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For the disabled electric wheelchair user, being of larger build and overweight can become one extra problem.
Finding the right heavy-duty electric wheelchair that is capable of safely supporting the user’s weight can often prove challenging. The wheelchair needs to be both strong and reliable so that the patient feels secure in its capabilities. Importantly, it also needs to be comfortable, especially if the user needs to use their electric wheelchair for extended periods.
In this guide, we will cover the important factors you should consider when purchasing a heavy-duty wheelchair. We will also look at some of the best heavy-duty electric wheelchairs that will help to make life worry-free for the bariatric user.
Heavy-Duty Electric Wheelchairs Comparison Chart
Merits Atlantis Heavy Duty Power Wheelchair
Golden Compass Heavy Duty Powerchair
Pride Jazzy Elite HD Powerchair
Pride Jazzy 614HD Bariatric Power Chair
Dimensions (W x L)
32" x 44"
25" x 40"
24.25" x 35.5"
25.5" x 35.5"
Seat Size (W x D)
24" x 20"
16" – 24" x 16" – 20"
18" – 22" x 18" – 22"
16" – 22" x 16" – 22"
9" (front), 12" (rear)
6" (front), 10" (mid), 6" (rear)
3" (front), 14" (mid), 6" (rear)
6" (front), 14" (mid), 6" (rear)
Max Incline Angle
What is a Heavy-Duty/Bariatric Electric Wheelchair?
People who are heavier in build need to make use of a heavy-duty electric wheelchair. You will sometimes hear about it being referred to as a bariatric electric wheelchair. Unlike standard powerchairs, the heavy-duty version is able to hold more weight, thanks to its more robust frame and wider wheels for added stability.
Usually, an electric wheelchair will hold people who weigh up to 300 lbs, but if you are heavier than this, a bariatric wheelchair is a must, both for your own safety and comfort. These wheelchairs are not only stronger, but are also wider, so that a larger person can fit comfortably inside without restriction.
What’s more, there are a variety of bariatric options on the market. For the most part, these wheelchairs are designed to hold people who weigh up to 450 lbs. However, if your weight exceeds this, there are some companies that produce electric wheelchairs that can carry people who weigh as much as 650 lbs.
How to Choose the Right Heavy-Duty Electric Wheelchair
Owing to the fact that every wheelchair user has differing needs, electric wheelchair manufacturers offer various options to take account of this.
As there are such a wide array of heavy-duty electric wheelchairs available designed for different purposes, you should carefully consider your requirements, to ensure that you choose one that will prove most beneficial.
Consider where you plan on using your electric wheelchair. Will it be mostly indoors or outdoors, or a combination of both? Do you need one that can easily be transported in the trunk of your vehicle, or is portability not that critical? These factors, as well as the following ones, should be taken into consideration when deciding on the best heavy-duty electric wheelchair for your needs:
Exceeding the powerchair’s advertised weight capacity can not only cause damage to the motor, but it can put the passenger’s safety at risk too. You should, therefore, always ensure the powerchair is appropriate for the user’s weight.
Most heavy-duty powerchairs can safely carry weights of up to 450 lbs, although there are some bariatric models that can handle heavier individuals, with weight capacities up to 650 lbs.
Heavy-duty powerchairs usually feature a larger and wider chassis, with the overall width ranging anywhere from 24″ up to 34″.
If you plan on using your powerchair indoors or in confined spaces, it is important to check whether the model you’re considering is suitable for such areas. Measure any narrow doorways, hallways and entranceways to check whether the wheelchair can comfortably fit through.
A powerchair’s turning radius, also known as its turning circle, determines how much space is required to perform a U-turn. Measured in inches, this can typically vary anywhere between 20″ to 45″ depending on the wheelchair.
A smaller turning radius is preferable if you need to use your powerchair mostly indoors or in confined spaces. It will prove more maneuverable, allowing you to perform sharper turns.
Factors such as the wheelchair’s dimensions and drive system can all have an influence on its turning radius. If you are going to be using your heavy-duty wheelchair mostly indoors, or you regularly need to take it into shops with you, opt for one that has a mid-wheel drive system. Mid-wheel drive powerchairs generally have a smaller turning radius than front-wheel or rear-wheel drive models, as they can almost turn on the spot.
Seat & Armrests
Choosing a powerchair that is fitted with a comfortable and correctly sized seat is vital. It can assist with the user’s posture, helping to minimize fatigue and allowing the user to sit more comfortably for longer. It can also alleviate discomfort and protect against pressure sores. Importantly, it can improve the patient’s safety, helping to reduce the risk of injuries by providing a stable and supportive seat.
