Different Types of Wheelchairs: The Evolution You MUST See to Believe!

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A wheelchair is not just a chair fitted with wheels. For millions of people around the world who have lost the ability to move freely, it is an essential tool that provides them with mobility and independence. 

Wheelchairs can enable users to move around their homes, navigate workplaces, and participate in their communities, significantly enhancing their quality of life.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 65 million people worldwide require a wheelchair for mobility. In developed countries, among people over the age of 60, about 7% are wheelchair users. [1]

This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide to the various types of wheelchairs available in today’s market. From manual to electric and specialized wheelchairs designed for specific purposes or health conditions, we will delve into their unique features, benefits, and limitations.

Understanding the types of wheelchairs is crucial in making an informed decision when purchasing or choosing one for personal use or for a loved one. 

The right wheelchair can enhance the user’s mobility, comfort, and overall lifestyle.

History of wheelchairs

The concept of a wheeled seating device dates back to ancient times, but the wheelchair as we know it today has a much more recent origin. The first self-propelling chair was invented in 1783 by John Dawson of Bath, England. It was known as the Bath chair.

Since then, wheelchairs have significantly evolved. The 20th century brought great innovations, like lightweight materials, customizable designs, and electric models. Today, there are wheelchairs designed to climb stairs, traverse rough terrain, and even wheelchairs that can elevate the user to a standing position.

A typical wheelchair is comprised of various components, each serving a specific purpose. These include the frame, wheels (both large and small), armrests, footrests, seat, and backrest. Some wheelchairs might also include additional elements such as headrests, seat belts, or specialized controls for electric models.

The design of a wheelchair impacts its maneuverability, comfort, safety, and even its aesthetics. Factors such as the wheelchair’s weight, size, durability, adjustability, and cost are also important considerations in the design process.

Types Of Wheelchairs: The Different Types of Wheelchairs In 2024

Let’s embark on a journey into the realm of wheelchairs. Here we will delve into 15 different types of wheelchairs that are widely used. While there may be more types of wheelchairs in existence, we have selected these 15 based on their popularity and common usage.

1. Manual Wheelchairs

Manual wheelchairs are mobility devices designed to be propelled by human power rather than a motor or battery. 

Typically, they are maneuvered by the user pushing on the outer rims of the large, rear wheels, although they can also be pushed by a caregiver

Manual wheelchairs are diverse in design, catering to a range of needs and uses, from everyday activities to specialized tasks such as sports. 

They are a crucial tool for people with mobility impairments, offering them increased independence and improved quality of life.


Manual wheelchairs are primarily used by individuals who have a certain degree of upper body strength or have a caregiver to propel the chair. 

They can be used effectively both indoors and outdoors, with their design ranging from basic models used in healthcare facilities to highly customized models for active, independent users.

Manual Wheelchairs Photo Drive Medical
Manual Wheelchairs | Photo: Drive Medical


  • They are generally less expensive than powered ones.
  • They come in various varieties to accommodate different needs, including foldable models and sports wheelchairs.
  • With fewer mechanical parts than power wheelchairs, they require less maintenance.


  • Propelling a manual wheelchair requires physical effort, which can be challenging for users with limited upper body strength.
  • Unlike power wheelchairs, manual models may lack certain features like seat tilting or standing capabilities.

Average Weight:

The weight of a manual wheelchair can vary significantly based on the type and materials used. Standard models weigh around 35 to 40 pounds, while lightweight models can weigh as little as 15 to 30 pounds.

Average Price:

The cost of a manual wheelchair can vary widely based on its features and quality. Basic models may cost as little as $100, while high-end, custom-designed models can range up to $2000 or more.

2. Powered Wheelchairs

Powered wheelchairs, also known as electric wheelchairs, are mobility devices propelled by an electric motor rather than manual power. Controlled by a joystick or similar device, they provide mobility without the need for upper body strength. 

They come in various designs and models, with features to cater to different physical needs and terrain types.


Powered wheelchairs are used by individuals with limited upper body strength, those who need to navigate long distances, or users with difficulty operating a manual wheelchair. 

