Different Types Of Wheelchairs (A Guide To All Of Them)

A wheelchair defined is a chair with wheels that is used when to help assist with the mobility of someone that either has difficulty walking or cannot walk at all because of old age, illness, or injury.   Because of this, you will find different types of wheelchairs for all types of mobility issues.

But not all wheelchairs are the same even though they all have the same function of helping someone gain mobility when walking is not an option.  People will often ask what are the different types of wheelchairs? And what do they excel at?  

The question to this answer is not cut and dry.  There are dozens of different wheelchairs available that perform better for certain things than other wheelchairs.

This guide will shed light on what these mobility products do best in terms of their built and performance in a wheelchair.

All Wheelchairs By Type

Below is a list of the different types of wheelchairs and their main functions of what they do best in terms of performance and usability for the user. 

Wheelchairs come in all types and performance while some chairs perform some of the same features most of them excel in an area that makes it unique.  The below are the most popular types of chairs and their main functions. 

Airplane & Narrow Type Wheelchairs

Airplane wheelchairs and other very narrow chairs are used to transport people who need a wheelchair on airplane isles. 

These chairs are simply used for transporting down narrow spaces like airplane isles.  They are extremely lightweight, small, and can fold in the use of travel in most cases.

Did you know that most airports have wheelchairs that you can use to get you from the car to your plane seat?  You just need to call in advance to set this up.

Terrain Wheelchairs

These are the tanks of wheelchairs and can maneuver over an extremely wide range of terrain as the name suggests.  sand, off-road, grass-gravel, small rocks, outdoor paths, and more.

These min-tanks come in a few different styles and most are electric.  

Here is the downside to these tracked wheelchairs.  They are very expensive.  And because of the design, they will cost you in maintenance as well.  

Check out some excellent designs here.

Beach Wheelchairs

We will tell you that a wheelchair with regular types of wheels is not for beaches.  They are almost impossible to move them on the sand, especially soft beach style sand.  

That is why they have beach wheelchairs.  They are designed with the proper style of wheels that can easily move over sandy shores around beaches.  These types of wheelchairs are both manual and electric. 

But there is a drawback to this style of a wheelchair.  They are super expensive compared to mainstream type chairs. 

A beach wheelchair can cost thousands of dollars and a lot have to be custom made.  Not to mention the size of the wheels makes transporting these styles a headache. 

Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)


  • Extra-large tires
  • 250-pound weight capacity
  • Easy to assemble


  • Difficult to transport
  • Expensive aid to just use at the beach

Sport Wheelchairs

Different types of wheelchairs

Sports wheelchairs are lightweight materials, productive ergonomics, and the latest technology to allow for fast movements. 

Just because you in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you can’t exercise and play sports.  These are some of the most advanced designed sports wheelchairs that have athletes in mind.  

Some of the most popular sports wheelchairs are:

  • Basketball wheelchairs
  • Racing wheelchairs
  • Tennis wheelchairs

Basketball Wheelchairs are designed in a way that maximizes the use of being able to turn and move while dribbling a basketball.  These chairs are very expensive and can easily run over $1,500 per chair.  That is because they are typically made from Titanium which is very light and strong and it cost more money to built a wheelchair out of this type of material. 

Racing Wheelchairs are high energy exiting type of racing for athletes that qualify for this type of disability. 

This can be anyone that has a spinal cord injury, amputees, and other mobility issues that someone would have to use a wheelchair.

These types of chairs are very expensive and consist of a longer frame with a smaller tire up front and angled backed wheels that are larger than the single front wheel.

These chairs are typically custom-made to fit the athlete perfect and because of these are very expensive.

Tenis wheelchairs are another design that is designed with the tennis athlete in mind.  These are again high end built that can cost the athlete a good deal of money. 

They are made from the best materials for performance and to keep the weight down while not sacrificing strength. 

Powered Wheelchairs (Electric & Motorized)

Electric Wheelchairs

Powered wheelchairs are a top choice for many people looking for a wheelchair with mobility issues.  They are popular for those who do not have the property arm strength to manual move a wheelchair.

These types of wheelchairs can be outfitted with man types of modifications and requirements.

Unlike the lighter manual wheelchairs, electric wheelchairs are heavier and provide more maintenance to keep in working order than a manual wheelchair.

Porto Mobility Ranger D09S Foldable Lightweight All Terrain Premium Electric Wheelchair

  • 12-mile driving distance
  • Folds easy
  • Can drive over a lot of different terrains

Ergonomic Wheelchairs

Ergonomic wheelchairs are super lightweight made from aluminum and other lightweight materials with seats that are designed to remove pressure and be comfortable when sitting in the chair.

These types of wheelchairs are easy to fold and transport.   Because of the Ergonomic seating frames, they help with increased stability and a better center of gravity. 

Because of this design, it will help with pressure sores and other types of spinal injury for less pain. 

Porto Mobility Ranger D09S Foldable Lightweight All Terrain Premium Electric Wheelchair

  • Very lightweight
  • Removable footrest
  • Excellent design and build

Bariatric Wheelchairs (Heady-Duty)

Bariatric wheelchairs are heavy-duty wheelchairs and extra-wide wheelchairs that can support extra capacities in terms of weight.  

These have reinforced cross braces and bars with a design aspect to be able to handle heavier weights. 

