Mobility Scooters vs Power Wheelchairs – What Should You Choose?

Mobility scooters vs power wheelchairs comparison
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If you struggle with getting around then it is essential to find a good mode of transport for your day to day life. While there are a number of manual options, many people find that a powered mobility aid is the best choice.

In the main, you’ll have a choice between a mobility scooter or a power chair; which is sometimes called an electric wheelchair. In any case, you will need to understand the features and functions of each one and weigh up the pros and cons to find the best option for you.

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What Are the Differences Between a Mobility Scooter and a Power Wheelchair?

When you put a mobility scooter and a powerchair side by side, you will instantly see that they are two different pieces of equipment. For starters, the mobility scooter has a set of handles which are used for steering whereas the electric wheelchair relies on controls that are typically set in or near the armrest for easy access.

But this isn’t the only design aspect that is different between the two. Electric wheelchairs will normally have more wheels with some boasting up to six. Not only are there wheels at each corner but they will often feature mid-wheels that make turning easier. The mobility scooter may have anywhere between three and five wheels.

What’s more, an electric wheelchair is usually kitted out with more features to enhance the comfort of the user. This is usually because people who opt for a powerchair, will be reliant on their equipment for more of the time than those who use a mobility scooter.

Another key difference between these two pieces of equipment is that the mobility scooter is generally much more affordable than a powerchair. But if you are willing to invest a little extra (up to $15,000,in some cases) then a powerchair will offer much greater stability and is a far superior device in terms of durability and sturdiness.

If you use a mobility scooter, this is something that you would typically use outdoors or when you are not at home. These devices are usually larger and are not designed to be used around the house. On the other hand, a powerchair is designed to be used in a variety of situations and this makes it ideal for people who rely on mobility aids most or all of the time.

Pros and Cons of a Mobility Scooter

Pros and cons of a mobility scooter

The mobility scooter is a very popular choice for a lot of people but in order to determine whether it is right for you, it is crucial to weigh up the pros and cons. Think about how you will use the device and what you want to gain from it, this will tell you a lot about whether it will meet your needs.

Pros

  • The mobility scooter makes an excellent choice for people whose upper body strength is good. It is also a good option for those with good dexterity in their fingers meaning that they are generally easy to use. However, you should keep in mind that due to their mostly outdoor design, the mobility scooter is better suited to people who are able to walk a short distance.
  • When choosing a mobility scooter, you will notice that there is a vast choice in models meaning that you are able to get something that entirely meets your needs. For example, there are those that can fold for travel, mobility scooters designed for various types of terrain and heavy duty ones for larger adults. In some cases, mobility scooters will come with a 600lb weight limit.
  • If you are looking for a more affordable mobility aid then the mobility scooter is an option worth considering. They are typically much cheaper than a power chair so if you are able to walk a little and have better upper body strength, you may find this a cheaper option.
  • Getting out and about, even when you have a disability, is imperative to independance and good mental health. This is what makes a mobility scooter excellent for errands and outings since it has much more storage space than a powerchair and allows users that extra freedom.
  • If you are reliant on a mobility aid such as a scooter or a powerchair, and you want to travel further distances then a mobility scooter will almost always be the best option. They typically have a far greater range and due to their design are much better for all day outings, for example. With a comfortable seat and easy to use handles, they offer greater comfort over longer distances as well as the power capacity to cope.
  • With the fast pace of modern life, you may need something that is a little quicker at getting from A to B. The mobility scooter generally moves faster than a powerchair.
  • If you opt for a mobility scooter, the chances are that you have some ability to move around unaided and this means that you may be able to access a car or van without having to remain in a wheelchair. In this case, the mobility scooter is excellent since a lot of models will collapse or are easy to take apart for putting in the trunk of the car. Moreover, this means that you may be able to move the scooter with little to no help as there won’t be as much weight to shift at once.

Cons

  • Since the mobility scooter is slightly larger than the powerchair, it may not be the best option if you have to access confined spaces such as narrow doorways or tight corners. The main issue here is that the turning radius of the mobility scooter is larger and therefore needs much more space.
  • Similarly to the above point, due to the bulky design of the mobility scooter, it can be difficult to get onto public transport. Moreover, there are some buildings that may be more challenging to access and while wheelchair ramps are commonplace, some entrance ways are not adapted for mobility scooters.
  • A big problem with mobility scooters is that the stability is not as great as a powerchair and there is a risk that the vehicle may tip over. This is especially true when traveling on an incline.
  • Mobility scooters are generally only suitable for people with the upper body strength and dexterity to operate the controls and steering.