They’re ideal for individuals with conditions such as multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, or advanced stages of muscular dystrophy.

Powered Wheelchairs, PhotoEWheels Dealers_best power wheelchair_best motorized wheelchair for seniors
Powered Wheelchairs | Photo: EWheels Dealers


  • They require little to no physical effort from the user, which is beneficial for those with limited strength or endurance.
  • Powered wheelchairs often have more features like tilt, recline, and elevation functions.
  • They’re ideal for navigating large spaces or long distances.


  • Powered wheelchairs are generally heavier than manual ones, making them harder to transport.
  • They are more expensive due to their complex design and features.

Average Weight:

The weight of powered wheelchairs varies widely depending on their design and features but is typically between 150 and 250 pounds.

Average Price:

The price of powered wheelchairs also varies, typically ranging from around $1,200 for basic models up to $15,000 or more for high-end models with advanced features.

3. Pediatric Wheelchairs

Pediatric wheelchairs are specially designed mobility aids for children and small adults. They take into account the smaller body size, growth, and unique developmental needs of young users. 

Available in both manual and powered versions, these wheelchairs can also be highly customized to accommodate specific conditions or needs.


Pediatric wheelchairs are used by children or small adults who have mobility impairments due to conditions like cerebral palsy, spina bifida, or muscular dystrophy. 

They aid in daily activities, school participation, and play, enhancing the user’s independence and social interaction.

Pediatric Wheelchairs, Photo MedicalExpo
Pediatric Wheelchairs | Photo: MedicalExpo


  • Pediatric wheelchairs are designed to fit children’s bodies, ensuring better comfort and support.
  • Many are designed to adjust and grow with the child, providing longer-term use.
  • They help children participate in daily activities, improving their quality of life.


  • Pediatric wheelchairs can be expensive, especially those that are highly customized.
  • Depending on the model, they can be heavy and challenging to transport.

Average Weight:

Pediatric wheelchairs, depending on their type (manual or powered) and features, typically weigh between 30 and 150 pounds.

Average Price:

The cost of pediatric wheelchairs varies based on the model and customization. Basic models can start around $500, while customized, high-end models can go up to $7,000 or more.

4. Positioning Wheelchairs

Positioning wheelchairs, also known as tilt-in-space or reclining wheelchairs, are specialized mobility aids designed to provide increased comfort, support, and pressure relief by allowing the user to adjust the chair’s position. 

By changing the orientation of the seat and backrest, they reduce the risk of pressure sores and improve respiratory function and digestion.


Positioning wheelchairs are often used by individuals with conditions that limit their ability to reposition themselves, such as severe cerebral palsy, paralysis, or muscular dystrophy. 

They are also beneficial for individuals who spend extended periods in their wheelchairs or who are at risk of pressure sores.

Positioning Wheelchairs, Photo Broda
Positioning Wheelchairs | Photo: Broda


  • The adjustable positions offer better comfort and support for the user.
  • They help in preventing the development of pressure sores by distributing weight evenly.
  • Adjusting positions can enhance respiratory function and digestion.
  • Positioning wheelchairs often comes with many customization options, including various seating and support systems.


  • These wheelchairs are generally larger and heavier than standard wheelchairs, making them less portable.
  • The added features can make these wheelchairs more complicated to use.
  • Due to their specialized features, positioning wheelchairs are often more expensive than standard ones.

Average Weight:

Positioning wheelchairs, due to their enhanced features, are usually heavier than standard wheelchairs, often weighing between 40 and 200 pounds depending on the model and features.

Average Price:

The cost of positioning wheelchairs varies greatly based on the type and level of customization. They typically range from $2,000 to over $10,000 for high-end models with advanced features.

5. Sports Wheelchairs

Sports wheelchairs are specifically designed mobility aids for individuals who want to participate in sports and other physical activities

They feature unique designs, including angled wheels and lightweight frames, to provide superior speed, maneuverability, and stability compared to standard wheelchairs.


Sports wheelchairs are used by athletes with mobility impairments who participate in various sports, including basketball, tennis, racing, and rugby. 

