It is reported that there are more than 3 million people in the US alone that use a wheelchair full-time. It is no surprise therefore that there is a huge call for reliable wheelchairs that cater to a range of needs.
For those looking for a manual wheelchair, there are a wide array of options available to choose from, ranging anywhere from standard wheelchairs to reclining and tilt-in-space wheelchairs. For larger individuals, bariatric wheelchairs are available that have been specifically designed for heavier users with mobility impairments. These heavy-duty wheelchairs are sturdier and have higher weight capacities as well as wider seats.
In this article, we will explore what bariatric wheelchairs are and who they are for. We will also cover the important factors you should consider when purchasing one to avoid any costly mistakes. Finally, we will review some of the best manual bariatric wheelchairs that are available that can make life easier for those living with disabilities.
Best Bariatric Manual Wheelchairs Comparison Chart
Here’s a handy reference list of our reviewed heavy-duty bariatric manual wheelchairs. Further below is a more comprehensive comparison and review guide.
|Drive Cruiser III Heavy-Duty Wheelchair||Heavy Duty 15 lbs Featherweight Wheelchair||Medline Excel Heavy-Duty Wheelchair||Drive Sentra EC Heavy-Duty Extra Wide Wheelchair|
|Weight Capacity||300 lbs, 350 lbs||350 lbs||500 lbs||700 lbs|
|Seat Dimensions||16" – 20" (W) x 16" (D)||22" (W) x 16" (D)||20" – 24" (W) x 18" (D)||26" – 30" (W) x 20" (D)|
|Product Dimensions||23" – 27" (W) x 42" (D)||32" (W) x 42" (D)||28.5" – 32.5" (W) x 32" (D)||34.5" – 39" (W) x 43" (D)|
|Folded Width||12"||13"||14"||14" – 15"|
|Seat-to-Floor Height||17.5" – 19.5"||19"||20"||19.5"|
|Footrest Options||Swingaway, elevating||Swingaway||Swingaway, elevating||Swingaway, elevating|
|Wheel Size||8" (front), 24" (rear)||8" (front), 24" (rear)||8" (front), 24" (rear)||8" (front), 24" (rear)|
|Product Weight||35 lbs – 38 lbs||22 lbs||60 lbs, 88 lbs||62 lbs, 66 lbs|
|Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
What is a Heavy-Duty Bariatric Wheelchair?
You might sometimes hear these wheelchairs being referred to as an extra-wide wheelchair, but whatever name they go by, they are all one of the same and are designed for people who are larger and heavier in size.
If you are a heavier person who finds it difficult to move around because of additional weight or mobility impairments, a bariatric wheelchair can be a game-changer, with many patients finding that investing in this type of equipment gives them improved independence and a new lease of life.
Bariatric wheelchairs generally have maximum weight capacities that exceed 300 lbs. They also feature a much wider seat that allows the user to sit comfortably inside. Furthermore, they also come with additional reinforcements to ensure that the user is always safe and well supported whilst using the wheelchair.
How to Choose the Right Bariatric Wheelchair?
No two disabilities are alike, for this reason, wheelchair manufacturer’s offer a wide and varied selection that gives everyone access to a wheelchair that works for them.
While this may be a benefit, it can make choosing a manual wheelchair a confusing process. With this in mind, we have come up with the following factors you should take into consideration when choosing a bariatric wheelchair, to ensure that you choose one that will prove most beneficial for your needs:
Bariatric wheelchairs are constructed with sturdier frames and more durable seats, so that it can accommodate larger individuals.
While these types of wheelchairs have higher weight capacities, generally ranging from 300 to 700 lbs, you should still ensure that the wheelchair is suitable for the user’s weight. Exceeding the wheelchair’s safe carrying capacity could put the patient’s safety in jeopardy. You could also risk damaging the wheelchair as well as invalidating its warranty.
Who Will Propel the Wheelchair?
Manual wheelchairs tend to fall into one of two main categories, self-propelled wheelchairs and attendant-propelled wheelchairs. As you can probably imagine, the self-propelled chair is one that is controlled by the person sitting in it, whereas the attendant-propelled version (known also as a transport wheelchair) offers control to someone who is pushing the wheelchair.
How you operate your wheelchair and which type you prefer will highly depend on your ability to maneuver yourself, or whether you need some extra assistance as a result of strength issues, or problems with mobility in the upper body.
Ensuring that the wheelchair user’s feet and legs are properly supported is not only important for their comfort, but it can also assist with their sitting posture, ensuring that their weight is evenly distributed.
Manual wheelchairs are fitted with either swing-away footrests or elevating leg rests. Swing-away footrests as the name suggests, swing out of the user’s way to assist with easier and safer transfers into and out of the chair, and some are also removable. They are often fitted with heel straps that can help to stop the user’s feet from slipping off the footplates.
