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Buyers Guide & Information

9 Best Lightweight Wheelchairs for Easy Mobility

Find the best wheelchairs for mobility and ease of use with these models.

by

Buyers Guide & Information

9 Best Lightweight Wheelchairs for Easy Mobility

Find the best wheelchairs for mobility and ease of use with these models.

by PITeam

by PITeam

Over the years, wheelchairs have become a necessary feature of everyday life for many people; in the last few decades, wheelchair use has risen by over 100 percent. For people dealing with certain illnesses or who have injured themselves, wheelchairs are the best way to move from one place to another.

A wheelchair is, as its name implies, an upholstered metal chair with four to six wheels and handles designed to help people move around. There are both standard and lightweight wheelchair options. Lightweight ones are popular as they are portable, easy to store, cheaper than heavy ones, and can be used alongside other models.

Some useful features available for wheelchairs include storage pouches, anti-bacterial upholstery, adjustable footrests, and more. For those looking for the best lightweight wheelchair, we have collected the best lightweight wheelchair reviews to help you decide which model is best for you.

Benefits of Lightweight Wheelchairs

A lightweight wheelchair can be a preferable alternative to standard, heavier ones for a variety of reasons. Light wheelchairs are easier to push as they require less body strength, are often cheaper than heavy ones, and are easy to move or store. More benefits include increased responsiveness, smooth lifting, and flexible use for years to come.


Choosing a High-Quality Lightweight Wheelchair

Weight Capacity or Maximum Safe Working Limit (SWL)

Holding too much weight can make any machine unsafe, and wheelchairs are no exception. Almost all wheelchairs have a maximum safe working limit, or weight capacity, that is put in place to protect users and handlers. Standard wheelchair SWLs are often around 250 pounds, heavy-duty wheelchairs sit at about 500 pounds, and lightweight wheelchairs are often around 200 pounds. There are exceptions to the rule, but that is the average for each type.

Dimensions and Living Environment

Everybody is different, so finding the right size wheelchair for each user is essential for maximum comfort. Wheelchair dimensions are often around 36 inches high, 42 inches long, and 35 inches wide on average. Most descriptions often state seat width as overall width, but this does not always include wheels. Compact wheelchairs of a smaller width or size are available, with 22-inch lightweight wheelchairs being a popular option. When deciding on your size, consider the user's height, home environment, and everyday routine before selecting a wheelchair.

Design and Comfort

Comfort is key when it comes to wheelchairs; no-one wants to sit in an uncomfortable chair for hours on end. Upholstery and design go hand-in-hand when deciding the comfort level of any wheelchair. Foot and armrest style, frame style, stand up options, and other features can improve the user's overall experience with any model of wheelchair. For electric wheelchairs, the controller style and design are vital for optimum satisfaction.

Another important design feature is the drive wheel configuration. Drive wheels are a larger set of wheels that impact how the wheelchair moves and drives. These drive wheels can be placed in the front, middle, or back of the wheelchair for various reasons.

Front-drive wheels allow for increased traction, are lower to the ground, and are able to navigate tight corners. Rear-drive wheels are perfect for aggressive outdoor terrain, often come with independent suspension or shock absorbers, and lend more stability to the wheelchair. Centralized drive wheels combine the positive features of both front and rear drive wheels for intuitive driving and stable movement.

Battery Range and Speed

Lightweight wheelchairs come in two styles; manual and electric. Lightweight manual wheelchairs are the traditional style while electric wheelchairs are the modern alternative. Lightweight electric wheelchairs use chargeable lithium batteries to function, often two 12 volt batteries, that run at 4.3 km an hour on average.

On the other hand, manual wheelchairs can move at 3.9 km an hour on average. Lightweight motorized wheelchair batteries that have been fully charged can often run for 8 hours or 10-25 miles; battery health and age affect the length and distance over time.

Portability, Adjustability, and Maneuverability

Other essential factors to consider when choosing a wheelchair are portability, adjustability, and maneuverability. Arm and footrests are often adjustable, or upholstery may be removable, for example. Large drive wheels can help navigate obstacles such as sidewalks and tight corners for smooth rides and natural movement. Lightweight, portable wheelchairs are available and are often made of aluminum and can be folded for travel convenience.