To determine the correct width seat that the user requires, get them to sit down and measure the distance between their hips at the widest part, using a tape measure, and add a further two inches to this measurement. Next, measure the length of the user’s legs, starting from their buttocks, all the way to just behind their knee, and subtract one inch. This will determine the seat’s depth that they will require. Heavy-duty powerchairs are available with a greater choice of seat sizes, so there should be a suitable option for most users.
If the patient needs to spend a lot of time in their wheelchair, there may be times when they may need to lie back to rest. A reclining powerchair gives you the freedom to do this. The back of the wheelchair will recline, whilst the seat remains in the same position. This can be particularly useful if the patient is prone to back pain. A tilt in space option provides users with the opportunity to recline the entire seat and backrest as one unit. This will keep the joints at the same angle, and it can help to relieve excess pressure on the user’s joints.
Pay attention to the type of armrests that the wheelchair is fitted with. Adjustable armrests are preferable over fixed ones, as these can be adjusted in height and/or in width, allowing them to be positioned at the most comfortable position for the user. Padded armrests can also improve comfort by helping to reduce excess pressure on the user’s forearms and elbows.
Consider opting for a model that features armrests that either flip-up or swing away, or one that is fitted with a swivel seat. These will allow the patient to get into and out of the powerchair more easily and safely.
When you’re considering a powerchair, you will need to think whether you will require it to perform everyday shorter journeys, or whether you need one that can travel further distances. If it is the latter, then you will need to choose a powerchair that can travel larger distances on a single charge.
A powerchair’s travel range can vary anywhere from 8 miles to up to 30 miles for some heavy-duty models. The risk of choosing one that has a shorter travel range may mean you run the risk of becoming stranded and not being able to get back home, if it runs out of charge, if you need to complete a long journey.
If you need to use your electric wheelchair outdoors, you will also need to ensure that it can safely handle inclines too. Check the maximum incline rating for the powerchair to ensure it is suitable for any steep inclines that you may encounter on your trips. If you regularly need to take your wheelchair over uneven terrain, choose one that is fitted with suspension as well as with larger tires as this will provide a more comfortable and stable ride.
Best Heavy-Duty Powerchairs
1. Merits Atlantis Heavy Duty Power Wheelchair
Having to regularly recharge your powerchair can prove an inconvenience, especially if you need to cut your trip short if its charge is about to run out. With the Merits Atlantis heavy-duty powerchair, you won’t have to worry about this all too common problem. It can travel up to an impressive 32 miles on a single charge. With its extended range, the Merits Atlantis is perfect for all-day use. You will never have to fear becoming stranded on those longer trips again.
With a carrying capacity of up to 600 lbs, the powerchair is suitable for bariatric users. Fitted with high powered in-line motors, this rear-wheel-drive powerchair is no slouch. It can tackle inclines well, and it can negotiate a 10-degree ramp or climb up a curb without a struggle.
The pneumatic 12″ drive wheels and 9″ casters ensure good stability. The suspension system on the wheelchair helps to cushion any bumps or jolts when going over uneven terrain. With a 3″ ground clearance, the powerchair can also maneuver over smaller obstacles in its path.
The extra-wide and high back seat provides excellent comfort and support, and it can accommodate users up to 6′ 6″ in height. To maximize the passenger’s comfort, the inclination of the seat can be adjusted up to 145 degrees. For easier transfers into and out of the chair, the armrests flip-up. An extra-large (10” (W) x 8” (L)) footplate provides sufficient room for the passenger to comfortably rest their feet on.
Operating the powerchair is a breeze. The joystick is responsive, and you control the horn, alter the speed and view the remaining battery charge directly from the controller. The swing-away joystick allows the chair to be positioned closer to a desk or table, which is handy at mealtimes.
- Weight capacity: 600 lbs
- Dimensions (W x L): 32″ x 44″
- Max speed: 5 mph
- Driving range: 32 miles
- Turning radius: 31.5″
- Ground clearance: 3″
- Max incline angle: 10°
- Product weight: 304 lbs
2. Golden Compass Heavy Duty Powerchair
For those looking for a heavy-duty powerchair that can comfortably handle indoor spaces, we would recommend the Golden Compass electric wheelchair. This powerchair is highly maneuverable with its smaller 20″ turning radius, it can navigate confined indoor areas and steer around tight corners more easily.
While this mid-wheel drive powerchair is particularly suited for indoor use, it can handle outdoor terrain too. The articulating chassis and suspension system provides good cushioning even when traveling over uneven surfaces. This is particularly useful if you want to take your powerchair to the park or when the chair needs to tackle a bumpy sidewalk.
The 10-inch drive tires and 6-inch front and rear casters provide good stability, helping to ensure the passenger’s safety. As the wheelchair is fitted with solid tires, it means they are virtually maintenance-free, so you won’t have to be concerned about punctures or have to ensure they are propely inflated every time you leave the house.