Elevating leg rests allow the individual to elevate their legs in order to maximize comfort. These can normally be adjusted in length, as well as in angle, and they may be fitted with adjustable calf pads also. Elevating leg rests are particularly suited for those who need to use their wheelchair for extended periods. They allow the user to shift positions, which helps to redistribute pressure, and this can assist in reducing the risk of developing pressure sores.
Wheelchair armrests usually come in two different styles, full-length or desk-length. Full-length armrests are typically 14 – 16 inches in length. They provide better forearm support, and they also offer the user extra leverage when getting into and out of the wheelchair.
Desk-length armrests, on the other hand, are shorter and measure between 10 – 12 inches. The advantage of this type of armrest is it allows the wheelchair to be positioned closer to a desk.
To assist with transfers, some armrests flip-back or are removable. These are particularly beneficial for patients who may be unsteady on their feet, and therefore require the use of a transfer board or the assistance of a caregiver to help with lateral transfers.
To ensure maximum comfort, opt for height adjustable armrests over fixed ones. They can be raised or lowered to suit the user’s individual preferences, helping to ensure the user’s arms are well supported while in a seated position.
Indoor or Outdoor Use?
When deciding on the right bariatric wheelchair for your needs, you will need to consider whether you plan to use it mainly indoors or outdoors or a combination of both environments.
If you are going to be using your wheelchair indoors, ensure that it is compact enough so that it can comfortably fit through any narrow doorways and passageways. Always check the wheelchair’s dimensions to make sure it is not too wide. You will also want to check that the turning radius is not too large, otherwise you may struggle to maneuver the wheelchair in smaller areas.
If you need to operate your wheelchair outdoors, check the type of tires it is fitted with. Flat-free tires are more durable than pneumatic tires, and they are also virtually maintenance-free, so you will never need to worry about punctures or having to inflate them.
Portability will be a key factor to take into consideration if you regularly need to transport your wheelchair with you. Folding bariatric wheelchairs are available that can fold down to a compact size that can easily fit in the trunk of most sized vehicles.
Check the wheelchair’s weight to ensure that you can easily lift it into and out of your vehicle without requiring too much effort. While bariatric wheelchairs are generally heavier than standard wheelchairs, ones constructed from durable but lightweight materials such as aluminum or titanium are usually much lighter than other types of materials.
If you’re going to be spending prolonged periods seated in a wheelchair, you will want to ensure that it is the most comfortable experience possible. If the seat proves uncomfortable, it could impact sitting tolerance and increase the risk of developing pressure sores. For this reason, particular attention should be paid to the type of seat the wheelchair is fitted with.
A cushioned seat is recommended for individuals who need to spend more than a few hours per day in their wheelchair. It will offer greater pressure relief than a canvas seat, and it will also assist with postural support.
You will also want to ensure that the seat is the correct size for the patient. A seat that is too small will prove restrictive, and it may increase the risk of skin irritation, which could lead to pressure sores. If on the other hand, the seat is too wide, it may not offer adequate support, which could cause the occupant to fall out of their wheelchair.
Bariatric wheelchairs are available in different seat sizes ranging from 16 up to 30 inches wide, so always ensure you choose the most appropriately sized seat.
Best Manual Heavy-Duty Bariatric Wheelchairs
1. Drive Cruiser III Heavy-Duty Wheelchair
Best Budget Wheelchair
- Weight capacity: 300 lbs, 350 lbs
- Seat dimensions: 16" – 20" (W) x 16" (D)
- Seat-to-floor height: 17.5" – 19.5"
- Folded width: 12"
- Product dimensions: 23" – 27" (W) x 42" (D)
- Wheel size: 8" (front), 24" (rear)
- Product weight: 35 lbs – 38 lbs
The Cruiser III from Drive Medical is a great value manual wheelchair suitable for bariatric use.
This economical wheelchair is well built and is constructed from a durable but lightweight carbon steel frame that weighs just under 40 lbs. Due to its lightweight nature, it is easy to load into and out of a vehicle without requiring too much effort.
The wheelchair is available with either full-length or desk length armrests. To make transfers easier and safer, you can also choose between flip-back or removable armrests. Swing-away leg rests are fitted as standard, although these can be upgraded to elevating swing-away leg rests if preferred.
Fitted with 24-inch rear tires and 8-inch front casters, the wheelchair provides good maneuverability over uneven surfaces. Due to the tires being flat-free, you won’t need to be concerned about punctures, which is one worry less. Both the front and rear wheels use sealed bearings, which helps to protect them from debris and dirt, which could otherwise impair the wheelchair’s ride performance.
With a choice of three different seat width sizes, including a 16-inch, 18-inch, or 20-inch, there should be an option to accommodate most needs. The seat is constructed from durable upholstery, which not only makes it easier to clean, as it can easily be wiped clean with a damp cloth. It is also breathable, which allows the patient to remain cooler for longer.
What stands out about this wheelchair, is it features a dual axle that allows for two different seat heights (19.5″ and 17.5″), so the occupant can easily and quickly adjust the height, to suit their particular needs.
