not operate if it is plugged in to charge.
- Ensure that your battery is fully charged. If you’ve charged your battery all night and it doesn’t hold a charge, it might be time for a new battery.
- If you hear beeps when you start your powerchair, that means something is wrong. You can always try to use Google and enter the model followed by how many beeps you hear. This will troubleshoot the issue and tell you what is wrong with the chair. If you can’t find anything online, you can always try calling the manufacturer who may be able to further assist you.
If the issue is battery related, you should save your money and purchase a new battery. Tip: You should only consider buying a new chair if your electric wheelchair has a costly error like a motor failure or the chair is very old and continues to break.
Up to 57% of power wheelchair users have reported a breakdown in the last 6 months according to msktc.org.The maintenance of your power chair will ensure its longevity. For that reason, our goal was to dedicate an entire section to maintaining your power wheelchair. Could proper maintenance prevent these breakdowns? Perhaps! Always refer to your user manual for product-specific maintenance recommendations. This section was created for those who bought an older power chair and were unable to obtain the original user manual.
Important note: Do not attempt to do any maintenance if you do not feel comfortable doing so. Also, make sure that your power chair is not on. It needs to be turned off prior to you doing any maintenance.
- Ensure that all nuts and bolts have been tightened and nothing is loose enough for you to unscrew with your hand.
- Ensure your rear wheels have plenty of treads left. If not, you’ll need to purchase new tires to perform proper maintenance. Companies like Monster Scooter Parts can assist you with the parts.
- Check the caster wheels. Make sure that they can rotate freely and have no obstructions hindering their movement. If there is dirt, hair, or other obstructions, attempt to safely remove the obstruction from the caster wheels.
- Visually inspect the cushion of the power chair. If it is worn out, you may be able to replace the cushion. A worn-out cushion can easily cause you to have chair fatigue when you get sore from using your power chair for an extended period of time.
- Visually inspect the frame. Make sure there is no rust present as rust can negatively impact the structural integrity of the electric wheelchair.
- Visually inspect the batteries. Make sure there is no green acid around the terminals It's also a great idea to check your battery voltage to make sure your batteries are not reaching abnormally low voltage levels while under load.
If you are potentially interested in owning a power wheelchair, you might be curious as to how it is disassembled. You might think that it is difficult but our CEO Andrew Fatalo showcases how easy it is to disassemble a Go-Chair by Pride Mobility in a video below:
If you have a different make or model, there might be slight modifications to successfully disassemble your power chair.
Absolutely! There are a few caveats though. First, your doctor must write you a prescription indicating that it is medically necessary for you to have one. The most common misconception is that you can choose any power wheelchair once you have the prescription. This is not the case as most of the time, the insurance companies will want to give you the cheapest option.
You must also check with your plan benefits to see if powered mobility devices such as electric wheelchairs are included in your policy. Each health insurance plan typically varies greatly even with the same company so be sure to reach out to them. At this time, Mobility Scooters Direct does not work with insurance companies.
You can now easily use power wheelchair financing companies through Mobility Scooters Direct to break down your payment into multiple payments. The terms differ by each company one of which is Paypal Credit and the other is an up and coming company known as Bread financing which offers to break up payments into a maximum of 24 payments (2 years).
In order to utilize financing, you simply add the product to your shopping cart that you are interested in. After entering your shipping address, you’ll see a section dedicated to payment options. Choose the type of financing company you wish to try financing with such as “Bread Checkout” or “Paypal Credit”.
On the product page, you’ll see an estimated monthly cost if you were to proceed with the product. For instance, a Pride Go Chair with a purchase price of $1,499.00 can be bought as low as $69.17 per month.
A handicapped person powered wheelchair will vary in price depending on the features you select. There are several different affordable power chairs available. Factors such as size and shape can play a small role in the final cost of the power wheelchairs for sale. This pricing allows you to choose a chair that fits your budget and needs. We carry discount electric wheelchairs starting at $1,495 which includes a factory warranty and free accessories. Most electronic wheelchairs that we carry have custom options or upgrades available which you can find on the product page for each unit. Adding accessories or upgrades will increase the price in most cases. If you use the "price range" filter option at the top of this page or any page that shows products, you can filter out the options that fall within your price range. Below is a reference image showing the "price range" filter option found at the top of this page.
If you're looking for an affordable electric wheelchair we have a page with the cheapest power chairs we have to offer, like the LiteRider Envy Power Wheelchair, have everything you need to get around. This lightweight power wheelchair has a comfortable seat, flip-back armrests and several compatible accessories to choose from. With a travel range of 15.5 miles, it is an excellent choice for trips to the supermarket or vacations.
There are some pros and cons to choosing a local store or an online store. Without further ado, let’s take a look at both so you can come to an independent conclusion as to which option might be better suited for you.
Local Power Chair Store Advantages:
- One of the clearest advantages would be being able to actually see and test a product that the company has in stock on their showroom. This allows you to ensure the product fits your needs, is comfortable, etc.
- Another fantastic advantage is the simple convenience of going to a local store to see what you want. Unlike an online store, you are just a short drive away to view inventory.
