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Manual wheelchairs are used globally to help those with limited mobility navigate the world in a much easier fashion. Not only are they an affordable solution for mobility needs, but they are also useful in terms of not requiring huge amounts of maintenance and so are frequently favored.
However, there are many options when it comes to standard manual wheelchairs, and it isn’t difficult to become quickly confused by these choices, which can make selecting the right standard manual wheelchair somewhat more of a challenge than it needs to be.
In this guide, we will be exploring standard manual wheelchairs and what you should be looking for when shopping for one. This will allow you to make a more informed choice and feel confident that you have gone with the best option for your needs – after all, everyone has different requirements.
Standard Manual Wheelchairs Comparison Chart
ProBasics K1 Manual Wheelchair
Feather Chair Featherweight 13.5 lbs. Wheelchair
Invacare Tracer IV Wheelchair
Karman S-305 Ergonomic Wheelchair
Everest & Jennings Traveler L4 Wheelchair
350 lbs, 450 lbs
250 lbs, 300 lbs
16" – 20" (W) x 16" (D)
18" (W) x 16" (D)
20" – 24" (W) x 18" (D)
16", 18" (W) x 17" (D)
16" – 20" (W) x 16", 18" (D)
24.5" – 28.5" (W) x 31.25" (L)
27.5" (W) x 30" (L)
26.25" – 32.25" (W) x 33.5" (L)
24", 26" (W) x 43" (L)
23" – 27" (W) x 31.5", 33" (L)
18" – 20"
24" (rear), 8" (front)
22" (rear), 6" (front)
24" (rear), 8" (front)
24" (rear), 7" (front)
24" (rear), 8" (front)
41 lbs – 43 lbs
31.5 lbs – 32.2 lbs
What is a Standard Manual Wheelchair?
Whilst the name ‘standard’ may fool you into thinking that these wheelchairs are as basic as they get, this isn’t necessarily true. Yes, a standard wheelchair doesn’t offer any special adaptations nor does it provide you with the ability to meet a specific need, but these are a great choice if you require a reliable and sturdy model that will get you from A to B.
A standard wheelchair features large rear wheels and smaller front casters that allows the wheelchair user to self-propel themselves. Alternatively, if the user needs some extra assistance as a result of strength issues, or problems with mobility in the upper body, the wheelchair can be pushed by the caregiver using the push handles.
This type of wheelchair is an excellent option for people who are going to be reliant on the wheelchair for most of their day and who need something that can handle heavy-duty use.
Owing to the fact that standard wheelchairs are used heavily, it is important to note that they are designed to be used both indoors and outdoors, so you’re never going to need to worry about changing chairs as you go about your day.
These types of wheelchairs are usually collapsible, allowing you to conveniently transport it in the trunk of a car or easily maneuver it through a narrow space. Furthermore, they offer superior comfort with the option of padded seat cushions, cushions that can help to correct posture, and those which are designed to aid in the prevention of bedsores – ideal for those who spend a lot of time in their wheelchairs. You can also choose between swinging or elevated footrests, as well as full length, flip-back, or adjustable armrests to accommodate different needs.
What Are the Benefits of a Manual Wheelchair?
Manual wheelchairs provide a range of benefits including:
- Inexpensive – They are relatively cost-effective, and so, for those who want to address their mobility issues without breaking the bank, a manual option is a good place to start.
- Easy to maintain – Manual wheelchairs do not require a lot of maintenance, and provided that they are well taken care of, can last many years without any problems.
- Easy to transport – A manual wheelchair is far more preferable if you need to transport it, since it can be folded and placed either in the trunk of the car or behind the seats. An electric wheelchair requires a vehicle big enough to fit the entire thing in at once. If you rely on an electric wheelchair for your day to day needs, it may be worth considering a manual model for when you are traveling, for example, your annual vacation or trips to see family.
- Good maneuverability – In days gone by, it may have been somewhat difficult to maneuver a manual wheelchair, but thanks to the innovative and modern designs we are now seeing, using a wheelchair of this type has never been easier. Maneuverability has been massively improved over the years, and many of the models are a dream to operate.
- Extremely versatile – Manual wheelchairs give users a variety of options, and depending on your personal needs, it can be adapted to suit you. Did you know that there are even manual wheelchairs that have been specifically designed for use in sports? Your choices really are excellent.
How to Choose the Right Standard Manual Wheelchair?
Standard wheelchairs, as we have seen, come in a variety of shapes, sizes and designs but these are not the only things that you need to consider before making a final decision. Elements such as size and ease of use, for example, is the wheelchair easily collapsible, are all factors that should be investigated.
Here are some important factors you may want to consider to ensure that you buy the right wheelchair for your particular needs:
Where Will the Wheelchair be Used?