Safety Features

Using a wheelchair for the first time can be a shaky experience, which is why there are several added safety features available to help. Some examples of safety features for wheelchairs include;

  • Straps
  • Emergency stop buttons
  • Seatbelt
  • Anti-tippers
  • Safety flag
  • Rearview mirrors
  • Upholstered bumpers
  • Wheelchair tie-downs

Price and Warranty

Another significant factor when purchasing a wheelchair is the price. Wheelchairs can cost anything in the range of $100 to $5,000, but lightweight wheelchairs often sit on the lower end of the spectrum. In terms of warranties, a wheelchair can be covered anywhere from one year to a lifetime. Reading the product description or label before purchase and reading folding wheelchair reviews can help you decide which wheelchair best fits your needs and budget.


9 Best Lightweight Wheelchairs Reviewed

1. Karman

Our #1 Choice

Weight

19.8 lbs

Seat Height

N/A

Maximum Weight Capacity 

220 lbs

Width

N/A

Extra Features

Removable footrest, quick release, and fixed axle

Warranty

Lifetime Limited Warranty

Available in two different size dimensions and two-axle styles, the Karman ergonomic ultra-lightweight wheelchair provides flexible options for any user. Easy to handle and transport, the Karman does not put as much strain on the upper body during movement thanks to its solid rear drive wheels and light weight.

The anti-bacterial upholstery is comfortable, and the backrest folds up for convenient storage. The footrests are removable and have foot loops for added safety and comfort. Karman's lifetime limited warranty is an excellent buffer for accidents and breakages; it almost makes up for the stiff folding and lack of color options. Janemwl was so happy that the Ergo was easy to use and handle that they left this review on Walgreens' site:

"I just bought this Karmen Ergo Lite model and love it. It is comfortable, maneuverable, and very easy to transport."

Pros

  • Under 20 pounds
  • Ergonomically designed
  • Light but sturdy frame
  • S-shape seating frame
  • Anti-bacterial upholstery

Cons

  • Unfolding can be stiff
  • Only one color

2. Medline Mobility

best lightweight folding wheelchair

Weight

15 lbs

Seat Height

19.5 inches

Maximum Weight Capacity 

300 lbs

Width

20 inches

Extra Features

Stowing clips, padded upholstery, comfort grips, cup holder

Warranty

Wearable parts = 1 year Frame = lifetime limited

With four different frame colors to choose from, the Medline Mobility wheelchair is another great option for wheelchair users. The permanent restaurant-style armrests are perfect for fitting under tables for comfortable dining, despite not being able to flip up.

The eight-inch rear wheels are perfect for getting around, and the loop-lock handbrakes make stopping a breeze. Folding the chair takes less than five steps and is compact enough to fit into trunks or other small spaces.

The breathable nylon upholstery is comfortable and breathable while being able to support a large user weight. With pockets, Stow-N-Go clips, and good warranties, it is easy to see why the ultra-lightweight wheelchair reviews are so positive. Bennett B was so impressed with the Medline Mobility wheelchair that they left a review:

"Excellent chair, great price, fast delivery 🚚 when promised. Highly recommended."

Pros

  • Frame color options
  • Less than 20 pounds
  • Adjustable footrests
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to fold

Cons

  • Parts can be hard to get hold of
  • Non-flip-up arms

3. Hi-Fortune

best self-propelled Option

Weight

21 lbs

Seat Height

17.5 inches

Maximum Weight Capacity 

220 lbs

Width

27.5 inches

Extra Features

Anti-tip wheels, storage bag, swing-away footrests, quick release hinge

Warranty

Frame and components = 1 year

Weighing in at 21 pounds, Hi-Fortune's self-propelled wheelchair with travel bag and cushion is one of the best on the market. The magnesium alloy frame can support an SWL of 220 pounds.

There are no tools required for assembly; just clip and unfold. When folded, the chair folds to approximately the same size as a 29-inch suitcase and can fit in the travel bag provided. With convenient hand straps, swing leg rests, and both rear and hand brakes, safety is not an issue with this particular model.