They are designed to withstand the rigors of athletic competition and to enhance performance in their specific sport.

Sports Wheelchairs, Photo Millercare_types of electric wheelchairs_types of walkers for seniors
Sports Wheelchairs | Photo: Millercare


  • Sports wheelchairs offer superior speed and maneuverability compared to standard wheelchairs.
  • They are built to withstand rigorous sporting activities.
  • They allow individuals with mobility impairments to participate in a wide range of sports.


  • Sports wheelchairs can be expensive, especially custom-made models.
  • They are sport-specific and may not be suitable for everyday use.

Average Weight:

Sports wheelchairs are generally lightweight to enhance mobility and performance. They typically weigh between 20 and 50 pounds, depending on the design and materials used.

Average Price:

The cost of sports wheelchairs can vary widely based on their design and customization. Basic models start around $700, while high-end, custom-designed models can range up to $5,000 or more.

6. All-Terrain Wheelchairs

All-terrain wheelchairs, also known as off-road wheelchairs, are specialized mobility devices designed to navigate uneven, challenging terrains that a standard wheelchair cannot handle. 

Featuring larger, wider wheels and often a reinforced frame, these different types of wheelchairs can traverse grass, gravel, sand, and even shallow water.


All-terrain wheelchairs are typically used by individuals who enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, beach outings, or nature exploration. 

They are designed to provide mobility and independence in diverse environments, extending beyond the smooth, paved surfaces optimal for most wheelchairs.

All-Terrain Wheelchairs, Photo All Terrain Wheelchairs_types of walkers for seniors
All-Terrain Wheelchairs | Photo: All-Terrain Wheelchairs


  • All-terrain wheelchairs can navigate a wide range of environments, offering users more freedom and flexibility.
  • These wheelchairs make outdoor exploration and activities more accessible to individuals with mobility impairments.
  • The design features of all-terrain wheelchairs offer increased stability and safety on uneven ground.


  • These wheelchairs are often larger and heavier than standard models, which can make them challenging to transport.
  • All-terrain wheelchairs can be more expensive due to their specialized features and durable construction.

Average Weight:

All-terrain wheelchairs, because of their robust design, typically weigh between 60 and 150 pounds.

Average Price:

The cost of all-terrain wheelchairs varies based on their design and features. They typically range from $1,500 for basic models to over $10,000 for high-end models with advanced capabilities.

Related: 7 Best Mobility Scooters for Seniors: Senior Mobility Revolution

7. Beach Wheelchairs

Beach wheelchairs are specialized types of wheelchairs designed to navigate sandy and aquatic environments. 

These wheelchairs typically feature large, wide wheels or even balloon tires that prevent the chair from sinking into the sand, enabling users to enjoy beach environments with ease.


Beach wheelchairs are used by individuals with mobility impairments who wish to spend time on sandy beaches, near the water, or participate in beach-related activities. 

They can also be used around other soft or uneven terrains that standard wheelchairs struggle to navigate.

Beach Wheelchairs, Photo: AccessRec
Beach Wheelchairs | Photo: AccessRec


  • Beach wheelchairs make beach visits and other sandy environments accessible to individuals with mobility limitations.
  • Their wide wheels offer good stability on loose, shifting terrain like sand.
  • They are often made with lightweight materials like aluminum to resist rust and make them easier to push on the sand.
  • Some models even can float in calm water.


  • Beach wheelchairs can be bulky and challenging to transport due to their larger wheels.
  • These specialized wheelchairs can be expensive compared to standard models.

Average Weight:

Beach wheelchairs, due to their specialized tires and construction, can weigh between 40 and 60 pounds.

Average Price:

Beach wheelchairs vary in price based on their design and features. Basic models can start from around $1,000, and high-end models can cost upwards of $2,500.

8. Mobility Scooters

Mobility scooters are motorized mobility aids that feature a seat over two rear wheels, a flat area for the feet, and handlebars in front for steering. Although not technically a wheelchair, they function similarly and provide a significant level of mobility assistance. 

