Electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters help people with limited mobility maintain their independence, but there are many differences between the two that are important to understand if you're looking to purchase a mobility device. Your specific abilities and limitations, the way you want to use the device, your transportation options, and your budget will determine whether an electric wheelchair or mobility scooter would be best for you.
What Is An Electric Wheelchair?
A power chair is basically a wheelchair that is powered by batteries and an electric motor that is designed for constant use. They offer support to the back and sides of the individual for added comfort. With hand controls on the armrests, the wheelchair can be controlled without extension of the arms or leaning too far forward. This allows for a stable position for those individuals who have limited mobility of the arms or the upper body.
These chairs are more commonly used indoors. Most often users find themselves spending an extended amount of time utilizing the chair and rely on it to complete everyday tasks.
What Is A Mobility Scooter?
A mobility scooter is a scooter made for those who are not completely immobile. They allow for easy mounting by lifting up the armrests in order to easily slide in and out. They are powered by batteries and controlled by switches attached to handlebars; sometimes a finger lever or a twist grip throttle. Their bases are constructed more sturdier and thus they are more solid.
The steering column at the front of the scooter is where you'll find the tiller. This tool allows you to control the scooter's speed and direction both forward and in reverse. With features like speed limits, lighting controls, turn signals and a battery indicator, the tiller is a one-stop-shop for all things scooter. And the best part? You can control the direction with either thumb paddles, finger controls or a switch.
Scooters are usually cheaper, easier to navigate off-road terrain, and can be customized to your liking. Basically, they're perfect for anyone who needs a little help getting around but doesn't always require a full-on power wheelchair. Plus, people who use power chairs for medium distances or standing periods, or who can't drive cars for medical reasons, often choose mobility scooters instead.
Below we will analyze the characteristics of power wheelchairs and mobility scooters in terms of comfort, weight capacity and controller in a comprehensive manner, and evaluate their respective advantages and disadvantages, in order to provide you with a better direction to choose.
For maximum comfort, it's really difficult to beat an electric wheelchair. Whereas mobility scooters come with standard vinyl seating, power wheelchairs have a wide range of seating options with everything from a solid seat pan to a fully contoured captain's seat.
If you can drive a mobility scooter and you have especially long legs, three-wheel models offer more legroom than four-wheel models due to the central position of the single front wheel. That said, you should always ensure that the height and weight capacity of a mobility device are suitable for you before renting or purchasing it to avoid having to scrunch.
Different power wheelchairs can support different weights depending on which model we’re talking about. The folding type of wheelchair has a lower than average weight capacity because of the lightweight material framework it is made of, while the bariatric power chairs are heavy duty and can support anything from 400 to 700 lbs in weight. They are equipped with solid or flat-free tires for this reason.
Mobility scooters on the other hand especially the full-size and bariatric scooters have a higher weight capacity. As they are considered heavy duty, they offer some of the highest weight capacity for mobility scooters, in excess of 600 pounds.
Perhaps the most notable difference between electric scooters and electric wheelchairs is in the controls. Power chairs are steered with a joystick, allowing for more control and requiring little arm or hand strength. Power chairs allow steering with just a person’s fingertips. Hands and arms are also supported at all times on a power chair. Electric scooters are controlled with handlebars, or “tillers,” which require more upper body strength. This is because the tiller/handlebars must be able to be held for extended time periods. The handlebar control also requires greater upper body strength.
The Pros of Mobility Scooters
Mobility scooters tend to be better suited to people who are mostly able-bodied with good trunk and arm strength to maintain their position comfortably over long periods of time. Scooters can also tackle tough or steep terrains with little problem, giving users the ability to travel over surfaces and distances that they may usually struggle with on foot.
In addition, mobility scooters come in many shapes and sizes to suit different users. Whether you’re needing a lightweight scooter that can fold away into the boot of the car, or a heavy-duty road-worthy model, there’s the perfect mobility scooter for you.
The Cons of Mobility Scooters
With that being said, mobility scooters still require a certain level of physicality to operate. They are not suitable for people who do not have good trunk and arm strength because they will struggle to stay balanced and control the scooter.
Furthermore, mobility scooters also tend to have larger turning circles, which makes them more difficult to manoeuvre in tight spaces; they’re not designed for indoor use.
The Pros of Power Wheelchairs
Unlike mobility scooters, electric wheelchairs are great for people with reduced mobility and body strength. Because of the compact design, they allow the individual to control everything they need to without having to strain or sit uncomfortably for prolonged periods of time.
Since power wheelchairs are designed for indoor and daily use, having a zero turning radius makes completing everyday tasks easier and allows you to navigate tight spaces.
Basic models are designed to serve general needs at an affordable price.
The Cons of Power Wheelchairs
Whilst power chairs are easily manoeuvred, that can be more difficult to control than a typical mobility scooter. The joystick or touch buttons are usually more sensitive and can take longer to master than the switches of a scooter.
So for users who are new to mobility products, an electric wheelchair may be a little too high tech.
The average cost of a power wheelchair is a bit higher than a mobility scooter. Since power chairs are typically used on a daily basis they come with more features to accommodate comfort and convenience. If you decide to customize your power wheelchair the cost will increase.
Assess Your Needs
Deciding between a power wheelchair and a mobility scooter greatly depends on your individual needs, abilities, and existing conditions. If you lack upper body strength, coordination, and fine motor skills, you should consider a power wheelchair for both safety and convenience.
Take Your Pick
After reading this article we hope that you have a greater understanding of each mobility aid and how they are designed to help with your mobility needs. If you have any more questions or are still unsure of which would suit you best, contact our product specialists today. Give them a call from 8 am and 8 pm EST daily at 1-213-933-4058 or email at email@example.com.
Does a Mobility Scooter Require a Driver's License?
No, your aging parents do not need a driver's license to operate a mobility scooter.
Is Driving a Mobility Scooter Safe for Seniors?
Yes, driving a mobility scooter is safe for elderly people as long as they follow the safety tips listed above.
Can I Fly If I Am in a Wheelchair?
Yes, most airlines will allow you or your parents to fly if you are in a wheelchair. Your parents may be asked to provide proof of their disability, such as a doctor's note. Check with the local airline before booking your tickets.
What are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Mobility Scooters and Electric Wheelchairs?
Both mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs are designed with a specific use in mind, with mobility scooters offering a good riding experience outdoors and electric wheelchairs being better suited to use around the home. Some seniors may find themselves swapping between devices depending on their plans for the day. However, the price, range and portability of the devices should be considered before making purchasing decisions.
Do you Have to be Disabled to Use a Mobility Scooter?
Anyone can use a mobility scooter. These scooters are sold by a variety of manufacturers, and their relatively affordable price means they’re popular with seniors who are generally mobile and who simply want to conserve their energy while running errands. Many scooters allow people to travel faster than the average walking speed, so they’re a good option for seniors who no longer feel confident driving a car.