For many people with limited mobility, a wheelchair isn’t always required when indoors, for example around the home which may have been modified to give greater independence. However, there are those who will be using their wheelchair indoors more often than out.
You can buy wheelchairs that have been designed to tackle outdoor environments more easily and usually feature things like a more robust frame that won’t weaken when the wheelchair is used on rough terrain. You will also notice that these types of wheelchair tend to be bulkier due to their more sturdy design. These are an excellent option if you are planning to spend a lot of time outdoors.
Many outdoor wheelchairs are also fitted with wheels that can freely tackle the rough terrain we talked about, however, when used indoors, these wheelchairs may be a little more difficult to use.
In contrast, if your wheelchair will be mainly for indoor use, you may benefit from something that has been designed with this in mind. An indoor wheelchair will be less bulky and therefore, less likely to be difficult to get through doorways etc. What’s more, finding a wheelchair whose wheels have been designed to work well on smooth surfaces will give you greater control.
Another thing to consider here is what the condition of your home’s exterior is like – do you have to cross a grassed area, for example. You might also wish to think about the surrounding area, such as sidewalks and whether they are smooth or a little more rugged. Looking at common places you go can be a good determining factor.
Similarly to the above point, ensuring the dimensions of the wheelchair will work for your environment and home is very important – it’s no use buying a wheelchair that won’t fit through your front door, for example.
When you look at buying a wheelchair, you will notice that the height, width and depth options vary greatly and the type of wheelchair you buy will also have a bearing on this.
If you are a taller person, it stands to reason that you may need the wheelchair to be higher from the ground to accommodate your legs as well as having a higher back-rest to give you optimal comfort and support. Of course, there are some wheelchairs that have an adjustable back which certainly comes in useful.
Furthermore, there are wheelchairs that offer an adjustable seat height which can come in handy if you wish to propel the wheelchair using your feet but also want the option to propel it using other methods.
Wheelchair Weight Capacity
Manual wheelchairs come in a variety of weight categories and your weight will play an important role in your final decision.
For larger people, there are many heavy-duty wheelchairs, whereas those who are smaller may opt for something a little less robust.
Whilst weight can be a taboo subject, it is important to be honest about what you need, since getting the right wheelchair weight capacity will give you the best overall experience in terms of comfort. But more importantly, a wheelchair that has been designed to be more heavy-duty will provide a safe piece of equipment for those who need it.
What Size Seat Do You Need?
A standard wheelchair seat usually measures 16 inches x 18 inches but this may not always be suitable. For this reason, it is important to determine whether a standard seat will give you the comfort and support you need to whether you need to opt for something in a different size.
Most wheelchair manufacturers have a variety of options when it comes to seat size and if the correct size is not found, this could cause extreme discomfort by putting unnecessary pressure on the hips and legs. Not only is it unpleasant, but it could also lead to pressure sores.
On the other hand, if you are using a wheelchair whose seat is too large for you, it may be more difficult to use the hand-propelling wheels.
As a rule of thumb, you should aim to have 2 inches of free space on either side of your widest point when sitting in the wheelchair. Your height and body size will determine the best option for you and whilst measuring both yourself and the chair is important, there is nothing quite like sitting in it and getting a true feel for the seat size.
Is the Wheelchair Suitable for Traveling?
For many wheelchair users, putting their wheelchair into a vehicle is an important part of everyday life. In order to find the right wheelchair for you, looking at how easy it is to fold the equipment will give you a clear idea on whether it will work for your lifestyle. For example, do you need to regularly take the wheelchair on vacation?
Many manual wheelchairs are collapsible but how big they are once they are folded can differ greatly. Your main vehicle’s size will determine how small the wheelchair needs to be when fully folded away.
However, whilst size is an important factor to consider, you should also bear in mind the weight of the wheelchair. Lifting it in and out of the car or into storage can be difficult if the chair is very heavy. The good news is that there are many lightweight wheelchairs on the market which are excellent for traveling but are also great for easy movement whilst in use.
Modern wheelchair manufacturers know that it takes more than one material to construct a range of wheelchairs and depending on your needs, different materials may work well.
Most commonly, wheelchairs are made from steel, aluminium, titanium or carbon fiber, let’s explore the advantages of each of these options:
- Steel wheelchairs are the least pricey option, however, they tend to be heavier. This is a good option for wheelchairs that are going to be used every day.
- Aluminium is also a relatively well-priced material and is frequently used in manual wheelchairs. This is a much more lightweight option but still good for frequent use.
- Titanium is a very lightweight material that is often used in sports wheelchairs. This metal is very resistant to corrosion but generally more expensive than the previous options.
- Carbon fiber is the lightest material and more often than not, the most expensive. However, this is very robust and durable and is well-suited to those who are very active and regularly take part in sports.
