Transport Chair vs Manual Wheelchair (Main Differences)

Manual wheelchairs are designed to be pushed by the person sitting in the chair. A transport wheelchair is designed to be pushed by a caregiver. Transport wheelchairs by design have 4 small wheels allowing for a good turning radius while being lightweight and easy for the caregiver to push. This guide will explore the main differences between a transport chair vs manual wheelchair. Let’s get started.

What is a transport wheelchair?

A transport wheelchair is a chair with wheels that can be folded up for travel and then unfolded for use. Transport wheelchairs are most often used by people who cannot walk due to injury or illness.

A transport wheelchair is a mobility aid that looks like a wheelchair but has smaller wheels. In addition, transport chairs are designed with handles that feature handbrakes for the caretakers.

Transport wheelchairs are meant to be pushed by caregivers instead of being manually controlled by them. 

Transport chairs are usually purchased as an additional mobility device.

What is a manual wheelchair?

Manual wheelchairs and transport chairs are similar in design, but critical differences are. For example, the rear wheels of manual wheelchairs are larger, which offers more independence by allowing the user to propel the wheelchair manually.

Manual wheelchairs are meant to allow the person using them to manual properly themselves without the need to have a caregiver physically push the chair like you would a transport chair.

Manual wheelchairs are used for more long-term mobility solutions over a transport chair that is used for more short-term use.

Significant differences between wheelchairs and transport chairs

Transport chairs are typically used to transport someone unable or too disabled to sit up. Transport chairs only work if they are pushed by another person, making them more accessible for people with disabilities.

Wheelchairs, on the other hand, provide independent mobility and allow a user to push themselves forward instead of relying on someone else making them.

Transport chairs have small rear wheels that are impossible to reach by the person sitting in the chair (and in fact, the front and rear wheels of a transport chair tend to be the same size).

That matters because gripping the rear wheels on a standard wheelchair is how the person sitting in it propels the chair forward. Traditional wheelchairs can be differentiated at a glance then, courtesy of their oversized rear wheels.

Another significant difference lies in the fact that some (but by no means all) transport chairs have brakes on the handles on the back of the chair, enabling the person pushing it to apply the brakes more quickly.

Differences in functionality

The difference between a standard wheelchair and a transport wheelchair is about functionality. A transport wheelchair is smaller than the average standard but not suited for outdoor terrains like hiking or camping.

Transport chairs are designed for easy transportation, so it’s better to take one of these instead of using your chair when going on vacation.

However, some very ultralight and lightweight manual wheelchairs make excellent chairs that can be brought anywhere.

Transport chairs and wheelchairs are designed with ease of transport in mind. Transport wheels are smaller, lighter, and in some cases easier to maneuver because they’re not as heavy.

They offer a smaller folded footprint, so it’s more easily fit into the trunks of full-sized sedans or other vehicles for transport purposes.

Weight difference

Weight is another huge difference between the two.

Standard wheelchairs often weigh between 32 to 38 pounds, while transport wheelchairs will be 10 pounds lighter than that.

The weight difference makes it easy for transport chairs to be pushed from behind by another person.

Besides being light, transport wheelchairs are also foldable to make them easy to travel. Some models are narrow to maneuver easily through tight spaces and narrow doors.

Braking System

The standard wheelchair has a push-lock, and transport chairs have brakes on the handles. The handbrake on transport chairs is often found in transportation chairs with wheels. 

However, this is not always the case.

Transport chairs are also suitable for navigating steep slopes and outdoor terrains because of their better braking system, which includes hands-on handlebars that can be used to slow down or stop.

Handbrake on transport chairs is often found in transport chairs with wheels. However, this is not always the case.

Wheel Size on transport & manual chairs

The wheel size on transport chairs is typically 8 inches, with wheels roughly the same size for all 4-wheels. Manual wheelchairs will have larger rear wheels with an average of 24″ with smaller front wheels.

This is because, on manual wheelchairs, there needs to be a way for the user to push the chair themselves physically.

This is done by taking hold of the push rim that is mounted on the rear wheels of a manual wheelchair. On the other hand, transport chairs do not allow for manual pushing.

Comfort differences of a transport chair vs. manual wheelchair

We think manual wheelchairs have more built-in comfort features than transport wheelchairs. 

However, both wheelchairs should utilize wheelchair cushions and back cushions to help increase comfort.

These upgrades will help with comfort, especially for those that spend a lot of time in their chair.

Not only can you upgrade cushions for the back and bottom. But there are cushions and pads for armrest and calf areas that dramatically help with comfort.

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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.