Choosing the right chair can be confusing, especially for a first-time wheelchair user. Working with an occupational therapist (OT) who has experience with various types of wheelchairs would be best if that is an option.

If you or a loved one need a wheelchair, deciding on whether or not to use manual chairs will mainly rely on their upper body strength. Wheelchairs can put a significant strain on your back, shoulder and neck muscles, and you must ensure you are capable of propelling yourself. Powered chairs has its own distinct set of advantages and disadvantages, but in most situations the answer to the type of chair is simple. The simple answer is it depends. Is independence a priority? How much physical strength and stamina does the user have? How big is the budget? The main differences between the two types of wheelchairs will be explained here.

Pros & Cons of Manual Wheelchairs


  • In general they are easy to transport
  • They are user friendly
  • Needs very little maintenance
  • Most of the models will fit through narrow entrances and doors
    They are cheaper than power wheelchairs


  • Require a required amount of strength and balance
  • Potential to create new issues with frequent usage (wear and tear on the shoulder)
  • Much more difficult going longer distances or up slopes. Not ideal for long distances.
  • You may need help getting around

Pros & Cons of Powered Wheelchairs


  • They are ideal if you no longer have the strength to use a manual wheelchair
  • Versatile and can be used used on many surfaces
  • Can travel great distances and not get tired
  • Usually have tailor-made solutions to increase comfort


  • A lot heavier and more difficult to transport. They are hard to transport – and require a customized vehicle to carry around
  • Need for repairs and maintenance
  • Needs regular charging of the batteries
  • Costlier to buy and to maintain

2 Main Considerations When Making A Purchase Decision

Upper Body Strength

Many people who suffer from paralysis, especially those with severe paralysis, choose to go with power wheelchair. Most power chairs are operated by a joystick placed on either the right or left armrest. With reduced mobility and paralysis, the powered wheelchair with joystick control is the best option.

It is the most important part of deciding between an electric power chair and a manual wheelchair. A manual wheelchair can be quite exhausting if the user intends to use their wheelchair most or all of the day. While manual wheelchairs have dramatically improved in weight and manoeuvrability over the years, use of a manual wheelchair on a daily basis still requires a substantial amount of upper body power.

Travelling Distance

Usually, an electric wheelchair weighs considerably more than a manual wheelchair, and is much more bulky. Most people who use an electric chair have a special vehicle (usually a van) that can lift both the wheelchair user and the electric chair into the car at the same time which can be expensive.

Travelling with a manual wheelchair is significantly simpler as compare to an electric wheelchair travel. Some hand-held wheelchairs can fold up and weigh less than 30 pounds, making it extremely easy to pack and transport them in your car’s trunk. While manual chairs are easily disassembled for transportation, the same cannot be said for most power chairs as they do not allow for easy disassembly.

Amazon Best Sellers in Electric Wheelchairs

The Choice of Mobility: Manual vs. Powered Wheelchairs

People aren’t “confined” to their wheelchairs — wheels actually free them. A paralysed person can get around in a wheelchair as easily as someone else can walk. A wheelchair provides access to work and shopping for people with physical inconvenience, or any other trips outside of their home.

A wheelchair is like a pair of shoes — for special occasions, there are distinct styles for special purposes, such as tennis or rugged trail use. When the fit isn’t just appropriate the user can’t get relaxed and won’t feel comfortable using it. So it is important to take time to find the right one.

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