They come in three-wheel and four-wheel models and are often used by people who can walk short distances but have difficulty with long stretches.


Mobility scooters are used by individuals with conditions like arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or obesity, which limit their ability to walk extended distances. 

They’re especially helpful for tasks like shopping, sightseeing, or moving around large indoor spaces such as shopping malls or airports.

Mobility Scooters, Photo:  SpinLife
Mobility Scooters | Photo: SpinLife


  • Mobility scooters are straightforward to operate, often requiring less upper body strength than a wheelchair.
  • They typically have a comfortable, padded seat and backrest, making them suitable for long-term use.
  • They provide greater independence and mobility to users who can walk short distances but struggle with endurance.


  • Mobility scooters are larger than most wheelchairs, making them difficult to use in tight spaces.
  • Their size and weight can make them challenging to transport without a vehicle lift.

Average Weight:

Mobility scooters, depending on the model, typically weigh between 85 and 200 pounds.

Average Price:

The cost of mobility scooters varies depending on their size, design, and features. They typically range from $700 for basic models to over $3,500 for high-end models with advanced features.

9. Standing Power Wheelchairs

Standing power wheelchairs are innovative mobility aids that allow the user to stand upright in addition to sitting. 

They are equipped with powerful motors and advanced features to assist users in transitioning from a seated to a standing position, improving accessibility and offering a range of health benefits.


Standing power wheelchairs are typically used by individuals with conditions like spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, or cerebral palsy. 

They can be beneficial for those who want or need to stand periodically for social, functional, or health reasons but can’t do so independently.

Standing Power Wheelchairs, Photo KARMA Medical
Standing Power Wheelchairs | Photo: KARMA Medical


  • Regular standing can improve circulation, and bone density, and reduce the risk of pressure sores.
  • Standing wheelchairs allow users to reach high places and engage in activities that require standing.
  • They allow users to change positions without assistance, promoting independence.


  • Standing power wheelchairs are among the most expensive types of wheelchairs due to their advanced features.
  • Like other power wheelchairs, they rely on battery power, which requires regular charging.

Average Weight:

Due to their advanced features and sturdy construction, standing power wheelchairs typically weigh between 200 and 300 pounds.

Average Price:

The cost of standing power wheelchairs reflects their advanced functionality, with prices ranging from $10,000 to over $20,000 for high-end models.

10. Bariatric Wheelchairs

Bariatric wheelchairs are specifically designed to accommodate larger users, with enhanced strength and size compared to standard wheelchairs. These wheelchairs have a sturdy frame, wider seats, and higher weight capacities, typically capable of supporting weights of 300 pounds or more.


Bariatric wheelchairs are primarily used by individuals with obesity or those who require a wider seat and higher weight capacity. 

They provide comfortable, safe mobility assistance for individuals who may not be adequately accommodated by standard wheelchairs.


  • Bariatric wheelchairs can support larger weight capacities, providing safe mobility assistance for heavier users.
  • They offer wider seating and larger dimensions, ensuring comfortable usage for larger individuals.
  • These wheelchairs have reinforced frames and parts to withstand higher weights, providing long-term durability.


  • Due to their larger size, bariatric wheelchairs may have difficulty navigating tight spaces.
  • They are heavier than standard wheelchairs, making them harder to transport.

Average Weight:

Bariatric wheelchairs, due to their robust construction, typically weigh between 50 and 100 pounds for manual models and can weigh much more for power models.

Average Price:

The cost of bariatric wheelchairs varies depending on their size, design, and whether they’re manual or powered. They typically range from $500 for basic manual models to over $5,000 for advanced-powered models.

11. Recliner Wheelchairs

Recliner wheelchairs, or reclining wheelchairs, are mobility aids that allow the user to recline the backrest at different angles while elevating leg rests. 

This adjustability offers increased comfort, pressure distribution, and positioning flexibility, making them particularly suitable for users who spend extended periods in a wheelchair.


Recliner wheelchairs are used by individuals who require enhanced positioning, have specific health conditions, or need to relieve pressure. 

