The 10 Best Electric Wheelchairs 2019
We spent 46 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. If you, or someone you know, needs a reliable form of personal transportation, either due to an injury or a long-term chronic condition, take a look at these electric power wheelchairs. Our selection includes rugged trail-riders and pack-and-go models you can take almost anywhere, and all provide an effortless, battery-powered ride. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best electric wheelchair on Amazon.
A Brief History Of The Wheelchair
He was accused of price-rigging and lost an antitrust lawsuit, proving yet again that the allure of the wheelchair business can drive any man mad with power.
However, it would once again take a war to spur innovation in the industry, as Canadian George Klein invented an electric wheelchair to service WWII vets.
It may seem like something that would have been invented immediately after we came up with the wheel, but wheelchairs as we know them have only been around since the late 1700s, when a gentleman named John Dawson got the idea to put two large wheels and one smaller one on a conventional chair. While his idea wasn't the most practical or comfortable, the underlying genius was apparent, and the race was on to invent a more suitable alternative.
However, it wasn't until 1881 that the self-propelled wheelchair came into existence, and with the US in the midst of the Civil War, the timing couldn't have been more opportune. This prototype placed rubber wheels over metal bicycle rims, so it's likely that it took quite a bit of upper-body strength to get around. Still, it was better than any alternative up to that point.
The first motorized wheelchair was created in London in 1916 by placing a 1.75 horsepower motor on something called an "invalid's tricycle." The resulting design was more like a motorcycle than a wheelchair, and as you might imagine, they weren't very effective for indoor use (unless you really wanted to run over family members), and the design never went into large-scale production.
In 1932, Harry Jennings invented the folding wheelchair, which is basically the design that most chairs follow today. Jennings's design was such an improvement over previous models, in fact, that he and his friend Herbert Everest quickly cornered the market. He was accused of price-rigging and lost an antitrust lawsuit, proving yet again that the allure of the wheelchair business can drive any man mad with power.
However, it would once again take a war to spur innovation in the industry, as Canadian George Klein invented an electric wheelchair to service WWII vets. This model went into mass-production in 1956, sold by a company owned by...you guessed it, Harry Jennings and Herbert Everest. Presumably they had learned their lesson about price-fixing in the meantime.
Chairs are constantly being tinkered with and improved, but the basic idea and design has remained the same since. However, big changes could be looming on the horizon, as a company called Braingate is looking to make a motorized wheelchair that can be powered with your mind (cue spooky Twilight Zone music).
What To Look For When Shopping For Your Electric Wheelchair
Fortunately, wheelchairs are getting more convenient and comfortable all the time, so you don't have to sacrifice your lifestyle just because you're in a chair. We've come a long way from the souped-up motorcycle design of the invalid's tricycle, but there are still options out there if you really want to let the world know you mean business.
If you plan on spending a lot of time in this thing, you don't want to be miserable every second.
The first thing you need to consider is size. Some models are real beasts, with extremely wide dimensions. If you're cramped for space, you probably won't want a model with over-sized tires and broad armrests. Likewise, take into consideration who might be lugging it around when you travel. If you don't have a wheelchair lift on your car, someone will have to lift it into the trunk, so you'll want a lighter model if you don't want to put that person in a wheelchair, as well.
Ultimately, though, the most important factor is definitely comfort. If you plan on spending a lot of time in this thing, you don't want to be miserable every second. While there are cushions available to make the ride more comfortable, you don't want to buy a model that's uncomfortable from the get-go. It's far better to get a cushy ride and then upgrade from there.
Also, keep in mind your individual needs, and be proactive about finding a chair that will make life easier for you in the long run. Is it a hassle for you to get in and out of the seat? In that case, find an option that's comfortable to stay in all day, so you'll need as little transferring as possible. Many options recline, and some even stand, so you can still live your day-to-day life without much interference.
Adjusting To Your New Chair
If you're used to a traditional, self-powered wheelchair, or if your motorized model will be the first one you've ever had, there are a few tips and tricks to consider that can make your life much easier.
Being aware of the path you're traveling on is important as well.
The first thing to know is you'll need to become much more aware of your environment than you were previously. Be aware of locations that might involve steep inclines, as pushing your chair beyond that which it's able to handle is a good way to burn out the motor, and that's not cheap or easy to replace. Likewise, ensuring that any accommodations have both a ramp and curb cut-outs is essential to making sure that your outing isn't ruined.
Being aware of the path you're traveling on is important as well. While most motorized chairs have plastic wheels, you still won't want to cross nails or broken glass. Similarly, it's not as easy to notice when you've rolled over dog waste as it is in a regular wheelchair, so you could find yourself tracking poop all over your carpet before you realize what you've done. That's a lesson that you'll likely only have to learn once, though (and at least you won't have to deal with getting it all over your hand).
Finally, keep any tools for fixing or maintaining you chair handy, preferably on the chair itself (backpacks strapped behind the seat come in very handy for this). You don't want to break down and be stranded with no means of saving yourself. Fortunately, most maintenance is fairly simple, and doesn't require special tools that aren't likely to be found in your basic tool kit.
Statistics and Editorial Log