2. Heavy Duty 15 lbs Featherweight Wheelchair
Best Lightweight Bariatric Wheelchair
- Weight capacity: 350 lbs
- Seat dimensions: 22" (W) x 16" (D)
- Seat-to-floor height: 19"
- Folded width: 13"
- Product dimensions: 32" (W) x 42" (D)
- Wheel size: 8" (front), 24" (rear)
- Product weight: 22 lbs
A common problem that many users face with bariatric wheelchairs is they are often much heavier than standard wheelchairs. This can mean lifting it into and out of a vehicle can prove particularly challenging.
This heavy-duty wheelchair however weighs just 22 lbs, which makes it the lightest bariatric chair currently on the market. This featherweight wheelchair is perfect for those active users who regularly need to transport their mobility aid with them. When folded, the wheelchair measures just 13″ wide, so it can conveniently fit in the smallest of trunks. You can also upgrade to quick-release wheels to conserve extra space if required.
Despite it being extremely lightweight, the wheelchair is fitted with an extra-wide 22-inch seat, and it has a safe weight carrying capacity of up to 350 lbs. Swing away footrests are fitted as standard, although these can be upgraded to elevating leg rests if preferred.
Both the seat and back cushion are padded to provide optimum pressure relief and maximum comfort. This is perfect for those times when you need to use your wheelchair for extended periods throughout the day.
The 24-inch rear tires are flat-free, which means they are virtually maintenance-free. You won’t need to inflate them or have to worry about punctures when taking your wheelchair over uneven terrain.
For added patient safety, anti-tippers can be fitted to the wheelchair, and you can also purchase a separate carry bag, which will allow you to easily transport it with you.
3. Medline Excel Heavy-Duty Wheelchair
Best Overall Bariatric Wheelchair
- Weight capacity: 500 lbs
- Seat dimensions: 20" – 24" (W) x 18" (D)
- Seat-to-floor height: 20"
- Folded width: 14"
- Product dimensions: 28.5" – 32.5" (W) x 32" (D)
- Wheel size: 8" (front), 24" (rear)
- Product weight: 60 lbs, 88 lbs
With its economical price, 500 lbs weight capacity, the Medline Excel heavy-duty wheelchair is an excellent all-rounder.
The bariatric wheelchair is available in a choice of three different seat width sizes, including a 20″, 22″ or 24″ option. The vinyl upholstery ensures that the seat can easily be kept hygienic, and due to it being impermeable, it is waterproof, which makes it particularly suited for incontinent sufferers.
Despite it featuring an extra-wide frame, the wheelchair has a tight turning radius, which ensures it is easily maneuverable in confined spaces, making it particularly suited for indoor use. The 24″ rear tires also means it can comfortably handle outdoor terrain, perfect for when you need to pop to your local park or visit friends or family.
The carbon steel frame provides exceptional durability, and it is also rust-proof as well as chip resistant. The heavy-duty welded fork reduces excessive wobbling, thus helping to keep vibrations to a minimum when going over bumpy surfaces.
When folded, the wheelchair measures just 14-inch wide, so it can easily be stored in a closet when not in use, or it can be transported with you in your vehicle on day trips out.
The wheelchair can be fitted with either full-length or desk-length armrests. These are padded as well as removable, which can assist with lateral transfers into and out of the chair. You can also choose between swing-away footrests or elevating leg rests, depending on the user’s particular needs.
4. Drive Sentra EC Heavy-Duty Extra Wide Wheelchair
Best Extra Wide Wheelchair
- Weight capacity: 700 lbs
- Seat dimensions: 26" – 30" (W) x 20" (D)
- Seat-to-floor height: 19.5"
- Folded width: 34.5" – 39" (W) x 43" (D)
- Product dimensions: 34.5" – 39" (W) x 43" (D)
- Wheel size: 8" (front), 24" (rear)
- Product weight: 62 lbs, 66 lbs
With a safe weight carrying capacity of up to 700 lbs, and a choice of 3 different extra-wide seat sizes (26″, 28″, or 30″), the Drive Sentra heavy-duty wheelchair has been specifically created for the larger user in mind.
The carbon steel frame and reinforced steel gussets provide good durability and strength, so you can be assured that the wheelchair has been built to last, making it a worthy investment. The seat is fitted with reinforced nylon upholstery to provide optimum support and comfort. The padded armrests provide good forearm support, and you can choose between full-length or desk-length removable armrests to suit all needs.
The folding mechanism on the wheelchair is simple to operate. Once folded, the wheelchair measures just 14″–15″ wide, which makes it compact enough to store in your vehicle, so you can conveniently take it with you wherever you go.
While footrests are not fitted as standard on this wheelchair, you can purchase separate swing-away footrests or elevating leg rests for the chair.
The large flat-free 24″ rear tires make the wheelchair easy to propel, and it offers good maneuverability over most types of terrain.