Wilfred S was so impressed with their purchase that they left a glowing review on overstock.com:

"This wheelchair surpassed all of my expectations. It is super light and strong. It is well made and keeps my wife's posture great. The pneumatic tires make this chair very easy to move…"

Pros

  • Anti-tipping wheels
  • Rear and hand brakes
  • Large travel bag
  • Easy to use and fold
  • Compact

Cons

  • Only two color options

4. Bangeran Fold n Go

best electric Option

Weight

40 lbs

Seat Height

N/A

Maximum Weight Capacity 

265 lbs

Width

25 inches

Extra Features

LCD screen joystick, radio USB port, seatbelt

Warranty

Lifetime Limited Warranty

Available in six different colors, the Bangeran ultra-lightweight motorized wheelchair is perfect for those looking for their next electric wheelchair. With a powerful lithium battery included with purchase, this model can drive up to 12 miles on one charge and can hold up to 265 pounds.

One of the few FDA and aviation approved electric wheelchairs; this model has a joystick, charger, and manual along with a seat belt and anti-tipper included with purchase. The plush cushions are comfortable and breathable, and the wheel provides a smooth ride no matter the terrain. Salih S is another happy customer who was pleased with his purchase:

"Great comfortable power wheelchair. It can easily fit in your closet when it` s folded. I can recommend to everyone who needs a power wheelchair."

Pros

  • Six color options
  • 12 miles driving distance
  • FDA and Aviation approved
  • Comes with a second battery
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Some colors are heavier than others

5. NOVA Transport Chair

best for travel

Weight

27 lbs

Seat Height

20 inches

Maximum Weight Capacity 

300 lbs

Width

18.5 inches

Extra Features

Hand brakes, flip-up removable desk arms, seatbelt, removable anti-tippers, a storage pouch

Warranty

N/A

Available in red and blue, the NOVA lightweight transport wheelchair has everything you need to make your trip as smooth as possible. The chair is well-made and weighs less than 30 pounds. Equipped with hand-brakes, a seatbelt, removable anti-tippers, and a storage pouch, wheelchair users can travel without worrying about losing items or tipping over.

The flip-up desk arms make transferring easy and safer than conventional wheelchair arms. The 12 inch rear drive wheels make turning and getting over obstacles a breeze. The removable footrests have heel loops for added comfort and safety. Campbell on Amazon was delighted to be able to take their mother-in-law on trips:

''It has exceeded my expectations. It is light, folds compactly, and rolls very smoothly. No trouble at all getting mom down jetways or onto trams between terminals."

Pros

  • Well-made
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to use or fold
  • High-quality
  • Safety features

Cons

  • The ergonomic design could be improved

6. Drive Medical Fly Lite

best wheelchair under 25 pounds

Weight

23.8 lbs

Seat Height

18 inches

Maximum Weight Capacity 

300 lbs

Width

22 inch

Extra Features

Foldable back, seatbelt, pocket, back release, rear wheel locks

Warranty

Lifetime Limited Warranty

With three color choices and two patterns to choose from, there are multiple ways to customized the Drive Medical Fly Lite to your needs. One of the best lightweight transport wheelchairs out there, the Medical Fly Lite weighs less than 25 pounds, is easy to fold into a compact size and has a weight capacity of 300 pounds.

There are aluminum rear wheel locks, swing-away footrests, and an adjustable seat belt for added safety. A handy pocket is on the back for convenient item storage, and a lifetime limited warranty covers the entire model in case of malfunction. Wondertwin just had to leave their thoughts in an Amazon review:

"Overall, this is a great wheelchair for excursions. You can't beat the price. I'd absolutely recommend this to anyone..."

Pros

  • 3 color choices
  • Easy to fold
  • Light
  • Well-made
  • Fits into small spaces

Cons

  • Only one pattern
  • Hand grips are not comfortable for everyone

7. NOVA Bariatric

best heavy-duty Option

Weight

27.75 lbs

Seat Height

20 inches

Maximum Weight Capacity 

400 lbs

Width

28.25 inches

Extra Features

Flip-up arms, desk arms, secondary wheel locks, heel loops, handles

Warranty

N/A

For those looking for a lightweight heavy-duty wheelchair, there are not many that rival the NOVA Bariatric Transport Chair. Capable of carrying up to 400 pounds, this chair has an extra-wide seat and adjustable seat belt to help any user.