What Aftercare Will You Receive?
Buying a wheelchair will give you greater freedom to move about despite issues with mobility, however, if there is a problem with the equipment, you are going to want to feel confident that the manufacturer or supplier will get the issue sorted quickly. Without good aftercare, service and maintenance, you run the risk of being stranded.
Always check if there is a warranty and how long this lasts as well as finding out whether the supplier offers regular servicing of the wheelchair. Not only will this ensure that your independence will not be lost but it will also guarantee your safety whilst using the equipment.
Best Standard Manual Wheelchairs
1. ProBasics K1 Manual Wheelchair
If you are on a limited budget, the ProBasics K1 Manual Wheelchair is a great option to consider.
Despite its affordable price, the wheelchair is well designed, and it is suitable for all-day use. The steel constructed frame ensures excellent durability as well as longevity. The K1 offers good comfort. The nylon upholstery is durable but lightweight, and it is easy to keep clean. It is also resistant to bacteria and mildew. The padded armrests provide increased comfort, and they flip back to assist with transfers.
Good maneuverability is an important factor to consider when choosing a wheelchair. The ProBasics K1 wheelchair is fitted with large 24″ rear wheels, which provides a smooth ride. As the wheels are constructed from solid urethane, they are puncture-proof and require less maintenance than pneumatic tires. The composite hand rims allow the wheelchair to be comfortably self-propelled without causing undue strain on the user’s hands.
When the wheelchair is folded, it measures just 11″ wide, so it can conveniently fit into the trunk of a vehicle, perfect for those day trips out in the car.
The wheelchair comes in a choice of three seat sizes, including 16″ x 16″, 18″ x 16″, and 20″ x 16″, and you can also choose between swing-away footrests or elevating leg rests.
- Weight capacity: 250 lbs
- Seat dimensions: 16″ – 20″ (W) x 16″ (D)
- Seat-to-floor Height: 19.5″
- Product dimensions: 24.5″ – 28.5″ (W) x 31.25″ (L)
- Folded dimensions: 11″ (W)
- Wheel size: 24″ (rear), 8″ (front)
- Product weight: 41 lbs – 43 lbs
2. Feather Chair Featherweight Wheelchair
Weighing only 19 lbs, the Feather Chair wheelchair is an excellent choice for those looking for a lightweight wheelchair that can easily be transported.
Due to it being the lightest wheelchair currently on the market, lifting it into and out of a vehicle is hassle-free. This means you will be able to take the wheelchair with you wherever you go. Due to its reduced weight, it also means it is easier to push and propel, which reduces the workload for the caregiver or wheelchair user. This is a particularly important benefit for those who need to use their wheelchair for prolonged periods throughout the day.
The wheelchair provides an extremely comfortable and stable ride which helps to minimize any bumps or jolts when going over uneven terrain. The 1-inch seat and back cushion ensures good comfort, and the upholstery comes in a choice of colors, including red, blue, or grey allowing you to personalize it.
Folding the wheelchair can be completed in a matter of seconds. All you need to do is fold down the backrest and then pull the wheelchair seat up, and it will fold down to a compact 12″ wide. Optional quick-release wheels are available, which allow the back wheels to be removed at a push of a button for easier storage.
The wheelchair has a weight capacity of up to 250 lbs, and the seat measures 18″ (width) x 16″ (depth). A heavy-duty model is also available that has a higher weight capacity of up to 350 lbs, as well as a wider 22″ seat, making it suitable for larger individuals.
- Weight capacity: 250 lbs
- Seat dimensions: 18″ (W) x 16″ (D)
- Seat-to-floor Height: 17″, 17.5″
- Product dimensions: 27.5″ (W) x 30″ (L)
- Folded dimensions: 12″ (W)
- Wheel size: 22″ (rear), 6″ (front)
- Product weight: 19 lbs
3. Invacare Tracer IV Wheelchair
With its higher weight capacity and choice of different seat sizes, the Invacare Tracer IV wheelchair is perfectly suited for larger individuals.
The versatile heavy-duty wheelchair comes in a choice of weight capacities, including 350 lbs or 450 lbs. You can also choose between different seat configurations, including 20″ x 18″, 22″ x 18″, or 24″ x 18″, which should be suitable for wider framed individuals who are looking for a choice of larger seats.
The wheelchair features a reinforced carbon steel frame, which includes cross-braces and a gusseted side frame, which ensures good durability and sturdiness. Due to its robust build, it is well-suited to those who are very active and are looking for a wheelchair that can handle outdoor environments.
While it may be a heavy-duty wheelchair, it is easy to propel. The 24″ urethane rear tires provide good maneuverability over most surfaces. The wheelchair is also foldable, and folds down to a compact 13″ wide, allowing you to transport it in your vehicle for day trips out.