They’re often used by individuals with conditions like orthostatic hypotension, hip or back issues, or those who need to elevate their legs.


  • The ability to recline and elevate the leg rests provides superior comfort, especially for long-term use.
  • Regular changes in position can help prevent pressure sores and promote good circulation.
  • They offer multiple seating positions, catering to the specific needs of the user.


  • They can be more expensive due to their added features and construction.
  • Their larger size might make them difficult to maneuver in tight spaces.

Average Weight:

Due to their robust construction and additional features, recliner wheelchairs typically weigh between 35 and 85 pounds.

Average Price:

The cost of recliner wheelchairs varies based on their design and features. They typically range from $500 for basic manual models to over $2,000 for high-end models with advanced features.

12. Handcycles

Handcycles are a type of wheelchair powered by the upper body. They are equipped with a system of gears and chains, similar to bicycles, but the user powers them using their arms rather than their legs. 

They often come with a third wheel for added stability, and they are designed to cover longer distances more efficiently than traditional wheelchairs.


Handcycles are often used by individuals with lower limb disabilities for exercise, leisure, or competitive sports. They’re popular among athletes with disabilities and those who want an active and efficient method of mobility.

Handcycles, Photo Invacare
Handcycles | Photo: Invacare


  • Handcycling provides a good upper-body workout, promoting cardiovascular health and muscle strength.
  • Handcycles are generally faster and cover distances more efficiently than manual wheelchairs.
  • They provide a sense of freedom and independence and open up new opportunities for outdoor activities.


  • Handcycles are generally larger than standard wheelchairs, making them harder to transport and store.
  • They are designed primarily for outdoor use and can be difficult to maneuver indoors.

Average Weight:

Handcycles can weigh anywhere between 20 and 50 pounds, depending on their design and materials.

Average Price:

The cost of handcycles varies greatly depending on their features and intended use. Basic models can start around $1,500, while high-performance racing handcycles can cost over $7,000.

13. Transport Wheelchairs

Transport wheelchairs, also known as companion wheelchairs or attendant-propelled wheelchairs, are lightweight, compact wheelchairs designed for short-term use during travel or transport. 

They are typically propelled by a caregiver or companion, as they lack large, rear wheels for self-propulsion.


Transport wheelchairs are used for individuals who have difficulty walking long distances or need assistance moving within a facility, like a hospital or airport. 

They’re also great for people who travel frequently, as they can easily be folded and stored in a vehicle.


  • They are lightweight and foldable, making them easy to transport and store.
  • Their smaller size allows them to navigate through tight spaces easily.
  • They often come with swing-away legrests and armrests for increased comfort.


  • They require another person to push the chair as they’re not designed for self-propulsion.
  • They lack advanced features like reclining or tilt-in-space functions.

Average Weight:

Transport wheelchairs are one of the lightest types of wheelchairs, typically weighing between 15 and 25 pounds.

Average Price:

Transport wheelchairs are generally more affordable, with prices ranging from $100 to $300, depending on the brand and additional features.

14. Dog Wheelchair

Dog wheelchairs, also known as pet wheelchairs, are mobility aids specifically designed for dogs who have difficulty moving due to injury, illness, or old age. 

They consist of a harness attached to a lightweight frame and wheels, which support the dog’s body and allow it to move around more freely.


Dog wheelchairs are used for canines that have lost mobility in their hind or front legs due to conditions like hip dysplasia, arthritis, paralysis, or amputation. 

They are also used for elderly dogs who have difficulty walking or standing due to old age.

Dog Wheelchair, Photo Walmart
Dog Wheelchair | Photo: Walmart


  • They allow dogs with mobility issues to move around more easily, improving their overall quality of life.
  • Most models are adjustable to the specific size and weight of the dog, ensuring a good fit.
  • They are typically made with light, durable materials, making them comfortable for dogs to use.


  • Getting the right fit for your dog can be challenging and might require several adjustments.
  • Not all dogs adapt well to using a wheelchair, and some might resist or feel uncomfortable.

