Manual Wheelchairs: Advantages& Disadvantages

A manual wheelchair, also known as a standard wheelchair, provides the least expensive method of mobility for someone who isn’t able to walk or stand. The majority of today’s manual wheelchairs feature smaller wheels, which help provide more stability and easier turning. Many of them are foldable, allowing you to tuck them away with ease after use.

However, like all products, there are both upsides and downsides to using manual wheelchairs. So if you’re wondering whether you should look at some of the best self-propelled wheelchairs or go for a different type, you have to know the pros and cons of the first option.


Manual wheelchairs have been around for a long time, and for good reason. These are the benefits you can get from purchasing one.

1. May Be Cheaper or Free From Insurance Companies

If your medical insurance company determines that you need help getting around but can still walk short distances on your own, you may be eligible to receive a free, used manual wheelchair from them. Free wheelchairs are also often available from hospitals and charities that provide durable medical equipment or have older models they want to get rid of. If you purchase a new manual wheelchair without insurance coverage, you’ll probably spend hundreds of dollars on it.

2. Easier To Maneuver in Tight Spaces

Manual wheelchairs generally have smaller front casters than electronic wheelchairs or power wheelchairs, so they can easily turn in narrow spaces such as doorways and hallways. This is something you’ll likely have trouble doing with larger chairs. Power chairs are usually bigger because of the space occupied by the battery and other components.

In addition, standard wheelchairs have a lower center of gravity, making them more capable of negotiating uneven terrain.

3. No Batteries Required

Power wheelchairs run on batteries and need to be charged as soon as they run out of juice. This means that if you want to go somewhere far, you might not be able to reach your destination if you underestimate the distance and your wheelchair ends up stopping before you get there.

With a manual wheelchair, there’s no risk of that happening. All you need is either upper body strength or someone to push your chair for you and off you go.

4. Low Maintenance Costs

Power wheelchairs are quite complicated pieces of equipment. Since they require motors that need electricity to run, there are lots of wires and components in them, so there’s a high chance for them to fail.

Meanwhile, standard wheelchairs don’t need much to function. They only require a bit of force and some lubricant every now and then in order to keep moving smoothly. This means you don’t have to shell out cash every month just to keep your wheelchair running at peak performance.


It’s not all roses with manual wheelchairs, though, since they do have relatively major setbacks. Depending on your particular condition, the following drawbacks could either be negligible or actual deal-breakers.

1. May Have Limited Mobility In Some Situations

Manual wheelchairs can offer great mobility in some cases. However, if you’re dealing with problems below the waist (such as paralysis) or need to be in a seated position while you travel, then this type of chair probably won’t work very well for you. Unlike power chairs that allow users to move around from a standing or lying position, manual chairs don’t provide that ability and must be used when you’re seated upright.

2.Weight Limits for Wheelchairs Might Not Be Enough

Generally speaking, most manual wheelchairs only support users weighing up to 250 pounds, which could present problems if you’re over that weight. To use a wheelchair safely, you should only sit in the chair with your legs supported by the footplates and without any pressure on your arms. So if you’re beyond the weight limit of a manual chair, using it could result in injury to yourself or damage to the chair itself.

3. May Cause Injury To Your Spine

Since manual wheelchairs have lower seatbacks than power chairs and don’t adjust as easily, they might cause injury to your spine if you lean against them for support instead of sitting upright as recommended. In addition, some models may be too lightweight for those with heavy upper bodies because they lack enough strength to keep you stable when going uphill or travelling across rougher terrain.

4. May Cause Skin Irritation And Pressure Ulcers In Some Users

Since manual chairs typically don’t offer as much cushioning as power or hybrid models, they can create pressure points on your hips, back, and arms if you sit in them for extended periods. If you have poor circulation, diabetes, or other health issues that affect your body’s ability to heal itself, using a manual wheelchair for a long time can also lead to skin irritations and pressure ulcers.

5. Limited Availability And Variety Of Accessories And Options

Since manual wheelchairs are typically less expensive than power or hybrid models, they may not offer some of the same accessories and options that come with costlier chairs.

For example, you’ll likely need to buy things like headrests, leg rests, and other add-ons on your own, which can get expensive if you’re purchasing many different types of equipment. There are also fewer options available when it comes to colors, materials, and overall design, so finding a chair that looks good in your home or on the road may be difficult.


When it comes to choosing a mobility device, you should be armed with as much knowledge as possible. That way, you’ll know exactly why you’re picking a model and if buying it will expose you to too many risks. Being aware of what you need to look for in your options would also help you know exactly when you’ve found the most suitable mobility device for you.

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