Manual vs. Power Wheelchair: How To Choose The Right One For You

manual vs. power wheelchair

When the time comes to decide on a wheelchair, you will need to choose between a manual or a power wheelchair. Depending on your individual needs, you will need to look into the pros and cons of each type of chair to determine which one is right for you. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of manual and power wheelchairs and how to know which one you should purchase.

What is a Manual Wheelchair?

A manual wheelchair is your standard wheelchair that is not powered by electricity or batteries. Instead, it is powered by the person sitting in it.

Anyone who purchases a manual wheelchair needs to have enough upper body and core strength to operate the wheelchair and propel themselves forward. You will have to grip the wheels and turn them with enough force to move yourself and the chair. Unfortunately, this can be tiresome for people who need to travel long distances, those who don’t have muscle tone, or older individuals.

Manual wheelchairs are available in several different styles with the most popular being:

  • Transport
  • Standard
  • Lightweight
  • Ultralightweight


There are many advantages of owning a manual wheelchair. For example, manual wheelchairs are lightweight and easy to transport, so they can be lifted up steps or taken upstairs if needed. They also have fewer moving parts when compared to power wheelchairs, so they will have less need for maintenance and be easier to repair.

Not only that, but manual wheelchairs don’t rely on batteries or charging, so you never have to worry about running out of power and getting stuck. And, even though they require you to have some upper body strength, most newer models are fairly easy to navigate, push, and even fit into tight spaces.


At the same time, there are a few disadvantages of manual wheelchairs that may make you consider purchasing a power wheelchair, instead.

The first is that manual wheelchairs require the right level of balance and strength to operate. If you have a disability that affects your core and upper body strength, a manual wheelchair may not be realistic for you.

Furthermore, the effort needed to operate a manual chair can create new upper body issues with repeated use, such as shoulder and arm wear and tear.

Lastly, because they aren’t battery-powered, it can be difficult to go long distances or up steep slopes in a manual wheelchair.

What is a Power Wheelchair?

Power wheelchairs are a more advanced type of wheelchair that allows people to travel long distances and rough terrains with ease. There are many different types of power wheelchairs, including heavy-duty models, front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, and travel chairs.

This sophisticated type of wheelchair is powered by a rechargeable battery. They move with the push of a button and navigation of a shift-stick that allows for ease of use for people with limited strength and/or dexterity.


One of the biggest advantages of power wheelchairs is the fact that there is no minimum amount of strength required, so anyone, no matter their disability, can operate the chair. Being battery-powered, they can also enable you to go long distances without becoming fatigued.

Power wheelchairs, unlike manual wheelchairs, can withstand a variety of different terrains because they have different drivetrains (mid, front, and rear). They also have recline and tilt options to help make you more comfortable and relieve pressure.


While power wheelchairs are more versatile and easier to navigate, they have many more features, are much heavier, and are difficult to transport from one place to the next. In addition, with so many pieces and accessories, they are more likely to need regular maintenance than manual wheelchairs.

Being battery-powered, you must remember to regularly charge your battery. You must also be prepared to spend time learning the different programming and controls on the wheelchair.

Lastly, some people may stay away from power wheelchairs due to the cost. They can be much more expensive to purchase, maintain, and service compared to manual wheelchairs.

Choosing a Manual vs. Power Wheelchair

When deciding which type of wheelchair is right for you, you can start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Do I have enough upper body strength to operate a manual wheelchair?

— If you suffer from paralysis, have limited hand dexterity, or know that you will get tired traveling long distances, a power wheelchair may be a better option for you.

  • Is the cost of a power wheelchair going to hurt my financial situation?

— Having a power wheelchair means paying for the chair, repairs, maintenance, transport, and wheelchair lifts. If you are in a financial bind, you may have to stick with a manual wheelchair.

  • How often do I travel?

— Manual wheelchairs are far easier to travel with than power ones, so if you are a frequent flyer, you may consider a manual chair. Most can fold up so they take up minimal space.

  • Does my vehicle have the necessary equipment to transport a power wheelchair?

— Power wheelchairs weigh significantly more than manual ones so they are harder to transport. If you buy a power chair, you may need a vehicle chair lift as well as a vehicle that is big enough to fit the chair inside of it.

Purchase a Power Wheelchair Today

Here at Kelmedix, we have a large supply of power wheelchairs at all price points so you can find the right one for you. Our products reflect our values of longevity and durability to last for years of commercial and residential use. Head on over to our online store today to get started.