Header Image

How to choose the right manual wheelchair for you

Mon May 17 2021

Wheelchairs aren’t one size fits all.

Whether it’s used a couple of hours a day or all the time, a manual wheelchair needs to be comfortable and supportive.

It needs to match you and your lifestyle.

And now with so many options out there, it can.

You just need to know what questions to ask and how to reach the right answers to make sure the manual wheelchair you get is the right one for you.

Here’s those questions and answers:

What type of manual wheelchair do you need?

If you’ll be travelling short distances independently, then go with a standard self-propelled wheelchair. If you do need another to push you, but want to be able to change the direction you’re facing or will be using the wheelchair outside on uneven terrain, then still go for a self-propelled wheelchair as the large back wheels are more suited.

If you plan to self-propel for longer distances, we suggest choosing an active wheelchair. Since they’re highly configurable and can be built to your requirements, active wheelchairs are best suited for those looking for increased mobility and independence.

If someone else will always be manoeuvring the wheelchair and you’ll only be travelling on smooth surfaces, then choose a transit.

Will you be using your manual wheelchair inside, outside or both?

If you plan on travelling outside a lot in your wheelchair, there’s some key features to look out for:

  • Extra padding in the armrests and seat

  • Contoured backrests

  • Large puncture resistant back wheels (that’s all of our manual wheelchairs!)

If you plan on using your wheelchair mainly indoors, you may prefer:

  • Flip-up armrests – useful for getting nearer to tables

  • A transit wheelchair - no handrims on the wheels means they can be narrower

Will you be transporting your manual wheelchair in a car?

If the answer is yes, your best option is to go for a foldable wheelchair.

Think also of the weight. Ideally you don’t want a wheelchair that’s going to be a massive effort to lift, so if transportation is going to be frequent, a lightweight wheelchair may be the most suitable. Lightweight wheelchairs should be under 15KG, with aluminium being the material of choice.

One other consideration is ‘crash-testing’. If you’ll need to stay in your wheelchair whilst in a vehicle, make sure the model you choose has been crash-tested.

How much will you be using your manual wheelchair?

How often and for how long you’ll be using your wheelchair will affect the choice you make.

Maximum four hours a day? Go for a standard folding wheelchair.

Most of the day? Go for a more advanced model and look into customisable options.

Majority of the time? Tilt in Space wheelchairs provide optimum comfort.

How do you know what size manual wheelchair you need?

Your weight

Typically a standard wheelchair will have a weight limit of 18 stone. If you require a higher weight limit, look into getting a Bariatric wheelchair.

Seat size

The seat size you’re looking for is one which grants adequate space, whilst remaining supportive.

How do you measure the seat width you need? Measure the width of your backside when sitting on a flat surface and add two inches.

The most common seat width is 18 inches, but both narrower and wider options are available.


The backrest height is usually fixed. The majority are 16 – 20 inches.

How do you measure the backrest height you need? When sitting down, measure from the top of your shoulders to your pelvis.


It seems common sense to say, but you don’t want armrests that are too high or too low. Standard wheelchairs usually have armrests at a fixed height, so you’ll need to look into more specialist models if you want adjustability.

Do you need wheelchair accessories?

To make a wheelchair your own, accessorise. What options are out there?

  • Seat cushions

  • Wheels

  • Walking stick holders

  • Storage bags

  • Power packs

  • Weather protection

Should you hire or buy a manual wheelchair?

Hire if:

  • You need the wheelchair for a short period of time

  • You want to test out a model

  • You want to avoid repair and replacement costs

Buy if:

  • You need the wheelchair for an extended period of time as it can be more cost-effective

  • You want to keep and customise

  • You want a wider choice of products

Or if you’re indecisive, why not hire first, then buy. That way you get the best of both, giving you the chance to try out models before making a commitment.


What next?

With so many decisions to be made, choosing the right wheelchair can feel pretty daunting.

But you don’t need to take this all on alone.

Our product specialists can take you through the process, whether that’s over the phone or in our Chessington showroom.

We’ll assess your requirements and recommend the most suitable wheelchair for you.

Because the right wheelchair can change your life.

Set that change in motion today by giving us a call on 0800 025 8005 or sending us a message.