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Best Wheelchairs Buying Guide 2024

Ultimate Guide to Buying Wheelchairs

With thousands of Wheelchairs on the market, you might be scratching your head and asking yourself ‘What’s the Best Wheelchair to Buy?”

Fortunately, Mobility Shop Direct is dedicated to providing you with all the information you need to make an educated decision about Which Wheelchair is Best for You.

Table of Contents

What Is a Wheelchair

As the name suggests, ‘Wheelchairs’ are basically ‘chairs with wheels’, and are intended for use by people who have difficulty walking due to disability, injury or illness.

When they were first invented in Spain, they were used to help King Phillips II move around his castle, and were a luxury device that only the wealthy were able to buy.

Fortunately, for many Australians today, Wheelchairs have not only become more Affordable and Accessible, but there has been huge leaps in their Engineering and Designs!

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Benefits of Wheelchairs

Wheelchairs play a crucial role in the Health and Wellbeing of patients that have difficulty walking. By providing ‘Mobility’ they open opportunities for these patients to engage in social activities with family and friends, to participate in study, to earn income through work, and to access services such as healthcare.

To read more about the Important Role Wheelchairs play in our community Click Here.

How To Choose a Wheelchair

When choosing a Wheelchair for a user there are many considerations to take into account such as the propulsion method, type of wheelchair, mechanism of control and technology used.

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Wheelchair Propel Mechanism

There are two main propulsion mechanisms and they are ‘Self Propel’ and ‘Transit’:

  • Self Propel Wheelchairs: Constructed with Larger Rear Wheels (usually 60cm or 24’’), front casters and hand rims, they are used by patient to propel themselves without needing assistance of anyone. The larger wheel sizes makes it easier to move around in rough terrains such as over the grass or up kerbs.
  • Transit Wheelchairs: Unlike the Self-Propel Wheelchairs, the Transit Wheelchairs has smaller wheels (usually around 30CM or 12’’) and rely on the user being pushed around. Ideal for use in Nursing Homes, Hospitals and Airlines these wheelchairs are lighter in weight, and consist of ‘Attendant Brakes’ that allows the carer to reduce the wheelchair speed down hills, or lock for safety when required.

If you limited upper body strength to push yourself and do not have a carer to assist you, then feel free to checkout our Best Electric Wheelchairs Buyer’s Guide.

Wheelchair Types and Weight

One of the most important factors to consider when buying a wheelchair is its ‘weight’, and whether the person transporting the chair will be able to safely lift and transport the chair in their vehicle.

In general there are two main factors that contribute the most to the wheelchair weight and they are the material it is constructed of and whether it is a Self Propelled or Transit Propelled Wheelchair.

  • Wheelchairs constructed out of steel are a lot heavier than those constructed out of Aluminium, but tend to have a higher weight capacity and be more durable and are often found in Bariatric Wheelchairs. Most people however, will struggle to be able to lift Steel Wheelchairs.
  • Self Propelled Wheelchairs which have much larger wheels are a lot heavier than Transit Propelled Wheelchairs.

Lightweight Wheelchairs:

Weighing about 13-20kg these Wheelchairs are available in both self-propel or transit model for general use, are economically priced to suit all budgets and are available in either 41CM (16’’) or 46CM (18’’) Seat Width.

Shop Lightweight Wheelchairs.

Ultra-Lightweight Wheelchairs:

These Wheelchairs are lighter at 8-13kg, and are easier to propel and transport. They are made out of lightweight aluminium, are available in both self-propel and transit model, and are available in either 41CM (16’’) or 46CM (18’’) Seat Width.

Shop Ultra Lightweight Wheelchairs.

Heavy Duty Wheelchairs:

Designed for Larger or Bariatric users, these wheelchairs are often made of more durable metals such as steel and tend to weigh around 15-27kg, but have increased weight capacities of 160-325kg. They also offer wider seat size ranging from 51-61CM (20’’-24’’).

Shop Heavy Duty Wheelchairs.

Tilt and Recline Wheelchairs:

These wheelchairs allow you to change the orientation of the patient and allow them to lie back in the wheelchair. They are designed to maintain a range of motion and prevent pressure ulcers, help manage spasticity and increase sitting tolerance

Shop Tilt and Recline Wheelchairs.

How to Choose the Right Size of Wheelchair?

Choosing the right size wheelchairs plays a vital role in both your comfort and propulsion biomechanisms of your Wheelchair, and there are many factors to consider such as Seat width, Seat Depth, Seat height, Back rest, seat angle and arm rest.

How To Choose Seat Width of of Wheelchair

Seat Width  Wheelchair Measuring Guide

The seat width of your wheelchair impacts your comfort and performance during use. Ideally you want it to be wide enough to provide good weight distribution, but narrow enough to allow you to easily manipulate your wheelchair. 

