Ultimate Guide to the Different Types of Wheelchairs

Ultimate Guide to the Different Types of Wheelchairs

Today’s market is composed of a wide range and variety of wheelchairs. They also come in various designs and with different features. This is to accommodate the diverse needs of people with mobility issues. But, these also make navigating the market challenging—too many options are available. 

The best solution to this issue is understanding what wheelchair types are available. This guide will explore and discuss the different types of wheelchairs. It will also highlight their uses and features. This way, it would be easier to make an informed decision when buying or upgrading to a new wheelchair. 

2 Main Categories of Wheelchair Types and Their Subtypes

There are two main categories or groups of wheelchairs in the market. This includes manual and power. Under these main types are more specific types of chairs that you can get for yourself and your loved one. 

Manual Wheelchairs

A manual wheelchair is a standard, traditional type of wheelchair. This is the most common type in the market. Wheelchairs under this main type are non-powered. The user can self-propel them, or a caregiver or companion can push them.

They use lightweight materials such as aluminum. They have handrails on the rear wheels, making them easy for users to move around by themselves. They even come with their unique designs and configurations. These cater to different needs and preferences.

Lightweight Wheelchairs

These manual wheelchairs are easy to maneuver and move from one place to another. They're also often foldable. They consist of a lighter frame material, such as titanium or aluminum. This allows users to easily perform their tasks. They can weigh anywhere from 13 to 50 lbs and are ideal for people with limited upper body strength.

Transport/Companion Wheelchairs

These are the kinds of manual wheelchairs that you can self-propel. They're designed to be pushed by a companion or caregiver. This is because a transport wheelchair has smaller rear wheels. This makes it impossible for the user to move it by themselves. This type is ideal for people who don't need a wheelchair. But, they may need one during long or strenuous activities.

Reclining Back Wheelchairs

Reclining wheelchairs are manual wheelchairs with a flexible backrest. You can adjust the seat-to-back angle to recline and find a comfortable seating position. This type comes with a higher or bigger headrest that offers users comfort. This reclining ability is beneficial in distributing the pressure on the user’s body. So they don’t strain their backs when sitting in the chair for long periods.

Tilt-in-Space Wheelchairs

These are wheelchairs designed for users with more specific needs. Those who need better pressure relief, postural support, and positioning. It’s ideal for people prone to pressure sores and those with back conditions. Similar to those that need better back support. This includes the spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, or muscle weakness.

Unlike chairs that lean back, tilt-in-space wheelchairs can tilt up to 45 degrees. Tilting the whole seat backward helps you sit up straighter. Lifting the legs and torso provides more relief. It reduces swelling and lowers blood pressure.

Bariatric Wheelchairs

This is a heavy-duty type of manual wheelchair. Bariatric wheelchairs are designed to accommodate users with heavier weights. They are usually more than 300 lbs. Manufacturers construct them with reinforced frames, using more durable materials and wider seats. This is to provide better support and stability to the weight. 

Power/Electric Wheelchairs

Power wheelchairs, or electric wheelchairs, are a type of wheelchair. They rely on a battery-powered motor for propulsion. They offer a more advanced solution for people with limited mobility. They need minimal effort and help to operate. Compared to manual wheelchairs, they provide more independence and comfort for the user. 

Despite that, most electric wheelchairs have manual push options for versatility. They have subtypes like that of under manual wheelchairs. These include a reclining or lightweight wheelchair but are all powered electrically.

Transportable Wheelchairs

They are also known as folding or travel wheelchairs, designed for portability. Users can take them in a car, plane, boat, train, and other vehicles. They're usually made of lightweight and collapsible materials. This makes them easy to take during travels. Many of them even have automatic folding mechanisms. 

Indoor Wheelchairs

These are power wheelchairs that are designed for use in indoor environments, like homes and offices. They use lightweight and simple designs with lightweight frames. Additionally, they have small wheels, making them ideal for short motor-propelled movements indoors. They’re also ideal for indoor surfaces only, not rough terrains outdoors. 

Indoor and Outdoor Wheelchairs

You can use these on paved streets, shopping centers, parks, or similar spaces. They’re designed with enough power, durable wheels, and suspension systems. These allow users to enjoy a smooth ride even over rough terrain.

Drive System-Type Wheelchairs 

There are also types of power wheelchairs that differ in drive system:

  • Rear-Wheel Drive: This is a wheelchair with two big wheels at the back and smaller wheels at the front. This type is ideal for uneven or rough surfaces since it has better traction. 

  • Front-Wheel Drive: This has two big front wheels and smaller ones at the back. This allows the wheelchair to turn in tight spaces, like inside the house. 

  • Mid-Wheel Drive: This is a type of wheelchair that has middle wheels. These middle wheels are bigger than the front and rear wheels. This makes them ideal for smooth, level surfaces only. 

Standing Wheelchairs

Standing wheelchairs allow users to transition from a sitting to a standing position. It’s easy for users to navigate different areas with a motorized wheelbase. This allows users to stand at will and reach items, do chores, and interact with other people eye-to-eye. 

How Do I Know Which Type I Should Get?

One way to determine which type you should buy is by asking yourself the following questions: 

  • How long will you be using the wheelchair? 
  • Do you need extra support or features for a wheelchair? 
  • Where will you use it the most—inside or outside your home? 
  • What is your budget, or how much is it? 
  • What kinds of terrain do you plan to use it on?
  • What accessories do you need? 


You have a wide array of wheelchair types available. Thus, it's vital to choose one that meets your requirements. Assess your specific mobility and wheelchair needs. Find out which of the types would suit them best. Whether it's a manual or power wheelchair, there's a wheelchair for you. It will help you regain mobility and independence.

If you want to know more about each type, you can visit our wheelchair collection. Check out our massive selection of different types of wheelchairs and find your best bet. You can also connect with our customer service if you need more help.

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