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Mobility Scooters Versus Wheelchairs

Published: 2009/02/01 - Updated: 2019/03/03
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Synopsis: How to choose between an electric wheelchair and an electric mobility scooter for seniors and disabled.

If you are suffering from limited mobility, a wide variety of options are available today that can help you enjoy the freedom of moving around easily and on your own terms once again.


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If you are suffering from limited mobility, a wide variety of options are available today that can help you enjoy the freedom of moving around easily and on your own terms once again.

How to Choose Between an Electric Wheelchair and a Medical Scooter?

Which choice is right for you?

In order to make an informed decision, you should understand the differences between mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs to determine which personal mobility vehicle is best suited to your individual needs.

Benefits and Drawbacks of an Electric Wheelchair

When most people think about wheelchairs, they envision the folding cloth chairs that are available at airports and shopping malls to help people who have temporary difficulty walking. An electric powered wheelchair for long-term use, however, is a high-tech piece of equipment with a host of advanced features to vastly improve mobility.

An electric wheelchair usually has four to six wheels and is steered by a programmable joystick. Electric powered wheelchairs are highly maneuverable and can be used both indoors and on even terrain outside.

An electric wheelchair offers the widest array of seat movement options of any personal mobility vehicle. Many wheelchairs offer motorized stand, tilt, and recline functions which make them more comfortable to use for long periods of time. They also offer more support for people who have posture issues.

Powered wheelchairs are very heavy, which makes them durable and stable, but which also makes them impossible to carry and limits their ability to be used with lifts. Powered wheelchairs generally do not fold, which means they cannot be easily transported in a standard car. Furthermore, their weight makes them too heavy for simple scooter lifts and trailers.

The trade-off, however, is that electric wheelchairs offer four-point tie downs, which make them safer to use as a seat in a moving vehicle.

Electric power wheelchairs are the most expensive type of personal mobility vehicle; the models with advanced speed, power, and features rival or exceed automobiles for cost. Wheelchair prices can go up to around $15,000.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Electric Scooters

An electric mobility scooter is an excellent, low-cost way to be able to travel independently, both indoors and outdoors. Many people prefer a medical scooter over an electric wheelchair because they simply look cooler. There is a psychological advantage to not being confined in a wheelchair, and scooters offer a wide variety of styles, colors, and designs to make using a scooter more fun.

Mobility scooters can generally be broken down into three types:

These three types of medical scooter cover a wide range of uses, from travel on rough terrain to navigation in tight areas such as store aisles.

A 3-wheel mobility scooter offers a tight turning radius and more room for long or stiff legs. A 4-wheel mobility scooter is more rugged and stable, and can support weight of up to 500 pounds. A compact mobility scooter can be easily folded or disassembled for transportation in the trunk of a car.

A compact mobility scooter is also a good choice if the storage room in your home is limited. These medical scooters can be easily kept in an out-of-the-way corner or closet.

An electric mobility scooter is usually controlled with handlebars similar to those found on bicycles. They can reach speeds of up to 10 miles per hour, and some models can be used on roads, across fields, and up steep hills.

Another option for transporting a medical scooter is to use a simple trailer attached to the back of the car. With this kind of personal mobility vehicle, you do not have to buy a specially-equipped handicapped van to be able to travel in comfort.

A medical scooter is a cost-effective way to restore your mobility and independence. Even feature-packed models cost only a fraction of the price of an electric powered wheelchair. You can expect costs ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.

Features Shared by Electric Wheelchairs and Scooters

Some important features are shared by both types of personal mobility vehicle. For example, a power wheelchair and a medical scooter have a similar type of battery, which can run for up to 15 miles without recharging.

Each mobility aid offers models which can carry up to 500 pounds of weight, and the speed controls for the two vehicle types are similar.

Although some features may be model-specific, they should not be determining factors when choosing between an electric mobility scooter and a wheelchair.


Electric wheelchairs tend to be far more expensive than mobility scooters

If you need to transport your personal mobility vehicle, a compact mobility scooter can be folded up to fit in a trunk or a back seat. Alternately, you can carry them behind a car with a trailer. Most electric wheelchairs do not fold and are too heavy for a simple trailer.

The right choice of a personal mobility vehicle depends on how you are planning to use it.

Once you answer these questions, you will be able to make the right choice for your specific situation.

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Cite This Page (APA): Disabled World. (2009, February 1). Mobility Scooters Versus Wheelchairs. Disabled World. Retrieved October 5, 2023 from

Disabled World provides general information only. The materials presented are never meant to substitute for qualified professional medical care, nor should they be construed as such. Funding is derived from advertisements or referral programs. Any 3rd party offering or advertising does not constitute an endorsement.