Pros and Cons of a Powerchair/Electric Wheelchair

Pros and cons of a power wheelchair

Electric wheelchairs, often referred to as powerchairs are a very common option for people looking for a mobility aid. However, they may not be suitable for every need and so it is important to weigh up their pros and cons to see if this is the right form of transport for you.

Pros

  • If you rely on the use of public transport such as trains, buses, etc then a powerchair is a much easier option when boarding. Their smaller design and smooth operation means that getting on and off is not a challenge.
  • For use in confined spaces, the electric wheelchair is far superior. It has a very tight turning radius which allows users to freely move in narrow hallways and other compact spaces. Moreover, they generally have the ability to turn in a 360º circle thanks to being fitted with mid wheel drive.
  • Users that opt for a powerchair will usually require mobility support for most, if not all of the time. For this reason, a powerchair is a better choice since these offer greater comfort. Features such as reclining back rests up the level of comfort and additional padding is essential to relieve pressure when seated for longer periods.
  • Another issue for people who are using a wheelchair for long periods of time is that they need the ability to move up and down according to the activity they are engaging in. For example, if you are in a social situation where you want to be face to face with those you are talking to, raising the seat will allow you to do this. Many powerchairs have elevating seats which makes it far easier to sit at a dining table, converse at eye level etc. What’s more, with an extended vertical reach, users are not reliant on others to help them when accessing high cupboards or shelves etc.
  • Where a mobility scooter features a tiller at the front, the powerchair doesn’t and this means that it is far easier to get close to a countertop or table, further improving independence and the ability to live a freer life.
  • The powerchair is incredibly stable and this is largely thanks to the larger wheels. Moreover, they are suitable for use both indoors and when you are out and about offering a greater level of versatility.
  • Powerchairs are fitted with a joystick type controller which is far easier to use, even for people whose dexterity is lacking. The placement of these sticks is often customizable meaning that the user will have the control on their dominant side.
  • Just because you have a disability, this should not limit your ability to travel and when using a powerchair, you have the peace of mind that you can take it with you when traveling by air. Electric wheelchairs are air travel approved, for the most part.

Cons

  • If you are using a powerchair, you may need to purchase a car hoist since these vehicles are typically heavier than a mobility scooter. What’s more, they generally do not come apart very easily meaning that transporting them is a little more of a challenge. You may also need someone else to help you in and out of the vehicle.
  • As we mentioned in the point above, many electric wheelchairs do not have the option of disassembly. This may not only make using a car difficult but means that storing the electric wheelchair, when it is not in use, can be a little more challenging and you may need to find a disused corner of the home to keep the chair.
  • When purchasing a powerchair, you will need to be prepared to spend a significantly higher amount. These electric wheelchairs can go into the thousands with some rocketing up to $15,000. However, with their reliability, stability, and customizable options, you will be getting something that is more intricately suited to your specific needs.
  • Mobility scooters come with built in storage which is great if you are out and about a lot of the time. However, a powerchair doesn’t have this option. While some may come with small storage options, these are far less than a mobility scooter.
  • Getting to grips with using a powerchair can take a little time. You will find that the controls are generally more complex and require a little more of a learning curve to understand. For this reason, if you opt for an electric wheelchair, you must be prepared to spend a little more time familiarizing yourself with your model.
  • Electric wheelchairs lack the speed that a mobility scooter can muster. They may not be suitable for people who need a fast way to get from A to B.
  • While there are some electric wheelchairs that are designed for bariatric users, these are not as widely available as heavy duty mobility scooters. Moreover, powerchairs can generally take less weight than a mobility scooter regardless of the intended use.
Jackie Benardout

Jackie Benardout

Jackie is a passionate advocate for keeping people with all types of mobility problems active. After suffering complications after a knee replacement she knew that she wanted to remain as active as before her numerous operations. Her passion is to advise others on how to be able to lead a fulfilling and independent life no matter what disability they may have.

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