The flip-up desk arms are perfect for sitting at desks, dining tables, or countertops without getting stuck. The rear hand grips are comfortable and have feather-touch hand brakes for maximum control over the chair's movement. There are also secondary wheel locks and heel loops for added safety. One Amazon customer had this to say about the NOVA Bariatric:

"This chair is lightweight and so far is holding petty good, feels durable and according to my mom is comfortable... The price here on Amazon is very reasonable…"

Pros

  • Large weight capacity
  • Well-made
  • Easy to use and fold
  • Easy to handle
  • Many good features

Cons

  • Only two color options
  • Some customers have found that the seat tilts a little

8. Drive Medical

best Medical transport wheelchair

Weight

26 lbs

Seat Height

19 inches

Maximum Weight Capacity 

250 lbs

Width

17 inches

Extra Features

Maintenance freewheels, swing footrests, cushioned arms, seatbelt

Warranty

Lifetime Limited Warranty

Another excellent lightweight travel wheelchair, Drive Medical's steel transport wheelchair, has received four and a half stars and reviews from nearly 2000 Amazon customers, making it onto the Amazon's Choice list. The steel frame provides support and stability, and the maintenance-free wheels are perfect for navigating narrow indoor spaces.

The nylon seat upholstery is easy to clean, and the cushioned armrests provided an added layer of comfort. With a weight capacity of 250 pounds, this handy wheelchair folds flat and small for easy storage or travel solutions. Anne was so excited to purchase this for her mom that she had this to say:

"It's just what I needed for my mom 91 and mother in law 98. I don't have to manage a heavy wheelchair when I take them to doctor visits!!"

Pros

  • Easy to fold
  • Well-made
  • Comfortable
  • Sleek design
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Not eligible for returns
  • The arms do not lift up

9. Medline

best rated

Weight

23.5 lbs

Seat Height

N/A

Maximum Weight Capacity 

300 lbs

Width

N/A

Extra Features

Looped manual handbrakes, large rear wheels

Warranty

Components = 1 year Frame= Lifetime Limited Warranty

A bestseller on Amazon, the Medline lightweight transport wheelchair is another great choice for wheelchair users. With large 12 inch rear drive wheels, driving over uneven terrain is no longer a chore. The aluminum lightweight frame is stylish, durable, and able to hold up to 300 pounds.

For safety, the looped manual brakes are great for controlling this chair's movement. The upholstery is comfortable and easy to clean, and the backrest folds for easy folding and storage.

The armrests are permanent and not flip-ups, but the footrests are detachable, and the seatbelt is adjustable. Robert E. Thomas gives a little more insight into what he loves about the NOVA lightweight transport chair:

"Light & practical easily fits in the trunk, does NOT mark floors, easily (e.g., carrying 140-lbs) navigates sidewalks & parking lots."

Pros

  • Wide seat
  • Breathable upholstery
  • Looped handbrakes
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to fold

Cons

  • One-color only
  • Permanent armrests

Wheelchair Wheel Types

Wheelchair wheels are usually made of tires, rims, spokes, and hubs, or some combination of them. There are three common types of tires; air-filled, also known as pneumatic, wheels give a smooth ride but can go flat if punctured.

Solid tires are tough and maintenance-free but provide a bumpy ride. Foam-filled tires will not puncture and give a softer ride than solid tires do. There are other styles, but those are reserved for professional sports wheelchairs. The above three can be used on both manual and electric wheelchairs.

Manual wheelchair drive wheels are also built this way and are roughly 24 inches each. Standard power wheelchair drive wheels are roughly 18 inches each and caster wheels start at around 3 inches each.


Wheelchair Safety and Maintenance Guidelines

General Safety Tips

  • If necessary, get extra safety accessories
  • Maintain proper sitting position while in the chair, making sure not to lean forward or back
  • Lock the brakes before getting in or out
  • Don't place heavy items on the back of the chair
  • Attach reflective items to the chair before going out at night
  • Replace the casters regularly. If they move side by side when the wheelchair moves, it is time to replace them
  • Avoid rain, wet conditions, and sand as much as possible
  • Check wheelchair ramps before using them. Ask for help is necessary.
  • Another person should accompany new users until they are confident to drive the wheelchair alone

