Are you in the market for a new lightweight wheelchair? I’ve spent the best part of a year researching and trying to buy a new lightweight wheelchair for our travels.

I’ve spoken to both wheelchair users and suppliers, understandably each supplier claims their lightweight wheelchair is the best and why wouldn’t they. But, I’ve learned, one size doesn’t fit all, this is especially true when it comes to choosing a new travel wheelchair, specifically a lightweight wheelchair.

To be fair, I’ve done a lot of homework and I’m sort of none the wiser. When I find a lightweight wheelchair that I think is suitable, further investigation suggests it’s designed for light usage and not the amount of travel we do.

It leaves me with a dilemma, we definitely need a new chair but which one?

Most of us have a favourite chair at home, it’s comfy, you can see the telly properly and it’s your chair. The same goes for a lightweight wheelchair, apart from the obvious, wheelchairs are not all the same, if you sit in the wrong chair, you’ll end up in a worse condition than when you got in it.

If you look at pictures of Bridget’s wheelchair, it’s a standard NHS issued self-propeller. But, Bridget can’t self-propel because she has dislocated joints on both hands, a fused wrist and no upper body strength, so what’s the point in having it?

The short answer is, large rear wheels!

In theory, bigger wheels cushion more of the bumps. We’ve tried a normal transit wheelchair with small rear wheels, and yes the larger wheel does improve the ride, but we need more from our chair.

So, here are my tips to help you choose a new lightweight wheelchair, I hope you find them useful.

How to Choose a Lightweight Wheelchair

Things to Consider

  • Supplier – always buy from a reputable seller. If it breaks, will they fix it, replace it or have spare parts?
  • Insurance – is the chair worth insuring and can you buy insurance for it. A chair which cost a couple of hundred pounds to replace may not be worth insuring, but if it costs more than that insurance is worth considering
  • Warranty – does the chair come with a manufacturer’s warranty and can you renew it after the initial period?
  • Use – have a clear idea of what you are going to use the chair for. Will it be occasional use, regular use, varied terrain, can it keep up with your lifestyle.
  • Fit – make sure it fits, chairs come in many sizes, try them all and find the one that’s right for you and your body shape
  • Comfort – it goes without saying, your chair needs to be comfortable. Is the backrest high enough, are the cushions well padded, will the seating material stop you from sweating, can the armrest be moved, are the footplates adjustable, in other words, will the chair adapt to suit you?
  • Weight – this is the biggy for me, how heavy is the chair? Is it easy to push, lift in and out of the car and easy to fold for storage?
  • Price – in my humble opinion, the price is usually an indication of quality. That’s not to say cheap chairs are no good, but the old adage applies, you get what you pay for. Chairs, especially the right chair for you might not be cheap, have a look around to see if you can get a voucher from the NHS, support from a charity or whether you are VAT exempt.

Incidentally, did you know there is a campaign to help people get the right wheelchair?

Well you do now, it’s supported by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson of Olympic and House of Lords fame, you can find more about it here Right Wheelchair

Getting back to finding the right travel wheelchair for us. I’ve narrowed it down to these chairs, some are budget wheelchairs, others mid-range in terms of price.

Please use this information with care. If you want to buy a wheelchair, please do your own research as we cannot be held responsible for details on third party websites.

I have also been looking at premium lightweight wheelchairs with suspension but I’ll write about them in another post because they are quite expensive.

Lightweight Wheelchairs

Budget Travel Wheelchair with Blue and Grey Seat
Lightweight Travel Wheelchair
Orbit Lightweight Wheelchair

#1. This stylish lightweight travel wheelchair features attendant brakes, flip and removable armrests and quick release rear wheels.

#2. Updated in 2016, the D-Lite X folding aluminium self-propelled wheelchair with attendant handbrakes and quick release wheels.

#3. Comfortable lightweight travel wheelchair. Features include attendant breaks, quick release rear wheels, flip-up and removable armrests.

Mid-Range Lightweight Wheelchairs

Karma Ergo Lite 2
Karma Ergo 125 Wheelchair

#4. This super lightweight wheelchair from Karma features the innovative S-Ergo seating system. The shaped seat is designed for comfort and to ensure the user doesn’t slide.

#5. Superior comfort with the Ergo 115 self-propel wheelchair. My personal favourite benefits from the patented S-Ergo shaped seating system which redistributes the pressure.

#6. The Ergo 125 self-propel wheelchair is built with lightweight aircraft aluminium which makes it easy to manoeuvre and it’s easy to collapse for easy travel and storage.

Wheelchair Buying Tips

Shop Around

Once you’ve established which chair is right for you, shop around. I can’t stress this enough, I know the guy in your local shop is lovely and understands your needs, but at the end of the day, he’s there to sell you a chair.

I’m not saying don’t buy a chair in your local shop, but do check online to see if you can get the same chair cheaper. If you can, go back to the shop and see if they can match the price or sweeten the deal some other way – it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Try Before You Buy

When Bridget was fitted for her chair, the guy looked at her, asked how heavy she was, then gave us a chair. We pushed it on a flat shiny floor in the hospital corridor and that was it, that was the sum total of finding the right chair.

With hindsight, that was ridiculous because Bridget was going to be spending hours and hours in the chair and on all different terrains. What we should have done is borrowed or hired a chair for at least a week, and gave it a full test drive in the kind of places we visit.

If you are buying a chair, get outside the shop and test it properly, it’ll pay dividends in the long run. Five minutes, on a flat surface, in a shop is not an indication of whether the chair will work for you, you really do need much longer to get a feel for your new chair.

Buying a Lightweight Wheelchair

So there you go, my contribution to choosing a lightweight travel wheelchair. If there are any takeaways from this post, it’s this:

  1. Don’t just rush out and buy the first wheelchair you see
  2. Spend time trying different wheelchairs, use them as you would in daily life
  3. Shop around, look for discounts, haggle and buy from a reputable supplier

Bonus Takeaway

We decided on the Karma Ergo 115 self-propeller in silver.

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Lighweight Travel Wheelchair

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