Average Weight:

The weight of a dog wheelchair depends on the size and material, but they’re generally lightweight, usually between 2 and 10 pounds.

Average Price:

The cost of a dog wheelchair can vary based on its size, design, and materials used. Generally, prices range from $100 for smaller models to over $500 for larger, custom-designed models.

15. Bathroom Wheelchairs

Bathroom wheelchairs, also known as shower wheelchairs or commode wheelchairs, are specially designed to be used in wet environments such as a shower or a bathroom. 

They are typically constructed from waterproof materials, and some models include a hole in the seat for toileting purposes.


Bathroom wheelchairs are used by individuals who find it challenging to stand for long periods or move independently in the bathroom

They allow users to safely and comfortably use the shower, toilet, and other bathroom facilities.

Bathroom Wheelchairs, Photo invacare
Bathroom Wheelchairs | Photo: Invacare


  • They provide secure and comfortable access to the shower or toilet, reducing the risk of falls or accidents.
  • They’re made with rust-proof, water-resistant materials, making them durable in wet conditions.
  • Most models are designed to be easy to clean and sanitize.


  • Bathroom wheelchairs may be larger than standard chairs and may not fit in smaller bathrooms.
  • Despite being made of lightweight materials, the additional features may make them heavier than traditional chairs.

Average Weight:

Bathroom wheelchairs usually weigh between 20 and 40 pounds, depending on their specific features and materials.

Average Price:

The price of bathroom wheelchairs can vary depending on the model and its features, typically ranging from $150 for basic models up to $1000 for advanced models with added features and comfort options.

What To Look For When Choosing a Wheelchair?

Navigating the diverse range of wheelchair options can be daunting, particularly when searching for the best wheelchair type for seniors, the elderly, or older adults. 

In an aging population, the specific needs and comfort of these individuals become paramount when choosing a wheelchair. Here are some key factors to consider:

User’s Physical Ability and Mobility Level:

The user’s physical strength and mobility play a significant role in determining the appropriate wheelchair type. 

For instance, manual wheelchairs may suit those with good upper body strength, while powered wheelchairs could be more suitable for users with limited strength or endurance.

User’s Lifestyle:

Active users may prefer lightweight manual wheelchairs or sports wheelchairs that are flexible and easy to maneuver. 

On the other hand, more sedentary users, often found among the elderly, might find power wheelchairs or reclining wheelchairs more suitable, as these require less physical effort and offer more comfort features.

Size and Weight of the Wheelchair:

It is crucial to consider the size and weight of the wheelchair, particularly for transport and storage. 

Lightweight and foldable options like transport wheelchairs are often the top choice for individuals who travel frequently. 

For in-home use, the wheelchair should comfortably fit through doors and hallways.

Comfort and Adjustability Features:

Comfort is key, especially for users who spend a lot of time in their wheelchairs. Features like adjustable backrests, armrests, and footrests, along with well-cushioned seats, can significantly improve the user’s comfort. For the elderly or those with specific health conditions, recliner wheelchairs or tilt-in-space wheelchairs can help prevent pressure sores and improve overall comfort.

Financial Considerations:

Lastly, the cost of the wheelchair and potential insurance coverage are important considerations. While some types of wheelchairs can be quite expensive, many insurance plans cover at least part of the cost. 

It’s worth investigating the various options and seeking advice from healthcare providers to understand the best available options within one’s budget.

Final Thoughts

Throughout this article, we have explored the diverse array of wheelchairs available in the market, emphasizing the importance of understanding different types of wheelchairs. 

From manual to powered, sports to all-terrain, and standard to specialized designs, each type of wheelchair serves unique needs and offers specific features. 

Recognizing this variety is the first step in making an informed decision about the best mobility solution for an individual.

Each of the different types of wheelchairs we discussed offers unique advantages and comes with potential disadvantages. 

Hence, selecting a suitable wheelchair requires careful consideration of several factors including the user’s physical ability, lifestyle, comfort needs, and financial situation. 

It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. The best wheelchair will vary greatly depending on the user’s personal circumstances and requirements.