If the seat is too wide it will lead to unwanted positions changes, poor posture, make it difficult to access the wheels, and ultimately increase the risk of injury.

Conversely, if the seat is too narrow, it will be less stable and less comfortable to use.

Following is a guideline on how to determine what seat width is best for your next wheelchair:

  1. Sit down on a flat surface
  2. Measure the widest width between your hips, buttocks or legs
  3. Add approximately 4-6cm to this measurement

P.S. If purchasing a Self Propelled or Bariatric wheelchair you will also need to consider the 'Open Width' also known as the 'Total Width' of your wheelchair to ensure that it can fit through doorways and hallways.

Total Width of Wheelchair

How To Choose Seat Depth of of Wheelchair

Seat Depth Wheelchair Measuring Guide

Seat Depth is just as important as width for comfort and biomechanics of your wheelchair, especially if you are a very tall person with long legs. Ideally you want to sit down with your weight evenly distributed throughout your thighs and buttocks, while providing allowing enough breathable space behind your knees.

If the seat is too short, it will overload the buttocks and increase pressure care risks, and affect manoeuvrability by placing too much weight on the castors.

Conversely if the seat is too deep, it will place pressure behind the knees causing a slumped posture and can affect pressure care and propulsion of the wheelchair.

Following is a guideline on how to determine what seat depth is best for your next wheelchair:

  1. Sit on flat surface
  2. Measure the distance between rear of buttocks/lower back to the hollow at back of the knee
  3. Subtract about 4cm from this measurement

How To Choose Leg Length of of Wheelchair

Leg Length Wheelchair Measurement Guide

The leg length measurement establishes the correct height of the footplates, which will enable part of the body weight to be taken by the feet. Footplates must have at least 2cm clearance above the ground.

Following is a guideline on how to establish leg length measurement:

  1. Sit on a flat surface.
  2. Measure the distance from the heel of the shoe to the hollow at the back of the knee.
  3. Subtract any cushion thickness to give the wheelchair measurement.

How To Choose Seat Height of of Wheelchair

Front Seat Height Wheelchair Measurement Guide

When selecting a Seat Height you need to make sure that the seat is high enough to take weight off your feet, but low enough to fit under table and ensure comfortable transfer height. When considering Seat Height you must also factor in the height of the cushion you will be using.

Following is a guideline on how to establish seat height measurement:

  1. Sit on flat surface.
  2. Measure vertical distance from ground to hollow at back of the knee.

If using a cushion make sure to subtract it's thickness from the above measurement to determine seat height required.

How To Choose Backrest Height of of Wheelchair

Backrest Height Wheelchair Measurement Guide

The backrest height of wheelchair required is dependent on your degree of disability. Ideally you want a backrest that provides sufficient tension to maintain a well seated position and provide freedom of movement.

Depending on your postural support needs, task you will be doing and duration of use you might either want a higher backrest or lower backrest:

  • High Backrest: provides increased stability, particularly for those with postural concerns.
  • Low Backrest: Allows more arm freedom for self-propelling and general function.

Following is a guideline on how to establish backrest height measurement:

  1. Sit on a flat surface.
  2. Measure the vertical distance from the seat platform to your shoulder blades.
  3. The subtract 10cm from this measurement to get an estimate of backrest height needed.

E.g. If you want to improve mobility and don't mind less trunk support then you can reduce the backrest height. Conversely if you need more trunk support, then measure from the seat platform up to the required level of support.

Seat Angle of Wheelchair

Another factors to consider when buying a wheelchair is the angle between the seat and backrest, which needs to be balanced against the needs of the user. A wider angle can provide greater postural support and reduce the risk of slipping forward. However, this can restrict movement, make if more difficult to self-propel or impact transfers.

Other Features of Wheelchair

  • Armrest Height: Should allow your forearms to rest comfortably.
  • Footrest Length: Should not extend too far to cause an obstacle.

How To Measure for Wheelchair

At Mobility Shop Direct we recommend that you Consult a Physiotherapist to take measurements and determine which Wheelchair will suit you Best.

However, we understand that some customers would prefer to take measurements themselves with the help of a family member or friends, so we've provided the following wheelchair measuring reference for you.

Best Manual Wheelchairs

At Mobility Shop Direct we believe there is no one size fits all wheelchair and it really depends on your personal circumstances, and needs. However, having said that we highly recommend you look into the Days Swift Self Propelled Wheelchair and Days Swift Transit Wheelchairs which are great all rounder wheelchairs, that provide outstanding value for money.

Best Days Swift Self Propelled Wheelchair

Feel free to contact us if you need any assistance with choosing a wheelchair feel free to fill out the following form and one of our helpful staff will get back to you with some recommendations:


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