Power Wheelchair vs Mobility Scooter (What is the Difference?)

If you are considering a purchase of a power wheelchair or mobility scooter but are unsure of the differences that are involved you are in the right place. We will explain the main differences and similarities that both the power wheelchair and mobility scooter have.

Understanding the differences will help in determining the best mobility aid for your needs and what each offers for you or a loved one. Let’s get started.

So, what’s the difference between a power wheelchair vs mobility scooter?

What are the main differences between a power wheelchair and mobility scooter?

While both mobility devices help with the ability to get someone to their destination easier without having to physically walk, there are differences between the devices.

The electric wheelchair or powered wheelchair has adjustable leg rests, comes with many types of accessories like cup holders, armrest pads, trays, and seat cushions to make the ride more comfortable.

Controls are excellent as well and typically are done by a joystick that controls every direction of the chair with a simple touch of the stick. This allows for an extremely tight turning radius that is superior to a mobility scooter in tight locations. Stability is also a plus with the power wheelchair simply because of how the chair is built.

Mobility scooters are also great mobility devices but are much larger and wider and require both hands to steer the scooter and depending on the model can be difficult to get in and out of a car. Some scooters can weigh a considerable amount.

Scooters are designed more for the person that still has mobility but requires help to get around on longer distances. Those that suffer from severe mobility issues and cannot walk freely without help might find an electric wheelchair a better option.

Power wheelchair vs mobility scooter comparison chart

Key AreasPower WheelchairMobility Scooter
Wheels:4 to 6 3 to 4
Turning radius:Very tight (Good for indoor spaces)Better for outdoor larger areas
Best designed for:Those with very little mobilityThose that still have mobility but need a little help getting around
Transport:Not as easy to transport as a scooter, but still can be doneCan be taken apart to lighten and is not too difficult to transport

What is a power wheelchair?

Power wheelchairs are mobility aids and are used by people with issues walking. These types of devices are used when a manual wheelchair or electric scooter cant be used. The power or electric wheelchair uses a base that has four or more wheels. The back drive wheels are larger than the front two or four casters’ smaller wheels and are used for stability.

Drive wheels can also be placed in the front, rear, or even middle of a power wheelchair base. Power wheelchairs also use a joystick to control how it’s driven. The joystick allows the person using the chair to move it backward, forward, left, and right. When fully charged these mobility aids can travel miles over all types of terrain depending on the model.

Different seating optionsHave to maintain
Some models can handle all types of terrainThe battery must be recharged often
Tight radius turning
Travel long distances on a full charge
Easy to steer
Very stable
Can accommodate many upgrades

What is a mobility scooter?

As a power wheelchair, a mobility scooter is a type of mobility device that allows the user to get around without much effort. These powered operated scooters or electric scooters help anyone gain mobility by sitting upright on a seat with a back that has a standard tiller steering mechanism.

The seat typically will sit over two rear wheels and has a flat area where the person rests their feet. Some scooters come in 3 wheels or 4 wheel models and are great for people that still can stand and move but need help getting around. These devices can run miles on a single full charge and depending on the model can go over all types of outdoor terrain.

Very customizableNot as stable as a wheelchair
Good speedsHarder to control in terms of moving and turning than a powered joystick wheelchair
Quick to assembleMust recharge battery often
Easy to travel with
3 wheel light models can turn in smaller spaces

Our final thoughts on the Difference between a power wheelchair vs mobility scooter

Overall you can expect that a scooter is designed for outdoor use for anyone with limited disabilities that still possess the power to steer while using two hands. Scooters do not have specialty controls or special seating and will be best suited for those that have slight mobility issues.

Power wheelchairs are designed for those that require much more help with their mobility issues. These types of devices have sociality seating, joystick controls, can turn very tight, and are used indoors and outdoors. They have more of a custom fit for the user and their individual needs.

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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.