Mobility Scooter or Power Wheelchair: Which Mobility Device is Right for You?
At their most basic level, both mobility scooters and power chairs have the same purpose. They both help you get around and can improve your quality of life if mobility issues have been holding you back.
Because both tools do similar things, it can be difficult to choose between mobility scooters and power wheelchairs. Today, we’ll walk you through the pros and cons of each device so you can make an informed decision about how to best support your lifestyle and reclaim your golden years.
What Defines a Mobility Scooter?
Mobility scooters are battery-powered devices with three or four wheels that allow you to travel semi-long distances at a safe speed. They are steered using a handle bar, and are less restricting than electric wheelchairs.
To operate a mobility scooter, you must have enough core strength to hold your body up in a seated position, and you need to be able to steer using a handlebar.
Benefits of a Mobility Scooter
Mobility scooters are especially useful for people who want to be more active outside their homes. Their benefits include:
- Able to travel long distances on a single charge
- Heavy-duty enough to use on grass or dirt
- Easy to assemble and operate
Choosing the Best Mobility Scooter
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing your mobility scooter.
Although we most often recommend mobility scooters for people who want to increase their mobility outside their homes, if you do plan to use your scooter in your home, you’ll need to consider the width of your scooter and its turning radius. Something like the Pride Zero-Turn Power Scooter is good for navigating tight spaces.
On the other hand, if your goal is to travel, you may need a portable mobility scooter that can be folded up and stored on a plain or in the trunk of a taxi.
What Defines a Power Wheelchair?
Power wheelchairs are electric devices that are meant to replace standard wheelchairs and increase independence for people with severe mobility issues. They have four wheels and are usually steered using a joystick, which can make them convenient for people who have limited mobility on one side of their body and may struggle to control the handlebar-style steering of mobility scooters.
Benefits of a Power Wheelchair
Electric wheelchairs are ideal for people who want to increase their independence and mobility inside their homes. Their benefits include:
- Slimmer designs to fit through doorways
- Secure seating for people with limited core strength
- Tight turning radius
Choosing the Best Power Wheelchair
When choosing a power wheelchair, you’ll want to consider both your lifestyle and your individual abilities. Lightweight power wheelchairs can be good if you do need your wheelchair indoors but also enjoy traveling with your family. And something like the Pride Go Chair, with its large footplate and height-and-width adjustments, is perfect for someone with more severe mobility impairments.
Should You Choose a Mobility Scooter or Power Wheelchair?
Choosing between a mobility scooter and a power wheelchair is a major step toward improving your mobility. To choose which one is right for you, you’ll want to look at your personal capabilities and your current lifestyle.
Mobility scooters and power chairs require different levels of dexterity and strength to operate.
Mobility scooters are meant for people with mobility limitations, but who still have some mobility. For example, you need to be able to lift both arms and keep them up to operate the bike-like handlebar on most scooters. You may also need to be able to sit forward while operating the scooter, which requires a level of balance and core strength. When deciding if a mobility scooter would work for you, consider whether you can comfortably sit at the edge of a dining room chair and eat a meal using both hands. If the answer is yes, you can probably operate a mobility scooter. But if you need to be able to slouch against the back of the chair or your arms would get tired midway through a meal, a scooter may not be the best mobility device for you.
Power wheelchairs, on the other hand, are slightly more accessible even if you have severe mobility issues. They usually include adjustable seats and armrests so that the chair itself can keep you secure rather than relying on your core strength to keep you in the seat. Most power wheelchairs are also steered using a device attached to the arm rest, so you don’t need to lift your arms or keep them upright to operate the chair.
Assuming you could operate either a power scooter or an electric wheelchair, the next thing to consider is your lifestyle and how you plan to use the device.
We recommend electric scooters for people who want to spend more time outdoors. These devices tend to have increased ground clearance—referring to the distance between the bottom of the scooter and the ground—which allows you to drive over things like grass or gravel. They’re also designed to travel for long distances before requiring battery replacements. So if you’re looking for something you can take golfing or on a family vacation, electric scooters are your recommended device.
Power wheelchairs, on the other hand, are ideal for people who want to increase their mobility and independence at home. Their slim profile and a tight turning radius allows you to steer your electric wheelchair through the house and navigate tight turns more easily than you could with an electric scooter. However, they also need to be charged regularly and usually can’t take you the same distance a power scooter could.
Although we generally recommend mobility scooters for outdoor use and power wheelchairs for indoor use, there are exceptions to every rule. Whether you need to be able to use your mobility device both indoors and outdoors or your lifestyle needs don’t match your current capabilities, you can find a device that’s right for you.
One option is to select a lightweight mobility scooter for use both indoors and outdoors. If you need a mobility scooter that works inside, compare the width of the scooter to the width of your door frames and halls. You may also want to read what customers say about the scooter’s turning radius and how easy it is to navigate with the scooter in a cramped space.
Another possibility is to choose a folding power wheelchair to take on vacations. You can also find wheelchairs that elevate to improve your overall ground clearance for a smoother ride even on the grass.
Other Things to Consider
Regardless of whether you’re buying a mobility scooter or a power chair, if you plan to use your mobility device inside at all, you’ll want to measure your halls and entrances to ensure that what you’re buying will actually fit in your home. You’ll also want to pay attention to the weight of the device and whether you’ll be able to fit it into your existing vehicle.
Some people may choose to invest in both a power wheelchair for indoors and a mobility scooter for when they travel. While this is always an option, if you’re hoping to use insurance to cover part or all of the cost of your mobility device, you’ll want to contact your lender before making this decision. Many insurance companies will only help with the cost of one mobility device.
We Can Help You Find Your Best Mobility DeviceWe understand that no two people lead the same lives. If you have questions about whether a mobility scooter or power wheelchair will work better with your unique lifestyle and mobility circumstances, give us a call. We’ll be happy to talk with you about what you’re looking for in a mobility device so you can locate the best mobility device for your lifestyle and your needs. Contact us today.
- Caitlin Carter