Electric Wheelchair Safety Tips

  • Turn off the power before transferring or getting out
  • Adjust the settings to comfortable ones before moving
  • Check the battery charge before leaving home

Maintenance Guidelines

  • Inspect the wheelchair's parts at least once a month for corrosion, punctures or loose bolts
  • Replace batteries, the joystick, and upholstery when necessary
  • Coat the pieces in lubricant during assembly and once a year
  • Clean thoroughly with soap or a mild detergent at least once a week, paying careful attention to upholstery and handles

How to Assemble and Fold a Lightweight Wheelchair

Assembling a wheelchair is often not as daunting as it sounds. For manual wheelchairs, they often come in 1-4 parts and are assembled as follows;

  1. 1
    Before opening, ask your doctor about specifications that will suit your needs
  2. 2
    Gently pull the chair out of the upright box
  3. 3
    Read the manual for tips and help
  4. 4
    Gather any necessary tools
  5. 5
    Remove plastic from the wheel or casters
  6. 6
    Face the chair and push the seat upholstery down and check if it is secure
  7. 7
    Attach and adjust the footrests to at least 2.5 inches off the ground
  8. 8
    Check the bolts, locks, and attachments to ensure they are secure
  9. 9
    Lift the backrest and click into place if necessary
  10. 10
    Inspect the wheelchair to ensure that it is securely assembled and push to check everything works as it should
  11. 11
    For electric lightweight wheelchairs, make sure to charge the battery fully before use

Folding a wheelchair up

To fold a wheelchair up, simply follow these instructions:

  1. 1
    Lift the lock on each footrest and set them aside
  2. 2
    Fold-down the backrest by lifting the locks
  3. 3
    Pull upwards on the handles on either side of the seat

Some lightweight folding wheelchairs can be stored in a bag provided, but this is not the standard for all folding wheelchairs.


Steps to Determine Wheelchair Appropriateness

  • Ask your doctor for specific features or measurements that would be best for you
  • Consider the user's weight, size, and personal needs and find a wheelchair that fits
  • Consider the user's home, routine, and local terrain
  • Read the product label to confirm the model's features and warranty
  • Check the wheelchair suits your budget
  • Compare reviews and ratings online

Tips for Traveling with a Lightweight Wheelchair

Traveling with a lightweight travel wheelchair can be a confusing or stressful experience, especially for new users. Here are some tips to make your trip as smooth as possible:

  • Inspect and service your wheelchair in advance
  • Take pictures of your wheelchair and accessories before going to the airport
  • Remove the leg rests and accessories before handing the chair to staff
  • Alert the airline, train station, or ferry company that you use a wheelchair during the booking
  • Gather local accessibility information and rules before your trip
  • Carry your wheelchair repair shop's number and information
  • Use an airline that is Air Carrier Access Act adherent
  • Note that your wheelchair may be thoroughly inspected before boarding

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I better off with a lighter chair or a more durable one?

The short answer is it depends. Lighter chairs are good for those with weak upper body strength, smaller budgets, and smaller storage spaces. Often, wheelchair users have a standard wheelchair for everyday use and a smaller foldable one for travel. If you are unsure which is best for you, consider your needs and budget and choose the chair that best fits those needs.

What is the average seat width of a lightweight wheelchair?

The average seat width of a wheelchair ranges between 16 inches and 20 inches.

What is the difference between transit wheelchair vs. self-propelled lightweight wheelchair?

Transit wheelchair vs. self-propelled ones are often confused terms. Transit wheelchairs are attendant-propelled and commonly used at airports or other travel stations; they often have smaller back wheels. Self-propelled wheelchairs are, as the name implies, propelled by the user and have larger back wheels to help with turning and movement.

Which is the best online store where one can purchase lightweight wheelchairs?

The best sites to purchase wheelchairs are often local specialist stores, brand sites, or Amazon. Make sure to research thoroughly and check for a warranty before purchase.


Conclusion

Buying, assembling, and using a lightweight wheelchair does not need to be a hassle. There are plenty of quality, budget-friendly, and safe options for everyone who needs one. While all of the options on our list are great, we would like to recommend the Karman and Medline Mobility the most. Make sure to check that the wheelchair is best for you before purchase. To see other wheelchair options, comparisons, and tips, we have more articles to help.


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