To ensure maximum comfort, the seat-to-floor height can be adjusted to suit users of differing heights. The armrests are available in a choice of desk-length or full-length removable armrests.
- Weight capacity: 350 lbs, 450 lbs
- Seat dimensions: 20″ – 24″ (W) x 18″ (D)
- Seat-to-floor Height: 17.5″, 19.5″
- Product dimensions: 26.25″ – 32.25″ (W) x 33.5″ (L)
- Folded dimensions: 13.25″ (W)
- Wheel size: 24″ (rear), 8″ (front)
- Product weight: 42 lbs
4. Karman S-305 Ergonomic Wheelchair
In terms of comfort, the Karman S-305 wheelchair really does tick all the boxes. The wheelchair features an ergonomically “S” shaped seat that has been designed to adapt to the contours of the body.
The seat provides better-seated stability, and it also assists in relieving pressure, which helps to lower the risk of pressure sores. The seat-to-floor height is adjustable and can range from 18″ – 20″ to suit a range of needs. The wheelchair is a good choice for anyone looking for a wheelchair that they can comfortably use for extended periods.
The armrests have also been designed with comfort in mind. They are height adjustable, and they are contoured and wider, which helps to provide better support, allowing the user to comfortably rest their arms. To allow for easier and safer wheelchair transfers, the armrests flip-back and the swing-away footrests can be detached without requiring any tools.
Trying to load and unload a wheelchair if you have a smaller-sized vehicle can often be a challenging and time-consuming task. With this wheelchair, however, you won’t face such issues. Not only is the wheelchair extremely lightweight, weighing just 29 lbs, but the rear wheels pop off with just a push of a button, allowing you to easily transport it wherever you go.
The seat comes in a choice of different width configurations, including a 16″ or 18″ option. The upholstery is treated with an anti-bacterial finish, which inhibits bacterial growth and eliminates odors and stains, which makes the wheelchair very low maintenance.
- Weight capacity: 250 lbs
- Seat dimensions: 16″, 18″ (W) x 17″ (D)
- Seat-to-floor Height: 18″ – 20″
- Product dimensions: 24″, 26″ (W) x 43″ (L)
- Folded dimensions: 12″ (W)
- Wheel size: 24″ (rear), 7″ (front)
- Product weight: 29 lbs
5. Everest & Jennings Traveler L4 Wheelchair
The Everest & Jennings Traveler L4 is a well built and durable manual wheelchair that is reasonably priced.
Easy to maneuver, and due to its compact footprint, the wheelchair is ideal if you are looking for one that can navigate through confined spaces. The wheelchair folds flat (11.5″ wide), so it can easily be stored and transported. When folded, the wheelchair is freestanding, allowing you to conveniently wheel it along the ground, reducing the need of having to lift it.
Anti-tippers are often an optional extra with some wheelchairs. With the Traveler L4, however, they come as standard. These is a safe and useful feature, as it improves the wheelchair’s stability and prevents it from flipping backward.
The padded flip-up armrests allow for easier side transfers when getting into and out of the wheelchair. This is a particularly important feature for users who are particularly unsteady on their feet. The wheelchair comes with swing-away footrests, although if you prefer, these can be upgraded to elevating swing-away footrests instead.
The wheelchair has dual axles and multi-position caster forks that allow the seat’s height to be adjusted in 2″ increments, from 18 to 20 inches. The seat is available in different widths (16, 18, 20, or inches), and there is a choice of depths, including 16 or 18 inches. A chart pocket is fitted to the rear of the seat where you can store your personal belongings.
The wheelchair comes with an impressive 5-year limited warranty. This provides peace of mind that if anything does go wrong with your wheelchair, you won’t be out of pocket.
- Weight capacity: 250 lbs, 300 lbs
- Seat dimensions: 16″ – 20″ (W) x 16″, 18″ (D)
- Seat-to-floor Height: 18″, 20″
- Product dimensions: 23″ – 27″ (W) x 31.5″, 33″ (L)
- Folded dimensions: 11.5″ (W)
- Wheel size: 24″ (rear), 8″ (front)
- Product weight: 31.5 lbs – 32.2 lbs
Standard manual wheelchairs are an excellent choice for people who have problems with mobility but still need to be able to move around and get out of the house.
One of the great advantages of this type of wheelchair is that, unlike their motorised counterparts, they are often easy to transport in the car. Additionally, they provide options where propelling the wheelchair is concerned, and no matter what your needs, you will have options.
However, because there are so many options with standard manual wheelchairs, it is important to consider exactly what you need before you purchase.
Using the points in this guide, you will be able to make an informed decision on the right standard wheelchair for your unique needs.