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Mobility Scooters Versus Wheelchairs

  • Published: 2009-02-01 (Revised/Updated 2010-05-07) : Disabled World.
  • Synopsis: How to choose between an electric wheelchair and an electric mobility scooter for seniors and disabled.

Main Document

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.

What are the 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.

What Advantages and Disadvantages Does an Electric Medical Scooter Offer

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 be broken down into three general types: the 3-wheel mobility scooter, the 4-wheel mobility scooter, and the compact mobility scooter. 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 Powered Wheelchairs and Mobility 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.

Summary of Issues to Consider when Buying a Personal Mobility Vehicle:

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.

If you have a wheelchair-modified van, it is easier and safer to tie down an electric wheelchair than a mobility scooter

An electric medical scooter is steered with bicycle-like handlebars, whereas electric wheelchairs use a joystick. If you have issues with upper body mobility, a wheelchair might be easier to control.

If you have posture issues, a wheelchair usually offers more features and support to help you, including motorized stand, tilt, and recline options.

If you need to stay in your mobility aid for most of the day, a wheelchair is usually more comfortable.

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

Are tight corners an issue

Would you like to fully enjoy the great outdoors, or are you more interested in shopping

Will you be running local errands, using public transportation, or using your own vehicle to move your personal mobility vehicle

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

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