Local Power Chair Store Disadvantages:
- The major disadvantage we’ve heard is pricing is typically far higher. Some customers that have purchased from us have told us the prices charged locally were sometimes several hundred dollars or more for the same exact product on lower-end products and up to $1,000+ on higher-end products.
- For those that seek variety, you’ll find it difficult to be impressed with most local stores. They typically have only a few models because it is cost-prohibitive to have as many products as an online store. The manufacturers still make you pay for floor models and with over 100 different scooters, you can easily spend over $100,000.00 just to fully stock mobility scooters which many business owners simply do not have.
- Some local stores may not offer to finance power chairs.
Online Power Chair Store Advantages:
- The best advantage of shopping at an online power chair store like Mobility Scooters Direct would be pricing. Nearly all of our customers are on a fixed income and for that reason saving hundreds to thousands of dollars truly goes a long way. Our pricing is the lowest because they are usually set at MAP which stands for the minimum advertised price which is a floor pricing that the manufacturers set. Simply put, we cannot advertise nearly all of our products for .01 less or we risk getting in trouble with the manufacturers.
- Another strength of online power chair stores would be product selection. At Mobility Scooters Direct, we’re constantly adding new products as they are released and doing review videos on them to help you determine if they can fit your needs. With over 600 products in total, you can rest assured that we have a product that can meet your needs.
- Dealing with thousands of customers per year, you can see more reviews on popular online stores when compared to some smaller and lesser-known local stores.
- Financing is available at some online stores like ours which helps you break down a large purchase price into several monthly payments to make it even more affordable.
Online Power Chair Store Disadvantages:
The largest disadvantage of power chair stores that are online is the lack of being able to physically demo the product. You must rely on product specifications, reviews, videos, and more. If you are not satisfied with the product, you may have to pay a restocking fee but this could also apply at a local store.
If you're in South Florida, you may be able to have the best of both worlds. Our local showroom has the same pricing as our website and there are over 14 scooters in stock at the time of writing this ultimate guide to mobility scooters. Our showrooms is one of the biggest showrooms in town located off of Powerline Road, visit our contact us page to find directions.
If you're searching the web looking where to buy mobility scooters, you're in the right place. We carry over 600 mobility products offering a wide selection that a local store could never provide. We also lack overhead expenses that come with commercial office lease agreements and liability insurance for in-store use of medical products which can be very expensive. With all of the savings that we are able to pass on to our customers, we are confidently able to say we offer the lowest prices online for new handicap products that come straight from the manufacturers' warehouse. Our network of local service contractors allows us to also provide in-home service for customers that have service contracts through the manufacturer.
There are 3 main delivery options available to you if you purchase online. Below, we’ll highlight the various delivery options that are available to you when you make a purchase at MobilityScootersDirect.com.
Curbside Delivery - When you see free shipping on most power wheelchairs, this is the type of delivery that is included with that free shipping. It is known as curbside delivery and the power chair will be placed at the closest threshold to your door. They cannot bring it inside for liability reasons. This is one of the faster delivery options.
Inside Delivery - For an additional charge, you are able to purchase inside delivery where the delivery company will bring the power chair inside of your home. This is great if you do not have someone strong enough to carry the unit inside.
White-Glove Delivery - This delivery can take up to 6 weeks because the delivery must be coordinated with a local technician. So if getting your chair in a timely manner is of critical importance, do not choose this option. With white glove delivery, you can expect the technician to unbox, assemble, and show you how to use your product.
Did you know with most online dealers you can find coupons floating around? Many times, there will be seasonal coupons throughout the months. Always call a sales associate to see if there are any available so you can save even more on your purchase.
The value of coupons typically vary and are based on the cost of the product. Coupons can help you save anywhere from $25 to well over $400+ on some units! It is clear that many of our customers are short on money due to being on a fixed budget so if giving a coupon code can help out, that is what our team will do to help you regain your independence.
Give one of our friendly sales associates a call and inquire about any current coupons today!
Shopping for electric wheelchairs for sale online can be difficult but the savings make it worth the effort because online dealers like us have the lowest prices. This is because online stores that sell power wheelchairs do not have the overhead cost of running a store which gets to be very expensive. We have been dealing with power wheelchairs for a very long time and can help you find the perfect model that suits your needs.
Our products are tax-free, we have the lowest prices online and provide free shipping on all power wheelchair purchases. We have experts standing by ready to help answer any questions that you have via phone, chat, or email. If you have limited mobility or increased pain from walking, power chairs are a practical investment, we carry all of the most popular models and brands that are trusted and reliable. We don't work with any manufacturers that provide poor customer service or make it difficult to find replacement parts. This means that your product will be taken care of in the long run when you shop with us. Just check out our reviews online to see what customers are saying about our customer service. Our reputation speaks for itself and we look forward to doing business with you for all your power wheelchair or electric wheelchair needs.
This page's content was written by:
Andrew Fatalo is the CEO of Statewide Mobility & Mobility Scooters Direct. He has been gaining mobility product experience since 2005 by repairing Mobility Scooters & Power Wheelchairs early in his career. He has since then been running one of the nation's largest online dealers for mobility products. Andrew gives back to the handicap community by hosting mobility scooter and electric wheelchair give-aways which you can learn more about by following our Facebook page.