The powerchair features a fold-flat seat, which makes it easier to transport when you need to take it in your vehicle with you. The slide seat mechanism on the wheelchair also allows for the seat to be removed, to conserve space when transporting it.
The Golden Compass heavy-duty powerchair is fitted with two powerful 12V 24Ah batteries that provide a range of up to 12 miles, and it has a top speed of 4 mph.
The electric wheelchair features a captain’s seat that provides exceptional comfort, and it has a weight capacity of up to 450 lbs. The seat is available in multiple widths, ranging from 16″ up to 24″ wide. The padded armrests flip-up allowing for easier transfers, and there is a choice between elevating or swing-away leg rests to suit all needs. To relieve pressure and maximize comfort, the backrest can recline, and the headrest is fully adjustable too.
- Weight capacity: 450 lbs
- Dimensions (W x L): 25″ x 40″
- Max speed: 4 mph
- Driving range: 12 miles
- Turning radius: 20″
- Ground clearance: 3.5″
- Max incline angle: 6°
- Product weight: 226 lbs
3. Pride Jazzy Elite HD Powerchair
If you are looking for a heavy-duty powerchair that is suited for outdoor use, you may want to consider the Jazzy Elite powerchair from Pride Mobility.
As it is a front-wheel-drive powerchair, the larger 14″ drive wheels are located at the front. This importantly means that it provides the wheelchair with superior traction. It also means it is better at obstacle climbing than its mid-wheel and rear-wheel counterparts.
Fitted with full suspension as well as anti-tip front tires, the powerchair can tackle various types of terrain with ease, and it also provides a comfortable and smooth ride. So, whether you’re traveling over a grass lawn or trying to climb a curb, you can be assured that it will be able to tackle all these scenarios without any difficulties.
The Jazzy Elite powerchair provides good maneuverability indoors too. Its 24-inch turning radius ensures that it can easily turn in confined spaces, so it can be conveniently used at home or taken into shops with you.
The powerchair has a carrying capacity of up to 450 lbs, which makes it suitable for bariatric use. With a travel range of up to 9.7 miles, the Jazzy Elite has sufficient power for all-day use, allowing the patient to perform multiple trips without running the risk of it losing power while away from home.
The powered wheelchair comes with a flat-folding contoured captain’s seat that is both comfortable and supportive. The seat is available in a choice of sizes, ranging from 18-inches up to 22-inches wide. The chair is depth adjustable, and the headrest can also be adjusted to allow for greater comfort and pressure relief. For added safety, the chair comes with a lap-belt that can help to protect the user from sliding out of the chair. The padded armrests also flip-up for greater convenience when getting into and out of the seat.
- Weight capacity: 450 lbs
- Dimensions (W x L): 24.25″ x 35.5″
- Max speed: 4 mph
- Driving range: 9.8 miles
- Turning radius: 24″
- Ground clearance: 3″
- Max incline angle: 6°
- Product weight: 225 lbs
>> See full Pride Jazzy Elite HD powerchair review
4. Pride Jazzy 614HD Bariatric Power Chair
The quality made Pride Jazzy 614HD bariatric powerchair is a great all-rounder mid-wheel drive electric wheelchair that is suitable for indoor and outdoor use.
Fitted with six wheels (14″ drive wheels and 6″ rear and front casters), the powerchair offers good stability over most terrains and it can handle inclines of up to 6-degrees. The Active-Trac ATX suspension helps to reduce vibrations when maneuvering the wheelchair over uneven and bumpy surfaces. The front casters on the wheelchair operate independently from the other tires. They raise and lower to compensate in changes in terrain, to provide a more stable and better-performing ride.
Despite it being a heavy-duty powerchair with a weight capacity of up to 450 lbs, the tight 22.75-inch turning radius means it can easily navigate through confined areas, and it can almost turn on its axis. This means narrow corridors or tight corners shouldn’t prove challenging when using the Pride Jazzy 614HD powerchair.
One of the benefits of this heavy-duty powered chair is it is fully customizable. You can choose between a captain’s seat or a seat pan, and there are a wide array of seat sizes that you can choose from, with widths ranging from 16″ up to 22″ wide. The wheelchair is fitted with a standard footplate, although if you prefer this can be upgraded to either swing-away or elevating leg rests. The joystick can be positioned on either the left or right side, and you can also opt for a swing-away joystick.
To maximize patient comfort, especially on those longer journeys, the high-back seat can be adjusted in depth as well as in height, and the flip-up footplate is height adjustable to accommodate users for differing heights.
- Weight capacity: 450 lbs
- Dimensions (W x L): 25.5″ x 35.5″
- Max speed: 4.25 mph
- Driving range: 11 miles
- Turning radius: 22.75″
- Ground clearance: 2.25″
- Max incline angle: 6°
- Product weight: 240 lbs
>> See full Pride Jazzy 614HD power wheelchair review