These wheelchairs have weight capacities that often exceed 500 plus pounds and have seat widths that are 30 inches 

Medline MDS806900 Excel Extra-Wide Bariatric Wheelchair

  • 500-pound weight capacity
  • Etra wide seats
  • Strong built

Folding Wheelchairs

Folding wheelchairs are simply lightweight wheelchairs that are easy to store and travel with.  They can fit easier into smaller vehicles or trunks and are designed more for travel in mind because of the minimalistic design.

A lot of wheelchairs will fold but true folding designs are lighter and smaller.  A good example of this would be the

Medline Transport Wheelchair 

Feather Weight (Ultra Lightweight Wheelchairs)

Featherweight or ultra-lightweight chairs are just as the name suggests.  These are lightweight chairs that are meant to travel or transport and are for anyone who may have trouble lifting a heavier chair when they need to take it with them.  

These are not the most comfortable chairs alone and you may want to pair up a really good wheelchair cushion with them. 

A good example of a good lightweight wheelchair is below.

Drive Medical Fly Lite Ultra Lightweight Transport Wheelchair

  • Super lightweight (18.9 pounds)
  • 300-pound weight capacity
  • Height adjustable

Manual Wheelchairs

Manual wheelchairs are one of the more popular types of wheelchairs because of their price points and they do not require a lot of maintenance.  

These use no electricity or other type of proportion other then the users own arm power or if someone pushes them by using the grips behind the wheelchair

The two main differences between manual wheelchairs are as follows.

The self-propelled wheelchair has back wheels that allow for the person sitting to grab the back wheels and properly themselves.  A good example is below.

Manual Wheelchair Self-Propelled

Drive Medical Manual Wheelchair

  • 250-pound weight capacity
  • Lightweight
  • Push to lock wheels
Push Manual Wheelchair (Assisted)

Drive Medical Transport Style Assisted Wheelchair

  • Lightweight
  • Maneuver around narrow areas
  • Easy-to-clean

Pediatric Wheelchairs

Pediatric wheelchairs are designed with children in mind.  These types of wheelchairs have different features than you will find on adult-type wheelchairs.  They are lightweight, adjustable, and typically come in brighter colors.

These chairs come in:

  • Ultra-lightweight
  • Tilt
  • Power assist add-ons
  • Strollers

Shower Commode Wheelchairs

Shower chairs are designed to help someone with mobility issues get in and out of the shower easier.  These chairs are designed to get wet and to stay in place allowing the person to feel comfortable without falling. 

These types of chairs should have locking breaks and detachable buckets that allow for easy cleaning. 

Below is a good example of what to look for when looking for a commode shower wheelchair

Drive Medical Transport Style Assisted Wheelchair

  • Lightweight
  • Maneuver around narrow areas
  • Easy-to-clean

Recliner Wheelchairs

different types of wheelchairs

If you suffer from hip extension issues or other types of related hip injuries a recliner wheelchair is probably a type of wheelchair you should look at.     

These types of wheelchairs can be purchased in both manual or power-driven types.  

After some research, you can tell that powered wheelchairs and other types of specialized chairs are not as lightweight or easy to travel with as your rational chair. 

A good example of a recliner type wheelchair is the

Invacare Tracer SX5 Recliner Wheelchair

Standing Wheelchair

Standing wheelchairs look like a regular wheelchair expect they have mechanics that allow for the chair to slowly move to the standing position. 

This is done when there may be some sort of risk for the patient to sit for long periods of time whtout the body standing.

Again, These types of chairs can be both manual and electric and come at a premium. 

These are very expensive types of chairs when you get into the electric types that have joystick controls and other high tech features. 

Leo II (16″) Lightest Manual Standing Wheelchair

  • Lightweight at only 59 pounds for a standing wheelchair
  • Proprietary user-controlled stand-up & sit-down mechanism
  • Adjustable leg length 

Transport Wheelchairs

Transport wheelchairs are different than your standard wheelchair because they are not meant to be used continuously.   

They are lightweight and the wheels are typically smaller on the back making it not as easy to use as a wheelchair with larger back wheels.

These types of chairs are generally smaller and can be stored easier in smaller spaces because of the smaller wheels.

The Medline Ultralight Transport Wheelchair is a very good lightweight transport wheelchair used for periodic use. 

Final Thoughts On Different Types Of Wheelchairs

As you can see there are a lot of different types of wheelchairs for almost any type of mobility need.  From standing to sports wheelchairs come in many applications.

Be sure to research your needs to see what type of wheelchair would best suit your situation.  

We hope this in-depth guide has shed light on the different types of wheelchairs that are on the market and what each does better than the other.

What is a rigid frame wheelchair?  A rigid frame wheelchair is when the frame is welded and the users sit on that.  It typically is a custom-built wheelchair device made from titanium, carbon fiber, aluminum, or steel. 

This is typically upwardly mobile devices that allow someone to transfer from a chair to a vehicle easier. 

What is a folding frame wheelchair?  These types of frames are typically found on manual wheelchairs and use folding cross braces under the seat so they can fold up and fit into cars. 

What are the front and back wheels on a wheelchair called?  Manual wheelchairs typically have two sets of wheels.  The front pair called caster or steering wheels and the back are called drive wheels.

Do you need a prescription to buy a wheelchair?  No, you do not need a prescription to buy a wheelchair.  The only time you would need a prescription is if you want to have an insurance benefit to cover your wheelchair cost.

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About ASmith

Adam Smith is the main researcher and contributor at Mobility Medical Supply. Adam has many years of research in public data, and software security. With Mobility issues within Adam's family, he decided to dedicate in-depth guides on mobility products to anyone looking to improve movement and gain independence.